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Two things I don’t like about TIF expenditures in Chicago

Chicago Cityscape's TIF Projects map

I built a map of most Chicago TIF projects that you can filter on the fly. Type in any keyword, alderman’s name, or neighborhood and the map will re-center and zoom to the results.

1. Millions of dollars ($14.4 to be exact) has been or will be given to rich corporations, like Home Depot, to build massive stores with huge roofs and parking lots far away from where people live so everyone has to drive there. It’s highly unlikely they don’t mitigate stormwater runoff (except through temporary storage in a retention pond) or treat any of the water on site, contributing to local flooding and clogged pipes.

According to the project descriptions, property tax payers in these four TIF districts have partially subsidized the construction of over 1,903 car parking spaces and the associated ills of expansive asphalt areas and motorized traffic.

2. A massive subsidy was approved – $96 million – for McCaffery Interests’s Lakeside development on the former U.S. Steel South Works plant to build a mixed-use tower of 250 apartments in an area that has weak transit access and will take decades to fully fill out. We should instead be spending this kind of money building housing in already developed parts of the city (where there’s already amenities, or infrastructure for amenities – the Rezko land comes to mind).

What’s interesting about the Lakeside TIF project approval is that the containing TIF district, “Chicago Lakeside Development Phase 1”, has collected zero property tax revenue because there is no property in it!

Trolley on the future Lake Shore Drive

A tour bus drivers on the Lakeside development. Photo by Ann Fisher.

There are some projects I like, though. TIF has been used frequently to build affordable housing, housing for seniors, and housing for people who need assistance. 78 out of 380 projects mention the word “affordable”.

The City Hyde Park building, designed by Studio Gang Architects, will have 20% of its residential units designated as “affordable”, for families (of varying sizes) earning up to 60 percent of the area median income. The city standard is 10 percent but developers are also able to pay an “in lieu” fee so they don’t have to build the affordable units and instead can offer those units at market rates.

Other projects have a majority of affordable units.

Bike parking is simple

I created a website a couple months ago where my intention is to create a single place where people can get good advice on installing bike parking wherever it’s needed. The advice includes what kind of bike rack to choose and where to put it.

Visit Simple Bike Parking – Helping make bike parking a simple affair.

Distance is the key to effective and usable bike parking. Notice the bike racks in the foreground – no one’s using them after the one’s next to the train station entrance were installed (by me, actually).

The website’s not even closer to being finished. Steven Can Plan, now GRID, and my part-time work doing bike parking consulting with Active Transportation Alliance for Cook County schools has taken priority. It’s also meant as a “calling card” for people to hire me to consult them on their bike parking needs.

Best comment ever from someone who probably drives a car

Whet Moser mentioned recently in the Chicago Magazine blog that he’s more afraid of spiteful comments from readers than new data that may show there’s a huge number of dooring bike crashes going on in Illinois.

Whenever an article about some modest improvement in the lives of bicyclists is published, in this case news that the state of Illinois is going to start tracking when bicycle accidents involve doorings, the comments section will inevitably be filled with vitriol, and I can’t help but read it. There’s no other public forum in which people wish death on their fellow citizens like the comments to a story about biking. And I find it grimly fascinating, like a moral gapers block.

In line with a story that aired Thursday night about doorings and this new rule about collecting data, WTTW channel 11 (Chicago’s PBS affiliate) started a discussion thread title, “Should drivers be more courteous and mindful of bikers?” I think WTTW has a wildly different audience than those who read the Chicago Tribune online. And the comments, so far, reflect this.

A fairly respectful (and unidentified) commenter suggested a great idea that may have a positive impact on visibility of bicyclists:

Perhaps bikers should be required to have a daytime running lamp on the front of their bikes so that they are more visible in a motorist’s side mirror?

I often ride my bike with my headlight on. This is not a half-bad idea!

Outfitting Chicago bicyclists with bike lights in Wicker Park.

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