I started listening to podcasts in 2021. I am sharing a list of four that I listen to regularly. Surprising to me, none of them are about Chicago.
UCLA Housing Voice is hosted by four UCLA researchers and teachers. Every week during the season (they’re on season two now) they summarize an academic paper about housing and cities and interview the authors. What I like about this is a few things: the consistent format, summarizing academic papers that I don’t have access to and are sometimes painstaking to read and understand, and getting the authors to expand on what they published.
The Livable Low-Carbon City are short, explainer-style episodes about the essentials to designing and redesigning cities and neighborhoods for the low-carbon future that we need. Mike Eliason is well known on “Urbanism Twitter” and “Architecture Twitter” for pushing passive house building techniques, baugruppen (a kind of cooperative housing), and point access blocks. Eliason’s episodes are brief and easy to understand, and are a great outlet to hear about his time working and living with his family in Germany.
A CTA rendering shows what a bypass track for Brown Line trains north of the Belmont station might look like, alongside a new residential building on Wilton Street.
Ed. note: This is a guest post from Chicagoan Jacob Peters.
“Keep the RPM Project on Track – Uncouple the [Belmont Bypass] Roller Coaster” is the tagline for a new website called “Coalition to Stop the Belmont Flyover”.
Capacity is constrained at the Chicago Transit Authority’s Clark Junction track interchange (at approximately 3300 N Clark Street) which means that fewer Red Line trains can run than could be run if there wasn’t this conflict. In the same way there are opportunity costs in business, there are opportunity delays that are caused by this constraint on rail capacity.
For example, if there was no conflict at Clark Junction, then five more trains an hour could pass through the Red Line subway. This would increase Red Line capacity by 25 percent during rush hour, and fewer passengers would be left waiting for a train to arrive with space for them to board.
The way the website advocates against eliminating the bottleneck is hypocritical to the tagline of “keeping the Red Purple Modernization project” on track. That project, which would completely replace all track, viaducts, and embankments north of X station, and rebuild most stations (as well as widening and extending platforms) is largely based on a future service pattern that would run more and longer trains in the busiest transit corridor of Chicago.
This capacity increase would reduce their average commutes by a few minutes. Since the trains wouldn’t have to be spread out in order to maintain gaps in service for the Brown Line trains that need to cross the Red Line at Clark Junction, average wait times between trains would drop all along the Red Line at rush hour, further reducing commute times.
Lastly, when either the Brown, Purple or Red Lines are experiencing delays, and trains get bunched together, these delays ripple through the other lines. This happens because when a queue of delayed Brown Line trains are making their way through Clark Junction, Red Line trains must be held in order to let the delayed trains through the junction in an attempt to keep things moderately on schedule. If there was a bypass of this junction for northbound Brown Line trains, then a delay on either line would not affect the other. This would result in fewer days in which your commute is delayed.
Future capacity needs and current delay reduction is what the Belmont Bypass attempts to address. There may be other ways to achieve this with other alternatives, but the bypass would be far and away the cheapest and could be implemented soonest. Unless you plan to propose alternative means of resolving these conflicts, and funding mechanisms to make them possible, you are not really advocating to keep the RPM on track. Because without untying Clark Junction there is no true modernization.
Garcia paints a beautiful transportation issues platform, but when faced with a truly transformative project he is unwilling to uphold his call for “reliable transportation”. I want to vote for him again, but if he keeps on watering down projects to a point of inefficacy then how are you going to convince anyone to expand transportation funding? How can I trust him to bring about the change is needed on other important issues if on the issue that he received a masters in, he is unwilling to apply best practices?
Emanuel and Garcia should avoid grandstanding on issues of transportation because opposing a necessary transportation investment for political reasons is to let down the electorate that you are campaigning to serve. For both traversing Ashland Avenue by transit and riding Brown, Red, and Purple Line trains through Clark Junction, there is no way to move more people reliably through these areas without infrastructure improvements. Garcia shouldn’t oppose projects without explaining his alternate plan to address the same issues and achieve similar benefits – otherwise there isn’t leadership.
There are few alternatives. First, you could study how to use the existing CTA land around the Belmont stop more efficiently and eliminate track conflicts. It would need to be studied whether a new northbound Brown Line track and platform just to the east and a few feet higher than the current track it shares with the Purple Line could allow for the Brown Line to get high early enough to bridge over the Red Line closer to School.
This option would spare the buildings on the commercial thoroughfare of Clark, and focus demolition on residential streets. I am not sure if it is possible given how the Belmont station was reconstructed in 2009, but I don’t have a record of it being studied or laid out why it is not an option. Seeing as the anti-bypass group is claiming that the destruction on Clark would turn it into a “permanent under-El wasteland” I would think they would want to prove whether this is possible or not.
Secondly, any alternatives analysis process [which the CTA hasn’t conducted] would include studying a subway alternative for this portion of the Red Line. In the RPM’s subway alternative there was no need for the bypass. The CTA considered a subway from Loyola station to Belmont station, but never studied each section of the potential subway separately. I truly believe that a subway with a portal at Clark Street and a portal just north of Irving Park Road would eliminate the property acquisition, station constraint, and construction phasing issues to outweigh the increased cost of going underground, without needing to consider a two-track alternative.
There was a neighborhood proposal from the 1980s for a subway between Belmont Avenue and Irving Park Road which would act somewhat as a “flyunder”, so to speak. It would include a new Wrigley Field Station that could be built to handle more than the existing constrained Addison Red Line station, including a Purple Line stop in order to match the Purple Line limited service that stops at Sheridan that’s provided on select game days.
The “flyunder” could allow the CTA to forego the large amounts of property acquisition that would be required in order to straighten out the kinks in the elevated north of Belmont, and to smooth out the curve at Sheridan. The CTA could then sell land currently under the tracks for development. In order to see if this is now feasible given the way Belmont was rebuilt, the CTA would have to study whether a bilevel tunnel from Clark Junction to Irving Park would be possible under Clark Street, and parallel to Seminary Avenue.
There is also the alternative of proposing that eliminating the realignment of the Red Line, included in the Belmont Bypass literature, would be a way to eliminate the amount of buildings affected in the scope of the bypass. But I think that is somewhat tied into the discussion about the other two alternatives. The point is that the elevated bypass is a simple (although in the CTA’s current process, clumsy) solution to the question of how do you eliminate the Clark Junction bottleneck and the unreliability in the system that it creates.
Active Transportation Alliance invited Eric Hanns and I to speak about “using data for advocacy” at their first annual transportation summit held after a member meeting two Saturdays ago. My and Eric’s talks were complementary and centered around the data tool I built and which Eric and the other volunteers in the 46th Ward participatory budgeting program used to prioritize and market infrastructure projects in Uptown.
The tool in question is the Chicago Crash Browser I made last year and improved this year to load data faster, with great help from the Smart Chicago Collaborative and several members of the OpenGov Hack Night group I cherish.
Click or tap a spot in Chicago to retrieve the number of bicyclist-car and pedestrian-car crashes within 150 feet. With this information, the PB volunteers could show the alderman how important it was for him to support bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects in the ward, and to persuade ward voters to fund these projects.
Find more information about the four other summit “breakout groups” on Active Trans’s website. Eric and I prepared a “Using Data for Advocacy: Making the Case with Compelling Facts” handout which you can download as a PDF or see on our Google Doc. I’ve conveniently listed the links from the handout below but if you want more pointed advice on where to look for specific data, or get an answer to questions you have but don’t grok the context of each of these tools, leave me a comment.
Capital projects (sewer work, repaving, etc.): your alderman’s office, website, and newsletter (Alderman Reilly has the most informative newsletters on Loop activity); the hard-to-navigate city website (here are 2013 water and sewer main projects)
Other information: FOIA (Freedom of Information Act; this is a somewhat arduous process but it’s almost guaranteed to get you the information you need if simply asking doesn’t work)
Chicago Department of Transportation plans: Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, Bike 2015 Plan, Complete Streets Design Guidelines, Sustainable Infrastructure Design Guidelines (see also: NACTO urban bikeway design guide, Active Trans’s Complete Streets, Complete Networks)
Open-source mapping platforms: Google Fusion Tables, OpenStreetMap, GeoCommons, Scribble Maps
Oh, and the documentary i mentioned to you about Bogotá is on YouTube now Cities on Speed: Bogotá Change
My favorite initiative Antanas Mockus started was he hired clowns to stand in intersections and make fun of drivers that disobeyed traffic laws
His reasoning was that Colombians care more about looking foolish than being fined.
I think something like that could work here:
Like, every day video an example of terrible driving and shame the person. Maybe follow them home, ask them what was so important that they had to risk the safety of other. Then they’ll say “well, i wanted to watch game of thrones” and look foolish.
Nothing revolutionary, just a clever design. It’s a t-shirt worn by Bicycle Innovation Lab co-founder Lasse Schelde in Copenhagen. I met Lasse at the Svagerløb Danish Cargo Bike Championships on August 18, 2012 (see all photos). The graphic is an upside-down pyramid. From the top it moves to the bottom with decreasing area as follows:
There are many ways to interpret this graphic, but I see it as one of decreasing efficiency in moving people (disregarding nuances of population and distance).
A photo of me cycling in the team relay race on the world’s fastest cargo bike.
Lasse and I were on the same team for the relay race. Miche and Brandon Gobel all rode his Bullitt. I started first so I wouldn’t have to carry any of the luggage (which consisted of two car tires and a wooden Carlsberg beer crate). The race was hosted on the Carlsberg brewery lot.