The enhanced proposal for the building on the right, 230 W Monroe, was made possible by converting the alley to a “street”.
Arcade Place, for all intents and purposes, is an alley. It has Dumpsters, and loading docks. It has no sidewalks. It’s dark and probably dirty.
Yet in 1969, Alder Fred Roti passed an ordinance that gave the alley a name and street status.
Why? Because it gave an adjacent property owner the ability to get an FAR bonus and build a larger office building.
That’s not why Roti said he did it, though. “Nobody talked to me about this. I walk around the Loop all the time and I noticed this alley. It’s Arcade east and west and it didn’t make sense to me to be an alley here”, he told the Chicago Daily News.
How gracious he was to the poor alley!
There are several other “named alleys” in downtown Chicago, including Couch Place, Court Place, and Garland Court. I don’t know why they are streets.
I’m reading “Politics of Place: A History of Zoning in Chicago”, by Joseph P. Schwieterman, and Dana M. Caspall, which is full of downtown and North Side zoning change stories like the above. It’s available at the Chicago Public Library, or you can buy it right now.
I arrived in Rotterdam last Saturday, 9 April. A friend of a friend, PK, picked me up at Rotterdam Centraal, the main station, the design of which I find fucking fantastic. By “picked me up”, he really did. He used his fancy “OV-chipkaart” multi-use transit card with associated “OV-fiets” bike-share membership to check out two bikes for me and him. I carried two pieces of my luggage, and he carried a third, and we biked back to my friend DS’s apartment. (PK had been living there temporarily while he looked for an apartment somewhere in the country.)
PK let me into the apartment and then we went to the Albert Heijn grocery store. PK soon departed to catch a train to another city for a birthday party. I took a three hour nap. I didn’t do anything else on Saturday. DS would return from his holiday on Monday evening.
On Sunday I biked around the city.
On Monday I met with Meredith, an expat living in Amsterdam. I also slept a bunch off and on. DS came home and we went out to dinner. We also went back to the grocery store and tried to figure out why neither my debit nor credit card would work. Albert Heijn, since I was there in September 2015, has changed their machines and policy and won’t accept my bank cards!
On Wednesday I slept until 13:00. I then followed up on some emails, fixed some stuff on Chicago Cityscape, and vacuumed the carpets. Then DS and I went out for beers and burgers. On our way home I bought a six-pack of (small cans) Heineken beer for €7 at a “night shop” called, well, “Night Shop.”
“Bataviakade” means “Batavia quay”. I grew up in a city called Batavia, Illinois. The city was named after Batavia, New York. Batavia is the Latin word for the “Betuwe” part of the Netherlands.
It’s now Thursday and I’m going to try and open a bank account here. This means I’ll get a debit card which will open so many doors; many places don’t accept international bank cards. It also means I can pay rent and for a bicycle without lower or no fees. After I get a bank account I can get a discount travel card to use on NS, the national intercity train operator.
For €99 per month I can take unlimited trips on the intercity trains during off-peak hours and on weekends. I’ll be able to visit a lot more cities with this card, and I already have plans to use the train tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday (that’s three round trips). The train fares add up! At least this weekend I’ll be traveling with DS; he has a travel card and companions can buy travel together with a 40% discount.
I didn’t get to publish this before I left the house. I went to the bank and the kind worker said it wasn’t possible to open a bank account for someone who’s staying here for such a short time. She said there’s a monthly maintenance fee, and I said I would be okay paying that while I’m not in the Netherlands between visits.
Anyway, my friend is going to help me get the discount travel card, which, to me, is the most important product I need.
Transportation infrastructure should be designed for more than carrying people through places. It also needs to be about carrying people to places, because transportation is for moving people as much for commerce as it is for being social.
The Dutch consider “social safety” when designing and redesigning streets (they’re constantly upgrading streets, roads, and entire neighborhoods to standards that seem to be frequently updated).
Mark Waagenbuur posted a new video this week showing a new tunnel under Amsterdam Centraal, the main train station in Amsterdam, and he highlighted several of its social safety features.
The screen grab I embedded above – and posted on Twitter where it got a lot of shares and likes – shows an aspect that’s common across all cycling facilities in built-up areas: it’s wide enough to ride side by side with your friend, mother, or lover, with still enough room on your left for people to pass you in the same lane.
Another aspect of this tunnel is that it has sound-absorbing panels. Often tunnels have a disturbing echo that inhibit comfortable communication – my new home office has an echo and it makes it hard to have conversations on the phone here because I hear an annoying feedback. The communication is important to be able to hear people cycling with you, but also to hear what other people are doing.
The tunnel has a final feature that supports social safety: clear, wide, and open sight lines. Not just from end to end, but also to the sides. It’s hard to hide around the corner because the breadth of vision is so wide that you would see someone lurking in the corner.
For Chicagoans who use one of the many old tunnels under Lake Shore Drive connecting the “mainland” to the nation’s most popular trail along Lake Michigan, the feeling of claustrophobia and invisibility of what’s around the bend is too common. New tunnels, which I prefer to bridges because you go downhill first, should be a priority when the State of Illinois rebuilds Lake Shore Drive north of Grand Avenue in the next decade. This is what those tunnels look like; sometimes they have mirrors.
ChiHackNight heard from Aldertrack’s former staffer Jimm Dispensa earlier in the year about the tools and processes they use to publish, but it’s hard to call tonight’s meeting a followup from the meeting with Dispensa, because they were focused on entirely different parts of the operation.
Tonight was more about the politics that Aldertrack “interferes” with.
There are ~70 different boards and commissions in the City of Chicago, but information about each is sparse. Most don’t have their own website, but the bigger ones do.
In our quarterly report product – the first was published in August – we display a picture, a name, background on their day job, an email, and a phone number. It was hard to find this kind of information. If their appointment requires City Council approval then it can be a little easier to find the resolution that appointed them.
Issues in hunting down information
Sometimes information didn’t match.
Sometimes the source documents is missing data, like the appointment or expiration date.
The mayor’s fashion council, we weren’t sure if they met, what their purpose was.
Eventually we found pension board compensation amounts in state law.
Fourcher: City agency staff have basically been trained that they should never answer any questions from the press. The rule is to refer press to the mayor’s press office, so that they can make it hard for the press to get information. There’s a lot of information that’s obscure, whether purposely or not.
We published the Quarterly Report as a PDF but eventually we want to put it online so that you can click on someone’s name and see what other boards they serve on.
The content we find, and put in our Quarterly Report and Clout.wiki, is something we refer to in our reporting.
[I didn’t take any notes about the Clout.wiki, but there’s a lot of information in the questions and answers below.]
Alex Soble: Does the city council do more than we think they do?
Claudia: There’s this perception that aldermen are a rubber stamp, or just there to approve the mayor’s agenda. I think that’s part of the problem.
Because people think that the news media is less likely to cover the things that are covered in the “big” committees (like finance). The education committee doesn’t seem to matter to a wider audience.
We put the TIF expenditures data in our newsletter, and I don’t think that’s something you found in the Tribune.
I also come from the NYC city council, where it operates differently. There’s less conflict in Chicago, especially when it comes to the budget [Claudia described how the city council ripped Bloomberg’s proposed budget to shreds and inserted their own pieces.]. There’s no speaker here that decides what bills get voted on, while Chicago’s mayor presides over the meeting.
Mike: Chicago isn’t a true representative democracy, but it’s less of a terrible thing than people think it is.
Eric Sherman: Why isn’t the wiki open?
Mike: It’s our site, and we don’t want to take the risk that people write dumb things. We close it off to everyone. We would love to hear from someone who has information, and we would check it, and then post it. We want to run it through the journalistic process we adhere to.
Claudia: We don’t have enough staff to moderate the wiki.
Mike: I don’t think even one full-time person could do it.
Forest Gregg: Many of the application processes are hard to figure out in Chicago. I love the documenting you’ve been doing of all the different commissions. What have you heard from users if they would like to hear things more on how things work? Lucas Museum…a number of steps that have to happen, a number of bodies that have to sign off on it. For developers, there’s a cottage industry around permit expeditors, but there’s the same problem of knowing how to step through other development processes.
Claudia: Land use boards…Zoning Board of Appeals that’s a 4-member panel that decides whether or not you can get a special use permit (to build a set back garage, or something).
Mike: We initially had this idea that we would have a regular city council product, and a separate zoning product. What we learned is that people who have an interest in land use, have a passing interest. Once the thing you’re interested in is “over”, like a proposed project that gets approved, then you’re not interested anymore.
The people that fall into the category of perpetual interest in land use, they all know each other. We decided to roll that into the main subscription. We have thought of doing trainings on how zoning works, here’s how you build a building in Chicago.
Forest: I think you’re in a good position to…make some flow charts. That information is shockingly hard to find right now, unless you have a professional interest in that area.
Jerry Mandujano: You started with campaigns [I missed the rest of the question] Is there something else that people should know?
Claudia: Property taxes, most other press focuses on how the changes would affect you on a personal level. What we do, we tend to be focused on the nitty gritty, the language of the ordinance, what conversations are going on around City Hall.
Mike: The demands of most of the news organizations is very different, and we have a blank slate. Every time someone zigs, let’s zag, and see what happens. If you read just one day of our product, you’re going to react, “Omg, what is this stuff? There’s so much detail.” If you read us over time then you’re going to get a good picture.
Fran Spielman, that woman is a freaking machine at the Sun-Times, she writes so much, and I mean this in the most positive way. She went on vacation for two weeks, and on the day she came back she published three articles. She has her head above water and she’s easily doing backstrokes.
[Someone commented that there used to be the City News Bureau which did a lot of what Aldertrack is doing.]
Steven Vance: Alderman show their true selves on social media. Many alderman have few followers and I think you’re spreading their thoughts further than they have been themselves. (I was referring to a new section on the free Aldertrack newsletter where they were posting links to weird or interesting tweets.)
Mike: And we’ve been getting some ire for that! There’s a lot of information out there, and we scoop it up, sift through it, and that’s shoe leather reporting. There’s a lot of sitting on the phone and calling people.
West Town Bikes sent these young adults to Youth Bike Summit in New York City (2013). Photo: Michael Young
I am copying this message straight from the West Town Bikes e-newsletter I just received, with some personal notes in brackets. WTB holds multiple fundraisers each year. Tour de Fat is their largest, but we need something to do in the winter, right?
Bikecitement in three weeks is a time for people to get to know more about West Town Bikes, its people and its programs, than possible at Tour de Fat – all while enjoying Revolution Brewing refreshments.
1. Support one of Chicago’s premier bike-based, youth development organizations.
[I support it in multiple ways: blogging about it now, going to their events, taking friends there to help them fix their bikes, and buying my bike parts there. I also make monetary donations.]
2. Meet our talented & enthusiastic youth leaders.
[The youth who join West Town Bikes – either as students, or as apprentices and later staff members – are the coolest, brightest young adults I know.]
3. Bid on auction items like theater and performance tickets, dinner at fine restaurants, Chicago sports memorabilia, and much, much more.
[I don’t like going out to these things, so I’ll leave room on the silent auction bidding sheet for your name.]
4. Enjoy craft beers & tasty treats from Revolution Brewery.
5. Enjoy the “Bike Scene” with the West Town Staff!
[The staff, what can I say, are committed, passionate, and fun to hang out with.]
Emily Leidenfrost, a program coordinator at West Town Bikes, helps kids make crafts at Tour de Fat this summer. Photo: Daniel Rangel
Addendum: This summer I co-taught a bike planning class with Emily Leidenfrost. She led the class while I joined a few times each week to teach urban planning and bike infrastructure design concepts. I instructed a group of five high school students (most of whom became college freshman last month) to collect and analyze data, and prepare a professional report that described the problem of bicycling among key sites along Western Avenue in multiple neighborhoods.
Monday, November 9, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
at Revolution Brewing’s brewpub in Logan Square
2323 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
John and I at Taqueria La Zacatecana in Avondale, where we first hashed out the details of what would become Grid Chicago that later transitioned into Streetsblog Chicago.
I haven’t talked about this here, but two months ago this weekend I got the message that Streetsblog Chicago wouldn’t continue because we didn’t raise enough money in the last fundraising round.
I didn’t talk about it here because I was busy with dealing with shutting that down, working with my partner John Greenfield to come up with a transition plan (to resurrect the site) and because I have myriad side projects that quickly and easily captured my newly-available attention. I eased right into developing those more and into involving myself in new jobs on a freelance basis.
Our readers dutifully expressed their support for my and John’s work at Streetsblog Chicago – providing an alternative voice for transportation and land use policy discussion.
The most heartening and unexpected expressions have come from the very agencies on which we report and criticize.
Our reporting was thoughtful and necessary they said, even though, and this has been unanimous, they sometimes disagreed with our perspective.
I believe their appreciation of our work has always been there but there was never a good moment, or a necessity, for them to make it known.
It’s heartening to know that our writing – advocating for safer streets, funding allocation that promoted efficient and active transportation, converting street space from moving cars quickly to moving people – was making its way in the corridors of the bureaucracies and street managers and place makers and bus operators.
I think what we did with Streetsblog Chicago was necessary, too, and I waited and worked to make it happen since 2007. I bided my time with this blog until meeting editor-in-chief Ben Fried in 2010. The conditions weren’t right then, and a friend at a 2011 Star Trek watching party (don’t ask) in Logan Square put me and John together after which we made the next best thing: Grid Chicago.
I want to keep writing Streetsblog Chicago and we need your help. John and I are raising $75,000 to resume publishing at very-close-to-before rate of five to seven original posts per week. Donate now.
Since the January 8 hiatus we held a fundraiser in the pedway, which Moxie founder Daniel Ronan organized. We’ll be holding another fundraiser in Revolution Brewing’s taproom on Kedzie on Wednesday, March 26, at our donor appreciation party: Everyone is welcome but those who donate $100 on or before the party will get John’s book “Bars Across America” and their first round on the house.
I’m also putting together a tour of developments around Chicago near transit stations that have taken advantage of a city ordinance reducing their parking minimum. Save the date, Saturday, April 4.
A Range Rover with Illinois license plate “0” is seen moving 40 MPH in a 30 MPH zone through a red light at Ashland and Cortland.
I’m just seeing who’s driving around Chicago one night, using the Tribune-published dataset of over 4.1 million tickets issued from red light cameras.
The City of Chicago has installed at least 340 red light cameras since the mid-2000s to reduce the number of people running red lights and crashing. They’re supposed to be installed at intersections where there’s a higher-than-average rate of right angle (“T-bone”) crashes, which are more injurious than other typical intersection crash types.
Assessing safety wasn’t the Tribune’s story angle, though. It was about showing spikes in the number of tickets issued, which I verified to some extent. The article called the tickets issued during these spikes “undeserved” and “unfair”. The data doesn’t have enough information to say whether or not that is the case; a video or extensive photo review is necessary to rule out rolling right turns while the light was red (a much less dangerous maneuver unless people are trying to cross the street).
The first query I ran assessed the number of people who get more than one ticket from a red light camera. Since I was tired my query was a little sloppy and it missed a lot of more useful order choices and didn’t select the right fields. I fell asleep and started again in the morning. This time, I got it right in just two tries – I needed to try again because I mistakenly put HAVING before the GROUP BY clause.
Here’s the first query, in its final form, to retrieve the number of tickets for each license plate in each state (I assumed there may be identical license plates among states).
select max(ticket_number), max(timestamp), license_plate, state, count(*) AS count FROM rlc_tickets group by license_plate, state HAVING count(*) > 1 order by count DESC NULLS LAST
It resulted in 851,538 rows, with each row representing a unique license plate-state combination and the number of red light violations that combination received. You can reasonably assert that cars don’t change license plates more than a couple times in a single person’s ownership, meaning you can also assert that each row represents one automobile.
851,538 vehicles, which make up 35.1% of all violators, have received 2,601,608, or 62.3%, of the 4,174,770 tickets. (There are 2,424,700 license plate-state combinations, using the query below.)
select count(ticket_number) from rlc_tickets group by license_plate, state
Here’re the top 10 vehicles that have received the most violations:
SCHLARS, IL, 78
9720428, IL, 59
8919589, IL, 57
A633520, IL, 52
3252TX, IL, 45
A209445, IL, 44
N339079, IL, 44
X870991, IL, 41
239099, IL, 41
4552985, IL, 40
The next step would be to design a chart to show these vehicles’ activity over the months – did the vehicles’ drivers’ behavior change, decreasing the number of red light violations they received? Did the vehicle owner, perhaps a parent, tell their child to stop running red lights? Or has the vehicle owner appealed erroneously-issued tickets?
When I ran one of the first, mistaken, queries, I got results that put license plate “0” at the top of the list, with only nine tickets (license plates with two or more zeros were listed next).
I googled “license plate 0” and found a 2009 Tribune article which interviewed the Range Rover-driving owner of license plate “0” and the problems he encountered because of it. The City of Chicago parking meter enforcement staff were testing new equipment and used “0” as a test license plate not knowing such that license plate exists. Tom Feddor received real tickets, though.
I then looked up on PhotoNotice the license plate and ticket violation number to find, indeed, the license plate belonged to someone driving a Range Rover at Ashland Avenue and Cortland Street on July 17, 2008. An added bonus was Feddor’s speed in that Range Rover: the camera recorded the car going 40 MPH in a 30 MPH zone.
I was done browsing around for the biggest offenders so next I wondered how many tickets were issued to vehicles licensed in Arizona, where U-Haul registers all of its nationwide vehicles. Arizona plates came in 29th place for the greatest number of tickets.
select count(*) AS count, state from rlc_tickets group by state order by count DESC NULLS LAST
As you may have expected, four surrounding Midwest states, and Ohio, rounded up the top five states after Illinois – but this isn’t notable because most visitors come from there and they each only comprise less than 1.3% of the total tickets. The next state was Florida.
What’s next: I’m working on finding a correlation between the number of reported crashes, and type, at intersections with red light cameras and the number of tickets they issued. I started doing that before running the numbers behind this blog post but it got complicated and it takes a long time to geospatially compare over 500,000 crash reports with over 4.1 million red light tickets.
What else do you want to know?
I will delete all comments that don’t discuss the content of this post, including comments that call red light cameras, or this program, a “money grab”.
I’m teaching OpenStreetMap 101 at the first MaptimeCHI.
Architects will learn that OpenStreetMap can be used as a data source when developing projects and as a basis for designing custom maps in project publications (website, anthology, monograph, client presentations).
This meeting is about getting an introduction to OpenStreetMap and learning to make your first edit in the “Wikipedia of maps”.
Thursday, July 17th, from 6-8 PM
200 E Randolph St
Here are two examples of how architects could use OpenStreetMap data.
Example 1 of how to use OpenStreetMap. Instead of publishing a screenshot of Google Maps in your documents or website, create a custom design map like this without having to spend so much time tweaking it in Illustrator. This map was created by Stamen Design using TileMill.
And the second.
Here’s one example where OpenStreetMap could be useful. Let’s say you’re working on a site plan for Willow Creek Church in South Barrington and you need a general layout of the parking lot. 1. You can get it from OpenStreetMap because it’s already there. 2. You can draw it in OpenStreetMap yourself (to benefit all other OSM users) and then extract it as a shapefile.
Divvy bikes have been covered in snow frequently this winter. Photo by Jennifer Davis.
As self-proclaimed Divvy Data Brigade Captain* in Chicago’s #opendata and #opengov community I must tell you that all Divvy Data Challenge submissions are due tomorrow, Tuesday, March 11. Divvy posted:
Help us illustrate the answers to questions such as: Where are riders going? When are they going there? How far do they ride? What are top stations? What interesting usage patterns emerge? What can the data reveal about how Chicago gets around on Divvy?
We’re interested in infographics, maps, images, animations, or websites that can help answer questions and reveal patterns in Divvy usage. We’re looking for entries to tell us something new about these trips and show us what they look like.
I’ve seen a handful of the entries so far, including some to which I’ve contributed, and I’m impressed. When the deadline passes I’ll feature my favorites.
Want to play with the data? You should start with these resources, in order:
Share your work ahead of time and leave a comment with a link to your project.
* This title is a play on Christopher Whitaker’s position as Code For America Brigade Captain and all around awesome-doer of keeping track of everything that’s going on in these communities and publishing event write-ups on Smart Chicago Collaborative.
As much as you may believe, because you encounter them so rarely, Chicago indeed has several types of “beg buttons”. This is a mechanism wherein a person walking along a street must apply to cross another street. You are begging for permission. They are not popular, many are not even hooked up anymore, and they don’t call the pedestrian signal any sooner (their purpose is to make the green traffic signal long enough for a person to cross).
Jan Gehl et. al. succinctly demonstrate in Cities for People the opposing methods of telling a person when they can cross the street (meaning cross traffic has been halted).
The Pedestrian Plan says that beg buttons should have an LED light that indicates to the pusher that the button has been pushed. (The Pedestrian Plan also calls “traffic signals” a high cost pedestrian safety tool, alongside the high cost of “pedestrian hybrid beacons” and the medium cost of “rectangular rapid flash beacons”. Slow traffic, on the other hand, doesn’t have an operating cost, but it definitely has a “we’re getting there cost”.)
The Plan also says to get rid of them “except for locations where they are necessary to bring up a WALK phases for pedestrians” and without saying what makes it necessary to bring up a WALK phase (versus always having a WALK phase for that direction of traffic) and if that “necessary” is aligned with the Complete Streets Design Guidelines’ paradigm shift. Systematically removing inoperable ones is a separate, medium term milestone (alongside developing a location database).
The CSDG thankfully considers many other realities in Chicago that go against the new transportation paradigm that puts the pedestrian first. For example, it calls for the systematic removal of all slip lanes – none of which I’ve heard or seen removed in the year since CDOT created the guidelines.
I want the city to systematically remove all beg buttons. If the green signal is too short for a person to cross the street, then it’s probably too short for a bicyclist to cross in the green signal (yes, this exists in Chicago). It also means the street is too wide to foster it being a place over being a pipe for cars. And if it’s not a place, what is it and why are people walking there? What personal needs – like a job, food, and socializing – are not being fulfilled where they live that people have to cross this road to meet those needs?
Updated March 10 at 12:56 to clarify what the Pedestrian Plan says about beg buttons.