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Tag Archives | Chicago

Steven Can Plan: Let’s get rid of beg buttons

Atwells Avenue and Dean Street

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).

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News & Notes

OneFund-2 Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick announced The One Fund Boston, to raise money to help those families most affected by the tragic events that unfolded during Monday’s Boston Marathon. To contribute to The One Fund Boston, go to theonefundboston.org.

The Atlantic Cities: How President Obama’s Budget Proposal Would Affect Cities

President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2014, released [last week], focuses on economic growth and a strong middle class. Better urban development isn’t the first item on that agenda, but it’s an important part of the administration’s priorities for the coming year.

Three agencies in particular are at the core of that work, with offices dedicated to making sure community development contributes to regional and national economic growth. The president’s 2014 budget would change how each of these agencies invest in community development.


The Atlantic Cities: New Chicago Plan: Pedestrians Come First

[I]n the Second City – as in just about every American metro – autos have long dominated city streets and how we think about who uses them, why they exist and what defines them as successful. This summer, though, Chicago is planning to roll out a small-sounding but seismic policy shift: From now on, in the design guidelines for every effort from major streetscape projects to minor roadside electrical work, transportation work must defer to a new “default modal hierarchy.” The pedestrian comes first.

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News & Notes

ecoRI News: Parking Lots Proliferate at Twin River

Getting a parking lot built in Rhode Island typically requires permits and review by state agencies and local officials. But in one case a large lot at Twin River Casino inexplicably appeared next to a wetland.


Urbanophile: Milwaukee’s Relationship with the Chicago Mega-City Revisited by David Holmes

I was intrigued by Aaron’s recent post “Don’t Fly Too Close to the Sun Piece” which focused on the relationship between Milwaukee and Chicago and the notion of whether “proximity to Chicago or another mega-city represents an unambiguous good,” or – as posited by Aaron – may actually be more of a curse than a blessing, and something that drains vitality instead of increasing it. This is a topic that interests me both from the perspective of a long-time resident of Milwaukee and as a long-time fan of the City of Chicago. There are likely unique combinations of factors to consider in this type of evaluation for every city pair – including the distance between the cities, the presence or absence of high speed and/or low cost transit options between the cities, and the relative size. Although I did not comment on Aaron’s post at the time of publication, I thought it would be useful to consider some specific examples of ways in which Chicago enhances or decreases Milwaukee’s economic vitality as both the article and many of the comments on Milwaukee-Chicago and other city pairs, seemed to lack specific examples of both positive and negative impacts.

Some Providence-Boston talk made its way into the comments.


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News & Notes

firstworks dining

People eating at Kennedy Plaza during last month’s FirstWorks Festival

The Atlantic Cities: The Power of the Movable Chair

In his classic 1980 study of the use of public spaces in New York City, William H. Whyte and his team of researchers used cameras to watch people and understand how they used the public places in the city. One of the takeaways from the film footage was that people like to sit in public places, and, far more fascinatingly, that if given the option they will almost always move chairs before they sit in them.


The New York Times: How the G.O.P. Became the Anti-Urban Party

A leading Republican columnist, trying to re-stoke her candidate’s faltering campaign before the first presidential debate, felt so desperate that she advised him to turn to cities.

“Wade into the crowd, wade into the fray, hold a hell of a rally in an American city – don’t they count anymore?” Peggy Noonan lamented in The Wall Street Journal. “A big, dense city with skyscrapers like canyons, crowds and placards, and yelling. All of our campaigning now is in bland suburbs and tired hustings.”

But the fact is that cities don’t count anymore – at least not in national Republican politics.

See also: Greater Greater Washington: Presidential debate again ignores urban issues


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News & Notes

Portland Aerial Tram car

Portland Aerial Tram in station. Photo (cc) kevincrumbs.

News & Notes Looking to the skies for answers: a second look at gondola transit [The Toronto Star]

[Toronto] Mayor Rob Ford seems to favour tunneling transit underground in Toronto. But a growing number of international cities, including some in Canada, are casting their eyes to the sky at an unconventional mode that’s cheaper, cleaner and quicker to build than subways and light rail.


In fringe suburbs, has economics trumped the appeal of new? [Greater Greater Washington]

The recession and the burst of the housing bubble have stopped development in many fringe suburbs. With many urban neighborhoods on the rise, some suggest that fringe suburbs are on the decline. Has simple economics surpassed the appeal of “new” in the hinterlands?


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News & Notes

Chicago Holga-ish

A city bus in Downtown Chicago. Photo (cc) CameliaTWU

News & Notes Will Rahm Emanuel Show America What BRT Can Do? [Streetsblog]

With impressive urgency, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has spent his first months in office retooling and reconfiguring how the “City That Works” works. Emanuel’s energy is evident in changes from beat-cop deployment to the push for a longer school day, but perhaps the mayor’s most tangible efforts can be seen in his ambitious transportation agenda.

With Chicago DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein at his side, Emanuel has already implemented the city’s first protected bike lanes as part of a plan to add 100 miles of bike lanes within four years, announced a $1 billion upgrade to the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line, and passed a $2 “congestion fee” on downtown parking garages that will go towards the creation of a CTA Green Line stop that serves McCormick Place – the nation’s largest convention center – and a downtown circulator bus route being billed as bus rapid transit.


Top cities stories of 2011 [The Grist]

It’s that time of year again: When public schools everywhere cast about desperately for a holiday celebration that doesn’t involve Jesus or a dude in a red suit; when families gather from thither and yon to spend a few days remembering why they’ve scattered thither and yon in the first place; and yes, it’s time to take stock of the year past, and look ahead to the one coming up. As the guy charged with keeping an eye on all things urban around here, I curled up with my laptop on a winter’s night that was definitely not as cold as they used to be, dug through the archives, and now offer this, my most humble (and totally non-denominational) retrospective of 2011.


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News & Notes

Fare Box

Photo (cc) Nick Bastian

News & Notes Make bus service free [New Urbanism Blog]

It’s true. Nothing is ever free. But my proposition is that the basic city bus service that so many places fund would be better off as a basic municipal service, like fire or police. Fund it through a dedicated tax of some kind – sales, property, etc, and don’t bother to charge for the ride itself. Allow me to elaborate.


The bike whisperer [RedEye Chicago]

The wheels of change are in motion for city cyclists thanks to new initiatives from [Chicago] Mayor Emanuel. In the works are 100 miles of protected bike lanes, increased bike parking and a widespread bike-share program that could put Chicago on the map as one of the nation’s most bike-friendly cities.

Enter Gabe Klein, the city’s Department of Transportation commissioner, who took office this year.


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News & Notes

Chicago Pedestrian Safety Campaign

Mannequin on Chicago’s Wacker Drive part of that city’s pedestrian safety campaign. Photo from CDOT’s Facebook page.

News & Notes Mannequins stand up for safety along Wacker Drive [The Chicago Tribune]

Mannequins representing dead pedestrians were placed along Wacker Drive downtown on Tuesday to focus public attention on fatal crashes in Chicago involving vehicles and people on foot, officials said.

“You’ll notice that some of it is sort of hard-hitting, some of it may even be a little bit shocking,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “But we want to remind people that when you are frustrated behind the wheel, these are real people and real lives we are talking about here. Please take that into consideration when you are driving, when you are riding your bike and when you are walking to look out for those around you.”


What works in cities: Why placemaking requires passion even more than big budgets [YongeStreet]

Before Detroit’s Campus Martius Park opened in 2004, many of the historic buildings around it had emptied. Major department stores were vacant or torn down.

To turn it around, the mayor’s office established a task force that studied the best public spaces in the world and quizzed the locals on how they would use a new park. After a $20-million investment, the park started buzzing year-round with music, a bistro, and ice skating under colourful lights and a giant Christmas tree. The park has since attracted several new corporate headquarters, new condos and a whopping one million park visitors each year.


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News & Notes: Parking Edition

Parking

News & Notes

Chicago Proposes “Congestion Fee” On Parking to Fund Transit [Streetsblog]

In last winter’s Chicago mayoral election, all the leading candidates made ambitious promises to increase funding for the city’s struggling transit agency. Now, with a proposed $2 “congestion fee” – really a downtown surcharge on the city’s parking tax – Emanuel plans to make drivers pay their fair share and use the proceeds to build a new rail station and the city’s first bus rapid transit line.

Under Emanuel’s plan, anyone parking in a downtown lot or garage would be required to pay an additional $2 on top of the existing parking tax. Drivers parking on the street or in residential garages wouldn’t be taxed, though according to the Chicago Tribune, some transportation advocates want to see the fee extended to downtown meters. According to the Sun-Times, the fee would raise roughly $28 million.

We don’t even have a parking tax, check out Chicago’s current parking tax.


It’s the Parking, Stupid: One Transportation Consultant’s Tough Love Approach [The Atlantic Cities]

Transportation consultant Jeffrey Tumlin figures that you’ve got to be colorful when you’re talking about the intractable problems of urban parking infrastructure. As such, he describes what he does this way: “Our business operates like a methadone clinic to get cities off their parking addictions,” he says. “And each addict goes through a different route.”

Tumlin starts with another great metaphor: What would happen if we gave all children free ice cream? They would, undoubtedly, be thrilled. But in the process we’d also be creating obesity, driving up the price of milk, and probably causing a cheese shortage. “And just as it would be very bad economic and social policy to provide free ice cream for all children,” Tumlin says, “it is also bad to provide free parking for all motorists.”


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News & Notes

News & Notes [Chicago] Mayor Mandates Public Transit for City Employees [NBC Chicago]

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hasn’t been quiet about his use of public transit, and he wants city employees to get comfortable using it too.

Under new travel mileage and reimbursement policies outlined Saturday, those who work for city government are required to use Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains as their main mode of transportation once they’ve clocked in.


In Little Rock, a Crosswalk That Forbids Crossing [The Atlantic Cities]

But while the city’s heart is in the right place, its head is on wrong. Upon implementing the new no-crossing sign in 2005, the city’s traffic manager, Bill Henry, offered this take: “Too often the motorists will be watching oncoming traffic to make the turn, and will not be mindful of pedestrians in the crosswalk.” Instead of punishing the perpetrators, then, the city chose to punish the victims. In all likelihood the sign was the cheapest practical solution to a legitimate social problem, but this type of auto-focused mentality ultimately hamstrings urban movement, and pedestrian safety, more than it helps.


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Like: Chicago’s bus tracker at stops

Chicago bus stop bus tracker

Real time bus tracker at bus stop in Chicago. Photo from @CDOTNews on Twitter via Grid Chicago.

Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Director of the Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein (pictured, center with CTA President Forrest Claypool at left), announced today the installation of real-time tracking of buses at bus stops in that city.

It just goes without saying that I like this, right?

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News & Notes

Where Things Are, From Near to Far: A Children’s Book About Planning [Planetizen]

While playing in the city park, little Hugo wonders, “Who put these buildings here?” Hugo’s mother leads him on a whirlwind trip through the city, the country, and everything in-between to explain the answer. This engaging book is an easy introduction to the world of urban planning, and illustrates that “every building has its place.”

In case anyone was wondering, I am not too old for you to buy this for me.


The Alexander Hamilton solution to RI’s local pension crisis [WPRI]

There are 23 plans run by 18 municipalities – about half the 39 cities and towns – that “are considered at-risk” because of underfunding, former Auditor General Ernest Almonte told the pension advisory group Wednesday. They include Providence, Warwick, Cranston, Pawtucket and East Providence – the state’s five largest communities and key parts of its economic engine.

This fall’s special legislative session on pensions is unlikely to do anything to address those local plans, focusing instead on the ones run by the state. But Almonte and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung warned of dire consequences if the independent plans’ problems aren’t addressed soon, and Governor Chafee proposed the MAST Fund partly due to those concerns.


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