WBEZ | Metropolitan Planning Council http://www.wbez.org/tags/metropolitan-planning-council Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: July 27, 2015 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-27/morning-shift-july-27-2015-112484 <p><p>We talk public transit &mdash; specifically how it&rsquo;s changed since implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act 25 years ago &mdash; but also how to create more development along Chicago&rsquo;s transit corridors. We also get a taste of the stories coming out of Feast, a production by the Albany Park Theater Project. And we hear from WBEZ reporters about the weekend funeral of Sandra Bland and the Chief Keef hologram in Hammond, Ind.</p></p> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-27/morning-shift-july-27-2015-112484 MPC aims to increase development along transit lines http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-27/mpc-aims-increase-development-along-transit-lines-112481 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/courtesy of metropolitan planning council.png" alt="" /><p><p>The &ldquo;If you build it they will come&rdquo; mentality doesn&rsquo;t just apply to baseball diamonds. More and more people want to live and work near public transit. Chicago&rsquo;s Metropolitan Planning Council argues that even though efforts to increase investment in development near public transit have picked up under mayor Rahm Emanuel, current regulations and financing tools limit the full potential for new construction. Chicago&rsquo;s MPC recently released a report as part of a new campaign to push for more Transit Oriented Development, or T.O.D. The report is called Grow Chicago and it details what&rsquo;s been happening and what still needs to be done. Peter Skosey is the agency&rsquo;s Executive Vice President and he&#39;s in studio with us to share more information.</p></p> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-27/mpc-aims-increase-development-along-transit-lines-112481 Real-estate developer in hot area sees bright future — and displacement http://www.wbez.org/news/real-estate-developer-hot-area-sees-bright-future-%E2%80%94-and-displacement-111231 <p><p><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Rob%20Buono%20meeting%203%20CROPSCALE%20fix.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 258px; width: 350px;" title="At a community meeting, Robert Buono presents architectural renderings of the dual-tower complex he wants to build near a Chicago Transit Authority stop in the Logan Square neighborhood. The project is among a half-dozen residential developments that could hasten the area’s transformation to an upscale enclave. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />About 150 people packed into a Latin American restaurant a few weeks ago to hear about a proposal for an apartment complex in Logan Square, a fast-changing neighborhood on Chicago&rsquo;s Northwest Side.</p><p>At the invitation of the local alderman, real-estate developer Robert Buono got to make his case for a zoning change that would allow the project on a vacant parcel designated for something else.</p><p>Buono projected architectural renderings of the complex onto a screen facing the audience. They showed two glass towers &mdash; one 11 stories, the other 15 &mdash; that together would hold 254 residential units. He said tenants in two-bedroom apartments would pay as much as $2,700 a month.</p><p>&ldquo;Everything is privately financed,&rdquo; said Buono, 51, who became a developer after working for a Lincoln Park alderman in the 1980s, when that North Side neighborhood was transforming into a wealthy enclave. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re asking for no support from the city.&rdquo;</p><p>Buono said his towers would be part of a trend, known as &ldquo;transit-oriented development,&rdquo; in which homes are built within walking distance of train stations, making it more convenient for residents to live without a car. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re going to have higher density, lower parking and taller buildings,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The dual-tower complex is among a half-dozen upscale residential developments proposed along Logan Square&rsquo;s stretch of the Chicago Transit Authority&rsquo;s Blue Line. That train line connects O&rsquo;Hare International Airport with the city&rsquo;s downtown, known as the Loop.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/WHEELER-KEARNS-MKE-978x1024.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 314px;" title="The towers would stand at 2293 N. Milwaukee Ave. within a few hundred feet of the California stop of the CTA’s Blue Line. (Rendering courtesy of Wheeler Kearns Architects)" />Audience members questioned Buono about everything from the shadows the towers would cast to the effect of the complex&rsquo;s rainwater runoff on the sewers to whether the residents would bring more cars to the neighborhood than he was predicting.</p><p>And another question kept coming up. How would such steep rents affect a neighborhood that still had many working-class residents, including tens of thousands of Latinos?</p><p>Buono said he had agreed to a condition, imposed by the alderman, that 10 percent of the units be reserved for affordable housing.</p><p>That led to more questions. A young man who grew up in Logan Square drew applause when he asked, &ldquo;What is the amount of profit that you are going to make if this goes exactly to plan?&rdquo;</p><p>Buono estimated that the $60 million project could net roughly $10 million or, he added quickly, it could lose that much. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the risk that we take,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>A follow-up question was how much profit there would be if the entire building were devoted to affordable units. Buono answered.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s not a lender on the face of the earth that would loan me money to build the project,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t build it inexpensively enough for the rents to support the costs of construction. It&rsquo;s just not possible.&rdquo;</p><p>Buono is not out to solve Chicago&rsquo;s affordable-housing crisis on his own. But he said the project would help attract young professionals that would uplift Logan Square and the rest of the city. The people he has in mind would use the train to get to their jobs in the Loop. Or, Buono said, they would be &ldquo;consultants that work out of town.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 22px;">&lsquo;</span><span style="font-size:22px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">I don&rsquo;t want to move from here&rsquo;</span></span></p><p>Not everyone in Logan Square likes the idea of bringing in those sorts of newcomers.</p><p>A few blocks from the proposed apartment complex, Andre Vásquez pulled up to his 10-year-old daughter&rsquo;s school and slipped open the big door of his family&rsquo;s car &mdash; an old Dodge Caravan. She climbed in and told him about a field trip her class took that day.</p><p>Vásquez, 41, makes his living as a DJ for parties and business events. His wife is a part-time nanny. They&rsquo;re raising two kids in a two-bedroom Logan Square apartment about three blocks from the proposed towers.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bakery%20CROPSCALE.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 397px; width: 300px;" title="A Mexican bakery stands near a Logan Square elevated-train station that real-estate interests are eyeing for ‘transit-oriented development.’ Despite years of gentrification, Logan Square still has tens of thousands of Latinos. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />&ldquo;I pay $950 a month, which is fairly cheap for this neighborhood,&rdquo; Vásquez said. &ldquo;And I was just informed by my landlord that she&rsquo;s going to have to raise the rents at least another $400 or $500 because the taxes in the area have gone up.&rdquo;</p><p>The neighborhood&rsquo;s rents have gone up because property values have increased as wealthier people have arrived. From 2011 to 2013, median sales prices of Logan Square homes jumped almost a third.</p><p>Vásquez said he had been displaced before &mdash; from a nearby neighborhood called West Town, where he grew up. &ldquo;They built their condominiums and only people with money, and lots of money, move into them,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no way people like myself or my parents or grandparents could ever afford it.&rdquo;</p><p>Vásquez looked at his daughter in the van&rsquo;s back seat and said he did not want her to go through the same thing. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to move from here,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;This is all she knows.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="320" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/gentrification/widget/22/" style="float: right; clear: right;" width="400"></iframe></p><p>This is textbook gentrification. And Buono, the real-estate developer, defends it.</p><p>Interviewed in his office, Buono said the towers would serve a basic need: &ldquo;Developing communities that are going to be attractive to the future of the city of Chicago &mdash; so that the demographic that we&rsquo;re addressing, the 18-to-35-year-olds &mdash; so that they want to move to Chicago, that they want to work in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Buono called the lack of development so close to the Blue Line station a missed opportunity for the city to boost its revenue. &ldquo;We look at a property like that today that pays $29,000 in real-estate taxes because it&rsquo;s vacant,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;A new development there would produce $350,000-$400,000 a year.&rdquo;</p><p>Buono said his project will benefit the entire Logan Square neighborhood. &ldquo;Bringing 300-400 people to an area, that really is depopulated, starts to support a whole bunch of activities,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Those people living in those buildings support the businesses in the neighborhood.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">&lsquo;Natural and inevitable&rsquo;</span></span></p><p>This reasoning is familiar to Marisa Novara, who directs the housing and community-development program of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit advocacy group.</p><p>&ldquo;Anyone in a neighborhood that has a lack of amenities &mdash; places to shop locally, strong schools &mdash; wants things to get better,&rdquo; Novara said. &ldquo;What they don&rsquo;t want is to not be able to live there anymore once they do get better. Housing that is near transit should be available to everyone, not only the highest bidder.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marisa%20Novara%201%20CROPSCALE.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 242px; width: 320px;" title="Marisa Novara of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit group, says Chicago must try to ‘harness’ the private sector due to a lack of federal affordable-housing funds. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />Novara said the city has interests beyond attracting young professionals and collecting more property taxes. When gentrification fuels economic segregation, she said, everyone loses.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a cost to concentrated poverty &mdash; education outcomes, health outcomes, crime, economic productivity,&rdquo; Novara said.</p><p>Without a massive increase in federal funds for affordable housing, Novara said, cities such as Chicago must harness the private sector. That means setting up carrots and sticks so developers in hot neighborhoods include affordable units in their projects, she said.</p><p>For his Logan Square towers, Buono has already agreed to include the 10 percent. If his project is not scaled back, that would amount to 25 units. That leaves the other 225 to be rented for whatever the market will bear.</p><p>&ldquo;If we achieve the rents that we&rsquo;re suggesting that we can &mdash; and the landlord down the street in the two-flat decides to raise his rent as a result, primarily because the market says he can &mdash; could it cause a displacement of some people?&rdquo; Buono&nbsp;asked. &ldquo;The answer to that is yes.&rdquo;</p><p>And if Buono&rsquo;s project and the other Logan Square proposals&nbsp;materialized, he acknowledged, they would &ldquo;alter the character&rdquo; of the neighborhood. &ldquo;This is a natural, inevitable trend that has happened in many neighborhoods in Chicago,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><br /><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 05:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/real-estate-developer-hot-area-sees-bright-future-%E2%80%94-and-displacement-111231 Chicago’s Union Station will get indoor park and giant blob http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-union-station-will-get-indoor-park-and-giant-blob-108435 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Union Station 130815 AY.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Commuters going to Chicago&rsquo;s Union Station on August 24 will be greeted by <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/uploads/cms/documents/trainyard_visualplan.pdf">an indoor park</a> and <a href="https://www.metroplanning.org/uploads/cms/documents/blahblahblob_visualplan.pdf">a giant blob</a>.</p><p>The Great Hall will hold an indoor park with an artificial lawn. It will have seats made from recycled newspapers, picnic tables and tetherball. Graham Grilli, an architect at <a href="http://www.spacearchplan.com/">SPACE architects and planners</a>, the team behind the park, says city commuters travel to the suburbs to enjoy outdoor space and he wanted this park to bring the outdoors to them.</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5c71b554-8441-6b59-47f1-32c2df7bba5d">&ldquo;Union Station is one of those in-between places where you&rsquo;re in a rush the whole day, and you end up in Union Station with nothing to do for a few minutes,&rdquo; Grilli said. &ldquo;People are often using Union Station to go out to the suburbs, where there&rsquo;s a lot more open space, but the reality is they spend almost all their time commuting in a train or working in an office and they almost never get to enjoy it.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Outside Union Station, the plaza will have something that looks like a giant bouncy castle. Architect Katherine Darnstadt worked on the team behind the Blah Blah Blob!, a creation of <a href="http://latentdesign.net/">Latent Design</a> and the <a href="http://www.cudc.kent.edu/">Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Lots of things will be happening inside the blob,&quot; Darnstadt said. &quot;The blob will be surrounding tables and chairs that are on the plaza so people could walk inside, have a cup of coffee, eat their lunch inside of it.&rdquo;</p><p>The blob will be lined with artificial grass and will house fitness classes. Darnstadt says several organizations in Chicago have contacted her about wanting to host the blob at future events, so residents may still see the blob around the city after it leaves Union Station.The Metropolitan Planning Council, a local nonprofit development group, organized Active Union Station, a competition for designs that would help make it a gathering place instead of just a train station. The council picked these two designs as<a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/news-events/media-release/6760"> the winners</a>, and each team will receive $5,000.</p><p>The organizers were inspired by the <a href="http://www.unionstationdc.com/">Union Station in Washington, DC</a>, which is a tourist destination in itself; and 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, which has an urban space called <a href="http://universitycity.org/the-porch">the Porch</a> for art, group exercise and food trucks, says Marisa Novara, a program director at the Metropolitan Planning Council.&ldquo;There are a lot of people passing through, what we&rsquo;d like to do is give them more of a reason to stay,&rdquo; Novara said.</p><p>Novara also points out the contest &nbsp;to expand Union Station started from <a href="http://www.unionstationmp.com/">an ongoing collaboration</a> between the Metropolitan Planning Council, Amtrak, Metra, the Chicago Department of Transportation and other groups.Both installations will arrive next Saturday and stay till September 2.</p><p><em>Alan Yu is a WBEZ metro desk intern. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/Alan_Yu039">@Alan_Yu039</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 15 Aug 2013 18:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-union-station-will-get-indoor-park-and-giant-blob-108435 Quite a trip: Fabulous hidden spaces of Union Station revealed http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-07/quite-trip-fabulous-hidden-spaces-union-station-revealed-108035 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/9249509770_2daacf6c91_z.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 400px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">For a while now, the Metropolitan Planning Council has devoted its efforts to improving Union Station &mdash; and for good reason: The 85-year-old complex is the last of the city&#39;s grand old rail stations and the third-busiest passenger station in the country.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">And what a fine building it is, with its elegant limestone exterior and that romantic passenger hall. And what you can&#39;t see is pretty good too, as it turns out. The MPC earlier this year toured the building and photographed what&#39;s behind the train station&#39;s &quot;official access only&quot; doors and locked-out upper floors. The organization shared pictures of the tour&nbsp;<a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/news-events/blog-post/6737?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+mpc-blog+%28MPC+blog+posts%29">in a feature</a>&nbsp;on its website this week. The images show the old station has some of downtown&#39;s most remarkable hidden spaces.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">For instance, there is the station&#39;s former Women&#39;s Lounge&mdash; closed off from the main hall for years&mdash; in the photo above. Look at the columns, the coffered ceiling and the murals. The space is so large, the fair-sized crowd barely makes a dent in it.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Here&#39;s a vintage wash-up area in one of Union Station&#39;s closed upper floors:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/9249573884_3ef9cf2402_c.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 401px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">And the view from the roof:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/9246770669_016bf54178_h.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px;" title="" /></div></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Reuse of these spaces is critical to Union Station&#39;s future. As downtown development spreads westward, the station is a hub rather than facility on the edge of the Loop, which opens a ton of possibilties for those now-hidden offices, lounges and rooms. Having those spaces activated with businesses, restaurants, etc., would be good for the building and for the West Loop.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Want to see more? MPC&nbsp;<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/metroplanning/9246715189/in/set-72157634567699498">posted additional photos</a>&nbsp;on its Flickr page.&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 12 Jul 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-07/quite-trip-fabulous-hidden-spaces-union-station-revealed-108035 MPC Roundtable - Two Anchor Institutions, One Story of Revitalization through Housing Investment http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/mpc-roundtable-two-anchor-institutions-one-story-revitalization-through <p><p>One is an academic institution in the heart of the city of Chicago; the other is a manufacturing company located 40 miles northwest in suburban Carpentersville, Ill., population 38,062. Though it may seem unlikely, University of Chicago and OTTO Engineering have some things in common: Both of these large employers are anchoring community redevelopment by investing in their local housing markets.</p><div>At this MPC Roundtable, University of Chicago&#39;s <strong>Derek Douglas</strong>,&nbsp;Vice President for Civic Engagement; and OTTO Engineering President <strong>Tom Roeser </strong>will compare and contrast how their unique housing reinvestment strategies support the local economy. UofC has offered an employer-assisted housing program for nearly 10 years, providing housing counseling and downpayment assistance to employees who chose to move near campus. Through OTTO Homes, OTTO Engineering buys, rehabs and sells homes in Carpentersville, giving preference and incentives to local employees who want to become homeowners.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MPC-webstory_5.jpg" title="" /></div></div><div>Recorded live Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at the&nbsp;MPC Conference Center.</div></p> Wed, 27 Feb 2013 11:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/mpc-roundtable-two-anchor-institutions-one-story-revitalization-through MPC and ULI Chicago Roundtable - Cook County Land Bank: Returning Vacant Land to Productive Use http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/mpc-and-uli-chicago-roundtable-cook-county-land-bank-returning-vacant-land <p><p>Vacant, abandoned and blighted properties impede Cook County&rsquo;s economic development, weaken the tax base, and impose significant costs to local governments. A countywide land bank is needed to return large swaths of land to productive use and stabilize local communities across Cook County. With approximately 10 percent of housing units in Cook County standing vacant and foreclosure activity up 28 percent in the first half of 2012, Cook County Commissioners and President <strong>Toni Preckwinkle</strong> authorized the creation of a Land Bank Advisory Committee (LBAC). The LBAC, chaired by MPC&rsquo;s <strong>MarySue Barrett</strong>, consisted of civic, financial, legal, and community development professionals charged with examining the challenges, tools and potential for a countywide land bank. The Committee put forth a set of recommendations, captured in the current Cook County Land Bank ordinance, to create a Land Bank Authority as an agency of the County that is governed by an independent Board of Directors. The LBAC was further informed by a detailed report and set of recommendations provided by an Urban Land Institute Chicago (ULI Chicago) Technical Assistance Panel.</p><div>Chaired by <strong>Scott Goldstein </strong>of Teska Associates, Inc., the panel brought together a diverse set of real estate experts to provide objective industry expertise and pragmatic recommendations for the land bank.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>This roundtable will consider the vision for a countywide land bank and how this innovative tool can be deployed to remove redevelopment barriers and jumpstart economic development. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Commissioner <strong>Bridget Gainer</strong>, Principal at Teska Associates, Inc.</div><div>Scott Goldstein, and Director of the Thriving Communities Institute <strong>Jim Rokakis</strong> will discuss how the LBAC and ULI Chicago were involved in the creation of the Cook County land bank legislation and how the newly approved Cook County Land Bank Authority compares to similar efforts outside of Illinois.</div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F80835010" width="100%"></iframe></p><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MPC-webstory_2.jpg" title="" /></div></div><div>Recorded live Thursday, February 7, 2013 at&nbsp;Drinker Biddle &amp; Reath LLP.</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 07 Feb 2013 17:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/mpc-and-uli-chicago-roundtable-cook-county-land-bank-returning-vacant-land $7.3 million OKed for downtown ‘bus rapid transit’ http://www.wbez.org/story/story/city-devotes-73-million-downtown-brt-96580 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-21/BRT_Flickr_.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Transmilenio" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-20/Transmilenio.jpg" style="margin: 9px 18px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 374px; height: 247px;" title="Bogotá, Colombia, has the world’s most advanced bus-rapid-transit system. (flickr/Oscar Amaya)" />Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has decided to channel more than $7.3&nbsp;million in tax increment financing toward a &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; line downtown, according to transportation and economic-development officials.</p><p>The money will combine with an announced $24.6&nbsp;million from the Federal Transit Administration to speed up trips between Union Station, the Ogilvie Transportation Center, several Chicago Transit Authority lines, Streeterville and Navy Pier.</p><p>&ldquo;About 50&nbsp;percent of the commuters who come to work every day in Chicago&rsquo;s central business district arrive by bus or train,&rdquo; said Peter Skosey, vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit group working on the project. &ldquo;If they&rsquo;re getting off at those Metra stations in the West Loop, it&rsquo;s quite a hike over to North Michigan Avenue or even just to State Street. So this really facilitates the use of transit for downtown Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Bus rapid transit, known as BRT, delivers many benefits of rail at a fraction of the cost. The most advanced BRT systems have sprung up in Bogotá, Colombia; Guangzhou, China; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Ahmedabad, India.</p><p>BRT remains largely unknown in the United States. Modest systems are running in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Eugene, Oregon.</p><p>In 2008, Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s administration said it was moving on a BRT pilot project. But the city bungled an application for $153&nbsp;million in federal funding for it.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s mayoral transition plan last year promised a &ldquo;full bus rapid transit pilot&rdquo; within three years. The pilot, according to the plan, will include &ldquo;dedicated bus lanes, signal preemption, prepaid boarding or on-board fare verification, multiple entry and exits points on the buses, limited stops, and street-level boarding.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Department of Transportation is keeping lips tight about its design of the downtown line, known as both the &ldquo;East-West Transit Corridor&rdquo; and &ldquo;Central Loop BRT.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s not clear the design will include many of the timesavers listed in Emanuel&rsquo;s plan. A CDOT plan announced in 2010 would remove cars from some traffic lanes, rig key stoplights to favor the buses, improve sidewalks, install bicycle lanes and build specially branded bus stops equipped with GPS-powered &ldquo;next bus&rdquo; arrival signs.</p><p>The CTA, meanwhile, has a separate $1.6&nbsp;million federal grant to plan BRT options along a 21-mile stretch of Western Avenue. Another $11&nbsp;million from the feds is funding bus improvements this year along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffrey Boulevard. That line, though billed as BRT, will lack many features for speeding up trips.</p></p> Tue, 21 Feb 2012 11:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/story/city-devotes-73-million-downtown-brt-96580 How Emanuel is selling his monster water fee hike http://www.wbez.org/content/how-emanuel-selling-his-monster-water-fee-hike <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-07/IMG_0850.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The way it sits along Lake Michigan, you'd think Chicago would have a few problems bigger than water. But getting that water to homes and businesses takes a massive underground network - one that's crumbling, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>To speed up replacement of old water and sewer lines, he's asking for a huge increase in water fees. As part of our coverage this week of Emanuel's budget, we looked closer at the water proposal, and how the mayor is selling it.</p><p>There are tens of millions of dollars of tax, fine and fee increases in Emanuel's proposed budget. None are likely to affect the average Chicagoan as much as the water fee hike, beginning with a 25 percent boost next year.</p><p>"The extra cost will equal about five cups of coffee at Dunkin' Donuts a month," Emanuel said during his budget address to the City Council on Oct. 12.</p><p>"I don't drink coffee, so I'm still trying to do the math," said Ald. Joe Moore of the North Side's 49th Ward.</p><p>Well, Moore can put down his calculator. The administration claims the water and sewer fee increase adds up to - on average - $120 per year. Although, the cups of coffee keep multiplying after that.</p><p>By 2015, Chicago households - and suburban ones who also get their water from the city - would pay more than double what they do now. Also, many nonprofits and churches that currently get a pass on water bills would gradually have to start paying.</p><p>All that would help finance a $4 billion dollar-plus plan that is expected to nearly triple the current speed of infrastructure replacement.</p><p>"We have about a thousand miles of water pipe that are 100 years old or older," Emanuel said. "Despite our budget problems, we cannot delay their replacement any longer."</p><p>Plus, Emanuel announced, the work will mean 1,800 jobs a year over the next decade, not an insignificant selling point at a time of high unemployment.</p><p>Two days later, the mayor scheduled a press conference to make the pitch again. And, one day after that...</p><p>"The pipe broke at 8:30 Saturday morning," explained Tom Powers, Emanuel's water commissioner, at a press conference at <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?q=47th+and+loomis+chicago&amp;ll=41.808701,-87.660105&amp;spn=0.007805,0.025814&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;hnear=W+47th+St+%26+S+Loomis+Blvd,+Chicago,+Cook,+Illinois+60609&amp;gl=us&amp;t=m&amp;z=16&amp;vpsrc=0">47th and Loomis</a>. That's where a more than 80-year-old 24-inch water main broke. "We lost about 1.7 million gallons of water through this break alone."</p><p>The timing was perfect: a ready-made TV event, flooded neighborhood and all, to demonstrate the need for the water fee increase. There have been about 250 water main breaks this year in Chicago, but this one got a lot of attention, no doubt because the city called attention to it.</p><p>"Coincidental, or foresight on the mayor's part?" said Ald. Willie Cochran, when asked about the timing.</p><p>Part of Cochran's 20th Ward was affected by the water main break. I asked him if the neighborhood flooding makes the increase an easier sell to his ward's residents.</p><p>"It's not an easy pill to swallow when you start talking about increasing fees at this time, as it ...was in the past," Cochran said. "It wasn't done in the past."</p><p>Actually, it was done in the past. From <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/water/provdrs/cust_serv/svcs/know_my_water_sewerrates.html">2007 to 2010</a>, water rates jumped about 50 percent. Emanuel's proposal would raise combined water and sewer rates more than 100 percent more over the next four years. Hikes after that would be pegged to inflation, every year.</p><p>If residents sign up for a free city-installed water meter, the mayor claims, the increases can be blunted. Though Emanuel is quick to point out that Chicago residents "currently pay the lowest price for water of any big city in America."</p><p>In fact, Memphis has <a href="http://www.bv.com/Downloads/Resources/Brochures/rsrc_EMS_Top50RateSurvey.pdf">lower water rates</a>. (Emanuel just doesn't count Memphis as a big city.) But the point is the same: Chicago's water is cheap.</p><p>"For years - decades, the water sold by the city of Chicago has been under-priced," said Josh Ellis, a water expert with the Metropolitan Planning Council.</p><p>Ellis said the fee increase would make Chicago residents value their water more, leading to more conservation. Ellis supports it, with a hitch.</p><p>"I would like to see the city of Chicago create some sort of reporting system, whether it's on the bills or on the website or wherever, that says, 'Here's how many miles of pipe we replaced in January, here's how many we replaced in February, here's how many we replaced in March.' So that we know how much is getting fixed, and we know that there's been a benefit," Ellis said.</p><p>Even if the city doesn't put that information on water bills, Ellis notes Chicagoans would see the work happening, torn-up street after torn-up street.</p><p>"If we're going to replace 900 miles of century-old water pipes, they're definitely going to notice all of the repair projects," Ellis said. "Will they have a fundamentally different experience when they turn on the tap to get a drink of water or take a bath or something, no. I mean the water's going to look the same, it's going to taste the same, it's going to be the same water."</p><p>But it would be delivered with more reliability, less waste, and - at least relative to today - a much higher price tag.</p></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/how-emanuel-selling-his-monster-water-fee-hike Rahm vows bus rapid transit, but can he deliver? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-23/Transmilenio.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>All this week, WBEZ is looking at <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/first-100-rahm-emanuels-first-100-days-chicago-mayor" target="_blank">Rahm Emanuel’s first 100 days as Chicago mayor</a>.</p><p>One of Emanuel’s pledges is to push for the creation of the city’s first bus-rapid-transit line. The idea behind BRT is to deliver the benefits of rail at a fraction of the cost. BRT shortens travel times through dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid boarding that’s level with station platforms, and traffic signals that favor the buses.</p><p>WBEZ’s West Side bureau reporter <a href="http://www.wbez.org/staff/chip-mitchell" target="_blank">Chip Mitchell</a> gives us a progress report on Emanuel’s ambitious plan.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Aug 2011 16:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926