WBEZ | Chicago Department of Transportation http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-department-transportation Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Are Chicago's shorter yellow lights unsafe, or just unfair? http://www.wbez.org/news/are-chicagos-shorter-yellow-lights-unsafe-or-just-unfair-110955 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s red light cameras are under increased scrutiny, after a <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/redlight/"><em>Chicago Tribune</em> investigation</a> found glitchy cameras may have issued thousands of tickets in error. The report also found many yellow lights are slightly short of the city standard of three seconds.</p><p>WBEZ has been looking into yellow lights too &mdash; and we&rsquo;ve found something else. Many traffic experts say Chicago flouts industry best practices with how it programs its traffic control devices &mdash; and one engineer says it may be &ldquo;entrapping&rdquo; drivers into running red lights.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Should I run? Should I stop?</span></p><p>Our inquiry started with Pavel Gigov, a North Side resident who, incidentally, is not a transportation engineer. Gigov drives a car, and like many of us, he&rsquo;s gotten a red light camera ticket or two. He got one in April at an intersection he normally drove through on his way home from work, and thought something was strange.</p><p>&ldquo;The light turned yellow and my immediate reaction was, OK, let me figure out what to do,&rdquo; Gigov recounted. &ldquo;And before I could actually even put my mind around what the decent thing to do is &mdash; should I run? should I stop? &mdash; it was already red and I was in the middle of the intersection.&rdquo;</p><p>The intersection was at W Peterson Ave. and N California Ave., in Chicago&rsquo;s West Ridge neighborhood. The streets are pretty wide: each has six or seven lanes across, and like many Chicago roads, the speed limit is 30 miles an hour.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" src="https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m16!1m12!1m3!1d209.6174687124326!2d-87.69939310755217!3d41.99043739075356!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!2m1!1scalifornia+ave+peterson+ave!5e1!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1409930061367" style="border:0" width="600"></iframe></p><p><em>Gigov received his red light camera ticket at the intersection of W Peterson Ave. and N California Ave. Like many Chicago intersections, the streets have a speed limit of 30mph.</em></p><p>Gigov said the moment he crossed into the intersection, he saw the flash of the red light camera going off.</p><p>&ldquo;And I knew that there was something that was going to be in the mail pretty soon,&rdquo; he laughed.</p><p>Sure, enough, Gigov got a $100 ticket in the mail. He paid it, but still, he wondered: wasn&rsquo;t that yellow light kind of short?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Is it safe? Is it fair?</span></p><p><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/red-light_cameraenforcement.html">Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation says</a> the city&rsquo;s yellow light intervals &ldquo;fall within the guidelines of the Federal Highway Administration&rsquo;s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and adheres to recommendations by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s half-true.</p><p>First, the true part: <a href="http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/html_index.htm">the MUTCD does, indeed, recommend</a> that yellow lights fall between 3 and 6 seconds. At the intersection where Gigov got his ticket, a frame-by-frame video analysis of the traffic signal showed that the yellow light lasts exactly three seconds &mdash; the minimum recommended under the MUTCD guidelines.</p><p>But three seconds falls short of what the yellow light interval should be, if the city were to follow ITE recommendations as it claims. Gigov said he worries that in flouting best engineering practices, Chicago may put drivers at risk. Particularly at red light camera intersections, where each traffic violation could bring dollars into the city&rsquo;s coffers.</p><p>&ldquo;Are we trading in accidents for revenue?&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Unfortunately in the City of Chicago, that&rsquo;s a legitimate question.&rdquo;</p><p>The city claims it implements a blanket policy on yellow light intervals, regardless of whether there&rsquo;s a red light camera: three seconds when the speed limit is 30mph or lower, and four seconds when it&rsquo;s 35mph or higher. &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s yellow times are more than adequate for a driver traveling the speed limit to react and stop safely,&rdquo; it states on the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/red-light_cameraenforcement.html">CDOT website</a>. The policy bucks a growing trend among transportation agencies nationwide.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea of a constant time is not typical,&rdquo; said James Taylor, a retired traffic engineer in Indiana.</p><p>While there&rsquo;s no federal mandate that requires transportation agencies to follow a method in determining yellow light intervals, Taylor said more places are adopting a <a href="http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_731.pdf">mathematical equation</a> that has been developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.</p><p>&ldquo;It keeps getting more and more widely accepted,&rdquo; said Taylor, &ldquo;as opposed to the system you&rsquo;re talking about where we just say let&rsquo;s just make all of them three (seconds), or three-and-a-half, or something like that.&rdquo;</p><p>A 2012 <a href="http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_731.pdf">survey</a> of more than 200 transportation agencies in the U.S., Canada and Germany, found only 6 percent timed their yellow light intervals the way Chicago does. By contrast, the largest chunk &mdash; almost 40 percent &mdash; used the ITE equation.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Using the ITE formula</span></p><p>The ITE formula for the length of yellow lights factors in the specific conditions of an individual intersection, such as speed limit and the grade of the road. It also uses numerical assumptions based on extensive field studies.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="Y=t+(1.47V/2a+64.4g)" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yellow-light-fomula-1.png" style="height: 64px; width: 200px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Where:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Y = total clearance period (in seconds)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>t = perception-reaction time (usually 1 second)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>V = 85th percentile approach speed (mph)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>a = deceleration rate (ft/sec&sup2;)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>g = percent of grade divided by 100</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The equation assumes a perception-reaction time, <em>t</em>, of one second for the average driver, based on field measurements. In other words, it takes about that long for a typical driver to see that the light has changed to yellow, and to decide what to do.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The fraction shown in the equation calculates how long it should take to decelerate to a stop, based on a typical driver&rsquo;s approach speed (<em>V</em>), a comfortable deceleration rate (<em>a</em>), and the grade of the intersection. Traffic engineers recommend using the 85th percentile of approaching traffic to determine a typical approach speed. If that hasn&rsquo;t, or cannot, be measured, a commonly accepted approximation is to add 7mph to the speed limit. &nbsp;Field studies have also found that a comfortable deceleration rate, <em>a</em>, for drivers is 10 ft/sec&sup2;. In Chicago, the grade of the street, <em>g</em>, is negligible, so we assume it to be zero.</div><p>Plug the numbers in for the intersection where Gigov received his yellow ticket, and it yields a yellow light interval, <em>Y</em>, of 3.7 seconds &mdash; that is, 0.7 seconds longer than it actually lasts. Studies show that could significantly change outcomes at an intersection.</p><p>&ldquo;Increasing the yellow by one second would decrease violations by 50-60 percent, and reduce crashes by 35-40 percent,&rdquo; said Davey Warren, a transportation engineer who spent most of his career with the Federal Highway Administration.</p><p>That agency has been pushing transportation departments nationwide to adopt the kinematic equation. In fact, in 2012 it made a change to the MUTCD that would require agencies to switch to engineering practices to determine yellow light intervals by mid-June of 2017.</p><p>Many traffic engineers were surprised to hear that Chicago does not already use widely-accepted engineering practices to calculate its yellow light intervals.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a general rule with engineers, you should be following the best accepted practice unless they can document valid reasons for not doing so,&rdquo; said Warren.</p><p>WBEZ requested multiple times to interview someone at Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation. The department didn&rsquo;t respond. The department also failed to respond to a request under the Freedom of Information Act for its programming instructions for traffic control devices.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">After the yellow, comes the all-red</span></p><p>But before you worry that the city&rsquo;s putting drivers at risk by skimping on yellow light times, there&rsquo;s a twist. In addition to recommending a mathematically-derived yellow light interval, transportation engineers also recommend something called an <em>all-red interval</em>. That&rsquo;s a brief moment after the yellow light, where the lights are red in <em>all directions</em>. It gives a chance for cars still caught in the intersection to finish crossing before the opposing traffic gets a green.</p><p>The ITE recommendation for the all-red interval has changed over time. However,a 2012 <a href="http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_731.pdf">study</a> by the National Cooperative Highway Research Board proposed the following guideline for the calculation:&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="R=(W+L/1.47V)-1" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yellow-light-fomula-2.png" style="height: 59px; width: 200px;" title="" /></div><p>Where:</p><p><em>R = all-red clearance interval (seconds)</em><br /><em>W = intersection width (ft)</em><br /><em>L = length of vehicle (ft)</em><br /><em>V = 85th percentile approach speed (mph)</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s worth noting that there&rsquo;s some debate over subtracting the number 1 on the right side of this equation. The &nbsp;ITE contemplates both possibilities. The NCHRP study found in field studies that it typically takes one second for drivers to perceive and react to a change to green after the all-red interval. So in its conclusions, it recommends subtracting that reaction time, to keep traffic flow more efficient.</p><p>Across transportation engineering literature, the standard length of a vehicle, <em>L</em>, is 20 feet, and again, the approach speed is approximated by adding 7mph to the speed limit.</p><p>At Gigov&rsquo;s intersection, where the streets were approximately 60 feet wide, the formula above yields an all-red clearance interval of 0.47 seconds. That means a vehicle that was caught in the intersection when the light turned red, would still have about half-a-second to finish its transition before opposing traffic gets a green light.</p><p>It turns out, the actual all-red clearance interval at the intersection of W Peterson Ave and N California Ave alternates between one and two seconds. Both of these are much longer than the formula recommends.</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/yellow-lights-2.png" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>At a typical intersection in Chicago, where speed limits are 30mph, the city sets yellow lights at three seconds, followed by an all-red clearance interval of at least one second. By comparison, best engineering practices recommends a yellow light of 3.7 seconds, followed by an all-red clearance interval of .47 seconds. Experts say that while the total clearance times are close (4 seconds and 4.17 seconds, respectively), the misallocation of time between the yellow and all-red intervals may entrap drivers into more violations.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Data on actual yellow lights from CDOT&rsquo;s website and field measurements at intersection of W Peterson Ave. and N California Ave. Recommended calculations based on the<a href="http://www.ite.org/bookstore/IR-113.pdf"> kinematic equation</a> developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size: 22px;">&lsquo;Entrapping drivers into running red lights&rsquo;</span></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Together, the yellow light and the all-red interval add up to what&rsquo;s called a &ldquo;change period.&rdquo; That &ldquo;change period&rdquo; at the intersection where Gigov got his ticket equals the three-second yellow light, plus one or two seconds for the all-red interval -- a total of four or five seconds. Engineering practices would yield a nearly similar result: a 3.7 second yellow light, followed by 0.47 second all-red interval, totaling 4.17 seconds.</div><p>The difference is, Chicago shortens the yellow portion of the change interval, and lengthens the all-red portion.</p><p>&ldquo;So from a safety standpoint, it&rsquo;s probably OK, but the thing is they&rsquo;re misallocating the times,&rdquo; said Warren, &ldquo;and so they&rsquo;re basically entrapping drivers into running red lights.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, Chicago&rsquo;s yellow light intervals may not be unsafe, but they may be unfair.</p><p>Gigov said if the city wants to win back public trust when it comes to its use of red light cameras, it should use to the most up-to-date engineering guidelines when it programs its traffic control devices.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re the city of Chicago, and your fiduciary duty is to serve residents of the city, and not to increase the revenue in such a borderline shady way,&rdquo; said Gigov.</p><p>Last year, anger over red light camera tickets in Florida prompted a reexamination of yellow lights. It turned out, yellow lights in that state were also timed contrary to engineering formulas. So Florida&rsquo;s Department of Transportation mandated the lights be lengthened.</p><p>Gigov said he hopes Chicago will do the same.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 08:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/are-chicagos-shorter-yellow-lights-unsafe-or-just-unfair-110955 Big bark, small bite for speed cameras so far http://www.wbez.org/news/big-bark-small-bite-speed-cameras-so-far-109485 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/speed cameras WBEZ Alex Keefe_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s growing network of speed cameras so far has issued more than a half-million warnings to lead-footed drivers, but it brought in just a tiny fraction of the money that Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration had expected in 2013, according to new numbers released this week.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s Department of Finance says the cameras, situated in so-called &ldquo;children&rsquo;s safety zones&rdquo; near city parks and schools, issued nearly 574,000 warnings through last week.</p><p>But a combination of installation delays and lenient enforcement meant to give drivers a break resulted in just 17,901 actual tickets and $337,452 in revenue for City Hall last year, according to numbers obtained by WBEZ through the Freedom of Information Act.</p><p>That&rsquo;s two percent of the roughly $15 million take the city <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/leadfoots-beware-chicago-install-new-speed-cameras-week-108888">had predicted</a>.</p><p>State lawmakers okayed Chicago&rsquo;s speed camera program <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/ill-lawmakers-approve-chicago-speed-cameras-93919">back in 2011</a>. But the project faced long installation delays and the first cameras didn&rsquo;t actually <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/leadfoots-beware-chicago-install-new-speed-cameras-week-108888">go live</a> until this August.</p><p>Aside from the delay, Finance Department spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said the rollout &ldquo;has been designed to give motorists opportunities to change their behavior.&rdquo;</p><p>Through Jan. 5, the city issued roughly 487,000 warnings during each camera site&rsquo;s 30-day grace period, designed to give drivers time to slow down. It also generated 86,587 &ldquo;freebie&rdquo; warnings, issued once to each driver after a grace period ends. All told, Quinn said that would have generated $17 million worth of tickets so far.</p><p>&quot;We wanted to roll the program out in a thoughtful manner that wasn&#39;t tied to revenue, but instead safety,&quot; Quinn said in an email to WBEZ. &quot;Additionally, the program has been implemented to give motorists every opportunity to change behavior.&quot;</p><p>The 2013 shortfall from the speed cameras was covered by better-than-expected hotel, sales and personal property replacement tax revenues, Quinn said.</p><p>Emanuel is still banking on the new speed cameras to bring in between $65 and $70 million in 2014, despite the dramatically low take last year.</p><p>The speed cameras work a lot like the city&rsquo;s existing network of red light cameras: Speeders who get their car photographed automatically receive a ticket in the mail.</p><p>For now, the city has only been issuing fines to the fastest speeders - $35 for those caught going 10 mph to 11 mph over the posted limit, and $100 for those caught cruising faster than that.</p><p>The Emanuel administration announced it would go a bit easier on speeders after early speed camera data,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893"> first reported by WBEZ</a>, suggested City Hall could be in for a windfall.</p><p>The city Department of Transportation says it will eventually lower the speeding threshold so that anyone snapped driving between six and 10 mph over the limit will get the $35 ticket, but it has not publicized a timeline for when it plans to crack down.</p><p>Some critics of Emanuel&rsquo;s speed camera plan, including several Chicago aldermen, have maintained the system is more about making money for a financially strapped city than protecting kids. But the administration and its backers point to a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893">steep drop</a> in speeding at existing sites to say that the cameras are doing their job.</p><p>There are currently 48 speed cameras up and running at 22 sites around the city. Of those, 31 cameras are now issuing fines, while 17 are still issuing grace period warnings. Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has said it&rsquo;s aiming to install 105 speed cameras at 50 locations early this year.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 09 Jan 2014 10:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/big-bark-small-bite-speed-cameras-so-far-109485 Will Chicago scale back its bus rapid transit plan? http://www.wbez.org/news/will-chicago-scale-back-its-bus-rapid-transit-plan-109423 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AndrewsCROPSCALE.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 315px; width: 300px;" title="Dan Andrews of Kennicott Brothers says squeezing Ashland Avenue traffic into one lane and removing most left turns would hamstring the business. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />After wrapping up a public-comment period in an ambitious Chicago bus project, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration faces tough choices about the design.<br /><br />The city can stick to its plans and push for federal funds to build what would be the nation&rsquo;s most advanced &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; line. The project would transform Ashland Avenue, beginning with a 5.4-mile leg that would connect several passenger rail lines before they reach the Loop and, planners say, spur economic development that benefits the entire Chicago region.<br /><br />But there could be significant collateral damage, especially to the trucking operations of companies in an historic industrial corridor along the route.<br /><br />The Chicago Transit Authority says the BRT line, which could eventually lengthen to 16 miles, would cut the average Ashland bus ride time roughly in half. But some companies in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor and a few large retailers nearby say they would struggle too much to make and receive deliveries and keep customers flowing in. The companies are pushing hard for the Emanuel administration to eliminate some of the project&rsquo;s key features for speeding up bus service.<br /><br />Along the route&rsquo;s initial leg, which would stretch from Cortland Avenue to 31st Street, the competing interests are obvious.<br /><br />Just outside Rush University Medical Center, one of four major hospitals in the Illinois Medical District, a half-dozen patients and staffers huddled in the cold one evening this week at a bus stop. They included Larry Coldiron, a Rush computer consultant who lives near Midway International Airport and gets to ride the CTA&rsquo;s Orange Line train for most of his commute. But his trip home starts with the Number 9 bus down Ashland &mdash; the city&rsquo;s most heavily used bus route. He said the 2.5-mile journey between the hospital and train usually takes 45 minutes.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been doing this for 16 and a half years and it just keeps getting worse,&rdquo; Coldiron said.<br /><br />The BRT project would bring big changes. The buses would have a lane to themselves on both sides of a landscaped median. To keep the buses moving through intersections, most opportunities to turn left from Ashland would be eliminated and many traffic signals would favor the buses. Passengers would board from platforms averaging a half mile apart. The CTA is also aiming for pre-paid boarding to eliminate lines in bus doorways. The project&rsquo;s environmental assessment says the BRT buses would move up to 83 percent faster than today&rsquo;s buses.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;d like to see it,&rdquo; Coldiron said.&nbsp;Service that fast could attract some of his coworkers who now drive and pay for parking around the hospital, he said.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s exactly the idea, said Benet Haller, a top planner at the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development. &ldquo;They would have more money to spend on other things &mdash; like food, retail goods and housing.&rdquo;<br /><br />Haller said the BRT line would promote development in the medical district, where employment already totals 29,000, and in industrial areas along the route. He said it would also give a shot in the arm to many restaurants and retailers, especially ones that lack their own parking lots. Haller said the economic impact could extend throughout the Chicago region.<br /><br />&ldquo;All of our expressways are, pretty much, at capacity,&rdquo; Haller said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no real easy possibility to improve any of them. So, if we want to thrive, it&rsquo;s really going to come to reinvestment back in the central part of Chicago because it&rsquo;s the one part of the region in which there&rsquo;s a really robust transit network.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>THE CTA IS GUNNING TO BUILD</strong> the initial leg by 2017. Agency officials say they will apply for Federal Transportation Administration grants to cover an estimated $60 million in costs for detailed design and construction. Later phases would extend the BRT to Irving Park Road and 95th Street and cost another $100 million, the agency says.<br /><br />But there would be other costs, particularly to local businesses whose lifeblood is truck delivery. Those include Kennicott Brothers, an employee-owned flower wholesaler centered at 452 N. Ashland Ave., about a mile north of the medical district.<br /><br />Dan Andrews, a Kennicott manager, says the company runs 13 vans from that location for deliveries to neighborhood florists, grocery stories and companies that help throw events such as weddings and parties. &ldquo;Normally our customers will order in the morning,&rdquo; Andrews said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll load up the van with orders for that day and then send them out.&rdquo;<br /><br />Andrews is worried because the BRT design would leave just one lane on each side of Ashland for cars, trucks and regular buses, slowing down the Kennicott vans. &ldquo;It would probably be like rush hour all day,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />The CTA acknowledges that the Ashland traffic would move slower. A spokeswoman says a peak-hour car trip that now takes 30 minutes would take 36 minutes with BRT in place.<br /><br />Another concern for Andrews is the loss of intersections for turning left off Ashland. &ldquo;With the BRT line, I&rsquo;d have to take three right turns and then I would have to go through a residential area.&rdquo;<br /><br />Andrews has more than deliveries to worry about. Many of Kennicott&rsquo;s customers pick up their flowers. &ldquo;If they can&rsquo;t get to our location, they&rsquo;re going to choose either another vender or they might choose to be delivered to,&rdquo; he said, pointing out expenses associated with deliveries.<br /><br />If Chicago sticks with its BRT plan, Andrews says his company might have to find a location away from Ashland Avenue. &ldquo;It costs you a lot of money to move your company,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Economic-development groups in the Kinzie corridor are speaking up for businesses like Kennicott. &ldquo;These companies need every advantage they can to compete in our city,&rdquo; said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association.<br /><br />&ldquo;Nealey Foods has about 40 trucks every morning,&rdquo; Romanelli said, reeling off names of businesses potentially hamstrung by the BRT project. &ldquo;These companies are critical to our economy.&rdquo;<br /><br />Romanelli says slowing the traffic down and banning the turns would also be unfair to big retailers like Costco, which employs more than 100 people in a new facility at Ashland and 14th Street. He points out that diverting traffic to other congested arteries would not much help much.<br /><br />The Emanuel administration, Romanelli says,&nbsp;ought to scrap the Ashland project and focus on existing buses.&nbsp;Romanelli&nbsp;suggests speeding up service by simply eliminating some stops and using transponders to give buses longer green lights. &ldquo;BRT is not the only solution for Ashland Avenue,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br /><strong>A FEDERALLY REQUIRED 30-DAY PERIOD</strong> for public comment about the environmental assessment ended Friday. Now Mayor Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has to decide whether to make adjustments that might please the plan&rsquo;s business critics but slow the bus service.<br /><br />Randy Blankenhorn, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, describes the clashing interests. &ldquo;Planners always want the 100-percent solution,&rdquo; he said, pointing to the goal of regional economic growth over the long term. &ldquo;And local businesses are worried about the bottom line today and tomorrow.&rdquo;<br /><br />Blankenhorn says the city should help companies find ways to bypass Ashland and maybe even allow a few more left turns across BRT lanes. &ldquo;But you have to protect the integrity of the transportation investment you&rsquo;re making,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />On Ashland, that means a bus system fast enough to attract thousands of new riders.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><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> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 16:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/will-chicago-scale-back-its-bus-rapid-transit-plan-109423 Six tunnels hidden under Chicago’s Loop http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/six-tunnels-hidden-under-chicago%E2%80%99s-loop-107791 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/tunnels/index.html" target="_blank"><img a="" alt="" below="" class="image-original_image" download="" file="" fit="" for="" get="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CCTunnels new topper.jpg" the="" title="Drawings by Erik Nelson Rodriguez of the Illustrated Press. Click on the picture above for a full-sized graphic or click &quot;Download the graphic!&quot; below to get a file fit for printing!" to="" /></a></div></div></div></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F97891205&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Karri DeSelm works in the JW Marriott Building, on the corner of LaSalle and Adams in downtown Chicago. Her building, the last designed by famed architect Daniel Burnham, was completed in 1914, and underwent major renovations two years ago. Karri says that at the time, her boss told her that she had been down deep into the building&rsquo;s basement, where she had seen the entrance to a secret tunnel that ran underneath the Loop.</p><p>That got Karri wondering:</p><blockquote><p><em>&ldquo;I have heard there is a network of layered tunnels under the city. Is this true, and if so, what was the purpose of the tunnels when they were designed and built?&rdquo;</em></p></blockquote><p>For starters, it&rsquo;s true &mdash; there <em>are</em> many tunnels underneath the Loop. We found no fewer than <em>six different sets of tunnels</em>, including the tunnels connected to Karri&rsquo;s building.</p><p>Each of the tunnels we found was at some point, or continues to be, a critical part of Chicago&rsquo;s infrastructure. The city would be lost without these tunnels. Sometimes they&rsquo;re hidden, and sometimes they&rsquo;re just overlooked, taken for granted by the people who walk above them. But trust us &mdash; 2.8 million people would notice the tunnels&rsquo; absence because they&rsquo;d have no reliable source of clean tap water, no flood control and no crosstown &ldquo;L&rdquo; service in the Loop.</p><p>And the tunnels that aren&rsquo;t still in use are more than just odd architectural remnants or historical curiosities. They may be obscured from sight and from memory (or even sealed off), but they&rsquo;re still an important part of the city&rsquo;s built environment. As one source put it, we ignore the tunnels at our own peril. When we erect new buildings downtown, we do so in a densely layered maze of infrastructure, both old and new.</p><p>To help wrap our heads around Karri&rsquo;s question, we worked with Erik N. Rodriguez of <a href="http://illuspress.com/">The Illustrated Press</a>. Based on our reporting, he created the graphic above, which shows six different kinds of tunnels, how deep underground they are and how they&rsquo;re situated relative to one another. Note, though, that the drawing is a composite; it shows what can be found at different depths across the Loop, but not necessarily beneath any single street address.</p><p><strong>1. The Pedway</strong></p><p>File Chicago&rsquo;s Pedway under tunnels you may not know you know. You may have seen the system&rsquo;s distinctive black and gold compass logo marking the entryways of skyscrapers downtown without knowing what they signified.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-1.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="" />Short for &ldquo;pedestrian walkway,&rdquo; this maze-like system of semi-public hallways connects the basements of more than 50 Loop buildings, including municipal buildings like City Hall and the Thompson Center, shopping centers like Macy&rsquo;s and Block 37, and a few newer residential buildings, like the hypermodern Aqua tower. The Pedway also snakes through two CTA stations, a Metra station and several underground parking garages along Michigan Avenue.</p><p>Although the Pedway provides a climate-controlled alternative to Chicago&rsquo;s sidewalks, it&rsquo;s more than just a thoroughfare. Under its fluorescent lights and beige ceiling tiles you can get your haircut, get a clock fixed, grab coffee, shop for a blender or order new license plates.</p><p>Perhaps that&rsquo;s why Amanda Scotese offers walking tours of the Pedway through <a href="http://www.chicagodetours.com/">Chicago Detours</a>, her unconventional tourism company. As Scotese&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.chicagodetours.com/images/chicago-pedway-map-detours.pdf">carefully researched Pedway map</a> illustrates, this system of tunnels is a disconnected mishmash. Although the Chicago Department of Transportation technically oversees the Pedway, many sections are owned by other government entities, while still others are privately owned and controlled by the management of whatever building they pass underneath.</p><p>Case in point: During a recent afternoon rush hour visit to the Pedway, Scotese, our question-asker Karri and I were stymied by a section of the Pedway under City Hall that closed promptly at 5 p.m.</p><p><strong>2. CTA tunnels</strong></p><p>File these tunnels under those you probably take for granted. Although the city prides itself on its extensive network of elevated trains, two downtown subway tunnels also move commuters through the Loop. These tunnels are now owned and operated by the CTA, and in 2012, the combined &ldquo;L&rdquo; stops inside the two tunnels <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/ridership_reports/2012-Annual.pdf">served an average</a> of 82,343 passengers every weekday.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-2.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="" />The first tunnel runs beneath State Street and serves the Red Line. The second goes under Dearborn Street and Milwaukee Avenue and serves the Blue Line.</p><p>The city began digging the two subway tunnels in 1938, with the help of money from FDR&rsquo;s New Deal and the Works Progress Administration.</p><p>Meant to accommodate crosstown &ldquo;L&rdquo; traffic, which could become snarled in the Loop, the tunnels range from 20 to 60 feet underground. Steel and concrete tubes 200 feet long housed the tunnels as they passed under the Chicago River.</p><p>As was the case with previous public works, the opening of the State Street subway tunnel in 1943 was cause for celebration: The curators of the transit history site <a href="http://www.chicago-l.org/">Chicago L</a> <a href="http://www.chicago-l.org/operations/lines/state_subway.html">describe the festivities</a> this way:</p><blockquote><p><em>Between 10:25 and 10:45 a.m., ten special trains arrived at State and Madison to unload their passengers. At 10:47 a.m., Mayor Kelly cut a ceremonial red, white, and blue ribbon strung across the northbound track, officially giving the new subway to the city.</em></p></blockquote><p>The Dearborn Street tunnel, delayed by World War II, was completed in 1951.</p><p><strong>3. Freight tunnels</strong></p><p>Of all the tunnels under the Loop, the 60 miles of freight tunnels 40 feet underground are the most extensive. They also happen to be unique to Chicago.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-3.jpg" style="height: 200px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="" />Dug by a private company between 1899 and 1906, these tunnels were meant to hide many miles of telephone cable. But transit historian Bruce Moffat says that somewhere during the construction process &ldquo;the company&rsquo;s promoters decided to build very large conduits &mdash; large enough for freight trains.&rdquo;</p><p>Tiny freight trains, that is. The tunnels were only seven feet tall and horseshoe-shaped, with concrete walls and tracks running along the floor. Meaning ... these freight cars were no bigger than small dumpsters.</p><p>This literal underground railroad delivered coal and freight to the sub-basements of prominent buildings in the Loop: City Hall, the Tribune Tower, the Merchandise Mart and dozens more.</p><p>The tunnels stretched from 16th Street to River North and the Field Museum. Remarkably, the tunnel system followed the street grid above so, to this day, you can navigate the freight tunnels using an ordinary Chicago street map.</p><p>That is if you could get inside. Most of the tunnel entrances were sealed in 1992, after a construction crew driving pilings into the Chicago River punctured the tunnels, flooding them and the buildings to which they were connected.</p><p><strong>4. Cable car tunnels</strong></p><p>Between 1882 and 1906 it was the cable car network, not the &ldquo;L,&rdquo; that served as Chicago&rsquo;s main form of public transit. In fact, Chicago&rsquo;s cable car system was once the largest and most profitable of its kind.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-4.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="" />The technology that powered cable cars &mdash; a single, continuous underground cable &mdash; wasn&rsquo;t compatible with the drawbridges that carried most other traffic over the Chicago River. Tunnels, though, could extend cable car service beyond the Loop to the city&rsquo;s North and West Sides.</p><p>The first two cable car tunnels made West Side service possible via Washington Street and North Side service possible via LaSalle. These tunnels were expanded from remnants of pedestrian and wagon tunnels dug at the same locations in 1869 and 1871. In fact, just a few months after it opened, the LaSalle Street tunnel served as a major escape route during the Great Chicago Fire.</p><p>Sitting 60 feet below ground, these new cable car tunnels were deeper than their predecessors, but they also happened to be steeper. The new tunnels had a 12 percent grade &mdash; three times the rise of today&rsquo;s CTA trains.&nbsp;</p><p>A private company built a third cable car tunnel between Van Buren and Jackson Streets in 1894. All three tunnels were later adapted for electric street cars, which replaced cable cars beginning in 1906.</p><p>But both means of transit ultimately fell out of use. When the &ldquo;L&rdquo; became ascendant the cable car tunnels were abandoned and sealed.&nbsp;</p><p>They&rsquo;re still there, though, and there&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/search-chicago%E2%80%99s-abandoned-cable-car-tunnels-107715">plenty more to read about their remnants</a>.</p><p><strong>5. Water tunnels</strong></p><p>In 1867 Chicago built an intake crib two miles out in Lake Michigan to collect fresh drinking water for the growing city. Earlier efforts to collect water closer to shore had failed. If this fact inspires a big yawn from you, consider that at this point the city was still dumping sewage into the Chicago River, which fed directly into the lake.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-5.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="" />This new crib fed water to the Pumping Station at Chicago and Michigan Avenues via a five foot tall, oval-shaped, brick-lined tunnel more than 10,000 feet long. At the time it was considered an engineering marvel. The crib-and-tunnel solution to water collection proved effective enough that Chicago built seven more intake cribs before 1935.</p><p>Those intake tunnels now feed through the city&rsquo;s two filtration plants, but at least one tunnel was taken out of service and sealed when a portion of it collapsed near Lake Shore Drive in 1998. Officials also shut down portions of the drive during repairs, fearing the collapse might be a hazard for motorists.</p><p>But the city is tight-lipped about what other parts of this infrastructure remain in use. We wanted to know where the remaining tunnels are located and how deep underground they are, but the Department of Water Management denied our request.</p><p>Tom LaPorte, the department&rsquo;s spokesperson and Assistant Commissioner, said the department feared such information might make the city&rsquo;s water infrastructure more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re the world&rsquo;s largest water treatment facility,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Anything that&rsquo;s going to put us at risk we&rsquo;re not going to do, even for WBEZ.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>6. The Deep Tunnel</strong></p><p>The Deep Tunnel is rarely referred to by its full name, the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP). But its nickname is apt; at a maximum depth of 350 feet it&rsquo;s the deepest of the six sets of tunnels we&rsquo;re treating here. When Chicago&rsquo;s freight tunnels flooded in 1992, the water was drained into here.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-6.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="" />This network of giant overflow sewers was built to prevent flooding and cut pollution in the region&rsquo;s waterways. When heavy storms hit the Chicago area, excess rainwater funnels into the Deep Tunnel system rather than into the lake.</p><p>The tunnels&rsquo; depth is not the project&rsquo;s only stunning statistic. As <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_and_Reservoir_Plan">one writer</a> put it, &ldquo;the mega-project is one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in terms of scope, cost and timeframe.&rdquo;</p><p>Phase 1 construction, a network of nearly 110 miles of tunnels designed to store 2.3 billion gallons of water, began in 1975 and was not completed until 2006. Three enormous reservoirs, designed to store an additional 14.8 billion gallons of water, are set to be completed by 2029.</p><p>The Deep Tunnel&rsquo;s operator, The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, kindly offered us a tour of the project&rsquo;s south suburban pumping station, which, they told us, has a main chamber &ldquo;the size of two NBA basketball courts.&rdquo;</p><p>We declined their offer, but only for now. Curious City receives so many different questions about the Deep Tunnel and its economic and environmental impact that we&rsquo;re planning a separate story for later this summer digging into that.</p><p><strong>Tunnels aplenty, but running out of space</strong></p><p>So Chicago is chock full of tunnels, at least downtown. There are other tunnels, too, in other parts of the city. Since I&rsquo;ve started my reporting I&rsquo;ve had sources regale me with tales of industrial tunnels that connect factories in Bridgeport, and listeners write in with tidbits about a tunnel that might run under Midway Airport.</p><p>But is the time for tunnels over in this city? Or could we see the construction of new tunnels in the future?</p><p>Sources we talked to said it&rsquo;s unlikely. Most of the tunnels detailed above were built during Chicago&rsquo;s greatest growth and expansion. Chicago had 330,000 residents in 1870, but it boasted over a million just 20 years later. Major works of infrastructure, whether financed publicly or privately, were needed to support and encourage such growth.</p><p>But now, Chicago&rsquo;s population is declining &mdash; as many as 181,000 people left the city between 2000 and 2010 &mdash; even if some parts of town, like the Loop, have grown lately.</p><p>And between all the tunnels already under the Loop and other kinds of buried municipal and private infrastructure, it&rsquo;s pretty crowded underground. While there&rsquo;s no shortage of ongoing infrastructure projects abounding in Chicago, whether it&rsquo;s the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-09/bloomingdale-trail-reveals-chicagos-idea-grand-city-planning-102655">renovation of the Bloomingdale Trail</a> (sorry, I mean <a href="http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2013/06/17/sneak-peek-606">the 606</a>), upgrades to the Chicago riverfront or basic maintenance to the city&rsquo;s sewers, only the Deep Tunnel remains on the city&rsquo;s tunnel horizon.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>That means that every tunnel down there now will one day be old. We may even abandon the newer ones someday in favor of better, more efficient solutions that haven&rsquo;t yet been invented.</p><p>For our question-asker Karri, that&rsquo;s a good reminder to pay attention to what&rsquo;s there now.</p><p>&ldquo;You work up in an office cubicle and don&rsquo;t think about [what&rsquo;s underground],&rdquo; Karri said. Exploring that infrastructure now &ldquo;can remind you of a flood, or the original purpose of the area, the history of it.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I guess that&rsquo;s its value.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Robin Amer is a producer on WBEZ&rsquo;s digital team. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/rsamer">@rsamer</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Thu, 20 Jun 2013 19:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/six-tunnels-hidden-under-chicago%E2%80%99s-loop-107791 Why are Chicago’s sidewalk cafes all on the North Side? Part 1 http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-chicago%E2%80%99s-sidewalk-cafes-all-north-side-part-1-107257 <p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="480" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/May/Patios/BeforeAfter/SidewalkBeforeAfter.html" width="950"></iframe></p><div class="credit">(Photo, interactive illustration by Elliott Ramos/WBEZ)</div><div class="caption">Residents on the city&rsquo;s South and West Sides have few options available for outdoor socializing &mdash; and that&rsquo;s partially by design.</div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Whenever Chicago shakes off winter, the temperature isn&rsquo;t the only quality of life indicator on the upswing. It&rsquo;s as though city-goers have license to be more social and especially so when it comes to eating. It&rsquo;s not just that neighbors will barbeque together or that families will flock to parks for picnics; summer opens up the opportunity to socialize with friends over wine, cafe fare or Thai food while sitting on city sidewalks.</p><p>On a recent afternoon, we caught diners just at restaurants started serving on sidewalks.</p><p>&ldquo;I wanted to eat outside, it&rsquo;s the first warm day of spring. It&rsquo;s nice to come outside, eat and people-watch,&rdquo; said 33-year-old Mike Capasso.</p><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 510px; margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px;"><tbody><tr><td><strong>Chicago&#39;s Sidewalk cafes in 2012</strong></td></tr><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MapKey.jpg" title="" /></div></td></tr><tr><td><iframe frameborder="0" height="790" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/May/Patios/Map/LumpySpacePrincess.html" width="510"></iframe></td></tr><tr><td><div class="credit">Data analysis and map produced by Elliott Ramos</div></td></tr><tr><td><em>Source: <a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/WBEZ%20FOIA%20request-Streetscape%20Projects.xls">Chicago Department of Transportation</a>, <a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/Sidewalk%20Cafe_Permits_2006_May_2013.pdf">Chicago Department of Business and Consumer Affairs</a>, <a href="http://www.stevencanplan.com/2011/logan-square-mcdonalds-crash-map/">Steven Vance, Azad Amir-Ghassemi and Bill Vassilakis</a>&nbsp;(See data: <a href="https://opendata.socrata.com/profile/WBEZ/p6ex-wt2f">WBEZ Open Socrata</a>)</em></td></tr></tbody></table><p>We caught Capasso outside with his friends at Lady Gregory&rsquo;s, an Irish restaurant in Chicago&rsquo;s Andersonville neighborhood, where patrons can take advantage of sidewalk cafes that stretch along blocks of North Clark Street&rsquo;s manicured sidewalks.</p><p>But this is not a scene you can spot in all parts of the city.</p><p>WBEZ compiled data about where City Hall issues sidewalk cafe permits that allow eateries to serve customers on sidewalks. Our analysis paints a disparate picture of Chicago&rsquo;s sidewalk dining and drinking spots. It may not surprise many longtime city-goers that such permits are concentrated on the North Side. But what may surprise some is just how uneven the spread really is: There&rsquo;s quite literally no comparison with communities on the South and West Sides, as those parts of town have no permits with which to compare.</p><p>Next week, we&rsquo;ll provide an account of the economic and social consequences of this mismatch. For now, we lay out where Chicago&rsquo;s cafe permits are issued, where they are glaringly absent, and how the city&rsquo;s outdoor dining landscape got this way.</p><p><strong>Setting up shop outside</strong></p><p>Aside from weather, there are three things that make sidewalk dining in Chicago possible. The first is a permit for a sidewalk cafe, which is not to be confused with an outdoor patio. The latter is on the owner&rsquo;s property, but if you&rsquo;re eating at a sidewalk cafe, technically you&rsquo;re eating on public property. That&rsquo;s even the case if your establishment seats you on the sidewalk after asking if you want to dine &ldquo;on the patio.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>1. Getting a sidewalk cafe </strong></p><p>A sidewalk cafe requires a permit to use ostensibly public space for a business purpose. The sidewalk cafes allow restaurants and coffee shops to set up tables and chairs in front of their businesses, provided they adhere to certain rules.</p><p>Maureen Martino is the executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, which represents many local bars and restaurants. She says many chamber members utilize sidewalk cafes.</p><p>&ldquo;When spring comes out and you see the first sidewalk cafe go up, you like to be in a place not usually seen during the year,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It creates a people spot, a spot where people go to socialize.&rdquo;</p><p>Unlike a license distributed by a City Hall department, a sidewalk cafe permit is approved by City Council, with the permit&rsquo;s sponsor being that of a business owner&rsquo;s alderman.</p><p>The approval process is usually expedited; however, the city limits the sidewalk cafes&rsquo; specs, which can range from the height of a table to spacing between a building and sidewalk.</p><p>&ldquo;The city does set guidelines on how your sidewalk cafe should be constructed,&rdquo; Martino said. &ldquo;They mandate that you have flowers.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, according to Chicago&rsquo;s 2013, Sidewalk cafe application, &ldquo;at least 50% of the boundary must be covered with live plants.&rdquo;</p><p>However, it&rsquo;s that spacing that may affect where a cafe can go, because the city requires that pedestrians be allowed a minimum of six feet of walk space. The rest, the code says, should allow enough space for diners, especially those with disabilities access to the tables.</p><p>This means that you can&rsquo;t place a cafe on a nine-foot sidewalk, but you can place one on a sidewalk that&rsquo;s been widened. Some of these are widened to accommodate such seating. And that widening, it turns out, is not even across the city, either.</p><p><strong>2. Streetscapes lay a foundation </strong></p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s official motto, embossed on its corporate seal is &ldquo;urbs in horto,&rdquo; a Latin phrase which means city in a garden.</p><table align="right" border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 280px; margin-left: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px;"><tbody><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/briar.jpg" title="(WBEZ/Elliott Ramos)" /></div></td></tr><tr><td><div class="credit">(WBEZ/Elliott Ramos)</div></td></tr></tbody></table><p>Under the stewardship of Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago expanded the number streetscapes. These urban renewal projects were implemented by the Chicago Department of Transportation, but bankrolled from sources which include (but were not limited to) city, state and federal transportation funds. At times, these sources included what&rsquo;s known as tax increment financing.</p><p>According to 2003 guidelines issued by Daley&rsquo;s administration, streetscapes are meant to &ldquo;encourage the enhancement and revitalization of commercial areas in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>That guideline is still adhered to, notably by Gabe Klein, the current commissioner for Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to have a robust economy, we want to have a safe city and we want to have a city that people can feel like they can move around safely as pedestrian, cyclists, transit users or automobile users and the way we design our streets is absolutely key to making that happen,&rdquo; said Klein.</p><p>Klein&rsquo;s department works with community groups, businesses, builders and aldermen to to use Chicago streets, sidewalks and alleys as development tools.</p><p>Streetscape projects can vary dramatically from neighborhood to neighborhood. Projects can include, but are not limited to: the repavement of streets, the replacement and widening of sidewalks, installation of new street lamps, ornamental lighting, flower beds, sidewalk planters, viaduct improvements, vaulted sidewalks, bike lanes, bus stops, and benches. Streetscaping can even involve removal of a traffic lane. The projects sometimes last years and several rollouts can span a decade or so.</p><p>One effect of a streetscape &mdash; not lost upon developers and planners &mdash; is that wider, more accommodating sidewalks are amenable to sidewalk cafes. Planners often will draw in cafes on <a href="http://www.centersquarejournal.com/news/pawar-pitches-lawrence-avenue-improvements-as-school-boost">renderings of streetscape projects</a> when pitching them to the public.</p><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 425px; margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px;"><tbody><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Southport_Coobah.jpg" title="Sidewalk cafes must maintain a distance between city structures such as trees and parking meters, with enough space for pedestrians to pass. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div></td></tr><tr><td><div class="credit">(WBEZ/Andrew Gill)</div></td></tr><tr><td><div class="caption">Sidewalk cafes must maintain a distance between city structures such as trees and parking meters, with enough space for pedestrians to pass.</div></td></tr></tbody></table><p>After filing a Freedom of Information Act request with CDOT, WBEZ was able to obtain a list and description of streetscape projects spanning back to 1996. &nbsp;From 1996-2012, there were roughly 127 individual streetscapes. In some cases, streetscapes were done in already flourishing areas in Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Wicker Park and Andersonville.</p><p>When asked about the concentration of sidewalk cafes on the North Side, Klein said a streetscape can be a factor.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the things we look at definitely look at is how to activate public space,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;A streetscape then allows for more frontage for a restaurant might mean that restaurant might move in there, which means they might have an outdoor patio, which means that you might have more eyes on the street. Decorative lighting might make it more pleasant to be out there in the street. Bump-outs [portions of sidewalk that jut into the street] and taking a lane of traffic away, may slow the cars down so that people feel more comfortable sitting outside. It feels more like a neighborhood street or boulevard instead of a highway.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>3. Pedestrian zones maintain flow of customers</strong></p><p>Businesses with sidewalk cafes require a certain threshold of foot traffic to work effectively. Business owners will say that large crowds will spur larger crowds, which increases the appeal for restaurant-goers &mdash; especially those in the mood to do some people-watching.</p><table align="right" border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 425px; margin-left: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px;"><tbody><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rocks.jpg" title="Sidewalk cafes must maintain a distance between city structures such as trees and parking meters, with enough space for pedestrians to pass. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div></td></tr><tr><td><div class="credit">(WBEZ/Andrew Gill)</div></td></tr><tr><td><div class="caption">Pedestrian streets can increase the flow of customers, but businesses must stay within standards.</div></td></tr></tbody></table><p>By default, all licensed restaurants in Chicago lay in areas zoned for business or commercial use, but there&rsquo;s another zoning classification that explains where sidewalk cafes land across the city: so-called &ldquo;<a href="http://wbez.is/118cgwm">pedestrian streets</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>According to Chicago&rsquo;s Zoning and Land Use Ordinance, pedestrian street regulations are &ldquo;intended to preserve and enhance the character of streets and intersections that are widely recognized as Chicago&rsquo;s best examples of pedestrian-oriented shopping districts.&rdquo;</p><p>The ordinance goes on to state that the &ldquo;regulations are intended to promote transit, economic vitality and pedestrian safety and comfort.&rdquo;</p><p>The city&rsquo;s pedestrian streets, or p-streets, were mapped out by Chicago transportation advocate <a href="http://chi.streetsblog.org/">chi.streetsblog.org</a> writer Steven Vance who created the map with Azad Amir-Ghassemi and Bill Vassilakis. We&#39;ve included the maps in our analysis of cafes.</p><p>A pedestrian street must have a &ldquo;high concentration of existing stores and restaurants&rdquo; and have a &ldquo;continuous pattern of buildings that are abutting or very close to the sidewalk.&rdquo;</p><p>The regulations go on to stipulate that a p-street should have businesses with storefront windows and there should be few vacant stores. In other words, a p-street must already have a vibrant economic scene before receiving this designation. But when it does, the regulations are similar to those of a condo board&rsquo;s, requiring that new businesses abide by standards that can include the size of building entrances, facades and windows.</p><p>If you want to account for sidewalk cafes&rsquo; thriving North Side presence, as well as their dearth on the South and West Sides, p-streets have an impact.</p><p>Consider that a p-street designation effectively shuts out businesses and structures commonly found on the South and West Side arterial streets: strip malls, drive-through facilities, gas stations, residential storage warehouses, car washes and car sales lots. The designation also shuts out big-box retailers, which several South Side aldermen have actively sought to attract. In effect, the regulations make aldermen choose one path of economic development or the other.</p><p>Chicago has nearly 50 streets and intersections designated as pedestrian streets. About 10 of those are on the South Side. None exist on the far West Side. And the rest are located on the North and Northwest Sides.</p><p>The last lines of the p-streets regulations state that &ldquo;the following uses are encouraged on lots abutting pedestrian streets&rdquo;: sidewalk cafes and outdoor eating areas and outdoor display of produce, flowers and plants.</p><p><strong>Where are Chicago&rsquo;s outdoor venues?</strong></p><table align="right" border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 400px; margin-left: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px;"><tbody><tr><td><strong>Permits by Community Area 2006-2012</strong></td></tr><tr><td><script type="text/javascript" src="https://www.google.com/jsapi"></script><script type="text/javascript" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/March/SchoolClosings/tablewraper.js"></script><script type="text/javascript"> google.load('visualization', '1', {'packages' : ['table']}); google.setOnLoadCallback(init); var dataSourceUrl = 'https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AoxVpL8Zenp3dDhzc2F2TjI5Vm54MkNMS0hBQm1rWGc&single=true&range=B:I&headers=1'; var query, options, container; function init() { query = new google.visualization.Query(dataSourceUrl); container = document.getElementById("table"); options = {'pageSize': 10}; sendAndDraw(); } function sendAndDraw() { query.abort(); var tableQueryWrapper = new TableQueryWrapper(query, container, options); tableQueryWrapper.sendAndDraw(); } function setOption(prop, value) { options[prop] = value; sendAndDraw(); } </script></td></tr><tr><td><form action=""><a name="list"></a>Number of rows to show: <select onchange="setOption('pageSize', parseInt(this.value, 10))"><option value="5">5</option><option value="selected">10</option><option value="15">15</option>&nbsp;</select></form><br /><div id="table">Permits</div></td></tr></tbody></table><p>Our map of sidewalk cafe permits data shows where Chicago&rsquo;s outdoor hubs lay as of last summer, but we also obtained data (from 2006 and on) that suggest where the number of cafes is growing.</p><p><em>Chicago&rsquo;s Near North Side</em></p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p>This <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/319.html">community area</a>, just north of the Loop, is the sidewalk cafe stronghold. It includes parts of the city&rsquo;s Michigan Avenue shopping district, as well as Streeterville and the Gold Coast. In 2012, Chicago&rsquo;s Near North Side had 223 sidewalk cafes &mdash; a 33.5 percent increase from 2006, when that community had just 167.</p></li></ul><p><em>Lakeview</em></p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p>In 2012, the Lakeview community area came in a strong second with 151 sidewalk cafes &mdash; an 18.9 percent increase from 2006. That number is not surprising as Lakeview regularly attracts entertainment venues, taverns and restaurants. It&rsquo;s also home to Wrigley Field and Boystown, the largest of the city&rsquo;s gay bar districts.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>The data suggest that the rate of growth has slowed in Lakeview, perhaps even that the market is peaking or saturated. But businesses continue to expand northwest.</p></li></ul><p><em>West Town and Logan Square</em></p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p>West Town, which encompasses Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village, saw a 72 percent &nbsp;increase of sidewalk cafes from 2006-2012.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>The Near West Side, which includes the West Loop and Little Italy, saw a 92.85% increase, nearly doubling from 42 to 81 sidewalk cafe permits for that same period.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Logan Square had an increase of 54.54%, up from 12 permits in 2006, to 34 in 2012.</p></li></ul><p><strong>Where the permits stop ... but the story doesn&rsquo;t </strong></p><p>Chicago community areas are not all the same. Some are or were previously industrial zones. Others lack real estate density or have no access to mass transit. Still, restaurants and dining are ubiquitous throughout the city, though sidewalk cafes are not, especially in North and South Lawndale, Washington Park, South Shore, Roseland or Pullman, all of which have no permits.</p><p>Even on the North Side, communities like Jefferson Park, Avondale and Albany Park have just one or two permits each.</p><p>Permits for 2013 were available by request, but many of them are still pending, and some businesses may wait until the weather is consistently warm before applying for a permit.</p><p>Permits are scarce or nonexistent in a few North Side neighborhoods, but not nearly as acute as those on the South and West Sides.</p><p>Permits become scarcer west of California Avenue and south of Roosevelt Road, with the exception of clusters at University of Illinois at Chicago&rsquo;s campus, Pilsen and University of Chicago&rsquo;s Hyde Park campus.</p><p>But the story doesn&rsquo;t stop there.</p><p>Next week, we&rsquo;ll take up what we&rsquo;ve heard over and over: that these disparities matter when it come to quality of life and economic development.</p><p><em>&mdash;Elliott Ramos is a data reporter and Web producer for WBEZ. Email him at <a href="mailto:eramos@wbez.org">eramos@wbez.org</a> or follow at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/ChicagoEl">@ChicagoEl</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style=" margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;"><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/144483401/CITY-OF-CHICAGO-SIDEWALK-CAFE-PROGRAM" name="CafeDoc" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View CITY OF CHICAGO SIDEWALK cafe PROGRAM on Scribd">CITY OF CHICAGO SIDEWALK cafe PROGRAM</a></p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_10447" scrolling="no" src="http://www.scribd.com/embeds/144483401/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style=" margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;"><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/144484232/Streetscape-Design-Guidelines" name="StreetscapeDoc" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View Streetscape Design Guidelines on Scribd">Streetscape Design Guidelines</a> by <a href="http://www.scribd.com/WBEZ915" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View Chicago Public Media's profile on Scribd">Chicago Public Media</a></p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="0.772922022279349" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_12300" scrolling="no" src="http://www.scribd.com/embeds/144484232/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;access_key=key-omgza5ypd4299a03tcx&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 20:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-chicago%E2%80%99s-sidewalk-cafes-all-north-side-part-1-107257 Bus rapid transit to ‘maximize potential’ of Ashland Avenue http://www.wbez.org/news/bus-rapid-transit-%E2%80%98maximize-potential%E2%80%99-ashland-avenue-106738 <p><p style=""><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ashland..PNG" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 195px; width: 350px;" title="Each direction would have one parking lane and one traffic lane. (Chicago Transit Authority)" /></p><p>The first phase of a closely watched Chicago bus project would &ldquo;maximize street potential&rdquo; along more than five miles of Ashland Avenue for about $50&nbsp;million, city officials announced Friday.</p><p>The project would establish bus rapid transit (BRT) along that congested artery from 31st Place to Cortland Avenue. The city will study possible extensions stretching as far south as 95th Street and as far north as Irving Park Road, according to a statement from the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Department of Transportation.</p><p>&ldquo;Bus rapid transit is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to expand and modernize our city&rsquo;s transit network for the 21st century,&rdquo; Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in the statement. &ldquo;We will work with our local communities to best determine how to maximize the positive impacts BRT would provide to riders, while boosting local economic development and improving quality of life for all city residents.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-planners-push-boldest-bus-rapid-transit-option-105187">revealed the Ashland route and the project&rsquo;s key design elements</a> in January. The buses would have a lane to themselves on both sides of a landscaped median. Traffic signals at some intersections would favor the buses. Passengers would board from platforms a half-mile apart. Parking would remain on both sides.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/6p1YGHLqDo8" width="560"></iframe></p><p><br />The statement says the design would &ldquo;allow the potential&rdquo; for off-board fare collection, a feature that averts delays from collecting fares in bus doorways. A new CTA video (above) shows that payment taking place at kiosks on station platforms.</p><p>Cars and trucks would have just one lane in each direction&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;a plan that has sparked opposition from some business groups along the route. City officials have responded that the project would slow automobiles and trucks just slightly and speed up bus service more than 80 percent during peak hours.</p><p>Transit experts say banning turns across bus lanes is the key BRT intersection treatment. The video renderings of reconfigured Ashland intersections do not show any left-turn lanes.</p><p>CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis confirmed Friday that the Ashland project will eliminate left turns from the avenue&nbsp;at some intersections. She said her agency is embarking on a study to help determine which ones.</p><p>The elimination of turns is another step that worries the business groups.</p><p>&ldquo;Getting trucks around, where they might turn left into a loading dock now, they&rsquo;ll have to obviously make three [right turns] to be able to do that,&rdquo; said Benjamin Spies, a spokesman for the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, which represents 430 member businesses in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re concerned about what this would do to freight traffic.&rdquo;</p><p>The Emanuel administration was also considering Western Avenue for the BRT line but has put that possibility on the back burner.</p><p>The initial Ashland phase, creating a 5.3-mile leg of the BRT route, would link several CTA and Metra lines. It would also improve transit service to the University of Illinois at Chicago, Malcolm X College, the United Center and a cluster of hospitals within the Illinois Medical District.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the things that all of the hospitals talk to us about is a lack of parking,&rdquo; Warren Ribley, the district&rsquo;s executive director, said at a downtown roundtable promoting the BRT project. &ldquo;They all have parking decks that are full. If you drive along Harrison or Congress on any given day, you can&rsquo;t find a parking spot.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Public transportation is critical to the growth of the medical district,&rdquo; Ribley said. &ldquo;There is going to be growth. That&rsquo;s why this is such an important proposal for us.&rdquo;</p><p>Neighborhoods along the planned initial route include Bucktown, Noble Square, East Village, West Town, University Village and Pilsen. The CTA&rsquo;s No. 9 bus, which runs on Ashland, in 2012 had 10 million boardings, the most of any Chicago route that year, according to the city.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s statement says CHA and CDOT will &ldquo;begin working with local stakeholders on developing a plan&rdquo; for Ashland.</p><p>The project&nbsp;<a href="http://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AluraWM750W7dHhKR25IX1RmTzFwUFJBM1lvbWQwSHc#gid=3">has potential to outshine</a> a bus line in Cleveland, Ohio,&nbsp;that transit experts consider the most advanced BRT system in the United States. The Cleveland line includes 4.3 miles of dedicated bus lanes but also some features that slow down the service. Those include tightly spaced&nbsp;stations &mdash; about four per mile&nbsp;&mdash; and&nbsp;turns across the busway.</p><p>Ashland would not stack up to BRT lines in several other countries. The world&rsquo;s&nbsp;most advanced bus system is TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia. That Andean city segregates&nbsp;65 miles&nbsp;of busways from traffic using physical barriers and grade separations.</p><p>Chicago has studied BRT options in the Ashland and Western corridor using a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Emanuel administration estimates that the project would cost about $10 million per mile. Lukidis, the&nbsp;CTA spokeswoman, said the city would count on further FTA funding for some of the Ashland construction.</p><p>Chicago is planning another BRT project in a 1.1-mile&nbsp;downtown corridor between Union Station and Millennium Park. The project, managed by CDOT, will include a new bus terminal next to the train station. A CDOT spokesman says the city is aiming to finalize the route design this December and finish construction by November 2014. The project&rsquo;s funding includes $24.7 million from the FTA and $7.3 million in Chicago tax increment financing.</p><p>As the city unveiled the Ashland design elements, Emanuel prepared to join former President Bill Clinton at a Friday meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. Emanuel&rsquo;s office described the topic as &ldquo;innovative and cost-effective ways for cities to invest in local projects.&rdquo;</p><div><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> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 19 Apr 2013 08:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/bus-rapid-transit-%E2%80%98maximize-potential%E2%80%99-ashland-avenue-106738 Chicago planners push boldest bus-rapid-transit option http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-planners-push-boldest-bus-rapid-transit-option-105187 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BRT_option_Western_Ashland_0.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 335px; width: 300px;" title="The BRT design favored by top Chicago staffers would preserve parking on both sides of Ashland Avenue but eliminate a traffic lane on each side. (Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority)" />To create a state-of-the-art bus line, Chicago transit leaders and urban planners have coalesced behind a design that would limit left turns and remove a traffic lane on each side of Ashland Avenue, a busy thoroughfare that connects both upscale and low-income neighborhoods to a cluster of hospitals at the city&rsquo;s center.</p><p>Now the bus-rapid-transit plan must survive political vetting by Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office. Emanuel, a professed BRT supporter, could face a storm of criticism from business owners and motorists who want no part in one of the country&rsquo;s most ambitious bus projects. The mayor&rsquo;s office could order the preservation of all existing Ashland traffic lanes and kill plans to run the buses in lanes along the avenue&rsquo;s center &mdash; a feature vital for trimming travel times.<br /><br />Officials say the design backed by the city&rsquo;s planners would transform at least 4.5 miles of Ashland, stretching from the &ldquo;Ashland&rdquo; station of the Chicago Transit Authority&rsquo;s Orange Line to the &ldquo;Division&rdquo; station of the CTA&rsquo;s Blue Line. That route would extend further north and south when, if ever, the city secured funding. A proposal for BRT along nearby Western Avenue would go on the back burner.<br /><br />The Ashland plan has the backing of planning and policy directors in the CTA, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren&rsquo;t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.</p><p>Some Chicago business owners along the route are already voicing worries about BRT, particularly about eliminating non-bus lanes. &ldquo;The idea of cutting the traffic capacity in half has caused a lot of questions for businesses and property owners,&rdquo; said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association.</p><p>City officials respond that their BRT plan would slow automobiles just slightly and speed up buses dramatically. The city says the new bus service would be up to 80 percent faster than today&rsquo;s service.</p><p>Other questions concern the left turns. Romanelli said business owners are wondering how limiting them &ldquo;would economically impact businesses, truck deliveries, residents moving east-west, coming from shopping.&rdquo;</p><p>City officials say they must remove some left turns to keep the buses moving fast and protect pedestrians.</p><p>Asked whether Emanuel was behind the plan and whether he would stick behind it if business owners revolted, his office had little to say. &ldquo;All of this is still under review,&rdquo; Tom Alexander, a mayoral spokesman, wrote in an email message to WBEZ.</p><p>In November, Romanelli&rsquo;s group helped form the Ashland Avenue-Western Avenue Coalition to give some area businesses a greater voice in the BRT planning. The coalition&rsquo;s other members include the Near West Side Community Development Corporation, the Near West Side Chamber of Commerce, the West Town Chamber of Commerce, and a business group called the West Central Association.</p><p>Last week coalition members met with city officials and area aldermen about the project. The officials said the city had made no final decision on the design.</p><p>The design favored by the Chicago planners resembles the boldest of four BRT alternatives the city presented last fall for the corridor. Each direction of Ashland would have one regular traffic lane and, near the middle of the avenue,&nbsp;a bus-only lane.</p><p>In each direction, the design leaves a parking lane next to the sidewalk, city officials say. There would be no bike lanes.</p><p>Several features would distinguish the project from a new express line along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffery Boulevard that began in November. Ashland&rsquo;s inside lanes would be dedicated to the buses around-the-clock, not just during rush hours. For quick boarding,&nbsp;the route would include station platforms and extra-wide bus doors. Those doors would be on the left side of the buses. Passengers would pay before boarding or the city would find fare-card readers that would be almost as quick.</p><p>Like the Jeffery line, the Ashland route would include traffic lights rigged to favor the buses and station enhancements such as bike racks and electronic bus-tracking signs. Like the Jeffery bus stops, the Ashland stations would be limited to roughly every half mile.</p><p>The Ashland route would include a landscaped median, according to a city staffer familiar with the plan. The CTA said last fall it had decided against narrowing the avenue&rsquo;s sidewalks.</p><p>The CTA&rsquo;s No. 9 bus, which runs on Ashland Avenue, in 2011 had 10 million boardings, the second most of any Chicago route that year, according to a city web page.</p><p>An advantage of building BRT on Ashland instead of Western, city officials say, is closer proximity to the Illinois Medical District, which includes Rush University Medical Center, the University of Illinois Medical Center, the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and Cook County&rsquo;s John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital.</p><p>The city has studied the Ashland and Western options using a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The city has not arranged construction funding.</p><p>A much shorter BRT line is scheduled for construction next year. That route will cross Chicago&rsquo;s Loop and include a new bus terminal at Union Station, a train depot. The project&rsquo;s funding includes $24.6 million from the FTA and $7.3 million in city tax increment financing.</p></p> Mon, 28 Jan 2013 19:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-planners-push-boldest-bus-rapid-transit-option-105187 BRT designs for Western, Ashland avenues start to take shape http://www.wbez.org/news/brt-designs-western-ashland-avenues-start-take-shape-103186 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BRT_option_Western_Ashland.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 357px; width: 320px; " title="Chicago officials say they are considering this design, among others, for bus-rapid-transit routes between Howard and 95th streets. (Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority)" />Chicago officials say they have decided to leave at least one parking lane on both possible routes of the city&rsquo;s most ambitious bus project. The officials say they have also ruled out narrowing sidewalks along those routes.</p><p>The details emerged Tuesday night at the first of three public meetings the Chicago Transit Authority is holding this week to unveil design alternatives for &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; along 21 miles of both Ashland and Western avenues.</p><p>All designs the city says it&rsquo;s considering for the corridor include around-the-clock dedicated lanes for the buses and pre-boarding fare collection. Those features would distinguish the project from an express line the city started building along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffery Boulevard in August. That service, called &ldquo;The Jeffrey Jump,&rdquo; is set to start early next month.</p><p>The Ashland and Western routes would also include traffic lights rigged to favor the buses and station enhancements such as bike racks and electronic bus-tracking signs.</p><p>But CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation officials say they have yet to decide on a range of features that would shave travel times for riders. Those include station platforms and buses equipped with extra-wide doors for quick boarding.</p><p>Other big questions concern whether to put the bus lanes down the middle of the avenues or along the sides, whether each side would have one non-bus travel lane or two, whether to keep parking on both sides, whether to reserve space for a landscaped median, and whether to limit left turns.</p><p>About three-dozen Chicago residents attended Tuesday&rsquo;s session, held in a Humboldt Park church. The meeting included a brief slide show by Scott Kubly, a top CDOT official. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re looking at what happens if we remove a travel lane and we want to hear back from you all [about] how you perceive those impacts,&rdquo; Kubly told them.</p><p>Fernando Benavides, a resident of the nearby Belmont Cragin neighborhood, said the plan to preserve at least one parking lane on each avenue was not enough. &ldquo;Elimination of lanes&nbsp;for cars and parking, my God, that&rsquo;s just going to create a lot of traffic,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Other residents voiced support for any steps to speed up transit service. New city estimates show the Ashland and Western buses averaging as fast as 16-18 miles per hour, almost rivaling CTA Red Line trains, which would average 21 miles per hour if slow zones were repaired. The BRT lines would run between Howard Street on the north and 95th Street on the south.</p><p>The other two meetings are set for Wednesday at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, 6130 S. Wolcott Ave., and Thursday at Lane Tech College Prep High School, 2501 W. Addison St. Both will take place at 5:30 p.m.</p><p>Officials say they will present final decisions on the design alternatives this winter. The city is studying the alternatives using a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Construction would depend on further federal funding.</p></p> Wed, 17 Oct 2012 01:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/brt-designs-western-ashland-avenues-start-take-shape-103186 The five scariest things I learned from Chicago’s pedestrian plan http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2012-09-28/five-scariest-things-i-learned-chicago%E2%80%99s-pedestrian-plan-102736 <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/chicago%20crosswalk%20flickr.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px; " title="Can Chicago make streets safer for pedestrians? (Flickr/Vicki Wolkins)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F61491687&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;color=ffe12b" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Rose Harris was struck by a car and killed Thursday night, near the intersection of 79th Street and St. Lawrence Avenue. <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-woman-hit-by-car-dies-20120928,0,1432638.story?track=rss">According to the <em>Tribune</em></a>, the 59-year-old West Side resident stepped out into the street between two cars; the driver who hit her did not have time to react.&nbsp;</p><p>The stretch of 79th Street where Harris was killed is one of the most deadly in the city &ndash; at least for pedestrians. Chicago has labeled it a &quot;high crash corridor,&quot; respsonsible for a significant portion of the pedestrian deaths we see here every year. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s safer to be a pedestrian in Chicago than to be one in New York, Los Angeles or Dallas. Blame L.A. traffic, maybe, or those Texas super highways if you&rsquo;d like; according to an analysis done by the city, between 2005 and 2009 we averaged fewer crashes between cars and pedestrians than did our large urban peers.</p><p>But as the death of Rose Harris illustrates, that doesn&#39;t mean Chicago is safe for people on foot.</p><p>Thirty-four Chicagoans died in 2009 after being hit by cars. The victims that year included 36-year-old <a href="http://www.marthagonzalezmemorial.com/">Martha Gonzalez</a>, a mother of two who was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street at 18th and Halsted. Gonzalez and the others who died that year came from a total of 3,130 total collisions in which, according to the eerily technical language used in Chicago&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/pedestrian/2011PedestrianCrashAnalysisSummaryReport.pdf">2011 Pedestrian Crash Analysis</a> &ldquo;the pedestrian was the first point of contact for the vehicle.&rdquo; Turns out 2009 wasn&rsquo;t such a bad year, either: Nearly twice as many pedestrians were killed by cars here in 2005.</p><p>These numbers may seem small compared to say, the number of people who die in car crashes on Illinois highways: When I drove home via I-90/94 Wednesday night, the count from the digital sign read &ldquo;721 traffic deaths this year.&rdquo; By the next morning the count had ticked up to 724.</p><p>But Gabe Klein, Commissioner of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation, believes that even one pedestrian death here is too many. &ldquo;These are preventable,&rdquo; he told me earlier this week. &ldquo;They are not accidents.&rdquo;</p><p>Klein is spearheading Chicago&rsquo;s ambitious &ldquo;Vision Zero&rdquo; goal, a ten-year plan to eliminate <em>all </em>traffic fatalities in the city. To this end, earlier this month CDOT released <a href="http://chicagopedestrianplan.org/">the city&rsquo;s first-ever pedestrian plan</a>, a set of proposals aimed at making Chicago streets safer for walking.</p><p>Some of the interventions outlined in the plan are already being put into place: Signs popped up at intersections around this city this summer, reminding drivers that it&rsquo;s state law to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. (Sadly, the plan does not <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-why-don%E2%80%99t-chicago-drivers-stop-crosswalks-100855">call for mimes</a>.) Other ideas in CDOT&rsquo;s plan are more expensive and will take longer to implement: &ldquo;road diets,&rdquo; like the one given to Humboldt Boulevard through Humboldt Park, that shrink wider roads to slow down traffic and often make room for bike lanes. A few ideas suggested in the pedestrian plan &ndash; like straight up banning left- and right-hand turns at all of Chicago&rsquo;s iconic six-corner intersections &ndash; will strike many as audacious and unnecessary.&nbsp;</p><p>While proposals like the one above are certainly eye-catching &ndash; <a href="http://gridchicago.com/2011/building-chicagos-first-pedestrian-scramble/">pedestrian scramble</a>, anyone? &ndash; what really caught my eye was some of the stats that piece apart just what the city is up against here.</p><p><strong>Crashes in the crosswalk</strong></p><p>Let&rsquo;s start with this one:</p><ul><li>&nbsp;&ldquo;78% of all [pedestrian] crashes. . . occurred within 125 feet of the midpoint of an intersection.&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />According to the city, the most common place for a pedestrian to be when a crash occurs is walking in the crosswalk with the signal. So as a pedestrian, <em>you can be doing everything right and still be killed</em>. Frankly I find this disturbing, and apparently I&rsquo;m not alone. &ldquo;It <em>is</em> disturbing,&rdquo; Gabe Klein told me. &ldquo;We think most pedestrians are obeying the law. We think people in cars are not taking seriously their responsibility as drivers of a 3,000 lb. piece of equipment.&rdquo; Klein cited by way of example a woman &ldquo;taken out by a cab&rdquo; while crossing in the crosswalk on Sheridan: &ldquo;He ran over her like she wasn&rsquo;t there.&rdquo;</p><p>Speaking of cabs. . .</p><p><strong>Watch out for taxis&nbsp;</strong></p><ul><li>&ldquo;28% of pedestrian crashes in the central business district involved taxis.&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />Beyond the obvious &ndash; there are more cabs in this part of town as well as a higher concentration of pedestrians &ndash; Klein puts blame squarely on the cabbies themselves. &ldquo;My feeling is that there are some really bad actors on the taxi side that are driving really badly,&rdquo; he said. Klein said he takes cabs often and that he&rsquo;s &ldquo;seen them break the law when I&rsquo;m in the back of the car and had to call it into 311.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Ahead of the curve. . . in hit-and-runs</strong></p><ul><li>&ldquo;40% of fatal pedestrian crashes in Chicago were hit and run. By comparison 20% of fatal pedestrian crashes nation-wide were hit and run.&rdquo;</li></ul><p>I found this stat especially disturbing. I myself was the victim of a hit-and-run crash in 2008 (although I was riding my bike, not walking, at the time) so I know first hand that there are unscrupulous jerks driving around Chicago. But <em>twice as many</em> unscrupulous jerks?</p><p>&ldquo;We meet with the police every two weeks and we talk about this,&rdquo; Klein said. <strong>&ldquo;</strong>A lot happens after dark. I think often we have people drinking and driving &ndash; I think they hit someone and they get scared and they flee.&rdquo;</p><p>Klein also mentioned here how fast people in Chicago drive. Did you know that the speed limit in Chicago is 30 mph unless otherwise stated? You wouldn&rsquo;t know it from, say, driving down Western Avenue. . .</p><p><strong>Wide roads are the deadliest roads&nbsp;</strong></p><ul><li>&ldquo;Although arterial streets account for only 10% of Chicago&rsquo;s street miles, 50% of fatal/serious crashes occurred on them.&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />Because of Chicago&rsquo;s grid, these wider, faster streets &ndash; Western, Fullerton, Cermak etc. &ndash; are unavoidable and apparently deadly. (<em>See: Rose Harris</em>)&nbsp;According to the pedestrian plan, they&rsquo;ll also take the longest and will be the most expensive to fix.&nbsp;</p><p>At least the city knows where to start?</p><p><strong>Your mom tells you to look both ways for a reason</strong></p><p>Finally, there&rsquo;s this:</p><ul><li>&ldquo;15 to 18 year old pedestrians had the highest crash rate.&rdquo;</li><li>&ldquo;Older pedestrians were more likely to be struck in a cross walk than other age groups&hellip;&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />Because younger people drive less &ndash; as Klein pointed out, &ldquo;Millennials are not buying cars anywhere near the rate&rdquo; of people of his generation &ndash; and older people walk more slowly, <em>Chicago&#39;s most vulnerable citizens are getting hit and killed the most</em>. Kids are mostly likely to be hit during the after-school hours of 3 to 6 p.m. Maybe Rahm&rsquo;s plea for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-signs-speed-camera-bill-chicago-96152">speed camera legislation</a> wasn&rsquo;t just a cynical revenue-generating ploy after all?</p><p>The city has a lot riding on getting this right, beyond even the lives at stake: Urban planners often point to a city&rsquo;s walkability as a key factor in its overall livability. And I for one hope the city does get it right &ndash; for the likes of Rose Harris and Martha Gonzalez, and for those of us already glad we don&rsquo;t live in L.A.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 28 Sep 2012 08:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2012-09-28/five-scariest-things-i-learned-chicago%E2%80%99s-pedestrian-plan-102736 $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