Posts tagged with "Chicago Department of Transportation":

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Illinois transportation amendment promises steady, secure infrastructure funds

Voters in the state of Illinois resoundingly voted to on Tuesday to amend the state’s constitution to include an amendment that controls funding for transportation infrastructure. The amendment dictates that all revenue raised through transportation taxes and fees must directly fund transportation projects. Nicknamed by its proponents the “Safe Roads Amendment,” the initiative saw rare bipartisan support from Illinois’s Republican governor and its Democratic house speaker. Despite the amendment's overall popularity among the electorate—receiving a 79% “yes” vote at the time of publishing—it was not without skeptics. Both of Chicago’s major newspapers, the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune, both spoke out against the amendment. Opponents of the amendment cited the fact that its wording was vague, which may lead difficulties for future yet-to-be-realized transportation methods. It was also pointed out that the major support for the amendment was coming from special interest groups such as trade unions and business groups that may see massive dividends from increased money going into transportation construction. Another concern is that the state will no longer be able to access transportation money in the case of disasters, which may require additional resources for recovery. Proponents of the amendment, including the voting public, have highlighted the “lockbox” aspect of the amendment. Many see it as protection from an un-trusted government reallocating money that comes directly from consumers. The fees and taxes covered by the amendment include gas taxes and license and registration fees on any “public highways, roads, streets, bridges, mass transit, intercity passenger rail, ports, or airports.” The amendment needed 60% of the vote to be accepted into the state's constitution. California, Maryland, and Wisconsin have all passed similar transportation “lockbox” measures in the past six years. Southeast Michigan is also debating transportation in this year’s general election. At the time of publication, the vote for Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan property tax millage was too close to call. The new tax would go to help fund a regional public transportation system which the area lacks.
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This urban intervention in Chicago would let citizens control colorful lights under the “El” with their smartphones

Chicago is best known for Wrigley Field and the Sears Tower (yes, the Sears Tower), but one of its most prominent urban features is the elevated train tracks that form the “Loop,” or the downtown area bound by this snaking steel goliath. However poetic the idea of the “El” might be, it brute steel structure could, like most raised infrastructures, use some improvements. To draw attention to improving the El, the Chicago Loop Alliance has even outlined a plan called Transforming Wabash, which focuses on one heavily trafficked throughway underneath train tracks. The Wabash Lights is a site-specific installation that would convert a stretch of the tracks into a programmable light show with over 5,000 LED tubes. Urban instigators Jack C. Newell and Seth Unger need your help to Kickstart a pilot of the project, and, at the time of publication, they have less than a week to raise $13,000 to complete their crowdfunding campaign. The underside of the elevated train tracks above Wabash Avenue will be their test site for the lights, which the pair says embrace and celebrate the existing, rather than destroying the character of what is there. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jackcnewell/the-wabash-lights-the-beta-test From the Kickstarter campaign:

For most people visiting or living in Chicago, Wabash Avenue in the Loop is a dark, noisy, sometimes scary place to either avoid or walk quickly through. Positioned between the history of State Street and the futuristic playground of Millennium Park, Wabash Avenue is an underutilized resource in the city for art, culture, and business.

The design calls for 520 light tubes that are programmable every 1.2 inches, and Chicago residents can control the lights using a smartphone or computer. The project was initially entangled in a bit of a bureaucratic red tape, but it now has gained all of the approvals needed to move forward with a pilot outside of the Palmer House Hilton on Wabash Avenue. The duo has been working closely with the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago Department of Transportation, and the city government. To contribute to the project and see Chicago’s streets come to life, head on over to their Kickstarter page.
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Chicago opens newest segment of revamped Riverwalk

Despite a smattering of gray skies, Chicago inaugurated another stretch of its revamped riverwalk this Memorial Day weekend, and visitors were eager to explore the newly expanded public space. Kayakers, pedestrians, locals and tourists alike came to check out the partially opened project, which will remain under construction through the summer. Along with Ross Barney Architects, Benesch, and Jacobs Ryan and the Chicago Department of Transportation, Sasaki Associates led design on the project—a major component of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's bid to rebrand the Chicago River as the city's “second shoreline.” Work began in 2013, and many of the storefronts built along the riverwalk's newest section—from State Street to Clark Street—still await tenants. Construction work continued right up until opening day.
https://twitter.com/DillonGoodson/status/603226446484656128 https://twitter.com/MASContext/status/602684099443105792 https://twitter.com/chrisdmerritt/status/602313220930560002 https://twitter.com/mdsmith577/status/602261780560277504 Curbed Chicago rounded up some more photos of the riverwalk from this weekend.
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This map sheds light on Chicago’s $1.7 billion in tax-increment financing projects

The open-data site Chicago Cityscape has mapped hundreds of construction projects receiving public support through the city's increasingly controversial tax-increment financing (TIF) system. (Full disclosure: Chicago Cityscape is run by Steven Vance, who contributes to AN) A common economic development tool for municipal governments, TIF can incentivize construction projects by offsetting a developer's property taxes. But as numerous in-depth reports from the Chicago Reader have made clear, in Chicago the program has historically been used more like a slush fund for the mayor's office, with money often landing in the coffers of downtown projects instead of the economically depressed areas where it's supposed to spur job growth. In 2011 Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned in part on improving government transparency, vowing less than one week into his first term to return TIF “to its roots.” Controversial TIF awards continue to emerge, however, accumulating predominantly in the city's central business district as the mayor gears up for his second term. Chicago Cityscape's map is accompanied by a spreadsheet of public city data sortable by project name, approval date, TIF assistance amount, total project cost, ward, and community area. In all there are 379 entries displayed, but that excludes projects listed by the city in another data set—the City of Chicago TIF projects portal shows TIF projects through other agencies, such as the Chicago Department of Transportation.
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Video> How Sasaki is transforming the Chicago Riverwalk

As construction crews continue to pull the Chicago Riverwalk farther into the city’s iconic waterway, Sasaki Associates has released a short documentary about the $100 million transformation. And it’s worth a watch because what's happening in Chicago is more than your typical “reclaiming public space” type of story. Yes, the Riverwalk is reclaiming public space, but that public space is not the typical brownfield site or underused lot—it’s the Chicago River. And building a 3.5-acre public park on top of it is no easy task. When complete, the Riverwalk will have a seamless path that connects its distinct segments: the marina, the cove, the river theater, the water plaza, and the jetty. Collectively, the Riverwalk includes new seating, floating wetland gardens, piers, and a water plaza. And let's not forget the kayaks—there will be plenty of those too. Watch above to see how Sasaki, Ross Barney Architects, and the Chicago Department of Transportation are making all of this possible.
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Civic group calls on Chicago to expand car-free zones

The jostle of potholes notwithstanding, motorists might find nothing unbalanced about Chicago’s public streets. But the Active Transportation Alliance points out while nearly a quarter of the city is in the public right-of-way, cars dominate practically all of it. Citing the city’s Make Way for People initiative, which turns over underused street space to pedestrians, the group released 20 proposals Wednesday, calling on City Hall to create car-free spaces from Wrigley Field to Hyde Park. Their full list is available here. It includes a protected bike lane and landscaped seating area on Dearborn and/or Clark Streets, from River North to the South Loop; a pedestrian plaza on 18th Street in Pilsen, created by a dead-end at Carpenter, Miller and/or Morgan Streets; closing Milwaukee Avenue through the square of Logan Square; and closing portions of the vibrant retail corridor on 26th Street in Little Village to vehicle traffic. “Our hope is to jump-start conversations that lead to further study and the creation of car-free spaces,” writes the Active Transportation Alliance. The civic group said the list is inspired partly by places like Navy Pier, Times Square in New York City, and existing pedestrian plazas like Kempf Plaza in Lincoln Square. A spokesman for Chicago’s Department of Transportation told the Tribune that the agency “agrees with the concept,” but wouldn’t weigh in on any of the Active Transportation Alliance’s specific suggestions just yet. The Make Way for People initiative's so-called “complete streets” have gained traction among urban planners for their inclusion of pedestrians, bicyclists, and green space within the standard two- and four-lane roads that cater almost exclusively to cars. New York has overhauled dozens of public streets and plazas in recent years. Chicago designers, including North Center-based Altamanu, have worked with the city in recent years to draft plans for pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets from Mayfair to the lakefront.
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Bike Share Round-up> Chicago Surges, New York’s Safety Record Shines, Los Angeles Lags

We hope you’ve stretched your hamstrings—there have been a lot of developments in U.S. bike sharing programs lately, and we’re taking another whirl through them now. Although not without hang-ups, New York’s Citi Bike has at least not killed anyone yet. People love to joke about clueless tourists riding on the sidewalk, or on heavy-traffic avenues, or “salmoning” the wrong way down one-way streets — that’s true in Chicago as well as New York — but the fact that no bikeshare has so far produced little to no traffic carnage should come as no surprise, writes Charles Komanoff for Streetsblog. Crunching the numbers, Komanoff points out “for each day in 2012, all NYC cyclists racked up 16 times as many miles as have Citi Bikers on each day to date.” So while Citi Bike ridership has exceeded expectations, it’s still only a small bump in the city’s total bike ridership. The bikes themselves could be a contributing factor, too — they aren’t racing bikes, and crowds of bikers further leaden their slow pace. The naturally lower car speeds in popular Citi Bike areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn may also play a role. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a proposed bikeshare system was stymied by existing restrictions on street furniture advertising. Smaller systems may move forward in some of L.A.’s municipal fiefdoms — Long Beach and Fullerton are apparently moving ahead, while West Hollywood and Santa Monica are conducting reviews. For now, though, what was once proposed as the nation's second biggest bike sharing program seems to have hit the brakes. Instead Chicago’s Divvy bike share is poised to become the largest such program in North America after announcing the addition of another 75 stations. Divvy already has 300 stations, with plans to add 100 more in 2014 (the additional 75 brings it to a total of 475). Federal funding enabled the $3 million expansion. CDOT also announced that it has applied for $3 million in state money to fund another 75 stations, which would bring the grand total to 550 stations. “As Divvy expands into more neighborhoods, and we build a 650-mile bikeway network throughout our communities, Chicago is quickly becoming the best biking city in North America,” said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein in a press release. It will be one of Klein’s last as Chicago’s transportation commissioner — he announced his resignation effective at the end of the month. Klein oversaw Divvy’s development and implementation, and was known for riding his bike to work. Sustainable transportation advocates told Streetsblog Klein’s successor will have big shoes to fill.
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Loiter Squad: Chicago Loses Bus Shelters to Avoid Loitering

Waiting for the bus was getting just a bit too pleasant, so it’s a good thing the 46th Ward removed benches from at least three locations in Uptown—an anonymous tipster told StreetsBlog that Alderman James Cappelman’s office apparently relieved several bus stops of their benches to prevent loitering. That’s the same Cappelman accused earlier this year of waging a “war on the poor” for pressuring the Salvation Army to stop feeding the poor in his ward. But look at who’s tugging at his ear. A married couple of lawyers just tried to sue Cappelman and the Chicago Department of Transportation for besmirching the sidewalk in front of their condo with a Divvy bikeshare station. A judge dismissed their request to yank the station immediately, but they’re up for a hearing at the end of September. Another month of these blue beacons for bikers? Just think of the loiterers!

Divvy Up: Chicago Launches Bike-Share Program

Get on your bikes and ride — Chicago’s long-delayed Divvy bike share program launched Friday, kicking on 65 solar-powered docking stations and unleashing 700 “Chicago” (read: powder) blue bikes. But some West and South Side residents may have to wait for the program's full benefits, if they get them at all. Optimized for short trips in high-density areas, the Divvy system requires a credit or debit card and few of the initial stations serve the far West and South sides. The Department of Transportation plans to rollout a total of 400 stations and about 4,000 three-speed bicycles in all. Chicago’s Department of Transportation unveiled its bike share plans in April, tapping Portland, OR–based Alta Bicycle Share, which also runs DC’s bike-share program. The rollout follows a similar program, Citibike, which launched in New York in late May. If you’re riding Divvy today, watch out for stragglers from the Blackhawks Stanley Cup parade.
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Even More Protected Bike Lanes to Serve Downtown Chicago

In a city where bicyclists may share a lane with Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, last year’s promise by Mayor Rahm Emanuel of 100 miles of protected bike paths was cause for celebration. Chicago's latest project, announced Sunday, will be a protected lane along Dearborn Street in the Loop that will run in both directions from Polk to Kinzie. The new route connects the near north side with the south loop and is designed to appeal to young, tech-savvy commuters who work downtown. “It will help us recruit the type of people that have been leaving for the coast,” Emanuel said. “They will now come to the city of Chicago.” The Active Transportation Alliance circulated a petition to hold the Mayor’s administration to its word. Others, like the Sun-Times’ Mark Konkol, have called protected lanes a waste of money and decried a faulty “cyclist culture” that makes streets more dangerous for pedestrians and bikers alike. Chicago will add 22 miles of protected bike lanes by the end of the year, bringing the city's total to 33 miles.