Posts tagged with "good ideas":

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Chicago Picks Bike-Sharing Vendor

Big changes are coming to Chicago's streets, as AN has reported. One of the most visible, the city's planned bike-sharing system, just took a major step forward with the selection of a vendor, Portland, Oregon-based Alta Bicycle Share and Public Bike System. The vendor will supply 3000 bikes and 300 solar powered charging stations this summer, according to the Chicago Tribune. The number will be upped to 5000 bikes and 500 stations by 2014. The Alta/Public partnership operates bike-sharing systems in London, Melbourne, Boston, Minneapolis, Toronto, Washington, D.C. and Montreal among other cities.
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Transit Stalls and Starts in the Midwest

On Wednesday, federal transportation secretary Ray LaHood effectively killed Detroit's planned light rail line, citing doubt about the city's ability to build and maintain the project, given its dire finances and collapsing levels of density. He instead pushed for bus rapid transit along the Woodward Avenue corridor. Elsewhere, however, transit seems to be gaining traction. The much debated Cincinnati Streetcar just received nearly $11 million in federal TIGER grants, allowing construction of the Over-the-Rhine to downtown line to commence, and planners will extend the line to the riverfront development called The Banks, as well as the adjacent stadia. A vociferous opposition has fought the planned line at the ballot box and in the courts, but so far they have yet to block it. Meanwhile, in Indianapolis the Central Indiana Transit Task Force are pushing for a modest tax increase to vastly expand that city's transit system, including doubling the city's bus fleet and building a commuter rail line to Noblesville. The three tenths of one percent income tax increase would be passed through a local two-country referendum, but first the state legislature must give the go ahead to allow the local referendum. That is not an insignificant hurdle in the very conservative, Republican controlled state government, but with much of Indy's business community, including it's chamber of commerce, supporting the tax, it may stand a chance.
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Taxing Parking for Transit in Chicago

Mayor Emanuel’s proposed $2 congestion tax on downtown parking is facing stiff opposition from, you guessed it, the parking lobby. According to the Tribune, the Parking Industry Labor Management Committee is posting placards in member facilities and handing out flyers opposing the tax. The committee argues the tax will not improve traffic flow and could encourage businesses to relocate to the suburbs. Emanuel believes the tax will foster greater transit ridership and raise an estimated $28 million annually for CTA improvements. The $2 tax on parking at garages and lots in the Loop and River North will be added to the existing $3 tax that goes to the city’s general fund.
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Gang Floats New Ideas for Chicago’s Waterways

Studio Gang has long partnered with nonprofits and community groups to realize their unconventional designs. For her recent Harvard GSD studio, principal Jeanne Gang partnered with one of the nation’s largest environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), to tackle an issue with repercussions across the northern Midwest: separating the South Branch of Chicago River to prevent invasive Asian carp from decimating the Great Lakes. “NRDC told us they were tired of just being against things,” Gang said, in a recent talk at Cooper Union in New York. “They want to be for things.” Gang and her GSD studio investigated the possibilities of returning the river to its natural course, the findings of which have been compiled into a book called Reverse Effect: Renewing Chicago’s Waterways (available from Amazon's and Studio Gang's website beginning November 7). With images as compelling as the one above, it’s easy to see why NRDC thinks partnering with designers is a smart advocacy strategy. For Gang and her students, a region-wide threat called for neighborhood-scale intervention. Such strategic thinking makes architects central players in addressing urgent societal and ecological problems. It never hurts to be essential. A reception for the book will take place tomorrow night at Architectural Artifacts, 4325 North Ravenswood Avenue, Chicago.
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New Chicago DOT Commissioner Could Rival Sadik-Khan

Progressive transportation commissioners have become heroes in planning circles. There's a lot of excitement surrounding Chicago Mayor Emanuel's appointment of Gabe Klein as DOT commissioner. Poached from Washington D.C., where Emanuel saw his work first-hand, Klein has extensive experience instituting new transportation ideas, including the nation's largest bike sharing program and a new streetcar system.  The Chicago Tribune has a good roundup of Klein's thoughts so far, which include focusing on improving the CTA rather than building a new High Speed Rail Line to O'Hare, increasing traffic calming measures and pedestrian upgrades, expanding bike lanes and bus rapid transit. Overall he wants to dramatically increase biking, walking, and transit use and diminish the presence of cars, especially in the central city. Before transitioning into government, Klein worked in the transportation field as an executive at a bicycle company and at Zipcar. More broadly, the appointment signals an openness on the part of the Emanuel Administration to bringing in new people and new ideas into Chicago's government agencies, a welcome shift from the patronage system of the Daley regime. Janette Sadik-Khan in New York and Jan Gehl of Denmark may have a new rival for the title of progressive transportation star.
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Plumen Light Bulb Wins Design of the Year

If one of the main complaints lodged against the compact fluorescent lightbulb is that it’s ugly, all that’s about to change with the Plumen 001. The energy efficient bulb has been hailed as one of the first major re-designs of the CFL, and today, it won Brit Insurance Product Design of the Year 2011. Created by product designer Samuel Wilkinson and British electronics company Hulger, the Plumen is made out of two interwoven glass tubes. The curved design has a new silhouette from every angle. In addition to radiating warm white light, it uses 80% less energy and lasting eight times longer than incandescents. According to the Financial Times, the Plumen is the most recent Brit Insurance Product winner in a pattern of awards recognizing products for their innovative interpretation of everyday objects. Jury chair Stephen Bayley explained, “The Plumen light bulb is a good example of the ordinary thing done extraordinarily well, bringing a small measure of delight to an everyday product.” Will Self, a jury member, also remarked, “2011 was not a year to reward high-end design devised purely for conceptual reasons or added-value results.” The light bulb aims to address both the quality of light and design lacking in traditional CLFs. In an interview with Fast Company, Hulger founder Nicolas Roope explained that the light bulb was born out of the desire to bring sexy back to a universal product badly in need of a re-design.
"'Designers always look in the same places,' says Roope. 'They overlook the small things time and time again.' They decided to look the one place no one was looking. 'The lightbulb is completely barren, so '90s,' says Roope. 'It's an incredible source of ubiquity. If you can change the form even slightly you can change the whole game.'"
  Though the Plumen is only available in Europe right now, the award comes at a time when light bulbs is a political hot potato in the US. A 2007 bill will require 100-watt bulbs to become 25 percent more efficient by next year. The Tea Party has adopted the light bulb as a cause celebre against government regulation (notably referenced in Rep. Michelle Bachman's (R-MN) response to Obama's State of the Union address earlier this year). The Plumen is slated to go on sale in the US at the end of April 2011, and currently retails for £19.95 in the UK and €29.95 in the rest of Europe.
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Highway to Isolation

Multidisciplinary teams are working to rethink the grounds surrounding the Eero Saarinen-designed Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the St. Louis Arch, to improve its connectivity with the city and the riverfront. An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is calling on the teams to substantially rework I-70, which creates a barrier along the park's western edge. When the interstate highway system was being designed, many routes were planned along waterfronts that were then falling out of use for industry and shipping. As waterfronts have come back in fashion as urban amenities, many communities are struggling to work around or remove these highways. The Post-Dispatch advocates removing the 1.5 mile stretch all together. Definitely something for the teams to ponder.
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AN Midwest is Conceived

We have a very special announcement to make. The AN family is growing! In February 2010, we will publish our third edition of the paper based in the Midwest. Thousands of architects in the region have received a preview copy, and we hope our new readers will take a moment to subscribe. As with our East and West editions, the paper is free for registered architects and architectural designers. Show us your support by signing up today, and stay informed on the latest architectural news, projects, innovative products, gossip, and culture from Chicago to Cincinnati and St. Louis to St. Paul. As I wrote in the my editorial, AN aims reflect the aspirations of the region’s architects, provide a forum for debate, and most of all, be consistently informative and useful to our readers. Start following us now for weekly Midwest news stories and blog posts on www.archpaper.com. And send tips, comments, and suggestions to Midwesteditor@archpaper.com.
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Inching Toward High-Speed

The governors of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin today pledged to work together to implement a high-speed rail network centered in Chicago. In recent months, Vice President Biden and Transportation Secretary LaHood have urged such coordinated action, as the region competes against other parts of the country, especially the East and West coasts, for federal funds. The first legs of the system would connect Chicago to St. Louis, Detroit/Pontiac, and Milwaukee/Madison. If all goes according to plan, those first segments could be open in three to five years.