Friday, December 30, 2011

A holiday gift from the federal government

Earlier this month, the Active Transportation Alliance reported that various Chicago projects important to bicyclists and pedestrians received substantial awards from two federal transportation funds. This is great news for Lincoln Park residents, since many of the programs and projects are relevant to our neighborhood.

It doesn't look like much right now, but the Bloomingdale Trail will run on the top of this old railroad line and be a fantastic new trail for Chicagoans to use for bicycling and walking. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
First, the Bloomingdale Trail project was awarded $36.5 million. This trail will be an almost-three-mile- long elevated bike- and pedestrian trail stretching from Bucktown to Humboldt Park. It has been discussed for many years but it’s finally in the design stages currently, and Mayor Emanuel has committed to completing it within his first term. The nearest access point for Lincoln Parkers will be near Cortland and Elston, easily reached by bicycle.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why is Fullerton always jammed up with cars?

We’ve been thinking about transportation gaps lately, because one of the assignments in the Streets for Cycling 2020 plan recently was to identify gaps and barriers to bicycling within north side neighborhoods. Chicago has plenty of gaps for safe accomodations for bicycles, but there are gaps in other services, as well, and it leads to visible consequences.

Did you ever wonder why Fullerton Parkway, from Halsted to Cannon Drive, is perpetually clogged with automobile traffic? It’s because people are given few alternative means of traversing that stretch: No bus service, and no bike lanes.

The Fullerton 74 bus line does not serve Fullerton east of Halsted/Lincoln. Its service begins 8.5 miles to the west, near Harlem on the city’s western boundary, but as soon as an eastbound #74 reaches Halsted, it turns south, then east on Webster for a few blocks, then makes its turnaround to head west again by going north on Lincoln. Here’s the route it takes:
The Fullerton Avenue bus does not serve the stretch from Halsted to the lake front, leaving a nearly one-mile service gap.
So this means that if a person takes the bus from any point west, with a destination anywhere close to the lake, they must disembark at Halsted and walk the rest of the way, which at nearly one mile, is not a short distance. Fullerton Parkway from Halsted to the lake is a pleasant walk, but it takes an average person 20 minutes to walk that far.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Streets for Cycling - North Side community meeting!

The North Side Community Area map was marked up with 
comments and stickers at last weekend's Open House event.
.(Photo credit: Flickr user trapgosh)
Did you drop by the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 Open House last weekend? You can read full coverage of the event on Grid Chicago on this specific post as well as elsewhere on that website.

If you weren't able to attend the first citywide event, fear not. 

Now it’s time to focus on Chicago’s North Side community area, which we’re going to do at our first North Side Community Area Advisory Group meeting this coming Saturday, December 17, and we hope you’ll join in. Who is a member of this “advisory group”? You are! It’s completely open to all who live, work or venture to the north side. 

Our first assignment from CDOT for this meeting is to identify within each North Side neighborhood the top destinations, barriers, gaps and assets. That is, the CDOT planners need our specific knowledge of our neighborhoods to tell them the places to which people already ride their bikes (or what would be a popular destination if it were safer?), and what are the barriers or gaps that make it difficult to do so currently?

They’re looking for very specific input, so think about these questions as they apply to you and your neighborhood, and come to the meeting ready to talk with others from your area, mark up maps and make lists. This input will go directly to CDOT's project team to be incorporated into the grand plan.

Streets for Cycling 2020 North Side Community Advisory Group Meeting
WHERE: Gill Park (first floor), 825 W. Sheridan Road 
WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 17 from 11a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
RSVP appreciated:

We hope to see you there!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Crosswalks, salt, signs and inspiration

You remember how red the stamped brick crosswalks at North and Wells were during the summer, when they were first being added, right?

Here they are today, after the first day of snow and salt:

They already have that "Chicago Winter Gray" shade. Oh well, the rain in April will wash them clean again.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seize the opportunity to help shape Chicago’s north side bikeways

Lincoln Park is in the North Side Community
Area for purposes of the Streets for Cycling Plan
Hopefully you've heard the news already that the Chicago Department of Transportation has launched its Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, which aims to gather community input and then use the information to “develop a citywide network of 150-250 miles of innovative bikeways that will make bicycling a safe and easy option for all Chicagoans, from 8 years old to 80.”

For purposes of gathering community input, the S4C team has divided the city into nine community areas, and Lincoln Park is in the North Side Community Area, which also includes the neighborhoods of Lakeview, North Center, Lincoln Square/Ravenswood, Uptown, Edgewater, West Ridge and Rogers Park.

There are three ways to get involved right now, in the next few weeks.

First, keep up on the latest of the project team by “Liking” the Facebook page . You’ll also be able to post specific suggestions and comments at that site. If you’re not a Facebooker yet, you can try checking the CDOT Bicycle Program page for Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 ,  because they will post information there as well.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Three years down, 72 more to go on Chicago’s parking meter lease deal!

by Michelle Stenzel

You may have noticed that we try to keep upbeat on this blog, but there’s one topic that’s really testing our abilities to remain chipper: Chicago’s parking meter lease deal. 

December 4, 2011 marks the three-year anniversary of our city council approving the deal that traded our right to collect revenue on parking meters in exchange for a large-but-not-large-enough lump sum of money. Why are we talking about this parking meter deal on a bike/walk blog? We’ll get to that. 

First, let’s review some basics (all reference links are provided at the end of the post):
  • Under the lease agreement, Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, paid the city $1,156,500,000 in exchange for the right to keep the revenue earned from Chicago’s parking meters for the following 75 years. 
  • Chicago Parking Meters, LLC (CPM LLC) was an entity formed for the purpose of the deal. The name makes it sound like a local entity, but in fact it is made up mostly of investors from Morgan Stanley and Abu Dhabi.
  • Mayor Daley’s administration had been working on the possible deal for about 18 months but pressured the aldermen to pass the proposed deal within 48 hours of ever bringing it to their attention.
  • There was no public input or review process.
  • Only two bids were submitted, and the higher bid was quickly accepted.
  • Six months later, the city’s Inspector General released a detailed financial analysis of the bids and concluded that even using conservative estimates, we should have received nearly $1 billion more than what was accepted.
  • Most of the $1.1565 billion we received from the deal is already spent and gone. 
  • We have 72 years left to go on the contract.
  • It’s grim.