Update: If you want to know what residents think, avoid the comments section on the Tribune article and head straight to the discussion on EveryBlock. Added Reverend Stein’s letter to the editor (scroll to end) on August 12, 2011.
Alderman Colón (35th Ward) told Moving Design participants last Wednesday that his office fields more calls about parking than gangs or drugs.
The City Council acts faster on parking issues than the others: the importance of parking manifested in March and June 2011 when the City Council passed two ordinances to turn certain stretches of travel lanes on the Logan Square boulevard network into legal and unmetered parking spaces.
Was there backdoor dealing?
News of the street transformation came to light this week, thanks to Jon Hilkevitch at the Chicago Tribune. Passed without any public review, “[residents] fear the move led by 35th Ward Ald. Rey Colon to establish free parking along parts of Logan, Kedzie and Humboldt boulevards, where open parkways foster a feeling of airiness, will make the grand roads seem like parking lots. Logan Square, some residents warn, could become too much of a good thing, like crowded and always bustling Lincoln Park.”
The map shows the four distinct stretches of boulevards in Logan Square that now offer many hours of free parking each week. Created with QGIS and Adobe Illustrator using data from the City of Chicago.
Aldermen have more control over parking in this city than the agency most qualified to plan and manage it, that of Gabe Klein’s transportation department. But CDOT now and historically defers these matters to the alderman, “conducting only two field visits to the boulevards before approving Colon’s plan last year with some amendments. CDOT traffic engineers returned to the boulevards this year and concluded that parked cars would actually improve safety, CDOT spokesman Brian Steele said.”*
A sign identifies this area as a Landmark District, part of which will now feature free parking for hundreds of drivers. Photo by Jeff Zoline.
How this ordinance affects the community
1. Church parking on Friday at 10 PM?
Colón indicated to the group of designers that he was trying to prevent churchgoers from getting parking tickets. The ordinance is designed in such a way to also provide free parking for nearby businesses, too. The Chicago Tribune article indicates this was done under the guise of providing church parking. The pastor at Armitage Baptist was quoted as saying he wanted space to park 400 cars – space in addition to the on-street parking churchgoers have been paying for, and lots the church rents. But he wanted no special privileges.
It is not the city or community’s job to support the short-term storage of 400 cars arriving at a single destination. I’m also curious about the church services that go until 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.
2. Conflicts with open space plan
The Logan Square Open Space Plan was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission in 2004 to “[provide] a blueprint for increasing the amount and improving the quality of open space.”
On page 26, under the heading “Create More Bike and Pedestrian Ways to Connect Parks and Boulevards,” (PDF) the plan suggests that bike lanes be installed on many streets including Logan Boulevard (in the main roadway) between Milwaukee and Western Avenues. The new free parking zone conflicts with this sensible bike lane location. Bike lanes cannot coexist with variably timed parking lanes.
The boulevards may soon look like this. Photo taken on Palmer Square looking towards Kedzie Avenue which is not part of the new free parking zone. Photo by Jennifer.
Bicyclists who ride on the main roadways of these boulevards will be at increased risk of dooring during the free parking hours. Bicyclists should ride assertively and away from the door zone wherever cars are parked.
3. Kedzie bike lane stops at Palmer
These two ordinances may be one reason the new bike lane on Kedzie Avenue, starting at North Avenue on the south end, goes only as far north as the south side of Palmer Square. The southern end of the new free parking zone on Kedzie at Belden Avenue is 970 feet away. Cyclists do not stop at Palmer Square if their destination is further north at Fullerton Avenue, or Logan Boulevard, or points further north.
This bike lane is also a missed opportunity. The space was available to create a buffered bike lane, but instead the bike lane was placed in the door zone and the remaining travel lane was widened, negating the benefit of narrower travel lanes.*
An on-street bicycling facility should be extended on Kedzie Avenue from its current terminus at Palmer Square, through or around the Logan monument circle, to connect with the also-new bike lane on Kedzie Avenue at Milwaukee Avenue to Barry Avenue (this is yet another instance where bike lanes end before advancing bicyclists through intersections).
4. Parking is readily available at Emmett Street
Lynn Stevens, author of Peopling Places, pointed out to me today that the City-owned parking lot –but managed by Chicago Parking Meters, LLC/LAZ Parking – on Emmett Street at Kedzie Avenue has about 115 parking spaces. She notes that it often has many open spaces and costs the same as on-street parking. Lynn said that with signage near the parking lot would notify drivers that the parking lot exists. If LAZ Parking installed smart systems, drivers could even be alerted to the number of spaces remaining in the lot. Drivers can stay longer in the lot than on the street: 10 hours versus 2.
5. Free parking encourages more driving
Logan Square has been made more attractive to visitors thanks to the pair of ordinances. Now with hundreds of new free parking spaces, a large portion of new and existing visitors will come to Logan Square in their cars. This in a neighborhood that has easy access to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line and several CTA bus routes; it also has a high number of people riding bicycles to and within the area.
New parking schedule:
- Logan Boulevard between Sacramento and Maplewood avenues; 7 to 9 PM Wednesdays; 7 AM to 9 PM Saturdays and Sundays.
- Logan Boulevard (south side only) between Maplewood and Campbell avenues; 7 to 9 PM Wednesdays; 7 AM to 9 PM Saturdays and Sundays.
- Kedzie Boulevard between Linden Place and Belden Avenue; 7 to 11 PM Thursdays and Fridays; 7 AM to 11 PM Saturdays and Sundays.
- Humboldt Boulevard between Shakespeare Avenue and Cortland Street; 7 to 11 PM Mondays through Saturdays; 7 AM to 11 PM Sundays.
*This is because on narrowed roadways, drivers tend to drive slower, thus reducing the severity of any collisions that occur.
Reverend Stein’s letter to the editor
Rev. Paul C. Stein, Pastor, St. Sylvester Parish, Chicago, wrote a letter to the Chicago Tribune editor, published on Wednesday, August 10, 2011, in response to the newspaper’s editorial published on the previous day.
I was very disappointed to read the Aug. 9 editorial regarding the ordinance sponsored by Alderman Colón for parking on the boulevards of Logan Square, specifically on Sundays. The editorial states that the alderman “should listen to ideas for a better solution. I ask: a better solution for whom? Frankly, those who expressed opposition to the ordinance do not represent the majority of people who live in the neighborhood. What ultimately makes a city great is not the buildings, but the people who form the community.
Read the full letter. In it he also states the reasons for the long hours: AA programs and soup kitchens.