Future plans for Logan Square now stymied by new parking ordinance

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.”

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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.”*

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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.

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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.

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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.

The relevant signs will be posted within three weeks. The ordinance numbers are OR2011-2204, passed March 9, 2011, and OR2011-5435, passed June 8, 2011.

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.

22 thoughts on “Future plans for Logan Square now stymied by new parking ordinance”

  1. With regard to bike lanes, it’s important to think about the transportation network and connections. In addition to the Kedzie bike lane interruption due to this sanctioned parking lot, Logan between Western and Diversey recently got a bike lane that will also be interrupted by the new Logan parking lot.

    On Twitter, CDOT says, “Logan Blvd one of several LoganSq streets eyed for bike/ped improvements. More info later this summer,” and “That’s one of the things we’ll be looking at–use of right of way, parking prohibitions, etc,” which seems counter to this parking sanction on Logan and shutting down of the planned bike lane.

    I disagree with what CDOT’s Steele (who BTW is a spokesman, not a planner nor transporation expert; he used to work for water dept., e.g.) says in the Trib article. While it’s true that adding curb parking to a street typically slows down cars as their lane or at least the perception of their lane is narrowed, I can’t see that holding true when a traffic lane is converted to a parking lot. The traffic lane is wider than a typical parking space width, so a car parked in a traffic lane does not narrow the adjacent traffic lane or provide the illusion of a narrowed lane. Quite the opposite, it widens the perception of the moving traffic lane as there’s now a larger buffer between a car parked a foot or less from the curb than there was between a moving car centered on the lane. Which are you going to be more cautious of?

    I do want to note that I was successful some time ago to get at least one church to at least include transit info in addition to parking info on its website.

    1. 1. The bike lane on Logan between Western and Diversey has been there for several years. But it’s kind of a pointless bike lane. CDOT talks about how it doesn’t build bike lanes unless they are connected, that is, they reach other pieces of the bikeway network. This bike lane is an orphan.

      2. With a new CDOT commissioner, I wonder how long the transition period is. How long does it take for Gabe Klein to know about all the projects in CDOT’s plan? And how long will it take him to learn to deal with the City Council’s style of mutual back rubbing?

      3. You raise a good point about parking and its effect on traffic speed. I may add your comment to the article, which reminded me that cars will not be parked at all times in a nice row, but will probably have empty spaces between cars. Bicyclists foolishly ride to the right, instead of a straight line, and you will see them meandering into these empty spaces, going in and out of sight.

      4. When I worked for the CDOT Bicycle Program, one of my tasks was to attract more visitors to our website. One method (which worked) was to convince website owners (like Adler Planetarium, Field Museum, and the City’s own events/tourism website) to put information about bicycling to their attraction and visitors could get more information about bike routes on the Bicycle Program website.

      Thank you for your comment, Lynn!

      1. I’d like to give a word of support for the admittedly-incomplete bike lane on Logan b/n Western & Diversey. It’s far from a perfect solution, but without it motorists were squeezing themselves onto that stretch of Elston side-view-mirror to side-view-mirror, at least there is now some semblance of a right-of-way indicated for cyclists.

        1. Your support is noted.

          Crews were restriping Logan Boulevard between Western and Diversey this afternoon. And there’s a slight redesign in the pavement marking plan northbound, north side of Elston that is beneficial to cyclists.

  2. Why should the neighborhood have to provide free parking to 400 cars just because the drivers claim they’re on a mission from gawd?

  3. This is troubling, although I’m not sure why there is a need to add a bike lane on the main drives of Logan Boulevard. I’ve always enjoyed the side roads of the boulevard for biking, and have always thought that they should designated official bike lanes. With the side roads already in place, bike lanes on the main drag seems a bit redundant. What’s your opinion on this?

    1. Matt, if you put a bike lane in the service road, residents could not drive and park there. I know I’d rather see the bike lane on the main boulevard and let the transient visitors park in the lot, on metered parking or find alternative means of transportation.

    2. I don’t think we should be limiting our options now (by designating the outer lane of the main roadway as a free parking lane) until the community has outlined its goals, has discovered all of the possibilities of bike friendly roadways in Logan Square, and has consulted with experts (engineers and planners) about the feasibility of each bikeway type (bike lane, marked shared lane, neighborhood greenway, buffered bike lane, or nothing).

      I would prefer to have a bike lane on the main roadway of the boulevards. I don’t like having to cross so many streets to get to where I’m going. If I’m on the north side of Logan Boulevard and I’m going southbound on California and I want to turn eastbound onto Logan Boulevard, a bike lane in the main roadway means I only cross two intersections, while a bike lane in the service road means I cross three intersections. Then, while biking in the service road, towards Diversey Avenue, I have to stop at EACH and EVERY intersection with a north-south street. If I was biking in the main roadway, I would only have to stop at each intersection that had a stop light.

      1. You sound like a driver.

        BTW, there aren’t that many additional stop signs at the N-S streets, and while you need to keep your eyes open, it’s pretty rare to have to stop.

          1. OK, you’re right I just rode the route and there ate stop signs at every intersection. That said, I only needed to stop at Cal and Sac.

            The larger point is that I think that a separated lanes parallel to a major e-w street, even if shared with the occasional cat or jogger. The stop signs could all be turned ninety degrees to allow bike traffic to flow and stop the n-s traffic from Logan and the side streets.

    3. I agree with Steve about the benefit of having a bikeway on the main road. I cycle here all the time, and the possibility of conflicts with motorists is MUCH greater on the service road from cars turning off Logan–often quite fast, and when you’re already in the middle of the intersection.

      The potential for conflicts with pedestrians, dog-walkers, runners–all of these are much greater on the service road.

      I do ride the service roads when I’m just riding around the ‘hood lazily, but when I have somewhere to go, I appreciate the faster speed and fewer stops of the main road.

    4. I agree. I ride to work regularly, and even though it is shared with vehicles, I find it much safer on the interior road and find the conflicts to be minimal. Of all the priorities for good bike lanes in the city, I’d rank the four-lane portion of Logan to be very low.

  4. I’m far from being an advocate of this plan, but Klein has mentioned one thing about this that’s an advantage: the traffic-calming aspect of it. Traffic on the boulevards moves pretty fast sometimes, and there are definitely people who tear around the square, wheels squealing. More cars parked on the side of the road = less room to speed. As someone who lives on Kedzie Blvd, I’m OK with that.

    Also, re: bike lanes on the main boulevards, the sides of the boulevards are already a fantastic bike route. There’s little to no vehicle traffic, mostly leaving you with a proper full lane to bike on. Putting them on the main boulevard would be a waste of resources, when that money could be used on the MANY other less bike-friendly streets.

    1. What I don’t see happening is an objective review of this parking change. CDOT should measure traffic volumes and speeds on all three “free parking segments” now and then two times after the parking change takes effect.

      Will traffic have been calmed 6 months from now? How can we prove that?

  5. From Colon’s email that they send out every week:

    “Alderman Colón has taken an innovative approach to increasing resident participation in local government and establishing transparency”

    Tranparency, eh? Quite interesting the lack of transparency regarding the recent parking on the blvd. Where was the resident participation in that? Wasn’t in any emails, wasn’t on the website… where was the announcement for resident participation in this vote?

    1. Exactly what was that innovative approach?

      If you’re in the area Thursday night (08-25-11), come to 2157 N Humboldt at 6:30 PM to hear my group’s vision and goals for the CTA Logan Square Blue Line station and plaza.

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