Redesigning North Avenue to better serve its purpose: shopping

Shaun Jacobsen is an Uptown resident working in market research for a French company. He graduated recently from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with majors in French and sociology, and a minor in urban planning. He writes in a personal blog, Transitized, about international perspectives on local transportation issues. This article was originally published on Transitized on December 16, 2012

In December, I was walking down North Avenue (near Clybourn Avenue and Halsted Street) in Lincoln Park. Something I’ve noticed before, not only when walking but also on the rare occasion where I’ve driven, is that North Avenue is a very narrow, fast street with narrow sidewalks:

Narrow sidewalk near storefronts on North Avenue. Credit: Shaun Jacobsen.

Narrow sidewalk near storefronts on North Avenue. Credit: Shaun Jacobsen.

There are at least 50 stores/restaurants along/just off of North Avenue. Many of the storefronts are recessed back from the sidewalk (either to create a small plaza or because there is a parking lot). Kudos to the few stores that decided to recess their stores to create a plaza/wider walkway, as the sidewalks are very narrow and the existing street furniture (where it actually exists) doesn’t do much to make pedestrians feel safe from fast-moving traffic on North Avenue. Continue reading Redesigning North Avenue to better serve its purpose: shopping

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Should I reconsider my support for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection plan?

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An overhead view of the new design. View all images and site plans

Ed. note: In the spring of 2011, I suggested friends and readers of my blog Steven Can Plan write letters to the Chicago Department of Transportation about the distinct lack of bicycle infrastructure in the plan to redesign the intersection and streets at Damen Avenue, Fullerton Avenue, and Elston Avenue. It’s more than an intersection overhaul.  I then reported that it appears the letters you and I sent were positively received and bicycle infrastructure was added to the plan. The project, now set forth, will have three separated intersections (which should reduce the complexity of traffic signal cycles and automobile turning movements) all connected by roads with four travel lanes. Elston and Damen Avenues will have protected and conventional bike lanes, respectively. A Grid Chicago reader emailed us three weeks ago to ask us to reconsider our support for that design.

Tony Horvath lives in Lakeview and is a business analyst for Merrill Corporation. He doesn’t own a car but remembers the intersection from when he used to own a car and drove through it often. He commutes by ‘L’ but has also biked through the intersection and in the area. -Steven Continue reading Should I reconsider my support for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection plan?

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Tracking transit: Three apps for Android reviewed

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Even though the train platform heaters have started working (since November 1) the cold might still prevent you from wanting to wait there for any longer than you need to. These transit apps for Android can help you bide your time. Photo by Chicago Transit Authority.

Ed. note – This guest post was contributed by Nick Puczkowskyj, one of the producers of this year’s Cycle Messenger World Championship, and a daily Chicago Transit Authority rider. Nick offered to test transit apps for Android after seeing our review of iOS transit apps proceeding the iOS 6-Apple Maps debacle. 

For the commuter who needs to be in the know at all times, there are several apps available for Android phones. I went about testing three popular Chicago transit apps on my Samsung Galaxy S II. The apps were put through all of the same hurdles for my commute, which involves both bus and rail. Each app was used entirely for one day and then all three were used at once for one day. Every app was able to assist me with every part of my commute. However, some had stronger attributes than others.

Continue reading Tracking transit: Three apps for Android reviewed

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The Chicago Perimeter Ride: a century for all

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Exploring this historic Pullman railcar factory on the Far South Side. All photos by Andrew Bedno.

For the past decade John has led the Chicago Perimeter Ride, a roughly hundred-mile pedal around the approximate edge of the city, visiting historic sites and wacky commercial architecture. This year he handed over the reins to David Gebhardt, who did an excellent job planning and leading the ride, with dozens of people participating over the course of the long day. Andrew Willoughby, a car-free Chicagoan who moved here from Oklahoma two years ago for “the music, architecture and freedom to ride a bike everywhere,” provided the following write-up. Andrew tweets at @willowbeehive.

I had no idea what to expect. I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous. Biking a hundred miles in a day did not seem like an easy thing to do. There was a reason I had never attempted it before: I’m not a professional, I just bike to work every day and around town. Yet, there I was, watching Buckingham Fountain thrust its first drops of water into the air as I waited with fifty other riders, many who were attempting their first century too.

Continue reading The Chicago Perimeter Ride: a century for all

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Transportation grad students offer advice to Metra for its strategic plan

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A Rock Island Metra train travels near 16th Street, alongside Clark Street. Photo by Mickey Brown.

Ed. note: Ted Rosenbaum is originally from Evanston and Brian Derstine from Darien. Both obtained a master’s in transportation engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. They currently work on public transportation and ITS-related projects in the San Francisco Bay area. Follw them @RedTosenbaum and @baderstine. Their opinions are their own, and are independent of their employers. -Steven

August 10, 2012

To whom it may concern:

We, the undersigned, are excited to see Metra undertake serious long-range strategic planning. For too long, Metra’s actions have been inefficient, opaque, and focused on short-term tactics rather than long-term strategy. The strength of the Chicagoland area is inextricably tied to the ability of its transportation network to move people and goods throughout the region. As Chicago’s commuter rail agency, Metra plays a vital role in this transportation network and in the region’s continued good health, and we long to see it—and the region—succeed. We therefore present the letter below as formal comments to the strategic planning and visioning process. It is divided into three sections: (1) a response to the “Draft Mission Statement” included in the public survey recently posted on Metra’s website; (2) a response to the “Draft Vision Statement” included in the same survey; and (3) various other strategies—and some tactics—we feel it is in Metra’s best interests to prioritize.

Continue reading Transportation grad students offer advice to Metra for its strategic plan

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Report lists top transit suburbs with a cloudy definition of transit and suburb

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Photo of La Grange Metra station by Tristan Garrett. 

Ed. note: Ted Rosenbaum is originally from Evanston and has a master’s in transportation engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He currently works on public transportation in the San Francisco Bay area, and is on Twitter @RedTosenbaum. His opinions are his own, independent of his employer. -Steven

On Wednesday, July 25, DePaul’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development published their report on The 20 “Top Transit Suburbs” of Metropolitan Chicago—An Index Approach. It’s a good thing they put “Top Transit Suburbs” in quotes, because this report has a tenuous link to that phrase at best. Although the abstract says the study aims to evaluate “the region’s suburbs on the basis of their attractiveness to those with lifestyles oriented toward the use of public transportation,” they focus exclusively on Metra access & amenities. Metra is an important part of Chicagoland’s transportation network, and the region’s greatest hope for reducing the car dependence of downtown workers who don’t live all that close to the city. But drawing a straight line from Metra station aesthetics and auto-accessibility to public transportation-oriented lifestyles? That’s a stretch.

Download the full report (.pdf). Continue reading Report lists top transit suburbs with a cloudy definition of transit and suburb

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