Does aldermanic prerogative undermine Chicago’s Pedestrian Street ordinance?

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Ed. note: This post was written by Steven Vance and Christopher Gagnon, a Logan Square resident.

“So who is the amazing architect who designed the new McDonalds…with a utility door facing Milwaukee Ave.?  Is there some sort of safety reason for an ugly utility door being placed at that spot, in the front of the restaurant??”

Good question. This message, posted December 6 to the Logan Square Yahoo! Group, a neighborhood online discussion board, can be read as more than a criticism of the architecture of the newly rebuilt McDonald’s at 2707 N Milwaukee Avenue, as it recalls a controversial decision – and some unfinished business – for Logan Square pedestrians.

For those unfamiliar with the issue, a quick primer:

Chicago’s City Council established the “Pedestrian Streets” (“P-Streets”) ordinance to “preserve and enhance the character of…pedestrian oriented shopping districts…[and] to promote transit, economic vitality and pedestrian safety and comfort,” and this designation was applied, among other locations citywide, to Milwaukee Avenue between Kedzie and Sawyer.

When the owners of the McDonald’s located within this area decided to build a new store at their existing location, they turned to Alderman Colón for relief from restrictions imposed by the P-Street designation that would have prohibited their drive-thru operation.  In November 2011, Alderman Colón introduced a controversial ordinance (adopted June 2012) removing the area from the list of P-Streets so McDonald’s owners could obtain the necessary permits for the curb cuts and drive-thru.

Continue reading Does aldermanic prerogative undermine Chicago’s Pedestrian Street ordinance?

Merchandise mart: Wicker Park’s Transit Tees shop celebrates the CTA

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I’m surprised it took me so long to actually visit Transit Tees, 1371 North Milwaukee in Wicker Park, since I pedal by the store regularly, and much of the transportation-themed gear they sell is right up my alley. Founded by Tim Gillengerten, the business has been selling t-shirts featuring CTA- and bicycle-inspired designs at local street festivals for years. This fall they opened the brick-and-mortar store, packed with shirts, wall art, mugs, neckties, messenger bags, jewelry and even stuffed pigeons. Almost all of the products are designed and manufactured by the company, with much of the work being done in the back of the store. Tim told me about the history of the the business, talked about some of his bestsellers and explained why he thinks mass transit-themed schwag is an idea whose time has arrived.

How long has the store been open?

We’ve been open at the retail location here since November 15, so it’s about two months.

And did Transit Tees exist as a business before that?

It did. We evolved it and refocused it as transportation-focused so we sort of shed all of our other product lines and now we’re mostly focusing on subway, bicycle, any form of transportation, planes, walking, and also Chicago and the Midwest, Great Lakes region.

Continue reading Merchandise mart: Wicker Park’s Transit Tees shop celebrates the CTA

How far does your expressway avoidance take you?

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Showing undesirable pedestrian and sidewalk conditions under the Kennedy Expressway on Belmont Avenue at Kedzie Avenue. There is a bus stop here, on a portion of the sidewalk that narrows to about 2 feet. It wasn’t until I wrote this post that I realized that there is no bus route on Kedzie Avenue making this bus stop’s location quite ridiculous. There are bus stops in both directions on Belmont Avenue that are actually near businesses and residences. Explore on Google Street View.

I shop for groceries mostly at Aldi. The one nearest my house is 3,725 feet by walking (about 0.71 miles), the Avondale Aldi. The next closest store is 11,102 feet away (about 2.1 miles), the Lincoln Square Aldi, and the third closest is 11,599 feet away (about 2.2 miles), the Wicker Park Aldi. I live at Belmont and California, in Avondale.

I shop at the third closest one the most often. The Wicker Park Aldi is at Milwaukee Avenue and Leavitt Street. The reasons I shop here instead of the other two, considering that it’s two-thirds closer to home, are based on two travel factors: trip chaining (the practice of attaching multiple trips into the same one so one leaves the house less often), and trip quality (the characteristics that make the trip interesting, not interesting, safe, and unsafe). A trip, as counted by transportation planners like myself, is movement from one address to another.

For example, the Chicago Transit Authority counts trips taken on its buses and trains as “boardings”, each time a passenger pays for the bus or passes an ‘L’ station turnstile. When people change routes on the same platform or station, this additional trip isn’t counted because there’s no mechanism to do so. A person who takes a bus to an ‘L’ station is counted twice in CTA’s reports (note 1).

Continue reading How far does your expressway avoidance take you?

Top 5 lists: essential parks, walking, biking and transit stories of 2012

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The Dearborn Street two-way protected bike lane.

In 2012 the Emanuel administration kept the momentum going for walking, biking, transit and public space improvements, with a number of big projects announced and/or completed. For Newcity magazine’s annual “Top 5 of Everything” issue, I submitted the following lists of the most important or interesting sustainable transportation and parks stories of the year. Did I miss anything?

Top 5 Wheelie Exciting Chicago Bicycling Stories

Hundreds of cyclists provide input for 645-mile Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 network

Comrade Cycles, Chicago’s first worker-owned bike shop, opens in Ukrainian Village

Couriers from around the globe gather here for Cycle Messenger World Championships

Final plans for Bloomingdale trail and “linear park” released; construction slated for 2013

CDOT builds Chicago’s first two-way protected bike lane downtown on Dearborn Street

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Bollywood dancing at Open Streets on Milwaukee Avenue.

Top 5 Not-So-Pedestrian Local Walking Stories

Chicago’s speed camera ordinance passes, paving the way for safer walking conditions

Make Way for People plan to turn alleys, cul-de-sacs and parking spots into mini parks

City releases first-ever comprehensive Pedestrian Plan

Open Streets ciclovia expands to include Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park / Bucktown

Mayor Emanuel announces $100 million plan to complete the Chicago Riverwalk

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The CTA Yellow Line’s new Oakton-Skokie station. Photo by Jeff Zoline.

Top 5 Rapidly Developing Transit Stories

CTA announces 5-month closure of south Red Line, $240 million 95th St. station rehab

Both CTA and Metra hike farecard prices

Sparkling new CTA stations open at Green/Pink Morgan and Yellow Oakton-Skokie

Amtrak train hits 111 MPH downstate, paving the way for high-speed service to St. Louis

Jeffery Jump debuts; plans for bus rapid transit downtown, and on Western, Ashland

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Park district rendering of Northerly Island redesign.

Top 5 Blossoming Chicago Park District Stories

Rahm announces $290 million plan for 800 parks & rec projects citywide in next 5 years

Construction starts on four new boathouses along the Chicago River

$5 million Northerly Island rehab will add topography, native habitats and campsites

Take the Field plan earmarks $12 million for sports fields in underserved communities

North Grant Park, now Maggie Daley Park, will get climbing sculptures & skating ribbon

Holiday Express: A Chicago sustainable transportation gift guide

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[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings. Although we’re running this on Grid Chicago a bit late for some of the winter holidays, we hope you’ll enjoy reading about some of the great products coming out of Chicago nowadays and consider them for future purchases.]

A true Chicago sustainable transportation blackbelt is never late, unless it’s the CTA’s fault. But if you’re running a little behind in your winter gift shopping, here are a few last-minute ideas for the walking, biking and transit enthusiasts in your life. Most of these nifty items are locally made and available at independent stores, which means a minimum of gasoline was burned getting the products to market, and by purchasing them you’ll be supporting the local economy. Plus, these presents will encourage your friends’ and family members’ healthy commuting habits. You can’t get much more politically correct than that.

Our city’s over-dependence on automobiles really makes you appreciate those rare spots where you can take a break from the sight, sound and smell of car traffic. Give the gift of tranquility with Peaceful Places Chicago by local journalist Anne Ford. Her book features over one-hundred serene locations, most of them accessible by transit, with many destinations for relaxing, strolling and biking. Some of my favorites include the Indiana Dunes, Bridgeport’s Stearns Quarry Park, The Magic Hedge bird sanctuary at Montrose Harbor, Rosehill Cemetery and the Osaka Japanese Garden in Jackson Park. $14.95 at Women and Children First, 5233 North Clark.

Continue reading Holiday Express: A Chicago sustainable transportation gift guide