Recap just one of your great ideas to improve transportation in “Outside the Box” challenge


How do cities get more women to ride bicycles? Photo by Mike Travis. 

The Grid Chicago comments section is full of great ideas about how to improve transportation and transportation policy in Chicagoland.

The “Outside the Box” challenge presented by George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, should be all the motivation you need to gather and present your ideas in an essay, video, slideshow, or other media form “to convey a viable and actionable plan that may be implemented to solve a current transportation or transportation policy problem. A maximum of five pictures or illustrations may be included to enrich your presentation. Entries will be reviewed by an executive committee of professors, executives, entrepreneurs and public servants, all of whom are interested and distinguished members of the transportation policy community.”

The first prize is $10,000. Second prize is $5,000 and third prize is $2,500. You must submit your entry by February 15, 2013, and the contest is open to individuals and teams 34 years old and younger.

Get full rules and details.

A great day in Chicago: protected lanes open in the heart of the Loop


See more of John’s photos from the ribbon cutting and inaugural bike ride, as well as Steven’s photos from the event.

This afternoon when Mayor Rahm Emanuel opened the new two-way protected bicycle lanes on Dearborn Street, it was the exclamation point to a memorable year of bike improvements. Dozens of advocates gathered at the south end of the 1.2-mile greenway for the event, which also celebrated Chicago’s reaching a total of thirty miles of protected and buffered lanes citywide, plus the release of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020.

The “game-changing” lanes on Dearborn, running the length of the Loop central business district, create a car-free route that even novice cyclists will feel comfortable on. They also make a statement that the city is serious about getting more Chicagoans on bikes. Building the lanes involved converting one of the three car travel lanes on the northbound street, which has the additional benefits of reducing speeding and shortening pedestrian crossing distances. Car parking was moved to the right side of the bike lanes, providing protection from moving vehicles, and dedicated bike stoplights, a first in Chicago, guide southbound cyclists and prevent conflicts between cycles and left-turning autos.

Continue reading A great day in Chicago: protected lanes open in the heart of the Loop

Highlights from December’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting


Bicycle signals on Dearborn Street at Madison Street were turned on as of Wednesday. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz. 

Meeting minutes for the September 2012 can be downloaded (.pdf); read our recap of it.

Streets for Cycling Plan 2020

Download now (.pdf).

A few months late, the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 will be released today, including a Bicycle Facilities Guide designed for all Chicagoans that shows the new facility types being installed on Chicago roadways and how to use them (no matter your transportation mode).

Bike sharing

The current focus is on finalizing the contract with Alta Bicycle Share. Chicago Bicycle Program coordinator Ben Gomberg said they would finish selecting the sites for bike sharing stations in January or February. Gomberg mentioned that Alderman Pawar is using menu funds to purchase 5 stations for the 47th Ward; Bill Higgins, a transportation planner in Pawar’s office, said that the “shortening” of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) 11-Lincoln bus route (eliminating it from a 3 mile stretch between Western/Lawrence and Fullerton Avenues) was a basis for buying the stations. Alderman Moreno is also using menu funds to purchase 2 stations for the 1st Ward. DePaul University, Gomberg said, was interested in purchasing 3 stations.

No mention was made of the investigation by the Chicago Inspector General. Jane Healy, an activist from Blue Island, Illinois, and a board member for Active Transportation Alliance, asked if there was a timeline. Luann Hamilton, Deputy Commissioner of Project Development at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), replied that there wasn’t one.

The cost of purchasing an additional station (there will be 300 purchased by the City in the first year an additional 100 kiosks in the following year) is $56,000, which includes 19 docks and 15 bicycles; there’s a discount if you buy more than one. CDOT will not be charging an operating fee to those entities who purchase kiosks, a policy in place at the Washington, D.C.-centered Capital Bikeshare program.

CDOT is looking for an organization to sponsor the bike sharing program. Citibank paid $41 million for the naming rights in New York City: “Citibike”.  Continue reading Highlights from December’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting

See you there? Dearborn Street cycle track opens Friday


The barriers are coming down. Photo by Shaun Jacobsen.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will officially open the protected bike lanes on Dearborn Street on Friday afternoon, Chicago’s first two-way bike route with dedicated bicycle traffic signals.

CDOT will also formally release the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, which calls for a 645-mile network of bike lanes to be in place by 2020 to provide a bicycle accommodation within half-mile of every Chicagoan. The plan sets forth a strategy to achieve Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal of making Chicago the best big city for bicycling in America.

Please join us for the grand opening of the Dearborn Protected Bike Lane and the release of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020! A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday 12/14.

When: Friday, December 14 at 1:00 p.m.
Where: Park/Plaza located at approx. 700 S. Dearborn (just north of Polk)

We look forward to celebrating Chicago’s first two-way protected bike lane with our vibrant cycling community!

Thanks for all of your support,

CDOT Bike Program

Note: Information combined from a press release and an email to the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council mailing list. 

Dispatches from Utah: Brand new commuter train line opens with enviable features


The inaugural train parked at the new Provo Station.

This post was going to be on a completely different topic that I started writing Thursday afternoon. I visited a local library in the evening to use the internet at which point my laptop decided to malfunction. I was able to recover the post but it’s no longer relevant and it’s very difficult for me to finish it without my personal workstation. Anyway, please enjoy this post about my vacation in Utah (which is happening as I write).

I’m visiting my family in Utah for six days. On Thursday, my birthday, I boarded the inaugural commuter train from Salt Lake City to Provo, Utah. It’s about 45 miles by train or car and they take the same amount of time (assuming light highway traffic)*. This train is most similar to Metra in its operating characteristics. It uses a single, diesel locomotive to haul a few large cars a long distance at low frequencies on tracks shared with freight. The freight-passenger rail relationship is very different here: the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) owns the right-of-way, purchased from Union Pacific, built its own tracks, and leases them to freight carriers overnight. In the end, no freight trains slow down commuter trains whereas in Chicago, Metra trains are delayed by freight trains on a daily basis.


Bike space in the train.

The train cars are of a newer and quieter design from Bombardier (manufacturer of Chicago Transit Authority’s 5000-series cars). They have low floors so it’s easier for people with bikes or using mobility devices to board. There are 9 bike spaces in a rack in one of the cars (it appears that more than 9 bicycles will fit). The windows are big and clear. The train provides work tables at some seats, power outlets at the work tables, and free wifi. The Illinois state legislature passed a bill in 2011 that required Metra to study the provision of wifi. Metra announced this year that its refurbished cars will have power outlets.


Work tables in the train.

UTA has had an open fare payment system for years. CTA and Pace will launch Ventra in 2013. Open fare means people can pay with RFID-enabled bank cards or NFC-enabled smartphones. A new company called Isis allows you to pay for transit with an app you can download. Metra is looking into a similar program, which would display a barcode on you smartphone’s screen.

There is some commercial and residential development around the train stations, but the typical land use around the stations, just feet away, is surface parking lots. This should be the most valuable land and hopefully can easily be converted to higher uses when a developer comes around.

After the train ride and ceremonies I drove around with my mother for a while, running errands and going out to eat. I noticed a lot of bike lanes and also Salt Lake City’s version of the “enhanced” marked shared lanes — in many places the city laid a wide green strip down the middle of a lane. These are accompanied by large “bikes may use full lane” signs, which were first installed in Chicago in 2012 on Wells Street on the ‘L’ structure. I prefer the green strip to the sharrows with dashed lines.


Green sharrow lane.

There are raised crosswalks in some neighborhoods. These do a good job of slowing down drivers who are used to driving 40-50 MPH on 8-lane wide “neighborhood” streets. I think the City of Chicago should be installing these around train stations is where there is a lot of pedestrian crossing activity because people cross to board buses on the opposite side of the street. Some exist: there are a couple on Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Square just south of Lawrence Avenue. The Chicago Pedestrian Plan lists raised intersections as a tool to improve pedestrian safety.

* The I-15 highway in the Salt Lake Valley has HOT lanes that allow drivers to pay to avoid congestion. The minimum charge is 25 cents per section and increases based on traffic in the “free lanes” in 25 cents increments.

Meeting on Tuesday to discuss new segment and bridge on North Branch Trail


The dark green lines on the map above show two independent segments of the North Branch Trail that the Chicago Park District and Chicago Department of Transportation want to connect. Starting in Clark Park, a new path would go under Addision Street, along the east embankment of the Chicago River, and then over a new pedestrian bridge to California Park.

Open house details

Tuesday, December 4
6 – 9 PM
Revere Park Fieldhouse Auditorium
2509 W. Irving Park Road
Chicago, Illinois 60618

From the meeting notice:

CDOT and the Chicago Park District cordially invite you to attend this public meeting, which will include an open house, project presentation, and an opportunity for questions and feedback. CDOT is currently designing a new segment of the North Branch Trail, which would link existing segments in Clark Park to the south and California Park (and onward to Horner Park) to the north. The new trail segment would run under the Addison Street Bridge for safe crossing, along the east embankment of the North Branch of the Chicago River, and cross the river on a multi-use pedestrian bridge. The creation of this publicly accessible open space will link major existing parks, create pedestrian and bicycle access that would otherwise be difficult and dangerous, and fulfill objectives of the Chicago Trails Plan and the Chicago River Corridor Development Plan.

What the new trail segment would look like, from Addison Street to Irving Park Road.

The map above is from the Chicago Bike Map app’s custom designed map.