Talking transportation with 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman


As part of our ongoing project to interview all 50 of Chicago’s aldermen about sustainable transportation issues in their districts, I recently sat down with Harry Osterman at the 48nd Ward service office, 5533 N. Broadway. His ward includes most of Edgewater and parts of Uptown.

The son of the late former 48th Ward alderman and community activist Kathy Osterman, for whom Hollywood Beach was renamed, he got started in local politics as an aide to recent 48th Ward Alderman Mary Ann Smith. During the last decade he served as state representative for the 14th District, showing a particular interest in public safety as he advocated for gun control and tougher penalties for domestic violence and unlicensed driving. After Smith chose not to run for reelection in conjunction with Richard M. Daley’s retirement, last year Harry Osterman won the election to replace her.

Osterman recently launched the year-long community input process for the 48th Ward Master Plan, a planning roadmap for the rest of the decade. We talked about how sustainable transportation might fit into the plan, his opposition to the CTA closing any of the ward’s six Red Line stations, and his ideas for promoting walking, biking and transit in the area, including on-street bike racks on Andersonville’s main drag.

Continue reading Talking transportation with 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman

What keeps an El car from falling off the tracks on tight curves?


1977 derailment at Wabash and Lake – photo by Mark Llanuza

[This piece also ran in Time Out Chicago magazine.]

Q: Since I’ve switched from the straight-shot Red Line to the winding Brown Line, where you often feel like you’re about to ride right off the rails (and right into a nearby condo building), I’ve been wondering: At what speed would El trains hitting sharp curves come off the tracks?

A: A CTA train’s extremely low center of gravity and speed limits allow it to safely navigate the El’s many curves, according to spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski. As a train goes around a bend, like the tight S-curve on the Brown and Purple Lines just north of the Merchandise Mart, the car may seem to sway at an impossible angle, but most of the weight is still directed straight down, Hosinski says. This overcomes centrifugal force and keeps the wheels on the rails. “Also, a train’s speed through each curve is limited by the automated train control system,” she says. “This system enforces a maximum train speed that’s much lower than the speed that could cause a train to leave the rails.”

Continue reading What keeps an El car from falling off the tracks on tight curves?

A Complete Streets “heads up” for Division Street


Plan drawings show lack of bicycle accommodations. 

Last year I requested from the city plan drawings for the bridge replacement and road reconstruction at Halsted Street and the north branch canal (near Division Street). Included in the response to my FOIA request were plan drawings from the Department of Transportation’s Division of Engineering for a complementary project, the reconstruction of Division Street between Cleveland Street (east) and the railroad viaduct by the McGrath Lexus dealer (west).

So no one is caught off guard like some felt in regards to the Fullerton Avenue/Lake Shore Drive project, I wanted to give a heads up for a project that I think lacks consideration of the principles of complete streets and Chicago’s Complete Streets policy. In other words, what is proposed is not a complete street. Continue reading A Complete Streets “heads up” for Division Street

Speed cameras: There’s more than meets the eye (updated)


This map shows that 58.8% of Chicago streets, excluding highways, are eligible for speed camera enforcement. Open the map.

The Expired Meter has been tracking the speed camera issue very well. (Here’s our coverage.) Along with reporting that an ordinance would be introduced to alderman at tomorrow’s monthly City Council meeting, it reported Monday on an interview with Alderman Waguespack who had been briefed on the city’s speed camera goals:

Originally, city officials claimed existing red light camera locations would be utilized to do double duty and be retrofitted to also do speed enforcement.

But, according to Waguespack’s understanding of the briefing presented by officials from the Mayor’s office, Chicago Police Department and Chicago Department of Transportation, the city’s long range goal is to install speed cameras at 1,800 intersections near school and parks under the auspices of slowing down drivers through $50 to $100 fines for speeding near these intersections. The state law calls for cameras to be used within a 1/8 of a mile safety zone surrounding the schools and parks. [They can be used in those areas, and in no other areas.] Continue reading Speed cameras: There’s more than meets the eye (updated)

Clearing up some confusion about the Bloomingdale Trail fundraising process


Rahm Emanuel at yesterday’s press conference

Monday morning when Steven read the awesome news on the Sun-Times website (apparently the Mayor’s Office offered them the scoop on this) that the city has raised the last $9 million needed to start construction on the Bloomingdale Trail, his first reaction was annoyance. You can find more details about the exciting plans for the trail in most of the other local news outlets, so if you don’t mind today I’ll focus on this somewhat nitpicky issue.

Why was Steven irritated? Because of what he heard at last Thursday’s community meeting at Yates Elementary in Humboldt Park, where citizens were invited to provide input on the preliminary design ideas for the 2.7-mile trail and “linear park.”

Continue reading Clearing up some confusion about the Bloomingdale Trail fundraising process

Rallying the community around the Bloomingdale Trail, a project for open space, art, and active transportation


Meet Maggie Martinez. She was the final commenter at last night’s final public meeting for the development of the Bloomingdale Trail framework plan*. And what a final comment she made. If I had known it was going to be a rousing call to action for supporting youth in arts and cycling, and the benefits of the project for the Humboldt Park and nearby communities, I would have filmed it. Instead you get this (pretty good) photo, the audio of her speech, and a transcript.


I put the audio of Maggie speaking to a basic slideshow of photos from the meeting. Watch it on Vimeo. Continue reading Rallying the community around the Bloomingdale Trail, a project for open space, art, and active transportation