Could CDOT’s “Zero in Ten” strategy also work for homicide prevention?


Mural at Drake Avenue and Bloomingdale Avenue in West Logan Square.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Thursdays.]

Each morning Steven and I scan the dailies for sad stories of local pedestrian, bike and transit deaths to adapt for “Fatality Tracker” posts on Grid Chicago, in order to raise awareness of the need for safer streets. And almost every time I look at the papers I also see tragic news about the latest murders, averaging more than one killing per day.

This year the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) put out two planning documents with the stated goal of eliminating all traffic deaths and crashes within the next ten years. I applaud this bold approach, and I can’t help but wonder out loud if “Zero in Ten” could be successfully applied to our city’s homicide crisis as well.

Continue reading Could CDOT’s “Zero in Ten” strategy also work for homicide prevention?

Open 311 technology now implemented in Chicago with apps to help speed up reporting


Are you ready to start reporting street problems using your smartphone? Install one of the apps listed below. 

The City of Chicago launched its public Open 311 application interface in October allowing residents to quickly make a report, online or with a smartphone, bypassing the lengthy process of calling. App developers are now able to build programs that interact with the City of Chicago’s 311 database, created in 1997, via the Open 311 application interface to provide a faster and richer user experience. While such a process could have been established years ago, we’re happy to have it in Chicago now.

Currently only 14 service request types are available (see list below), which were said to be among the most commonly requested services. The application interface (known to programmers as “API”) was developed in part by Code for America fellows who researched the 311 implementation here and interviewed myriad users (alderman, city employees, operators, neighbors) in February and were coding all the way up until the last week of October. The undertaking has led to a great outcome, shaking up the tedious process of asking for a city service.

Rob Brackett, one of the four Code for America fellows to work on this project in Chicago, came to a recent Hack Night event at 1871, a tech hub at the Merchandise Mart, to showcase the city’s and fellows’ progress (slideshow). Two city staffers – Kevin Hauswirth (social media director in the Mayor’s Office) and Ryan Briones (IT director at the Department of Innovation and Technology, DoIT) – attended to join the discussion with civic coders and designers about the future of 311 and the Open 311 API. We – the public, really – were invited to contribute our own code updates for the city’s Open 311 website on the social coding website called GitHub.


My service request as submitted to the city’s new 311 website (it currently accepts 14 service types).  Continue reading Open 311 technology now implemented in Chicago with apps to help speed up reporting

Reactions to CDOT’s Chicago Forward Action Agenda vary


Transit, safety, and congestion make up parts of the Action Agenda. 

Below are excerpts from others’ reactions to the Chicago Department of Transportation’s two-year plan, the Chicago Forward Action Agenda.

Ryan Richter, writing for Transport Nexus:

I think the very first performance measure, to increase activity, sales revenue, and occupancy rates in neighborhood commercial districts, is a fantastic example of breaking out of the silo. This is a problem that will have to be addressed city-wide through multiple agencies. Recognizing that streets can “add value”  to the neighborhoods means that you begin looking at streets in “complete” terms, as in how can a street serve multiple modes simultaneously?

Continue reading Reactions to CDOT’s Chicago Forward Action Agenda vary

More on the Chicago Forward Action Agenda: Congestion mitigation, truck deliveries, bike messengers


People riding a bicycle and driving a truck, respectively, share the road on Monroe Street in downtown Chicago. Trucks occupy a section of CDOT’s two-year plan. Photo by Joseph Dennis. 

The Chicago Department of Transportation on May 11 released its 100-page, two-year plan to “ensure that Chicago continues to be a vibrant international city, successfully competing in the global economy with a transportation system that provides high- quality service to residents, businesses, and visitors”. That’s the Chicago Forward Action Agenda’s vision statement. Grid Chicago talked to CDOT commissioner Gabe Klein that day about the plan’s development, role in shaping the transportation systems in the city, and select performance measures and action items. In the first part, we discussed the deep partnership with CTA and CDOT, public outreach for the plan (via the Pedestrian and Streets for Cycling planning processes), and eliminating all traffic fatalities. In this part, we talk about congestion, enfacing and consolidating loading zones, and bicycle and truck deliveries.

Download Chicago Forward (13 MB .pdf) to follow along.

There are many performance measures that don’t seem to be performances measures at all. For example, “improve CTA’s on-time performance” on page 41. So if you improve it 1% over 10 years, has the plan achieved the right level of performance?

That’s a very fair criticism. What you have to understand, we don’t run CTA. What we’re trying to do there is let people know that that’s a goal we’re working on. I can very much see your point. In some cases, we just can’t give measurable goals because it wouldn’t be fair to that agency.

It’s not going to be perfect, but I’d rather put something out and actually have goals for the agency, even if we don’t hit 100% of the goals, but 90% of the goals, than have a perfect plan. Continue reading More on the Chicago Forward Action Agenda: Congestion mitigation, truck deliveries, bike messengers

Chicago transportation to move very far forward with two-year plan


Looking down Madison Street. Photo by Daniel Butler. 

A new plan for the Chicago Department of Transportation was released today and Grid Chicago got to talk to commissioner Gabe Klein this morning about the Chicago Forward CDOT Action Agenda’s development, strategies, and goals.

I started reading the 100 page plan last night to prepare for today’s interview. After the obligatory messages from Mayor Emanuel and Commissioner Klein (as well as photos of a Brown Line train and the bean), there’s a timeline and a short historical narrative. This plan gives a new mission statement for the department and is the first time a vision statement has been adopted by the agency (which the timeline tells was created in 1992 after a reorganization of the Department of Public Works). The Action Agenda is important to ensure our transportation system (as envious or dubious as you see it) changes in good, appropriate ways. Not only do we know how CDOT will get us there, Chicagoans will be able document change and compare our status in 2014 to where we started in 2012. Continue reading Chicago transportation to move very far forward with two-year plan

Full interview of Gabe Klein from my Architect’s Newspaper article


Transportation commissioner Gabe Klein cycles to work on Michigan Avenue. 

I wrote an article about myriad transportation projects and initiatives in Chicago for Architect’s Newspaper, a magazine based in New York City. It was published last week online and in print (in the centerfold, no less). My original article was over 2,500 words, but only 1,600 words fit in the print version. I will be publishing additional details from the interviews I conducted for the article and about the projects it mentions.

The first is my interview with transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, conducted over the phone on January 19, 2012.

How will things change for pedestrians?

My philosophy in addressing needs is that you have to look out for the most vulnerable users first. In many times, there’s a trickle down effect. We want Chicago to be a walkable, livable city. We also want it to be a bikeable city, but walkable first. I think there was a push in the past to make it so that cars moved as quickly as possible. Back then, cities lost their self-confidence and catered to the transient drivers who passed through [emphasis added]. You cater first and foremost to the people who live here, not just the people who work here. I think it’s an indicator of cities, how walkable it is. Continue reading Full interview of Gabe Klein from my Architect’s Newspaper article