Next South Shore alderman must expand and protect existing transit


A Metra Electric train crosses Yates Boulevard out of the South Shore station. Photo by Jeff Zoline.

Applications are being accepted by Mayor Email until Friday, January 25 at 5 PM.

Alderman Sandi Jackson of the 7th Ward, which includes South Shore, South Chicago, Rainbow Beach, and Jeffery Manor, resigned effective Tuesday. Mayor Emanuel has 60 days from Tuesday to appoint a successor and hinted at the process in which he would vet candidates. A website will be launched today; people can submit applications to be considered for the job by a panel of four – yet unnamed – community representatives.

The Chicago Tribune reported, “The next alderman for the South Side ward must have a record of ‘community involvement and engagement,’ the mayor stated in a news release. Emanuel hopes to pick the replacement by mid-February.” On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune speculated as to who might be jockeying for the position.

I talked to four residents in the South Shore neighborhood about the transportation issues and assets to understand the needs in the community that the next alderman should address. Community members are organizing rapidly: two of the three residents I interviewed, independently, knew of each other through a brand new organization called Reclaiming South Shore for All (RSSA), led by Mia Henry. Henry was planning for an RSSA meeting when I caught her on the phone; she only had time to convey that the Jeffery Jump “was a good move for people” in the neighborhood. Continue reading Next South Shore alderman must expand and protect existing transit

Transportation grad students offer advice to Metra for its strategic plan


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

Put Chicago on the path to an electrified Metra


Ed. note: Roland Solinski is a graduate student of architecture at Tulane University. “I am a Chicagoan by birth and the city runs in my blood. I’m fascinated by all aspects of urban design and urban systems, but especially transit systems and public space.” Photo is of a southbound Metra Electric train. 

In November of 2010, the Chicago Tribune published an article that shocked Metra commuters. In it, Tribune reporters revealed that massive quantities of diesel exhaust were hanging in the air on platforms at Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center. Worse, the atmosphere inside each railcar contained the same exhaust at even higher concentrations – 72 times that of a normal city street.

In numerous other cities, commuters do not need to worry about harmful exhaust fumes, because their trains run off of electric power. In fact, many cities installed rail electrification systems at the turn of the last century specifically to eliminate toxic smoke emissions, including the Illinois Central’s line right here in Chicago, now called Metra Electric. Continue reading Put Chicago on the path to an electrified Metra

Help us pick the infrastructure to research and report on


Sidewalk conditions on the Torrence Avenue bridge. The bridge is apparently slated to be replaced. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

On Monday, Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann Schneider announced the state’s multi-year multi-modal transportation plan and a list of all projects it intends to build. I looked through the District 1 list and picked out 29 projects to happen (or start) in Chicago from now until 2015.

My list is here which includes 1 pedestrian, 2 rail, 6 transit, and 20 road projects. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) website lists all projects in the plan. Note that rail and transit projects are listed separately from road (and pedestrian overpass) projects.

Read through my handpicked list of projects and leave a comment telling me the project(s) about which you want to learn more. A sampling of the projects in the list:

  • Bridge replacement at Torrence Avenue at the Calumet River. This bridge is part of a recommended bike route and connects to the Burnham Greenway via 126th Street. It should be made bike friendly. The bridge deck is made of concrete, but the lanes are too narrow for comfortable cycling and the sidewalks are a mess.
  • 31st Street bridge replacement over Metra Electric tracks. The beach and playground here are popular destinations, and many people access the Lakefront Trail here. The bridge has two big bumps at the disintegrating joints at both ends of the bridge. CDOT has proposed protected bike lanes for this street segment, part of Wells Street to Lakefront Trail.
  • Resurfacing Noble Street from Augusta Boulevard to Erie Street. I’d like to recommend a change in this project: extend it north to Milwaukee Avenue, turn the segment from Milwaukee to Augusta into a two-way for bicycling (many people already ride against traffic here because it provides convenient access to Augusta Boulevard and Chicago Avenue, two blocks south), and make the street a bike boulevard. This street is very wide, yet has low traffic. The street should be modified to ensure appropriate traffic speeds.
  • Resurfacing Canal Street from Roosevelt Road to Cermak Road. This is a great opportunity to fix a gap in the bikeway network. A bike lane currently exists from 14th Street to approximately 17th Street, prematurely ending before the 18th Street cycle track. The road has a width compatible with a good diet plan, reducing the number of non-bike lanes and created a protected bike lane. The street is no longer used for Maxwell Street Market and can finally receive the quality bike lane due to it.

I excluded some projects because they are already under construction, like Fullerton Parkway at the Lincoln Park lagoon.

Grid Bits: Pace increases bus frequency on Stevenson and other transit news


The Morgan Street Green/Pink Line station will be open in May, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation. This photo was taken April 2, 2012, by Jeff Zoline, a frequent photo contributor.

There are 8 transit stories in this post (1 for Pace, 2 for Metra, 4 for CTA, and one story about how transit users save money because they’re not driving to work). Hat tips to CTA Tattler and Riders for Better Transit for keeping up with transit news in Chicagoland.

1. Pace yesterday began putting more buses on routes 755 and 855, both of which can drive on the shoulders of I-55/Stevenson Expressway during rush hour periods when traffic is moving slower than 35 MPH. They’re doing this because of increased demand for a route that’s seen its reliability improved and travel time decreased. There’s no word yet on the status of running buses on the shoulder of I-90/Jane Addams Memorial Tollway.

2. People who take transit to work instead of driving save $1,006 per month because of the cost of gas, insurance, parking, and other expenses. This is actually just a monthly calculation the American Public Transport Association releases. See the savings in the top 20 cities on the APTA’s website (via Chicago Sun-Times). Continue reading Grid Bits: Pace increases bus frequency on Stevenson and other transit news

A walking tour of south suburban Riverdale opens my eyes


The Cook County Forest Preserve District recently installed a multi-use trail in the Kickapoo Meadows forest preserve. This is at 144th and Halsted in Riverdale, Illinois. 

This summer and fall I’ve been working with Active Transportation Alliance to develop bike parking plans for suburban schools and municipalities. This has given me a special opportunity to survey the conditions for walking and biking at numerous locations with a variety of environments unique to their geographies. This is the first article in a series that describes those visits. These plans are paid for by grants from Cook County and the Department of Health and Human Services called Communities Putting Prevention to Work. I’m calling this my “CPPW Series.”

I’m starting with the latest municipality I visited, Riverdale, Illinois. Riverdale is south of Chicago and shares a boundary with the Chicago neighborhoods of Altgeld Gardens, and West Pullman, separated by the Calumet River. You can drive to Riverdale on Halsted Street, or take the Metra Electric-University Park line to its two stations, Ivanhoe and Riverdale. Continue reading A walking tour of south suburban Riverdale opens my eyes