Grid Shots: Great public spaces

Public spaces are not necessarily where transportation occurs. But sometimes transportation creates public spaces.


A crowded ‘L’ car. Photo by Mike Travis.


Relaxing on a temporary lawn during this year’s Open Streets on State Street event. Photo by Jane Healy. 


The wide, well-lit sidewalk under the Palmer House Hilton’s overhang. Photo by John Iwanski. 


Taking the scenic route through Lincoln Park in October. Photo by Michelle Stenzel. 


Daley Plaza, surrounded by Clark, Dearborn, Randolph, and Washington Streets, is the location for many a gathering, protest, and market. Here is Critical Mass prior to departure in September 2012. Photo by Dubi Kaufmann. 


Ping Tom Park in Chinatown provides some views of the Orange Line viaduct and this moveable steel bridge across which Amtrak trains travel. Photo by Adam Herstein. 


Enjoy this path on Northerly Island while it lasts. The path will be reconfigured and “shortened” in the next few years as the “island” is transformed. A campground and lagoon are slated to be built. Photo by Michelle Stenzel.

Add your photos to our Flickr group for consideration for future Grid Shots posts. View past Grid Shots post. See what themes are coming soon.

Fall bike lane construction update


A Marking Specialists work truck in the Marshall Boulevard bike lane it just helped create (they work on weekends, too!). 

Chicago Department of Transportation staff and its contractor Marking Specialists have been busy this summer and fall, striping miles of conventional, buffered, and separated bike lanes in Chicago. This post documents all of the new bike lanes we haven’t yet featured prominently, some of which are likely still under construction as the photos were taken between 1 and 4 weeks ago.

Sacramento Boulevard, 24th Boulevard, Marshall Boulevard

Still to come on this project through Little Village, Lawndale, North Lawndale: Douglas, Independence, and Hamlin Boulevards. It connects with a short, separated bike lane on Jackson Boulevard between Independence Boulevard and Central Park Avenue. The Central Park Avenue bike lane then connects north to separated bike lanes on Lake Street and Franklin Boulevard. Collectively these bike lanes are called “West Side Boulevards”. I like how this new separated bike lane “goes places”: through and to residential neighborhoods, past schools and parks.

People parked their cars in the bike lane, which we’ve found to be typical for under-construction separated bike lanes. The pavement quality issues that Franklin Boulevard suffers from are present on this project as well, in multiple locations (there’s a small bush growing in the bike lane a few feet before your reach a large pothole). I look forward to seeing the ultimate design created at the intersections and high-speed curves in Douglas Park and the pavement issues corrected. This project is likely still under construction.


A separated bike lane on Marshall Boulevard, looking south at a Pink Line viaduct. It’s parking-protected in some locations. In this photo, new parking spaces are created where none previously existed.  Continue reading Fall bike lane construction update

Grid Shots: Water

Humans, like water, want the path of least resistance. One way we demonstrate that is by creating desire lines. Humans, unlike water, aren’t controlled by gravity on where we can go so when water gets in our way, we want to get our way.


We built bridges. Many still remain. That carry freight, Metra, and Amtrak trains. Lumber Street lift bridge photo by Adam Herstein.


Even though we often get our way with water, it comes at a cost, and a delay. Water main construction photo by Eric Rogers.


We might have to wait a bit until we can use this path. Lakefront Trail storm photo by Michelle Stenzel.


When our desire lines must cross, we can choose to build over or choose to build under, each with its own consequences. Elmhurst flooding photo by Clark Maxwell.

Add your photos to our Flickr group to be considered for next week’s Grid Shots theme, “Advocacy or political statements”. See previous Grid Shots posts or view the directory.

Grid Shots: Wish paths


Walking in Englewood. Photo by David Schalliol. 

The trail of least resistance. The shortest path between two points is a straight line. People’s desire for that easy route is shown in wish paths and desire lines. Sometimes the existence of a “goat trail” is used to define where sidewalks or other routes should be constructed, but other times their creation and use is blocked by fences and shrubs.  Continue reading Grid Shots: Wish paths

Illinois Railway Museum keeps 100-year-old Chicago transit trains running


This train, Chicago Aurora and Elgin 409 & 431, ran on the interurban line from Chicago to Wheaton, with splits to Elgin and Aurora (thus the name). You can see its extensive route map. Many of the suburbs it traveled to and through now have Metra service and other parts became the Illinois Prairie Path. 

Every year at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois, volunteers bring out the working condition trains that used to operate on Chicago or Chicagoland tracks: ‘L’ trains, interurbans, and streetcars. This past weekend was “Chicago Day” at IRM. My friend and I rented a Zipcar and drove there, 54 miles from my house in Avondale. According to the article on Wikipedia about IRM, it’s the largest railroad museum in North America.

The museum is a not-for-profit education corporation run completely by volunteers. It’s funded by memberships, donations (both monetary and services, like train car transporting), grants (including from the State of Illinois), entry ticket sales, and sales in the gift shop and of vintage paraphernalia.  Continue reading Illinois Railway Museum keeps 100-year-old Chicago transit trains running

Grid Shots: People on the platform

Since we don’t have a schedule of Grid Shots themes to go on, I looked at the latest photos people have added to our Flickr group. This one caught my eye and prompted today’s topic: people on the platform.


Photo by Mike Travis, who captioned the photo with, “Don’t look at me, Kid. The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is right in front of you!” Continue reading Grid Shots: People on the platform