Will the new 50th Ward alderman build the bike bridge Berny blocked?


Proposed location for the North Shore Channel Trail bike bridge

[This piece also runs in Newcity.]

The other day I was pedaling with friends under azure skies to Evanston’s Blind Faith Cafe when I was reminded of an old political fight. We were riding on the North Shore Channel Trail, a scenic, nearly car-free route from Albany Park to Evanston, when we came to the notorious gap in the path just north of Lincoln. The trail ended abruptly, so we spun north on Kedzie a few blocks, turned west and rode on hectic Devon Street across the channel, then turned north to continue on the bike path into Lincolnwood.

Continue reading Will the new 50th Ward alderman build the bike bridge Berny blocked?

Getting Midwesterners on board with high-speed rail

I was surprised when Vocalo radio host, Molly Adams, asked me about high-speed rail. I imagined we would only talk about local transit and bicycling projects and issues; as a railfan, I was prepared to answer her question. She said, “How realistic is a possible high-speed rail, in the region?”

I confidently replied, “It is finally starting to happen” (read and listen to the full interview). Work finished in September 2010 to replace tracks between Alton, Illinois (north of St. Louis), and Lincoln, Illinois (north of Springfield).


An Amtrak and Metra train wait in the south part of Union Station in Chicago. Photo by Eric Pancer. Continue reading Getting Midwesterners on board with high-speed rail

Transcript from high-speed rail portion of Vocalo interview

Listen to the high-speed rail segment (MP3) of mine and John’s radio interview with Vocalo, recorded Monday, July 11, 2011. Listen to the full interview. Interviewers are Molly Adams and Brian Babylon.

Molly: With what you know about urban planning, and changes happening, how realistic is a possible high-speed rail, in the region. Maybe, we’ve heard talk of a St. Louis to Chicago, Chicago – Minneapolis, Chicago – Madison, what’s the future on that?

Steven: The Midwest has been planning HSR for decades. It is finally starting to happen. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), with the railroads that own tracks from Chicago to St. Louis, have been working to replace the tracks to allow for trains to operate at 110 MPH. Before, the top speed was like 75-90 MPH, but we don’t yet have trains capable of going 110 MPH. And the plan is for IDOT to purchase trains that can go that fast. So St. Louis would be the first segment. That’s the only one that really has funding right now. There is funding to upgrade tracks between Chicago and Milwaukee, on the Hiawatha Line, also to increase speeds to 110 MPH.

Brian: What will that do? Tell me the benefits – what will that do? In your two cents.

Steven: The first thing it will do is lower the travel time between the two cities. Then, that has an affect of more customers who didn’t ride the train before, because now they see the attractiveness of a slightly faster ride. Because maybe 5 hours was too long for them to St. Louis, but 4.5 hours makes a little more sense and once we have two tracks to go between Chicago and St. Louis, so trains can bypass each other, they can increase the speed even more, and go down to 4 hours.

Brian: Hmm.

Molly: That sounds like something I’d sign up for. I don’t have a car and I’ve never had a car, so all alternative transportation stuff is very interesting to me but I think when you have a car and you rely on your car for transportation it’s very easy to check out of this. Brian, can you speak to that?

Brian: Yeah, I only like to drive. This whole bike thing to the picnic was cute but I only like to drive.

Molly: Let’s say if it was easier for you to get into town on a train?

Brian: Yeah, but to get where I need to go. Once I get to town, that’s the problem.

Steven: Where’re you coming from?

Molly: Yeah, you guys should make an alternative transportation plan for Brian.

Brian: From the south side. If I can get a bike on the train, comfortably

Molly: He’s right by the 47th Street Green Line stop.

Brian: It’s really bad for me. I’m working on it.

John: You drive downtown to Navy Pier?

Brian: Every day!

Molly: Pay for parking?

Brian: Every day! I could save hundreds.

John: How much does parking cost for employees here?

Brian: Too much. $8. That’s about 40 bucks a week. Gas…He’s laughing!

Molly: Steve’s like shocked and appalled.

Steven: No, $8 is very cheap. I can understand that you would want to drive every day. Because parking pricing policy is one way to discourage driving. And parking seems plentiful here at Navy Pier.

Brian: If it was $20 I would be biking. I would have the nicest legs. In Chicago.

Metra’s storm delays and on-time performance reporting

Storm-related delays affect the three Union Pacific (UP) routes more than the other routes because of UP’s stricter rules. The Chicago Tribune reports that UP will be letting up on this rule just a tad.


A taxi driver rolls through a flooded viaduct at Montrose and Ravenswood, under the UP-North tracks, in August 2007. Photo by Andre Alforque.

In the same article, the Tribune lets readers know how instrumental it was in encouraging Metra to changes its on-time performance reporting. Before, Metra would produce a systemwide average, but that ignored some lines and runs that had performance ratings a full standard deviation away!

Zipments shipping marketplace may change local goods delivery

Part 2, interview and chat with Brandon, now published


Brandon Gobel riding his Bullitt on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square.

While reading my friend Mikael’s Copenhagenize blog, I saw a video featuring a guy in Chicago who delivers goods around town on a Larry vs. Harry Bullitt (a Danish Long John-style cargo bike).

Chicago? Cargo bike? I had to know more.

The courier is Brandon Gobel, a former tractor and semi-truck driver in Ukrainian Village; the video was created by Zipments. Brandon rides a John Player Spezial Bullitt from Splendid Cycles – Chicago has its own dealer – and uses Zipments to find courier jobs.

Continue reading Zipments shipping marketplace may change local goods delivery

Grid Shots – Kennedy edition

All three of today’s Grid Shots photos come from Eric Rogers and feature the Kennedy “Expressway.”


Passing Blue Line trains. With the Chicago Transit Authority’s new 5000-series train cars, the Blue Line will get the Pink Line’s 2600-series cars, to replace the butterfly doors (the oldest car in the system). Read more about the distribution on Chicago-L.org.


A Blue Line train races traffic. 


Stand over a Chicago highway for five minutes and you’ll quickly realize that the traffic never ends. This is the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94) near Montrose. 

As always, we invite you to add your photos of sustainable transportation in Chicagoland to the Flickr group.