Air quality attainment update from CMAP


The Millennium Park Bike Station is one of thousands of projects funded in part by Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants. 

From the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning newsletter:

As we told you last week [here’s our article], our region faces harm to its air quality and a significant loss of federal transportation funding if the U.S. EPA follows through on its intention to ignore current, certified 2011 data and rule that northeastern Illinois is “in attainment” with the agency’s 2008 guidelines for air quality. Among the many Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) projects that would lose funding is Pace’s $38.4 million express bus service along the Jane Addams Tollway as part of its upcoming reconstruction, which is identified as a high priority of GO TO 2040. We urge you to contact U.S. EPA and members of Congress, calling on the federal regulators to consider the up-to-date 2011 data, which clearly indicate our region has actually not attained the 2008 air standards. The U.S. EPA comment period has begun with publication of a December 20 notice in the Federal Register (marked as “40 CFR Part 81”), which includes details of how to make your views known. We have also created a sample letter for commenters.

Continue reading Air quality attainment update from CMAP

Top 5 lists: essential parks, walking, biking and transit stories of 2011


With a refreshingly ped-, bike- and transit-friendly new administration in power, 2011 was a banner year for sustainable transportation in Chicago. For Newcity magazine’s annual “Top 5 of Everything” issue, I submitted the following lists of the most important or interesting walking, bicycling, transit and parks stories of the year. Did I miss anything?

Top 5 Blossoming Chicago Park District Stories

After a mysterious two-year delay, design work finally starts on the Bloomingdale Trail

Chinatown’s serene Ping Tom Park expands north, nearly doubling in size

To fight obesity, 96 field houses get vending machines stocked only with healthy snacks

Planning starts for North Grant Park rehab; ideas include a skate park and a climbing wall

A freak summer hailstorm ravages the Garfield Park Conservatory, closing several rooms Continue reading Top 5 lists: essential parks, walking, biking and transit stories of 2011

Value Capture: Financing sustainable transportation


Portions of the North/Clybourn Red Line station were completely rebuilt using funds contributed by Apple in an example of joint development – a value capture financing tool. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz.

Ed. note: Jason Saavedra was a fellow student at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs. He is now a planning, policy and communications consultant and writes for a blog called the Terre Haute Project in Terre Haute, Indiana. -Steven

As a nation, we are not investing enough money in our transportation infrastructure. We pay for transit, sidewalks, roads, and trails using a set per-gallon fuel tax – an unsustainable revenue source (see note 1) – and the recently proposed MAP-21 surface transportation bill does not propose any new fees or tax increases to ensure that federal money will be available to pay the cost of maintaining our transportation system.

The unsustainable nature of our current transportation funding system is not really news,  and Grid Chicago readers are particularly well-informed: we discussed the shortfalls of “traditional” transportation funding in a recent series of posts. But what may be news to you is that forward-thinking local communities are choosing to go the DIY route: they are looking for innovative ways to pay for needed infrastructure investment themselves.

This is where Value Capture (VC) comes into play. Continue reading Value Capture: Financing sustainable transportation

How often is alcohol a part of crashes in Chicago?


This photo of a car elevated in a brick wall North Avenue and Kedzie Avenue by Katherine Hodges is not related to the story below. 

comment was left on EveryBlock, in response to a crash at Lincoln and Fullerton, “What a shock, alcohol was involved” (here’s a newspaper’s report). I presume that many other people think alcohol is typically a cause or factor in automobile crashes. I looked at the data to know if it’s true.


From 2007 to 2010, there were 394,651 reported crashes. Of those, responding police officers marked on the crash reports (SR-1050) that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs was a primary or second cause in only 3,647 crashes, or 0.924%. However, this does not tell the full story. That “cause code” (#8) is to be used when an arrest is made. When an arrest is not made, officers are to use “had been drinking” (#19), from which the data shows 1,030 crashes. Adding them together, you have 4,677 crashes. In other words, alcohol is a contributing primary or secondary cause in 1.185% of crashes. Continue reading How often is alcohol a part of crashes in Chicago?

Talking transportation with 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack


[This piece also runs on the Chicago web publication Gapers Block.]

As part of an ongoing project to interview all 50 of Chicago’s aldermen about sustainable transportation issues in their districts, I recently caught up with Scott Waguespack at the 32nd Ward service office, 2657 N. Clybourn. His ward includes parts of Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Goose Island, Lincoln Park, Lakeview and Roscoe Village.

In 2007 Waguespack defeated Richard M. Daley-backed incumbent Ted Matlak and soon gained a reputation as an independent voice in City Council. Most famously, he was the leading critic of Daley’s push to privatize the city’s parking meters, a move that the former mayor would eventually admit, “we totally screwed up.” Continue reading Talking transportation with 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack

What is attainment? How Chicagoland may lose $90 million in federal funding annually


Transit and road improvement projects that increase efficiency and reduce emissions are at risk. Photo of Red Line and Dan Ryan traffic, looking north to the Chicago Loop. 

Chicago is currently a non-attainment area.

That means we don’t meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) “for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment” (read more), standards which are regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Six pollutants are measured across the country (note 1).  We currently don’t attain standards for particle pollution, specifically Particulate Matter 2.5; they’re particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers and “referred to as ‘fine’ particles and are believed to pose the greatest health risks”. Additionally, we’re a maintenance area for the 8-hour ozone standard. It is this designation that puts a large portion of the region’s transportation funding risk. Continue reading What is attainment? How Chicagoland may lose $90 million in federal funding annually