The politics of wishful thinking: American cities and their commitment to the expressway

» If cities want to reduce automobile use and address climate change, the status quo simply isn’t good enough. In Chicago, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the lakeshore could turn into a step backwards.

For American cities, highways are a drug. They’re expensive to acquire. They devastate healthy tissue and arteries, replacing previous modes of nourishment with destructive ones. They force the rest of the body to adapt to their needs, and they inflict pain on those nearby.

After a massive slash-and-burn campaign that forced the demolition of hundreds of already inhabited, central-city neighborhoods from the 1950s through 1970s, few U.S. cities continue to build new expressways within built-up areas (though there are some depressing exceptions to that rule). Less funding from the federal government, combined with active opposition, seems to have done these projects in.

But the difficulties related to drug use don’t stop after the user has begun. Indeed,

Continue reading The politics of wishful thinking: American cities and their commitment to the expressway »

In the Chicago region, a setback for regional planning

» A major roadway is advanced, in violation of the consensus-based plan.

Yesterday, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) policy committee voted to approve the addition of a major new highway to the regional plan document. If built, the Illiana Expressway will run 47 miles between I-55 and I-65 in Illinois and Indiana, about 10 miles south of the existing built-up area of the Chicago region.

The project was supported by the relevant state departments of transportation as an essential complement to the existing mobility system and an economic development tool. But the decision to add it to the regional plan suggests a breakdown in what had been until recently a metropolitan-wide consensus about which projects to fund. Though the adoption of the project does not mean the end of the plan, it does imply that sticking to a regional plan in the face of political

Continue reading In the Chicago region, a setback for regional planning »

Chicago Plans to Shut Red Line South to Perform Quick Rehab

» The change in service will cut off service to stations south of Roosevelt for five months. The move will be controversial and inconvenience many, but it will solve problems that would otherwise take years to fix — at a lower cost.

In less than a year’s time, the Chicago Transit Authority will eliminate service on the portions of the Red Line that run through the city’s south side, affecting roughly 80,000 daily journeys for a period of five months. The effort is designed to allow for the quick renovation of this rapid transit segment, replacing about 10 miles of degraded track with desperately needed new infrastructure. It’s a risky move, likely to enflame tensions in an area of the city that has suffered decades of economic difficulties. But if the CTA pulls the project off successfully, Chicago may be setting a precedent for other cities to follow.

The southern portion of the

Continue reading Chicago Plans to Shut Red Line South to Perform Quick Rehab »

If Washington Can’t Commit, Chicago is Ready to Go It Alone

» Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announces billions for infrastructure upgrades. 

Though the details are not yet in full view, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to spend $7.2 billion over the next three years on infrastructure upgrades represents a truly significant advance in the field of municipal investment in the United States. It’s a unified plan to spend public and private funds on improved transit, parks, water, and educational facilities.

What a contrast to the U.S. Congress, an allusion to which I can hardly overlook in this context. Last week, House and Senate officials pushed forward an extension of the existing surface transportation legislation — the ninth such extension since SAFETEA-LU, the previous law, originally was supposed to expire in 2009.

The problem, suffice it to say, is not cowardice or nonsense political wheeling-dealing, but rather relatively minor — but painfully partisan — differences in perspective on the national transportation system. Over in the

Continue reading If Washington Can’t Commit, Chicago is Ready to Go It Alone »

Chicago Commits to Downtown Bus Priority

» A series of bus lanes will link commuter rail stations, downtown, and the Navy Pier. It’s not quite a transitway — despite the branding — but it will speed movement for thousands of passengers.

A year and a half after Chicago won $24.6 million in federal funds for the construction of an urban circulator downtown, the city announced this week that it will contribute $7.3 million in tax increment financing to improve the state of bus service in the urban center and link commuter rail stations to office buildings. Together, the money will provide for painting dedicated bus lanes on the Madison/Washington and Clinton/Canal Street pairs for a total of two miles, offer signal priority, improve bus shelters, and add bike lanes. New buses and a small bus transit center at Union Station are also part of the plan.

Though the improvements will be most visible

Continue reading Chicago Commits to Downtown Bus Priority »

The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
  • Twitter: @yfreemark
  • yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com
  • Le progrès ne vaut que s'il est partagé par tous.

Email newsletter

Network

rss feed
comments feed
twitter feed