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Chicago

Slate Political Gabfest

Slate: The Teeny Little Bounce Gabfest

Friday, September 14, 2012

Slate's Political Gabfest, featuring David Plotz, John Dickerson and Emily Bazelon. This week: An embassy breach, a modest bounce and a union battle.

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Transportation Nation

The Transportation System Chicago Never Got

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Proposed Wells Street Subway

WBEZ has taken a deep dive into Chicago's transportation history and uncovered some items that were once on the city's wish list.

  • in the 1950s, the city considered tearing down the Loop "L" because it was thought the  "iron girdle" was retarding the expansion of the central business district
  • a grade-level rail line (Ravenswood) was going to be lowered into an open "cut" in the ground
  • the west leg of the Red Line -- which now terminates at 95th Street -- was supposed to go to 119th Street

More pictures -- and the story -- can be found here: Part I; Part II; Part III

Want to see more transit what-ifs? Check out New York's lost subways.

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The Takeaway

A Student on the Strikes in Chicago

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Early yesterday morning, the public school teachers of Chicago went on strike, and in the hours since, we’ve heard a lot about contracts, salaries, city government, and unions. And of course, we’ve also heard both sides mention the students, but in very different contexts.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

The Chicago Teachers Strike

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ester Fuchs, professor of international and public affairs and political science at School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University and former advisor to Mayor Bloomberg, explains what the Chicago teachers strike tells us about the national conversation about education, and what it means for New York City teachers.

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Transportation Nation

PICS: Largest Truss Bridge Ever Moved into Place Fully Assembled

Monday, August 27, 2012

A nearly 400-foot-long, 4.3-million-pound railroad truss bridge was rolled into place over Torrence Avenue near 130th Street in Chicago over the weekend. It is believed to be the largest truss bridge ever to be moved into the place after being assembled off site. (CDOT)

We like to keep our eye on bridges here at TN. Especially new bridges and new techniques for building them. That could be anything from new ways to finance megaprojects, the politics behind tolling, or engineering feats like floating a bridge down a river and hoisting it in place.

Building a bridge offsite and transporting it to it's final location saves money when it is possible. Similar construction techniques are credited with completing the Lake Champlain, NY bridge ahead of schedule (see video.) This weekend we got word of a mini-milestone in that trend.

On Saturday, Chicago says the city in partnership with the state and several railways, installed the largest truss bridge ever built off site and moved into place fully assembled. A truss bridge is what most people think of as the classic railroad bridge, it looks like a steel cage over the roadway forming box or triangle shapes on the sides for support.

Here are a few shots courtesy of the Chicago Department of Transportation, and the press release with background on the project below.

Four Self-Propelled Mobile Transporters (SPMTs) relocated the fully assembled 4.3 million pound, 394-foot-long, 67- foot-high truss bridge from its assembly site to its final position on the new bridge piers a few hundred feet away. (CDOT)

 

400-FOOT RAILROAD BRIDGE ROLLED INTO PLACE ACROSS TORRENCE AVENUE

Believed to be Largest Truss Bridge Ever Moved into Place after Assembly

A nearly 400-foot-long, 4.3-million-pound railroad truss bridge was rolled into place

A nearly 400-foot-long, 4.3-million-pound railroad truss bridge was rolled into place over Torrence Avenue near 130th Street today, and is believed to be the largest truss bridge ever to be moved into the place after being assembled off site.

The new bridge for the Chicago South Shore and South Bend commuter rail line is a key project in the $101 million reconfiguration and grade separation of the intersection of 130th Street and Torrence Avenue, which part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Building a New Chicago infrastructure program.

It is also a part of the CREATE project – a partnership between U.S. Department of Transportation, the State of Illinois, City of Chicago, Metra, Amtrak, and the nation's freight railroads – to invest billions in critically needed improvements to increase the efficiency of the region's passenger and freight rail infrastructure.

“The moving of this new truss bridge is an incredible feat of construction and engineering,” said Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Commissioner Gabe Klein. “It also demonstrates the strength of the CREATE partnership between government, the railroads and other stakeholders to bring complicated projects like these to fruition to improve the quality of life for Chicago-area communities.”

The goal of the 130th and Torrence grade separation project is to eliminate the two at-grade crossings of the Norfolk Southern tracks with the two roadways to improve the traffic flow of all modes of transport at this complicated intersection.

The project will include the lowering of both roads to fit under the new bridges to be built for the Norfolk Southern freight tracks. The new truss bridge, put in place today, goes overthe freight tracks. The entire intersection reconstruction project includes: six new bridges (railroad, roadway, and pedestrian/bicyclists bridges); a mixed-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists; retaining walls; drainage system; street lighting; traffic signals; roadway pavement and extensive landscaping.

Today, the project General Contractor, Walsh Construction, used four Self-Propelled Mobile Transporters (SPMTs) to relocate the fully assembled 4.3 million pound, 394-foot-long, 67- foot-high truss bridge from its assembly site to its final position on the new bridge piers a few hundred feet away. It is believed to be the largest truss bridge ever assembled then moved.

A truss bridge is one whose load-bearing superstructure is composed of a truss, which is a structure of connected elements forming triangular units.

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The Takeaway

Cities Across America Tackle Immigration Policy

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

And as hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants begin applying for temporary legal status today, dozens of cities around the country have already begun changing their immigration policies. Adolfo Hernandez, director of Chicago’s Office of New Americans, shares what his city is doing to improve immigrants' lives.

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The New Yorker: Out Loud

Elizabeth Kolbert and Michael Agger on spoiled kids; David Remnick and John McPhee on swearing.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Elizabeth Kolbert and Michael Agger on spoiled kids; David Remnick and John McPhee on swearing.

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The Takeaway

The Immortal Driver: Chicago's Plan to Eliminate Traffic Deaths

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is zero traffic fatalities a utopian pipe dream? Chicago’s transportation commissioner Gabe Klein explains why he thinks otherwise. He lays out the city's new initiative to eliminate all traffic fatalities within ten years.

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Transportation Nation

Washington Hits Top-Ten Bicycling Ranking -- Big Cities Climb on List

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bikeshare users in Washington, DC (Photo: Tara Bahrampour)

A report in Bicycling Magazine ranking the top 50 most bike-friendly cities places Washington fourth. In the magazine's last ranking, in 2010, Washington didn't break the top ten.

See the entire list 2012 here.

Then, as now, the list was dominated with more predictable cities like Portland, Minneapolis, Boulder, Madison, and Eugene. Seattle and San Francisco also made both lists.

But the big story of  this year's  list is the prominence of big cities --like Chicago and New York, which, like Washington,  both climbed in ranking.

Most of the changes that the magazine credits in Washington, DC -- including bike share and more bike lanes -- began under DC's former transportation commissioner, Gabe Klein, who now has that job in Chicago (up to #5 from #10 on the last Bicycling Magazine list.)

The magazine examined cities with populations of at least 95,000 for "a robust cycling infrastructure and a vibrant bike culture."

The magazine reports that bicycle ridership increased in Washington "80 percent from 2007 to 2010."  The capital city's bike share program is growing in popularity and recently clocked its two millionth ride.

 

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The Takeaway

NATO and Occupy Protests Rock Chicago

Monday, May 21, 2012

Apart from Washington, D.C., Chicago is the first American city to host the NATO Summit. As world leaders arrived for the Summit yesterday, they were greeted by thousands of protesters and just as many police officers. Chicago Police have arrested five protestors who allegedly planned to throw Molotov cocktails at President Obama’s campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home. 

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The Takeaway

NATO Summit Searches for Path Out of Afghanistan

Monday, May 21, 2012

The annual NATO summit opened yesterday afternoon in Chicago, bringing leaders from around the world to President Obama’s former home to confront questions surrounding the future of a post-conflict Afghanistan. As the two-day summit continues today, Western leaders will try to further define their path out of Afghanistan. Hassina Sherjan is the founder and country director of Aid Afghanistan for Education. David Sanger is the chief Washington correspondent for our partner, The New York Times.

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Soundcheck

Dance Craze: Dancing on Air

Monday, April 30, 2012

Longtime TV host Dick Clark’s death last month reminded many of the Twist - perhaps the most notable of the many dance crazes (from The Stroll to The Watusi) that were sparked by American Bandstand’s shimmying teenagers. But Bandstand was just one of many dance floor-driven shows on the air in the latter-20th century – and in fact, there are still a few around today. We examine television’s important role in dance fads with Jake Austen, author of “TV-a-Go-Go” and founder (and co-host) of Chicago’s public access all-ages dance show, “Chic-a-Go-Go.”

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Transportation Nation

Emanuel Pushes Audacious Plan for Chicago Infrastructure

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, speaking earlier this month (photo by U.S. Army Public Affairs, Midwest)

Fixing infrastructure has bedeviled cash-strapped cities in recent years. Washington has failed to pass a comprehensive surface transportation bill, last summer's debt deal paved the way for spending reductions, Republican governors have cancelled big rail projects, and the public has been generally sour on big spending deals.

With the announcement of a $7 billion infrastructure plan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is signalling that era may be ending.

"The Mayor's basic premise is he's not going to let the city twist in the wind at the whim of the federal or state governments," said Tom Alexander, an Emanuel spokesman.

With funding from water rate hikes, efficiencies, and --mostly -- private banks setting up an "infrastructure trust" to finance projects, Emanuel plans to fund a $1.4 billion improvement in O'Hare airport, 16 new miles of bus rapid transit, and repair 100 CTA stations.

Also on deck:  $660 million for public schools, 180 new acres of parkland, the replacement of 900 miles of water pipe, and the completion of the Bloomingdale Trail -- the Chicago version of the High Line.

According to the press release:  the program, called Building a New Chicago, "is one of the most comprehensive infrastructure plans in Chicago’s history, involving an unprecedented level of coordination between City Hall, multiple city departments and sister agencies, private sector utilities, and the public."

Other big city mayors, notably New York's Michael Bloomberg and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have championed big infrastructure projects.  Mayor Bloomberg is a co-founder of Building America's Future, a pro-infrastructure lobbying group. But neither mayor has the extensive control of Mayor Emanuel, who runs the transit system, schools, and water infrastructure. In New York, for example the MTA is run by the state.

"A lot of American cities are focused on what's happening in Chicago," said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. "There's nothing really like this -- we don't know all of what this is -- but there is so much interest.  I really expect other cities to replicate it if it's a success."

The Mayor's office hasn't fully explained all the financing, but in one part of the plan, major banks including JP Morgan Chase and Citibank are investing in more energy-efficient buildings.  Those efficiencies will be used to produce savings, which in turn can be used to pay back the investors.

Marcia Hale, president of Building America's Future, praised Emanuel's plan, and called out the Senate for passing a transportation bill "that would erect barriers to states and cities seeking to collaborate with the private sector."  (The Senate bill has not passed the House; on Thursday, both houses of Congress passed a 90-day extension of the existing bill, the ninth such extension.)

Chicago has not fully laid out the details of its financing plan, other than to say it won't rely on tax hikes.

The city did release a video explanation of the plan:

Here's the full  release:

Mayor Emanuel today announced a $7 billion, three year infrastructure program, Building a New Chicago, which is one of the largest investments in infrastructure in the City’s history.  The program will touch nearly every aspect of the city’s infrastructure network and create more than 30,000 jobs over the next three years.

“Whether it is renewing our parks or repairing our pipes, repaving our roads or rebuilding our rails, retrofitting our buildings or revitalizing our bridges, we must restore Chicago’s core,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Our plans are comprehensive because our needs are comprehensive -- because no city in America relies on its infrastructure more than Chicago.  While our infrastructure challenges are not unique, our resolve and determination to see them through is. I look forward to rebuilding our city’s infrastructure so we may continue to lead in the 21st century.”

Mayor Emanuel made the announcement at Chicagoland Laborers’ Training and Apprentice Center, in the city’s Austin neighborhood.

The investments will not require increases in taxes. Many of the projects are paid for through reforms, efficiencies, cuts in central offices, direct user fees, and the recently announced Chicago Infrastructure Trust. 

The improvements in Building a New Chicago will include:

  • Renovation, repair, or rebuilding of more than 100 CTA stations
  • The creation of the first 16 miles of Bus Rapid Transit Route on Jeffrey Boulevard, with future routes being developed for the Central Loop.
  • A $1.4 billion investment in O’Hare airport over the next three years, creating 5,900 jobs, including opening two new runways by 2015.
  • A five-year, $290 million capital plan for the City’s parks  that will include the acquisition of 180 new acres of parklands, and the building of 20 new playgrounds and 12 new parks.
  • The 2014 completion of the Bloomingdale trail.
  • The completion of two new boathouses this year on the Chicago River, with two new boathouses next year.
  • The replacement of 900 miles of century-old water pipe, the repair of 750 miles of sewer line, and the reconstruction of 160,000 catch-basins.
  • The reform of the Aldermanic Menu, and tax increment financing, so that these tools better match the city’s infrastructure needs.
  • A $660 million investment in Chicago Public Schools, and a $479 million investment in the City Colleges of Chicago, to create modern educational environments that will propel our students into the jobs of tomorrow.
  • “Retrofit Chicago,” a $225 million dollar effort to retrofit City buildings, reducing their energy consumption by 25 percent and creating 900 jobs in the next three years, the first project funded by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust.

Building a New Chicago brings a new level of coordination to the City’s capital investment process, maximizing efficiency, stretching scarce resources and minimizing impacts on residents.

The full speech, as prepared for delivery, is attached here.

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Transportation Nation

Boston, Denver Bike Shares Back This Week

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Denver bike share station (RTD photo)

After a winter intermission, both Denver and  Boston relaunch their bike shares this week.  The two northern cities (along with Minneapolis and Washington, DC) were among the nation's first bike share programs. Washington, DC's bike share is year-round, and Minneapolis's will start up the first week of April.

Chicago and New York are expected to launch two of the nation's biggest bike shares this summer.   San Francisco is launching a smaller, 500-bike program this summer.

New York is actively planning bike share share station locations, and both New York and Chicago are putting together bike share sponsors.

More soon.

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WNYC News

Former Newark Police Chief Pledges No NYPD-style Spying in Chicago

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Chicago's police superintendent is pledging publicly that his force will never conduct blanket surveillance of Muslims like the New York Police Department did in Newark, N.J., when he was chief there.

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Transportation Nation

Chicago Approves Big Bucks for BRT

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

WBEZ's Chip Mitchell reports that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is steering $7.3 million towards a long promised bus rapid transit route downtown where half of commuters currently travel by bus. As we reported at the time of his election, Emanuel's transportation plan is largely a transit plan filled with bold promises for intelligent transportation systems.

WBEZ on the latest BRT announcement:

"Emanuel’s mayoral transition plan last year promised a “full bus rapid transit pilot” within three years. The pilot, according to the plan, will include “dedicated bus lanes, signal preemption, prepaid boarding or on-board fare verification, multiple entry and exits points on the buses, limited stops, and street-level boarding.”

"The Chicago Department of Transportation is keeping lips tight about its design of the downtown line, known as both the “East-West Transit Corridor” and “Central Loop BRT.” It’s not clear the design will include many of the timesavers listed in Emanuel’s plan. A CDOT plan announced in 2010 would remove cars from some traffic lanes, rig key stoplights to favor the buses, improve sidewalks, install bicycle lanes and build specially branded bus stops equipped with GPS-powered “next bus” arrival signs.

Chicago is also slated to get $24.6 million in federal money for the BRT plan. For details on the route and other bus upgrades, go to WBEZ.

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Soundcheck

Supercollectors: One DJ's Gig Prep

Thursday, February 16, 2012

As our series continues, we profile more Supercollectors “outed” by their friends and family on the Soundcheck web site. Today: Kevin Cosgrove, a Chicago-based DJ who is legally blind. He explains how he manages his vinyl archive and prepares for gigs.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Fuel Economy Up, Bipartisan Hatred of House Transpo Bill, and NY MTA Head: No Subway Food Ban

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top stories on TN:
LaHood Heaps More Criticism on “Lousy” House Transpo Bill (Link)
President’s Budget: High Speed Rail, Fixing Roads & Bridges, Complete Streets, TIGER Grants (Link)
Biodiesel Producers Push to Raise Federal Production Limits (Link)
Two More Ex-Governors Say Port Authority Has Long History of Problems (Link)

(photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr)

The current head of the MTA won't support a ban on eating in the subway. (New York Times)

Meanwhile, Lee Sander -- a former MTA head -- grilled Eric Cantor about the House transportation bill. (Capital New York)

The fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. last month hit a record high. (Detroit Free Press)

Chicago politicians discover bipartisanship when it comes to opposing the House transportation bill. “When we look at transportation infrastructure, this is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. It’s an American issue,’’ said one Republican. (Chicago Tribune)

New York State says it erred when it invited community members to a briefing about the Tappan Zee Bridge; transit advocates say disinviting them is par for the course. "All the decisions have already been made behind closed doors," said one. (The Times Herald Record)

Color wars: officials in Minneapolis-St. Paul can't agree on the color scheme for its new bus rapid transit system. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

NJ Transit has released its latest customer satisfaction survey, and the results remain consistent: riders feel that the level of service is just barely acceptable. (Times of Trenton)

And Happy Valentine's Day, TN readers! Two links of love:
Why are so many romantic comedies set in cities? "Love can happen anywhere, anytime...(but) the odds are much higher in nature or in a walkable city neighborhood (or both at the same time!) than in sprawl, or while driving in traffic." (Atlantic Cities)
And a special treat for New Yorkers: did your eyes lock -- just as the C train was pulling out of the station? Did a tall, handsome stranger help you navigate the weekend subway work? Find your 'Missed Connection' tonight at the New York Transit Museum.

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The Takeaway

'Interrupting' Chicago's Gang Violence

Monday, February 13, 2012

In 2010, 66 children died of gunfire in Chicago, and hundreds more were injured. Staggering statistics like this show that gang violence in the Windy City has grown out of control. CeaseFire, a community organization with a public-health approach, tries to lead Chicago's youth away from a life of crime. To do that, the group employs "interrupters," former gang members who actually go to the scene of a conflict and try to resolve it in a non-violent way. And it's all chronicled in a recent documentary film called "The Interrupters."

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Transit Fare Affects School Attendance in Chicago, Singapore's Subway Snarl

Friday, December 16, 2011

Top stories on TN:

More Congressional outrage for high-speed rail. (Link)
Chicago bike share, VA toll road big TIGER III winners. (Link)
Taxi advocates plead their case to New York's governor. (Link)

Singapore's subway (photo by DDay209 via Flickr)

Chicago school officials say the cost of transit fare can discourage school attendance. (WBEZ)

Two legislators from New York and New Jersey -- steaming over recent toll hikes -- have introduced a bill that would put the Port Authority under federal oversight. (Staten Island Advance)

Cuomo's approach to the outer borough taxi bill is "the legislative equivalent of the slow-food movement." (New York Times)

The new Tappan Zee Bridge must have bus rapid transit or be obsolete from day one, says a coalition of elected officials and local groups. (Journal News)

Singapore's subway system suffered a major breakdown yesterday when four trains stalled during rush hour, trapping thousands of passengers and affecting some 127,000. (Wall Street Journal)

The number of bicyclists in and around Minneapolis has soared in the past year. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Has crime really fallen on DC's Metro? Yes...and no. (TBD)

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