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The Mechanics
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Transportation Tue Dec 21 2010

Chicago's Sustainable Transportation Platform

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Chicago's mayoral candidates have a lot to consider if they want to keep several local environmental and transportation advocacy groups supportive and engaged. In recent months, organizations have released detailed reports on how to make Chicago a more progressive and sustainable city. [For more on the loaded word sustainable, check out Ben Schulman's latest post]. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning unveiled its GO TO 2040 plan in October, and last week, the Center for Neighborhood Technology released its "Investing in a Better Chicago" report. Most recently, the Metropolitan Planning Council, Active Transportation Alliance and six other Chicago organizations collaborated on a Sustainable Transportation Platform, a report outlining ten priorities that the coalition is urging mayoral candidates to support in order to make transportation safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, and more efficient for all commuters.

There are ten thoughtful recommendations outlined in the platform:


'Make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the nation' by completing implementation of the city's Bike 2015 plan.

'Work to increase transit funding, riders and efficiency,' primarily by passing legislation to increase state gas tax (revenue from which would be used to support transit projects) and encouraging Chicago businesses to offer pre-tax transit benefits to employees.

'Expand rail service on CTA and Metra' by working with state and federal officials to gain more funding for new rail service projects.

Add bus rapid transit lines (BRT) by supporting the CTA's vision for these lines.

Support the expansion of car sharing organizations, "which give people access to cars at a per-hour rate."

'Design streets that are safe and convenient for all users'

According to the platform, streets that are properly designed for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, are called "complete streets." Without a doubt, Chicago has its share of woefully inadequate streets, making it difficult and dangerous for bicyclists who want to commute to work. The platform recommends making streets more accessible by adding more bike lanes, pedestrian countdown clocks and other amenities such as benches and lighting.

'Make Chicago the hub for a Midwest high speed rail network'

High speed rail has its share of opponents who argue it's a waste of money for a society built around the automobile, but if Illinois and other Midwestern states continue to see federal funding for high speed rail, Chicago might just emerge as a leader in high speed transit in 10 to 20 years. Transportation advocates argue in the platform that in order to "secure Chicago's position as the Midwest's transportation center," Chicago's next mayor should support federal and state funding, and ensure that the CTA, Metra and other transportation options "seamlessly connect" with one another. If all train and bus systems were interconnected, this would help solve the problem of how to get from one destination to another after using one form of public transportation.

'Improve the Lakefront Trail system'

The Lakefront Trail system is one of Chicago's strongest and most beautiful assets, and yet like many streets in Chicago, it's in need of repair. Advocates state in the report that dangerous intersections along the path should be fixed, more access points should be added and debris and snow in the winter should be cleaned regularly.

The platform was created by the MPC, Active Transportation Alliance, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Illinois PIRG, Midwest High Speed Rail Association, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

 
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Dennis Fritz / December 26, 2010 7:25 PM

I know this is not going to be a popular point of view on here, but enough with the urban bike revolution, already.

Please don't get me wrong--I have nothing against people who chose to get around on bikes. But biking just isn't a real alternative to cars in the same sense public transit is.

Like driving, biking is a great way to get around, provided not too many other people decide to do it. Too many bikers on the streets creat many of the same problem too many cars on the streets do. Yes, bikes are pollution-free and--in theory--pose less of a hazard to pedestrians (although, as a pedestrian, I might dispute the last point. I've never been hit by a car once; I've had bikers crash into me twice). But too many people biking absolutely creates congestion and causes accidents. This can have especially tragic consequences wherever bikes are in close proximity to cars.

Recreational biking is great. Thousands of people communting to work in a relatively dense, compact city like Chicago, many of whom will be plugged into iPods and God knows what else, is a bot more problematic.

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