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VivaLFuego Dec 6, 2008 11:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Abner (Post 3957437)
Halsted is one lane in each direction for a whole lot of that distance. It will be very interesting to see how they manage this--are they going to just ban parking along that entire stretch of Halsted during rush hours to create a dedicated lane? Sounds like the kind of thing that will drive certain Chicagoans into a frenzy. Certainly looking forward to it though.

Yeah, some people with be apoplectic. There would be no parking on one or more side of the streets during rush hour - I imagine that, through the core sections with lots of bi-directional traffic flow (e.g. between about Roosevelt and Grand) the parking restriction would be both directions in both rush hours.

Some businesses will have a fully valid concern regarding these restrictions: the evening rush may coincide with customers dropping off their cars for valet service for dinner. I'm not sure exactly what will happen, but it won't be pretty: will the city crack down on Greektown (those restaurants are sure to go bananas), give in completely and negate the program, etc? Ideally there will be a compromise and the parking restrictions are only enforced to the extent needed - e.g. only from 4:30-6pm at the latest.

I'm not a huge fan of this proposed style of BRT - the streets where bus enhancements are needed due to gridlock (narrow streets, lots of parallel parking, pedestrian traffic, etc.) are exactly the type of streets you don't want to have 60ft behemoth buses blowing by at 30mph just inches from the sidewalk. Talk about a detriment to pedestrian-oriented retail...

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for bus service improvements and application of techniques to speed up the process (particularly pre-paid boarding, signal priority, and queue-jump at intersections), but I'm definitely apprehensive about the potential impact on retail of being overly inhospitable to passengers arriving by car - taxis and valet parking included. The response, of course, is that the restrictions are only limited to those hours of peak street congestion and peak transit commuter volume, and nothing more. But so far, such precise details haven't been released in the public operating plans.

But what about, say, mid-day on Saturdays? Traffic is pretty bad (and buses are pretty slow) then too. I think it speaks to the fact that BRT is really only a consistently effective solution (and effective, indeed) when it runs in the median of a wider arterial: Western and Ashland Avenues would be great candidates for a proper BRT service. Unfortunately, streets like Halsted in Greektown and Lincoln Park are exactly the streets that New Urbanists would like to slow down traffic on and induce congestion, as this is part the composition of a bustling pedestrian retail street.

the urban politician Dec 7, 2008 1:36 AM

^ Wow, Viva. In regards to transit discussions I hold your opinions with the highest regard, yet even I'm surprised as this is the first time I've ever heard you show concern about the inconvenience of a transit project on drivers ;)

honte Dec 7, 2008 2:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3957703)
I'm not a huge fan of this proposed style of BRT - the streets where bus enhancements are needed due to gridlock (narrow streets, lots of parallel parking, pedestrian traffic, etc.) are exactly the type of streets you don't want to have 60ft behemoth buses blowing by at 30mph just inches from the sidewalk. Talk about a detriment to pedestrian-oriented retail...

Yes, my thoughts exactly. I wonder if it's time for Chicago to consider doing what a number of cities did ages ago, which is to convert a few sleepy residential streets into small arterials. I know this rather destroys the existing character in favor of a new one, but it can work out well in the end. I just don't see proposals like the existing BRT working well - too much crammed into too small an area and a lot at stake.

The other question is if the city will ever consider the abandoned or underutilized air lines around the city for BRT... it kills me to see infrastructure like this reduced instead of reused, which I have noted many times in the last 10 years. I know it's costly, but those dedicated ROWs are too tempting to ignore, and could do a lot to break up the rigid grid that is sometimes very inefficient in getting from A to B, not to mention convenient access to many existing Metra stations. I could see a clever BRT network making a lot of use of those to become much more productive. :shrug:

the urban politician Dec 7, 2008 3:43 AM

^ But guys, we are talking about rush hour only here, and that's the key to remember. For the vast majority of the time, the chosen streets will maintain their usual character.

What you're talking about here is sacrificing street parking/vehicle accessibility to some streetfront commercial districts a few hours every day to theoretically improve citywide transit access to centers of employment (with the exception of 79th st).

The problem with turning residential districts into transit arterials is what I expect would by overwhelming NIMBYism. And the problem with converting existing ROW into BRT is even more devious--it makes too much sense, and we all know that elected officials would never want that on their record.. :rolleyes:

honte Dec 7, 2008 3:58 AM

^ Yes, understood.

But seriously, has there ever been a serious investigation into using the Metra / RR air lines for BRT, bike and jogging paths, any kind of alternate transportation mode? If not, is this due to complications in gaining permission to use them from the railroads or MTA, perceived dangers, sheer cost, or what? It seems so obvious - you have to be blind while driving through Chicago not to notice all of the overhead infrastructure.

Even if Daley doesn't give a crap about transit, he could be lured into this simply by showing him how much nicer the city would look if these overhead viaducts were spruced up - and, bonus, partly with federal money.

Chicago Shawn Dec 7, 2008 4:58 AM

^Well, the Bloomingdale viaduct conversion from freight rail to a bicycle trail has been talked about seriously for years now. Another vacant rail line up north through Sauganash has also been targeted for a bicycle path (I think it might be open now). I know of another plan in study right now using existing rail ROW (sharing it) for other transportation use (I can't comment on that any further though).


All honesty, I don't believe the BRT plan is the greatest, however this is free money that was NYC's loss from turning down congestion pricing. If successful, I believe it would spread to other artierials like Roosevelt, Ashland and Western, as Viva mentioned, which make a lot more sense for BRT. Nonetheless, I do believe this plan will really help on the Halsted and Chicago routes, which are gridlocked during rush periods. The Chicago bus can literally take 25 minutes to go from Milwaukee/Ogden/Chicago to Michigan/Chicago, which is only 1.75 miles.

the urban politician Dec 7, 2008 5:11 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago Shawn (Post 3958158)
I know of another plan in study right now using existing rail ROW (sharing it) for other transportation use (I can't comment on that any further though).

:hmmm: Hmm, interesting....

the urban politician Dec 7, 2008 5:23 AM

Daley wants road money in his hands, not gov's
By: Paul Merrion Dec. 06, 2008
Mayor Richard M. Daley is lobbying to keep Gov. Rod Blagojevich's mitts off several hundred million dollars Chicago is poised to get through a proposed economic stimulus package under debate in Congress.
Historically, almost two-thirds of federal road funds go to metro areas, where locals decide how to spend them. But Mr. Daley and other U.S. mayors and local officials are worried that Congress will shift highway project decisions to the states in an attempt to simplify the process and create jobs more quickly.

Berwyn Dec 7, 2008 7:08 AM

Daley might just walk over to the Office of the President-Elect to make the request in person!

Busy Bee Dec 7, 2008 5:37 PM

Latest 5000 Series L car from CTA .pdf
 
Not sure how real or accurate this rendering is. I find the fancy paint job a bit ridiculous. The front end is looking good though.

http://forum.chicagobus.org/index.ph...ndpost&p=16129

Wright Concept Dec 7, 2008 7:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3958045)
The problem with turning residential districts into transit arterials is what I expect would by overwhelming NIMBYism. And the problem with converting existing ROW into BRT is even more devious--it makes too much sense, and we all know that elected officials would never want that on their record.. :rolleyes:


Exactly, if there some lots or open parcels that city can convert into parking during rush hours that will quiet the concerns and becomes a peace making olive branch to potential NIMBY's.

the urban politician Dec 7, 2008 10:43 PM

What I would love for the city to do is to pass, in one fell swoop, a TOD Act which specifically upzones land in a 200' radius around EVERY L stop in the city (outside of downtown) to a designated T zoning. That T zoning can be defined as x number of stories, x number of units, x amount of parking per unit, etc (landmarked buildings continue to keep their protection, however)

The beauty of creating this Zoning designation in one fell swoop is that it prevents NIMBY's from blaming their individual Alderman for supporting an individual zoning change, as it is really a citywide Act. If Daley had a bit of vision and balls, I'm sure he would have the clout to hammer something like this through given all that I've read about this man in the past several years.

Example of T zoning (simplified, but you get the idea):

1.Building of up to 20 stories allowed
2.Not more than 1 parking spot per housing unit
3.Buildings on the very edges of T zones are zoned T2, and are not to exceed 10 stories
4.Buildings can be residential, commercial, hotel, or mixed

Wright Concept Dec 7, 2008 11:14 PM

That's a great idea. One other add-on because that is something some of the Transit advocates are brainstorming to draft up here is with that TOD zone differentiate between a station of one line to one station where two lines intersect each other.

For example in Chicago if they ever do a Western Avenue Elevated corridor (or utilize the railroad ROW that is usually a block or two from Western), the stations in which they intersect with this line would be eligible for an even higher density because there is a greater transit demographic on two lines compared to only one line.

the urban politician Dec 7, 2008 11:32 PM

^ That's a good amendment. I'd also add that T zoning should be legally designated as permanent once implemented--it cannot be changed by any Aldermanic act.

So it's official: Chicago needs to pass the 2009 Chicago TOD Act. Everybody call/write your Alderman and the Mayor! ;)

Seriously, though, do people here have thoughts about this plan? Does it have merit/pitfalls? I'm just curious..

honte Dec 8, 2008 12:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3959302)
^ That's a good amendment. I'd also add that T zoning should be legally designated as permanent once implemented--it cannot be changed by any Aldermanic act.

So it's official: Chicago needs to pass the 2009 Chicago TOD Act. Everybody call/write your Alderman and the Mayor! ;)

Seriously, though, do people here have thoughts about this plan? Does it have merit/pitfalls? I'm just curious..

The only pitfall I would see is intense pressure on the existing buildings in those districts... hence requiring much closer scrutiny by Landmarks / DPD. It's very difficult to police things like this once you make the dollar potential of certain properties so high. Unfortunately, a lot of our best building stock for obvious reasons clustered around elevated stations. It would just need a lot of coordination and careful planning to be successful and not backfire by losing important, but unofficial neighborhood landmarks.

You also run into the funny situation of people possibly opposing a new elevated station due to the zoning potential. Could you imagine that? :doh:

the urban politician Dec 8, 2008 12:53 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by honte (Post 3959375)
You also run into the funny situation of people possibly opposing a new elevated station due to the zoning potential. Could you imagine that? :doh:

^ But is that such a bad thing? Actually, if a neighborhood is going to ask for an expensive transit station, it should be expected to generate enough ridership to justify its existence.

In regards to the rest of your comments about historic non-landmarked buildings, I'd like to think that it is actually buildings other than these that can be replaced with highrises. For example, historic commercial buildings lining a thoroughfare adjacent to a subway stop can be landmarked, but all the other buildings on side streets within 200' of the station (currently occupied with useless single family homes, townhouses, etc) receive T Zoning designation and developers automatically have the right to build denser projects to replace them. Imagine a scenario where historic commercial buildings immediately surround an L stop, yet with highrises poking out behind them--is that so bad?

Obviously, some intersections which are heavily surrounded by landmarked buildings may not see a lot of change, but I don't think this is a problem since most landmarked districts are prewar and thus pretty pedestrian-friendly with minimal off-street parking, hence already doing their jobs in promoting transit use.

The proposed 2009 Chicago TOD Act exists mostly to promote higher densities in areas where land is heavily underutilized at this point in time. For example, even though the Belmont Stop along the Brown Line is surrounded by only 3-4 story buildings, I frankly don't believe that correcting this particular vibrant district is really what the Act would be for in spirit.

VivaLFuego Dec 8, 2008 1:11 AM

I think a Chicago TOD zoning amendment is the best route to go, since as you say it would be citywide and thus the responsibility would be diffuse enough that aldermen might go along with it.

Rather than create an entire new classification allowing highrises etc., however, I would simply build in variances to the existing zoning districts (don't get me wrong, I'd love Toronto-style highrises clustered around each stop, but I'm thinking pragmatically here). So, it would be like the 25% reduction in parking ratio within 600 ft of transit stops that currently exists, except with several other additional built-in variances:

1. Less lot area required per dwelling unit: increase the number of units that can be built on a lot, while maintaining the same overall Floor Area Ratio / bulk of the district. Thus, rather than a 3-flat "condo on steroids" with the duplexed first floor unit in R4 districts, maybe one could actually build a straight-up 4 flat, or even a 6-flat with front and rear units. The reduced parking ratio requirement would further make this feasible. Maybe switch back to the old regulation of 1 off-street space per unit for 1 bedroom and above, and 0 spaces per unit for studios.

2. Less required open space, particularly allowing the elimination of rear setbacks. Ensures that the full buildable square footage allowed by the zoning districts FAR is indeed buildable, and not restricted by the setback/open space requirements.

3. Increased allowable percentage of efficiency/studio units...most districts currently allow a maximum of only around 20%, I think.

These are just a few ideas.

As you say, some lower-scale districts (Belmont/Sheffield) are nonetheless bustling and dense enough to support rail transit. Let's allow areas like that to be built, again, around transit stations. We can keep the height limits, so new construction has that traditional Chicago neighborhood scale.... but we kick the unit density up a notch or two. Higher unit density = more boots on the street supporting retail, more commuters using transit, and so on.

In an ideal world, I would pair all of the above with a substantial revision of the overall zoning map to remove much of the excess commercial zoning throughout the city, instead concentrating such zoning around transit stations, at least in those neighborhoods where applicable.

honte Dec 8, 2008 1:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3959452)
^ Imagine a scenario where historic commercial buildings immediately surround an L stop, yet with highrises poking out behind them--is that so bad?

Of course not, it sounds excellent. My point is simply that this would require a planning process with a lot of sensitivity, and there's not a whole lot of that when it comes to planning in this city.

Similarly, it's hard to argue to an owner that his non-landmarked building is now somehow important to the neighborhood and therefore he's going to miss out on the 20-story bonanza that's enriching all of his neighbors. The official landmarking therefore generally has to be in place for quite some time before the upzoning takes place. I suppose you could allow all of these people to do facadectomies, but I doubt we really want to see that all around us. Also worth considering is that many of these districts in fact do not have insignificant buildings on the side streets either - meaning that in some areas it would be hard to work at all. A lot of the Red Line probably could qualify in the above statement.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that any blanket action like you're proposing will always have inevitable drawbacks. I still think something like yours is a good idea, because the vast majority of the areas surrounding Chicago's Elevated stations (Orange, Green, some Blue, South Side Red) probably would seriously benefit from your proposal. The key word, as always, is sensitivity. The inner Blue, most of the Brown, a lot of the Pink, and North Side Red would present a lot of problems though.

Perhaps the simplest thing would be just to say that any existing vacant lot or strip mall within x feet of the train station would automatically be zoned for, let's get crazy, 350 feet of building. Otherwise-improved parcels would be potential candidates, requiring historic resources review and closer scrutiny - but then again, this leaves the door ajar for NIMBY intervention. See the issues? It's a kind of take-it-or-leave-it situation, which is probably why something like this hasn't been done yet.

ardecila Dec 8, 2008 1:39 AM

There's definitely a tradeoff here. The historic buildings have had their density reduced and unit size increased because they're more profitable that way, but that also means that those buildings no longer provide the critical density to support the adjacent transit service.

Clearly, the market has shown that homebuyers/renters, at least in Chicago, want larger units instead of the shoeboxes that their Manhattan counterparts occupy.

If the historic building stock can no longer provide the required density, then there are three courses of action the city can take.
1) Leave the neighborhood as it is.
-This is wasteful of energy and transit funding.
2) Legislate the buildings to subdivide and increase their density.
-This will increase the supply of units and reduce their demand, leaving many units unfilled.
3) Replace the historic buildings with new, taller ones that can accommodate the proper densities in the larger units that the market demands.
-This will result in the loss of historic buildings.

Now, I personally think that there is a shortage of low-cost, small studio units, and the larger units with their larger pricetag keeps buyers out of the neighborhood. The key is a balance between the two. How about this: exempting buildings with an Orange rating or higher from T zoning. You may argue that the insignificant buildings in a neighborhood nevertheless establish neighborhood character, but if history has shown us anything, it's that neighborhood character almost always has to be sacrificed for density increases. It's why Lake Shore Drive is no longer lined with mansions and instead forms the dense spine that holds the North Side together. It's also why Streeterville is no longer full of warehouses and instead with dense condo towers that have their own unique character. It's the attempted preservation of these historic buildings, and the requirement that new buildings fit in with them, that has held West Loop and, to a lesser extent, South Loop, back from their wholesale densification.

At the same time, other city incentives would be put in place to ensure that the historic buildings do not deteriorate and suffer from their loss of relative property value. Tax credits to people who renovate the Orange-rated properties could be created from the surplus tax revenue of the residents of the dense buildings.

ardecila Dec 8, 2008 1:52 AM

By the way, is this a serious proposal? If so, maybe we should put CBP behind it. Getting the interest of planning groups like CMAP could also help.

I was heartened when I found out the other day that a modified version of the CTA Gray Line proposal, redubbed the "Gold Line", was pitched to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, and it now enjoys her support. While the City Council has little control over the CTA, they would be the place to pitch such a TOD Zoning Act. The first step is finding a sympathetic ear on the Council - the first name that comes to mind is Manny Flores, who seems to be supporting exactly this concept in his 1st Ward, he is willing to stand up for it, even though his constituents are not in favor.


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