Elevating Chicago

Parking Archives

The Chicago Brand

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

To our readers' enjoyment, I'm going to argue with Ted some more about the new bike rack plan.  I agree with some of Ted's arguments (I'd have nothing wrong with an initial test run), on other points, however, we don't see eye to eye.

First, the little things.  I do enjoy the classic-ness of the street signs of San Francisco, but if you're going to make the argument that one similar style of street signs equates to a city brand, then you're going to be talking about most cities.  Chicago streets signs, though ugly, are all green and white (except for our honorary street signs, which too can be a brand of the city: honorary streets - go street names of people nobody has heard of).  When it comes down to it, when I think of SF, I think of the Golden Gate Bridge or the Trans Am building, and when tourists think of Chicago they think of the Bean or the Sears Tower.  So even though I think decorative bike racks will bring tourists to Chicago, it's not because of the uniqueness of the brand image it makes on Chicago.


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Bike Racks on Parade

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

Why can't Chicago be more like Louisville?  I bet you think about that all the time, don't you? Well, good news, now we can be.  As of earlier this week, Chicago will soon unveil a project, partially adapted from our friends down in Louisville, KY, to install a series of around 10,000 artistically designed usable bike racks throughout the city.  Read about it here.  What an awesome idea.  This program was approved by the City Council Transportation Committee on Sunday, and will hopefully show results in only a few months time.

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Photo courtesy of the City of Louisville

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BRT vs. Street Parking: a fight to the death.

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

Besides the fact that street parking spots are making it difficult to create a bike lane system in Chicago (see last week's post), they are also making it difficult to create a viable BRT system. Recently, Ted noted the importance of starting the discussion on BRT in Chicago; I want to add to his post today.


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3 Million Missed Opportunities

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Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

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Drowning in a sea of parking: the United Center's 6000+ parking spaces, and the proposed Madison & Paulina L stop in red. Image via Google Maps.

Tomorrow night the Blackhawks start their quest to bring the Stanley Cup back to Chicago for the first time in almost 50 years.  As it has been all season long, the United Center will be standing room only--20,000 committed fans.  And if you've ever been to the sea of asphalt surrounding the United Center, you know that the vast majority of them will arrive by car.  They'll clog the Madison exit on the Kennedy and the Damen exit on the Eisenhower.  They'll mostly arrive a few minutes before faceoff (or tipoff in last night's case,) they'll shell out at least $20 for parking, and when the game is over, they'll get back in their cars and curse the traffic as the neighborhood streets overflow.

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Do you want to hit a parked car while riding your bike? I don't.

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

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My first alteration to the street-parking nightmare in Chicago was simple: raise prices.  As I wrote on Monday, not everyone will like this idea, but you can't make everyone happy.  Today, I want to talk about something that I don't necessarily know the solution for (maybe you do, so please share), but I want to discuss nonetheless.  With parking spaces lining the streets of every main road throughout Chicago's neighborhoods, it eliminates potential for a much needed revamp and addition to our bike lane system.


Chicago has started to create bike lanes, but in my opinion, the work they've done to this point, is mediocre at best.  (Check out the Chicago Bike Map)  It would be great to have more bike lanes, safer bike lanes, and even a potential stopping zone at intersections (like Portland has).  One unfortunate rationale as to why these options can't and won't happen in the short term, is because there are too many street-parking spots.  It's hard to create a bike lane when there are cars parked on the entire right side of the street.  Also, when there are so many slow moving cars looking for parking, it makes it difficult for bikes to move freely.  Even if the city does make bike lanes just left of the parking spots, it won't be a very safe bike lane; not having to worry about getting hit by (parking) cars, is the reason bike lanes were created in the first place.


One potential fix is something that many European cities have started to do: put the bike lane right of the on-street parkers (and sometimes left of the cars parked on the left side, thus creating two bike lanes per road).  If we did this on both sides of the street, it is true that it may cut down a lane for cars, but if they're built on roads like Columbus or Wacker that have more than one or two lanes in each direction, it wouldn't be the end of the world.  Plus, it will enable the Chicago Bike Map and the new bike trip-planner on Google Maps, more options for planning bike routes.  Often times with bike trip-planners, it's necessary to go out of the way to avoid the major streets with no bike lines.  However, bike lanes on the curb-side of parked cars along major streets could fix this.


Chicago, like most major cities, doesn't have a ton of money.  Daley thought that giving a private company control of our street parking system would make us money.  Who knows if this will be a good idea in the long haul, and who knows if he hadn't done this that the system would be better off.  But no matter who is running the system, they need to start thinking long term solutions for Chicago.  In the short term we want money, in the long term we want more bike lanes and a BRT system second-to-none (my next post will discuss BRT and street-parking).  I know there must be a way to accomplish all of these goals simultaneously, and I hope as a city, we think of one soon.

 

Every Cube a Parking Spot

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Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

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Photo by D'Arcy Norman via Flickr

There are two reasons why driving has gained overwhelming control of America's transportation landscape: a robust network of mostly free roads, and the abundance of free (or at least cheap) parking.  So, as we try to lessen our reliance on cars and wide roads, it's important to learn lessons from how we made the car king over the last half century.  If we want to encourage walking or mass transit, it's important that we have a good street grid (check plus for Chicago) and a good transit network (check minus.)  And if we want to encourage bicycling, we need to make sure there's safe, easy parking for people near their destination.


Enter the Bikes in Buildings law passed last year in New York.  This law requires high-rise office buildings to allow riders to use the freight elevator to bring their bikes upstairs for parking while they're at work.  This is a great step, though if I had my druthers I'd add a clause allowing building owners to apply for an exemption if they provide a separate secure, indoor facility which is equally easy for riders to reach.  That would make the law more amenable to building owners, as they wouldn't have limited use of the freight elevator during the morning rush when many deliveries are made.  It's also important to note that the individual building tenants can set their own policy for their employees, especially since the fire code can restrict the space in an office available for bike parking.  There's no reason not to adopt a similar measure in Chicago, or at the very least in and around the loop.
This is a small measure that can have big, far-reaching effects.  Most simply, it gives bike commuters a safe, secure, and dry place to stash their bikes while they work.  With a parking spot guaranteed, there's one fewer excuse for people not to ride to the office--especially when the weather isn't as nice as it has been recently.  It would also remove some bikes from sidewalks, allowing for wider walkways and more pedestrians passing by (and theoretically shopping at) ground-floor storefronts.

This kind of law can also have hard-to-measure positive effects on the bike community, which would be similarly profound.  Scott mentioned last week how one impediment to growing the community is the lack of "Average Joes" who are just trying to get from point A to point B and not make a big political statement.  Well, if you're going to visit your coworker's cubicle and you see he's got his bike parked next to his desk, you suddenly know you have a peer who already has mastered the commute.  Also, as more people choose to ride all the way to their offices instead of simply parking at a bikestation or similar central location, it will increase the demand for a "share the road" ethos in the loop, encouraging safer, more complete streets.

Raise the Parking Price...it will help.

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

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I want to start the discussion about parking in Chicago (mainly street parking).  Those of you who lived in Chicago last summer are well aware of the day that Chicago gave a private company control of our street parking.  It was a joyous day when all the electric meters/pay-boxes broke and remained broken for weeks.  It made me so happy to drive to the beach and attempt to pay the meter, but instead have to write a note on my windshield asking the meter maid to spare my car a ticket because the pay-box was out of order.  These types of annoyances, however, are the least of our worries regarding parking.  The Chicago street parking system is a mess and needs major modification.


The main issue I want to discuss in our first post about parking is the need to raise prices.  Many Chicagoans' first response to this idea is that parking is expensive enough, and in this economy it will be detrimental to make us pay more.  Yes, parking is expensive, but raising prices will be very helpful for Chicago and its economy in the long run.  We saw in 2008 that when gas prices rose, driving (and thus parking) was more elastic than Americans initially expected.  As a country, we drove less, used public transportation more, and rode our bikes.  This was great for political reasons because we were becoming less reliant on countries and people who hate us.  It was great for environmental reasons because less carbon dioxide was emitted into the atmosphere.  But it was also great because it limited congestion in our cities.


Congestion is a huge problem.  When there are more drivers, there are more people on the streets.  I believe that if it costs more money to park, there will be fewer drivers and freer streets.  Freer streets will enable us to share-the-road more, allow for faster/more-reliable public transportation, and potentially decrease the number of accidents.  In fact, street parking rates in Chicago have risen recently.  However, I don't believe this is enough.  Another option for revamping parking-payment is to do what New York has started to do, install a performance parking system.  Performance parking enables the electric meters to increase and decrease parking rates at peak times and to manage demand, to ensure that there will always be about 15% of parking spaces available.  The primary purpose of this is to eliminate all of the drivers that constantly circle the block looking for parking.


I'm a driver, and for my own financial reasons I don't want to pay more out of my pocket, but it's time for us to stop thinking about ourselves and instead think about the greater good for all Chicagoans.  Raising prices will not fix the entire problem, but it will be the first step of many more to come 


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