Broad Shoulders Update

news and information for cmun dev advocates in metropolitan Chicago

Metra changes bike policy to increase access

After hearing from a growing number of bicyclists who ride Metra, Metra leadership took positive steps to better accommodate bicyclists today with changes to its bikes on trains policy.

Starting October 6, bikes will be allowed on some early morning trains and they will no longer be banned during special events.

The change allows passengers to bring their bikes on early morning rush hour trains that arrive downtown at or before 6:30 a.m. Under the current policy, bikes are banned from all trains arriving in Chicago before 9:30 a.m.

Additionally, Metra will eliminate bike blackout periods during special events such as the Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza and the Chicago Air & Water Show.

Passengers will be permitted to bring their bikes on trains during those events, but will be cautioned that crowded conditions could prevent bicycle access for the rider’s initial or return trip. These “warning dates” will replace blanket blackout periods from the previous policy during which bikes were banned on all trains in both directions for the entire weekend of special events.

“We believe these changes will provide better service to bicyclists in a way that is safe for all passengers and onboard personnel,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno in a news release from Metra about the change.

Metra’s bikes on trains policy is a topic that comes up frequently in our conversations with Active Trans members and supporters, and we regularly talk with Metra leadership about ways the policy can be improved. In 2005, we helped convince Metra to expand bicycle access from one train per week to daily off-peak accommodation.

This summer, we approached Metra after hearing from many supporters frustrated by the blanket blackout periods during special events and the bike ban on early morning trains, even when trains are nowhere near full capacity.

We’ll continue to talk with bicyclists who ride Metra and agency leadership to identify more potential improvements.

Meanwhile, we remain committed to working with other non-profit organizations to push the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District to allow bikes on South Shore Line trains. A feasibility study is currently underway on accommodating bicycles on the South Shore Line, one of the few remaining major commuter lines in the country that bans bikes.

Written by kwhitehead

September 23rd, 2014 at 5:17 pm

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Evanston leaders: Please forge ahead with Bike Plan Update

Evanston has one of the highest rates of biking in the entire country and is second only to Madison, WI on the list of midwestern bike hubs.

In response to the rapid growth in the number of people using bikes to get around town, Evanston recently adopted an exciting update to the city's bike plan.

But even in a bike-friendly place like Evanston, we need to speak up to ensure the bold vision included in the bike plan update becomes a reality.

That's why we're asking Evanston residents to add their name to the letter below we're sending to Mayor Tisdahl and the members of the Evanston City Council.

Read the letter and use the form below to add your name. And don't forget to share with your friends and family! The deadline for signatures is Monday, Sept. 29 at 9 a.m.

Dear Mayor Tisdahl and Evanston City Council:

We applaud you for adopting the Evanston Bike Plan Update and moving forward with planned developments recommended in the initial Evanston Bike plan. We urge you to continue implementing these planned improvements and move forward with implementation of projects in the plan update.

The plan and the update were developed with considerable input from residents, city staff and professional experts. They include proven strategies for achieving goals we deeply value: making Evanston’s streets safe, complete and livable.

The goal of making safe streets for all is especially urgent in Evanston. Our city is home to four of the top ten suburban intersections for bike and pedestrian crashes in Illinois from 2008 to 2012. When these unsafe conditions are combined with the fact that Evanston has one of the highest levels of bicycle ridership in the country, it’s clear we must take action.

Making travel safer is the shared responsibility of all road users. Research shows that the type of bike facilities and policies recommended in the plans make streets safer by creating more order, which reduces conflicts and crashes.

With this in mind, please support increased public safety by developing off-street bike paths, protected bike lanes, greenways and other comfortable corridors.

Consistent with the Complete Streets Resolution the city council adopted in May, the plans support Complete Streets that accommodate transportation options that enhance personal mobility rather than favoring motor vehicle traffic above all others.

The plans also support livable streets. Bike facilities are traffic-calming infrastructure that gives streets a human-scale feel that is comfortable and welcoming to local residents and visitors alike.

The development and adoption of these exciting documents are important milestones that reflect Evanston’s leadership as a bike-friendly city and its commitment to health, sustainability and local economic development.

Now is the time for Evanston to take the next step. We urge the city of Evanston to take concrete action to pursue the recommendations of the bike plans and look forward to supporting these efforts however we can.

Show your for Support Safer & Better Biking in Evanston

Complete the form below to add your name to our petition.

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Written by jmerrell

September 23rd, 2014 at 5:11 pm

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EVA challenge: Support Chicago’s branch libraries

By Gladys Alcazar-Anselmo and Catherine Garypie

How do local libraries offer so much free programming? The East Village Association wanted to expand its support for the West Town Branch library, 1625 W. Chicago Ave. Our research discovered a very important community partner, the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

It's a not-for-profit fundraising partner to the Chicago Public Library. The foundation develops partnerships throughout Chicago and beyond. Its efforts support the library’s programs, technology and collections.

Through generous private donations, the foundation connects library users to their community and the world, ensuring all Chicagoans have the freedom to read, learn and discover.

One Book, One Chicago, the Summer Learning Challenge and the Teacher in the Library program are 100 percent funded by donors to the library foundation. The library’s efforts to nurture learning, support economic advancement and strengthen communities are at the heart of the Chicago Public Library Foundation's mission.

EVA’s first library fundraiser will fund future programming at the West Town Branch library. “Literary Charades Game Night” is scheduled for Sept. 25 from 6 to 9pm at Roots Handmade Pizza, 1924 W. Chicago Ave. Teams of four will "act out" book titles without speaking, while other members of their team try to guess the book title. The objective is for teams to guess the titles as quickly as possible.

The evening ends as the final four teams, with the fastest completion times, compete for the crown of 2014 West Town Champions. The final four team winners will receive prizes from local businesses and sponsors, and win the bragging rights for the next year.

EVA hopes his collaboration can inspire other groups throughout Chicago to support the important work being done at every local library throughout Chicago. Through this event, EVA hopes to raise funds that supports this year’s programming goals, such as expansion of a children’s chess program or unique hands-on workshops.

Last year’s session on spice production and use was one such program, led by Steven Tobiason, owner of Epic Spices. Other programs could include documentary film screenings and book readings with local authors, historians and documentarians, as well as hiring children’s musicians to perform before local young children, their teachers and parents.

The West Town Branch Library, on the ground floor of the historic Goldblatt's building, officially opened on Sept. 11, 2010. It's an integral part of East Village and the West Town community.

It occupies 13,300 square feet of the building in a beautiful, loft-style space with more than 50 computers for adults, teens and children.  The library also has a group study room, and children's and adult reading areas that provide a comfortable, contemplative space overlooking busy and bustling Chicago Avenue.

The collection reflects the diverse and multicultural population, with books in Polish, Ukrainian and Spanish. The West Town Branch offers monthly book discussions for adults and tweens, and conducts a regular toddler story time for ages 18 to 36 months and a lap-sit story time for children 6 to 18 months.

This branch circulates more than 9,000 materials every month and serves an average of 2,500 patrons each week in person. Annually, direct services totaled nearly 1,800 early childhood, school-age and teen participants, and the programs continue to grow.

Written by Webmaster

September 22nd, 2014 at 11:17 pm

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Now You See the Money, Now You Don’t

Since November of last year, the United States Justice Department has announced multi-billion dollar settlements with the nation’s three largest banks – Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America (BoA) – over what Justice calls the “packaging, marketing, sale and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities.” Collectively, these three banks have agreed to pay a total of $36.65 billion to settle a variety of legal claims held over their heads by federal agencies, as well as a handful of state attorneys general who had also filed claims. It’s not nothing. But when you look at it closely, there’s a lot less to it than meets the eye. To begin, contrary to the impression many people might have got from the headlines, most of the money will not end up benefiting present or former homeowners or the communities where toxic mortgages did their damage. Almost two-thirds of the money will go into government coffers, about 90 percent, or $21 billion in round numbers, to the federal treasury. Admittedly, that only represents 3 percent of the current federal budget deficit, but I guess every little bit helps.

Written by Rooflines

September 22nd, 2014 at 3:04 pm

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Website tracks Chicago building demolitions, teardowns

A page lists building permits issued in and near East Village.

East Village Association board minutes for Aug. 11, 2014, submitted by Catherine Garypie


Property purchases, architect discussions, permit applications: All happen very fast ... faster than neighborhood associations can keep up.

Steven Vance, a programmer and Streetblog Chicago blogger, developed a database of construction activity at Vance gave a presentation with Daniel Ronan, program coordinator at the National Public Housing Museum, and Ryan Lakes, an architect at Solomon Cordwell Buenz.

The database includes building violations and permits. The idea is to give more power to residents. The site's adding Special Service Area boundaries, and may track Tax Increment Financing dollars spent.

EVA boundaries have been added to the database. A subscription service provides weekly e-mails and allows tracking of an individual company (developer, owner, expediter, etc.)

Update: The site is now Discussion at this meeting led to a new feature: When you click on a place like the East Village page, you'll see a small link under the heading that says, "List all addresses and historic resources." This shows every address in the boundary, based on Cook County property tax billing information, and whether or not it's orange or red rated.

Chicago's updating its building database. The hope is that city will place application in the data portal as soon as it is accepted, not only when the application is approved.

When a developer submits an application, they come in with a new company, usually named after the address of the development. That makes it difficult to track what developers are doing. It may be possible to track by tax ID.

City databases have triggers: A liquor application will trigger a notification to police, alderman, etc. Maybe that notification system can get onto the site.

The database can be filtered in different ways, such as cost or type. Lists can be printed, exported in Excel format or put on your clipboard.

Possible future feature: a teardown finder. "Recent Teardown Permits" could list a demolition permit and new construction permit issued for the same address within 180 days of each other. Multiple building violations also signal a probable teardown. Multiple police reports sometimes are indications.

Also, if floor area ratio on structure is low relative to the zoning, particularly R4 in East Village, it is likely a teardown risk. Search results could explain the risk: "Given this data, it is 60% likely that this building will be demolished in the next 2 years." This may be a complicated algorithm.

The database needs help from EVA: Zoning Board of Appeals & Planning Commission need to make agendas more accessible. Can EVA request this? More transparency is needed.

Ideas for database:

  • Not sure whether a comment section be helpful. Vance may consider allowing a neighborhood association to provide additional info. Comments and notes would need to be screened. Maybe a discussion forum? Maybe search for "Demolition averted" or "upzoning denied."
  • Encourage city discussion of design and development.
  • Maybe making a tracking system for decision makers (like, compare aldermen, for example). Also tracking contributions to the decisionmakers from developers would be helpful (alderman).
  • Maybe track electronic billboards.
  • Maybe track mass property purchases by one party.

EVA would like to track what was missed in the historic building survey.


May move Renegade Craft Fair and also Fashion Fest & New Orleans Fest. Neal McKnight is concerned and will follow up.


Rehab Polish Triangle station: McKnight is working with Scott Rappe. Waiting to hear what CTA has planned.


EVA will co-sponsor 1st and 2nd Ward debates with many different neighborhood associations (CGNA, UVNA, etc). 2 debates for each ward in mid-November and January 2015.


St. Boniface is in danger of demolition. Alderman's not returning calls, developer's not returning calls, city's not returning calls. McKnight will talk to Rappe.


A "changing image sign" is coming to 2000 W. Chicago, above Red Apple.


Literary Charades (teams will guess book titles) with competing teams of 4 people. We have some really good prizes already for the winners.

Food will be provided. Cash bar. Ticket to attend. Ticket price break for charade team members. Ticket prices to be set soon by fundraiser committee.


EVA will follow up.

Meeting starts 6:42pm, adjourns 7:45pm at West Town Bakery & Diner, 1916 W. Chicago Ave. Attending: McKnight, Alcazar, Garypie, Anselmo, M. Van Dam, M. Isaacson, A. Hauser (dnaInfo reporter).

Written by Webmaster

September 21st, 2014 at 3:23 am

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Visit City Chickens!

This is the 5th year of the Windy City Coop Tour, a free, self-guided event featuring 29 coops in the backyards of Chicago and some suburban locales. The tour runs this Saturday and Sunday, September 20 and 21, but on Saturday only, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can visit chickens in our own ‘hood, at the Farmessori at 1110 N Wood Street.  

The Farmessori flock just added three new members: a Buff Orpington, a Silver Laced Wyandotte, and an Exchequer Leghorn; in addition to the fabulous Polish Crested hens. If you’re not a chicken enthusiast, and haven’t visited the Farmessori, it’s worth the trip to see the garden. Farmer Joe Phillips and students and families from the Near North Montessori School will be on hand to welcome you.

The Tour Map and details about all 29 Host sites are on the Chicagoland Chicken Enthusiasts’ website ( and its Windy City Coop Tour page.  It’s an opportunity to see more than fowl: First-time Host Eric Staswick’s urban farm/yard in Albany Park is home to chickens, ducks, dairy goats, and assorted vegetables and fruits. He says, “We keep chickens because we believe it’s important to understand the food cycle and where our food comes from. We want our kids to understand that food is grown, not manufactured.”

Angelic Organics Learning Center and the Chicagoland Chicken Enthusiasts organize the Tour so visitors can browse and learn from practical examples. According to Anika Byrley, whose family keeps chickens in Logan Square, “We love the Tour and look forward to hosting because we enjoy sharing with others how enjoyable, easy, and rewarding keeping backyard chickens can be.” Matt Binns and Margaret Frisbie in the Hermosa neighborhood. “We originally got our chickens because we thought it was good for the planet and a kinder way to get eggs. We found that not only are the eggs wonderful and wholesome, but the chickens are hilarious and fun, and not much effort at all.”

I can attest to that! Visiting the chickens never fails to put a smile on my face. The Farmessori chickens are cared for by a crew of volunteers, of which I am one. It's a great example of the "it takes a village" concept. Check it out!  

Quotes from the press release published on the web as 2014 Windy City Coop Tour PR.

Written by Marjie Isaacson

September 20th, 2014 at 3:07 am

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Government Works Badly—If We Refuse to Invest in It

At the Bipartisan Policy Center's Housing Summit earlier this week, Shelterforce got to interview former HUD secretaries Mel Martinez and Henry Cisneros (we'll publish that interview here next week). One of the questions we asked was how to handle the fact that the American electorate often seems to have a bias, not so much against housing programs (think the fantastically expensive mortgage interest deduction), but against the poor. Martinez said he thought that people would respond well if you proposed specific solutions that worked. When I followed up to ask whether that required a sort of basic faith that government could deliver on specific solutions, he fell back on fairly standard Republican lines about government, saying that people would be justified in being skeptical about that. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich did the same in his speech to the summit Tuesday morning, telling with relish tales of the IRS sending hundreds of mistaken refund checks to a single house in China or asking us to compare the accuracy and speed of getting money from an ATM in a different country with the 277 days it takes on average to transfer someone's medical records from the Dept. of Defense to the VA. To some extent, this was a matter of selective examples. After all, you can come up with some mind-boggling stories of systemic incompetence at banks and mortgage servicers trying to handle loan modifications—foreclosing on the wrong people, requesting the same documents a dozen times, etc. But there's also something to it. 

Written by Rooflines

September 19th, 2014 at 7:53 pm

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Congress Misses AmeriCorps’ 20th Birthday

AmeriCorps turned 20 on September 12th. To celebrate, the agency had an immensely successful Thunderclap campaign that reached over 51 million people on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. It was the 4th most popular Thunderclap campaign so far. Now I’m an old dog still learning new social media tricks so I didn’t know what a Thunderclap campaign was until even I participated with a tweet and a political commentary: Happy Birthday AmeriCorps! Thanks for 20 years #GettingThingsDone. Time Congress funded more of you! #AmeriCorps20 Congress, however, did nothing.

Written by Rooflines

September 19th, 2014 at 11:00 am

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New report calls region’s transit system “dysfunctional” and “depressing”

A new report highlights the lack of connectivity in our regional transit system and demonstrates the need for increased investment to avoid falling further behind our peer cities throughout the world.

The report draws further attention to the region’s shortcomings in public transportation on both national and international levels. It’s part of an international series on regional development by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

OECD criticizes the lack of transit connectivity between the city of Chicago and surrounding suburbs, noting that even though 36 percent of Chicagoans work outside of the city and 46 percent of the workers in Chicago live in the suburbs, the current hub-and-spoke transit system does not support many of these regional commuters.

Downtown, the Metra does not always connect well to the CTA, and there are limited bus routes near suburban rail stations. A commuter can get from their suburban station to downtown and vice versa fairly easily, but getting from their house to the station and the station to work is often a difficult trek.

Our transit spending is lagging, too. Compared to Chicago, London spends five times more on transit while New York City spends three times more.

If Chicago wants to remain competitive in the global economy and continue to attract young residents and encourage businesses to grow, we need to reexamine how we fund and plan our transit system. We cannot afford to fall further behind.

Our Transit Future campaign is set to address these issues of connectivity and development highlighted in the report.

In partnership with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), our goal is for the Cook County Board of Commissioners to establish a dedicated revenue stream to fund new sustainable transit lines and reinvest in our existing system. It will expand CTA lines within the city and bring them further into the suburbs.

Transit Future will also create bus and arterial rapid transit routes that better serve both suburban and urban job centers, schools and recreational areas. As a result, the region will become more economically competitive while increasing Chicagoland’s environmental sustainability and overall livability.

We need your help! Sign our petition to pledge your support for Transit Future and urge Cook County commissioners to build a more connective Chicagoland. You can also volunteer to help spread our message and help organize transit supporters in your area.

This blog post was contributed by Sydney Prusak, an Active Trans advocacy intern. 

Written by volunteer contributor

September 18th, 2014 at 5:11 pm

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All Hands on Deck: Bringing Universities More into the Fold

(with Sheryl Verlaine Whitney)  If there was one phrase heard more than any other during our work at HUD, it was "All hands on deck." (Actually, it was second only to "Are you kidding me?”). In virtually every situation, whether it was implementing programs in response to the housing crisis, getting Recovery Act funds allocated and spent, supporting communities struck by natural disasters, or reinventing internal processes within the department, the message was consistent. We faced challenges that demanded significant resources, potentially more than we had at our disposal. We could not afford to leave anyone idle, for fear of coming up short.  This reality is repeated countless times across the country. People working on behalf of the public interest—staff of public sector institutions as well as those of private, nonprofit, and philanthropic organizations with a mission of advancing the public good—often feel as if they don't have enough time or money to complete all the things necessary to achieve their objectives. It is therefore puzzling why a readily available resource—the local university—is not more frequently tapped to support the programs and needs of public sector organizations, local nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and philanthropy.

Written by Rooflines

September 18th, 2014 at 1:00 pm

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