Broad Shoulders Update

news and information for cmun dev advocates in metropolitan Chicago

Excited about better rapid transit in the Loop? Get involved!

Most commuters, visitors and residents in Chicago’s Loop can quickly identify the biggest transportation challenge: moving east-west across downtown.

Whether you’re walking, biking or riding transit, getting across the Loop is often frustratingly slow and unpredictable, particularly during peak rush hour times.

That’s why the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is installing a new rapid transit corridor this year with dedicated bus lanes on Washington (image below) and Madison, and connections to Ogilvie and Union Stations in the West Loop.

Fill out this brief survey if you’d like to learn more about how you can get involved.

In addition to transit riders, the project also will benefit people walking and riding bikes. Existing bus shelters will be relocated from the sidewalk and replaced with new stations on the corridor, opening up sidewalk space for people walking. People riding bikes will be able to take advantage of new protected bike lanes on Randolph and Washington.

The data shows the vast majority of people are riding transit, walking or biking to get around the Loop. Buses carry nearly half of all travelers in vehicles on Washington and Madison, yet travel as slow as 3mph during rush hour, or walking speed.

With construction beginning this spring and service scheduled to launch later in 2015, we’re stepping up our advocacy efforts to help ensure the project is implemented efficiently with the benefits promised to people riding transit, walking and biking.

We are looking for Loop commuters and residents who use the corridor regularly and can provide feedback on their experience. Activities may include sharing their stories with our members and supporters, speaking with a reporter about transportation in the Loop or signing on to a letter of support.

Complete this brief survey to learn how you can help.

Images courtesy of the CTA. 

Written by kwhitehead

February 13th, 2015 at 9:38 pm

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Financial Incentives Encourage New Partnerships in Housing and Health

If you watch Downton Abbey, as I do, you know that Lord Grantham is becoming an affordable housing developer—much to his consternation. He’s been called on to help build a slate of new homes on a piece of his property in the wake of The Great War. But it was his answer to a question asking why the need for quality housing that caught my ear last week. The country, he said, needs more high-quality housing because of the shockingly unfit condition of the recruits in WWI, summed up best in a post-war poster of the era: "you cannot expect to get an A1 population out of C3 homes.” Health and housing, it turns out, have been linked through history. Fast-forward to last week’s Healthy Neighborhoods regional convening sponsored by the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation in Oakland, CA, where the focus had expanded beyond housing to encompass healthy neighborhoods and the opportunity for new partnerships (and new funding streams) between community development, housing, and health care to improve the “upstream” social determinants of health. As most in the room would agree, treating illness without treating the root causes of poor health is costly on many levels.

Written by Rooflines

February 13th, 2015 at 11:30 am

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Three Takeaways from the President’s 2016 HUD Budget

Here are three key facts to understand the President’s 2016 budget request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in its broader budget, policy, and political contexts: 1. The proposed funding increase is much more modest than it may initially appear. The President’s $41.0 billion HUD request for 2016 is $6.2 billion, or 18 percent, higher than 2015 funding. But $2.3 billion of that $6.2 billion reflects the expected decline in income from HUD’s mortgage insurance programs as the mortgage credit market continues to recover and HUD reduces its fees for insuring Federal Housing Administration mortgages. Income from the mortgage insurance programs helps fund other HUD programs. Apart from those changes in net receipts, the budget would raise HUD’s 2016 program and operations budget by $4.0 billion or 8.7 percent, relative to 2015. And even with this increase ...

Written by Rooflines

February 11th, 2015 at 6:00 pm

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Lakemoor named to ‘best-of’ list for Complete Streets!

Congratulations to Lakemoor, Illinois for adopting the nation's third-best Complete Streets Policy in 2014!

The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2014, released by Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition, examines and scores each of the 74 Complete Streets policy enacted in 2014.

The report outlines ten ideal elements of a Complete Streets policy and scores individual policies based on these ideals. Lakemoor's policy scored an impressive 88.8 points out of 100!

Lakemoor, a village of  nearly 6,000 residents that straddles Lake and McHenry counties in Chicago's North Suburbs, was inspired to adopt Complete Streets through its participation in We Choose Health, an initiative of the Illinois Department of Public Health and McHenry County Health Department and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Active Trans was delighted to provide technical assistance on the project by identifying model policies, helping define a process for policy development, and helping identify tactics for adoption and implementation.

Lakemoor joins an increasing number of Illinois municipalities and counties that are embracing Complete Streets principals as a key component of improving community health and wellness. Congrats to Lakemoor for the win!

Written by mgeraci

February 11th, 2015 at 5:44 pm

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Promising News from the Post-Civil Rights Suburbs

The passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act promised greater suburban housing opportunities for people of color in the U.S. Yet, progress has been slow. Over half of African Americans, Latinos, and Asians live in the suburbs, but the typical middle-income African American household still lives in a neighborhood with a higher poverty rate than the typical low-income White household. There is concern that the Great Recession widened these gaps, since minorities were more likely to have risky loans and undergo foreclosure. A problem with existing research on the outcomes of the Fair Housing Act is that it reports conditions experienced by people of color across places that matured prior to and after the legislation. It is reasonable to expect that gains in racial equity will occur slowly in older central cities and suburbs, where there is an engrained history of who lives where based on race. The places that should exhibit greater racial equity are the post-Civil Rights suburbs—places that matured after the passage of the 1960s Civil Rights legislation. To test this theory, I examined how the neighborhood conditions of similar income households by race differed among central cities, older suburbs, and post-Civil Rights suburbs in 88 regions nationwide in 2000 and 2012. I defined post-Civil Rights suburbs as places that 1) had 75 percent or more of their housing built in 1970 or after and 2) were located within commuting distance of one large city but were not the largest cities in their regions. Central cities were the largest city in the region, and older suburbs were all remaining places after subtracting the central city and post-Civil Rights suburbs. I collected data on neighborhood indicators associated with a host of social, economic, health, environmental and other conditions: the percent of families in poverty, the percent of adults with college degrees, and the homeownership rate.

Written by Rooflines

February 11th, 2015 at 12:00 pm

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Fund for Diversity Endowment Launched with Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation

The Oak Park Regional Housing Center is pleased to announce the establishment of the Fund for Diversity at the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation.
“The Housing Center’s mission is to achieve meaningful and lasting racial diversity in Oak Park and surrounding areas, and the Community Foundation’s mission is to strengthen our community through philanthropy,” says Rob Breymaier, executive director of the Housing Center. “Those interrelated goals make this a solid partnership.”
Click here for more details about this exciting development!

Written by Oak Park Regional Housing Center

February 10th, 2015 at 8:32 pm

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Teamwork Englewood Offers Condolences to the Family of Ald. JoAnn Thompson

Teamwork Englewood sincerely expresses our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues on the passing of JoAnn Thompson, 16th Ward Alderman.

This comes as unfortunate news for Greater Englewood as the community loses a long time resident, a great leader and a valuable asset.

The Alderman was devoted to her constituents and she worked diligently on improving the conditions of the communities in the 16th Ward.

Teamwork Englewood wishes her family and colleagues GOD Speed.

Written by Teamwork Englewood - Latest news

February 10th, 2015 at 6:00 pm

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Evanston walks the walk on shoveling sidewalks

That walking and biking takes a back seat to driving in most cities is never more apparent than after a good snowfall. Even in downtown Chicago, where people moving on foot vastly outnumber those in cars, the streets generally get cleared before the sidewalks. 

Making matters worse is the accumulation of snow removed from streets that blocks sidewalks and bike lanes.

Like streets, sidewalks in front of homes and businesses are public spaces.  Unlike streets, however, most cities rely on private citizens to clear sidewalks. 

Ideally, cities would treat walking and driving with equal respect by plowing sidewalks like they do streets. Forest Park, Winnetka and some other towns do this. 

For cities hard-pressed to pay for sidewalk plowing, another option is to select priority "sidewalk snow routes," similar to "street snow routes," that the city will plow. 

These would be high foot-traffic routes to schools, transit stops, grocery stores, etc.  Cities can also do less street plowing on low-traffic streets and use the savings to pay for plowing sidewalks.

But for now, shoveling sidewalks is usually a civic duty for property owners, and it’s a law in most Chicagoland cities that is rarely enforced. 

We are glad to see that Evanston, according to the Chicago Tribune, is doing something Active Trans has been recommending: ticketing owners who don’t shovel, and making them pay the tab for city contractors to do the shoveling.  

The Tribune reports that Evanston began ticketing last Thursday, four days after the nineteen inch blizzard ended. 

That’s plenty of time for property owners to do it themselves or, if they are physically unable, to find a neighbor, entrepreneurial teenager or landscape company.  

Cities should use discretion and sensitivity when dealing with homeowners who perhaps struggle to even find someone else to shovel their sidewalk, and Evanston is doing this by lining up volunteers to help shovel.  

The one red flag we see with Evanston’s approach is the bill for a contractor to shovel: $190 per property on average, according to the Tribune. 

That seems awfully high, and with that price tag Evanston can skip the ticket and just send the shoveling bill! 

Image courtesy of / Dan Burden.

Written by Rburke

February 9th, 2015 at 5:57 pm

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Control of Farmland, City Style

I have thought a lot lately about the issue of land ownership for farmers, and the barriers they face to buying land so they can plan for growing their business and serving more food consumers. This issue really matters on the edges of metropolitan areas, where farmers can find lucrative markets for their products and yet, with ever escalating land prices, face daunting odds in securing land to grow on or even to get started. Many farmers settle for a lease instead, which sometimes only lasts a couple years before the relationship between owner and farmer sours. It's interesting to see that control of land for farming is an issue in urban agriculture, as well. At a recent farming conference in Richmond, Va., a board member of the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville [UACC] talked about a city-sponsored plan to redevelop her neighborhood, which would include relocating the farm she and her neighbors have worked on for seven years.  Community gardens have fallen victim to a lack of land tenure before, notably in New York City where former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took many neighborhood gardens back for redevelopment in the late 1990s. (Successive mayors have carried on the trend he started.) Many politicians (and their developer friends) see agriculture as merely a cute placeholder until the time is ripe for construction. In Charlottesville's case, the area proposed for redevelopment was renewed once before, in the 1960s, during the height of Urban Renewal across the country. The new plan calls for mixed-income housing rather than affordable housing, which naturally has long-time residents worried that the fabric of their community will be destroyed. Their concerns were magnified when the city made what to them was a token effort to involve them in the public process. 

Written by Rooflines

February 9th, 2015 at 2:30 pm

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Calling 311 can save lives

I write this blog post with an extremely heavy heart, and a plea to Chicagoland residents: please call 311 (in Chicago) or your local municipal public works department (suburbs) if you observe dangerous roadway conditions.

I failed to do so just a few days ago, and if I had, someone may be alive today.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a man was fatally struck and killed while walking on East 79th Street -- about one-half mile from my home -- early morning by an unmarked Chicago Police vehicle.

While many of the circumstances of the crash are not currently clear (was the man walking in the street due to unshoveled sidewalks? was the police vehicle responding to a call?), one fact has been established: an entire bank of streetlights was out.

I know because I was in that same location just one day earlier, on Monday night Feb. 2. The street was pitch black, and there were many folks walking in the street, which is, as we all know, a necessary evil following heavy snowfalls when sidewalks go unshoveled.

Again, there are likely several factors that may have contributed to this crash. Unshoveled sidewalks? Very likely. Amount of care exercised by the person behind the wheel? Maybe. But the darkness? I'm almost certain.

That stretch of 79th Street is not otherwise well-illuminated by businesses or other ambient light. Having that entire bank of streetlights out was indeed extremely treacherous.

I am pointing the finger of accountability squarely at myself on this one. The Chicago Department of Transportation and Streets and Sanitation cannot be everywhere at all times, and cannot possibly know when its facilities go on the blink.

They in many instances rely on us -- residents -- to alert them to dangerous conditions. Is their response time always perfect? Of course not.

The Trib reports that, according to the 311 log, these lights have been out since at least January 29. But as most Chicago residents know, the more calls to 311 that are placed about an issue, the more that issue rises to the top of the priority list.

So the next time I see a pedestrian signal that is out, or a curb ramp that is torn up, or a crosswalk that's badly faded -- or a bank of streetlights that have failed -- I am going to stop, take 30 seconds to call 311, and hopefully contribute to a quicker solution to a potentially dangerous situation.

I can afford the time. And it might just save a life.

Image courtesy of / Dan Burden. 

Written by mgeraci

February 6th, 2015 at 4:30 pm

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