This Week in Urbanism: Stupid Milwaukee-Wood-Wolcott Intersection Gets Redesigned

Plus: could Illinois eliminate the school-bus mandate?; how to remake the Chicago region, starting with sustainable infrastructure; more questions about the Chicago Infrastructure Trust; and more

Calumet Skyway bridge

 

* At Grid Chicago, Steven Vance has a long explanation of the upcoming, long-overdue renovation of the poorly designed intersection at Milwaukee-Wood-Wolcott. If you spend a lot of time in Wicker Park, you’ve probably crossed the street from the Walgreen’s over to the Beachwood (where there hasn’t been a crosswalk, Vance estimates, since resurfacing in 2005), or been confused by the lack of walk signals, or missed a red light because of the ancient, less visible traffic lights. I’ve never actually had a serious problem crossing there, but I was just marvelling this weekend, on the way to the Beachwood, at how… um… well-preserved the intersection is. Vance finds evidence suggesting it hasn’t been redone since 1959 at least.

* Jon Hilkevitch on traffic crash data:

It’s not uncommon for judges to dismiss tickets against drivers on the grounds that the citations contain major errors, like misidentifying the street where an alleged traffic violation occurred, because the mistakes call into question the police officer’s accuracy in providing other information on the ticket.

[snip]

This shortcoming has unfortunately been the case in Chicago for a long time, according to research that City Hall solicited, then tried to keep from the public.

* Chicago’s not the only city with crash-penalty disparities:

Despite remarkable recent gains in pedestrian safety – thanks in part to design changes aimed at slowing down drivers – cars still jump the curb nearly every day. Drivers who kill or maim pedestrians with their vehicles are still only rarely treated as criminals in New York, as long as they are not drunk and do not flee the scene. Even that is sometimes not enough to merit serious charges.

[snip]

“If a child is struck and killed by a car in 2012, it is treated as a private loss, to be grieved privately by the family,” Norton says. “Before, this stuff was treated as a public loss – much like the death of soldiers.” Mayors dedicated monuments to the victims of traffic crimes, accompanied by marching bands and children dressed in white, carrying flowers.

In this sense, the Emanuel administration’s emphasis on specific traffic fatalities in its speed-camera rollout is very old-school.

* Two maps to get you prepped for NATOfest: Chicago’s map of closures, protest areas, big-shot hotspots, and events; and Gapers Block’s map of the NATO security zone.

* Aaron Renn: “What exactly does an infrastructure trust do for us anyway?”

I used to crow about how privatization transferred risk to investors. After reading some of these contracts and seeing how they operate in practice, I’m much more skeptical. In practice, most of these contracts ensure that the public retains almost all of the risk associated with the deal. For example, pretty much the only risk the parking meter lessee took on in Chicago was whether or not people continued to put quarters in the slot. Anything else – like hosting a NATO summit that requires meter closures – is the city’s responsibility.

* Related, Renn from 2010 on whether or not cities have the financial knowledge to not get hosed on these deals.

* Scott Bernstein and Kyle Smith of the Center for Neighborhood Technology on remaking Chicago as a region and the errors that got us here, which are not exclusively city and state ones:

Over the last 60 years, federal, state, and local government transportation agencies made highway investments to expand capacity and flow at the expense of rail improvements that stimulate new trade and commerce and that can support sustainable communities. This severed the connections between transportation, land use, and economic growth. Due to congested and deteriorated railways, Chicago lost thousands of shipping jobs to places like Kansas City and Columbus.

* In writing about the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, I focused on how user fees and charges make up an increasing percentage of how we pay for government. The next frontier: charging students to ride the school bus:

Later this week, Illinois lawmakers are expected to propose a plan aimed at cutting costs across the state, cuts that could end funding for your child’s school bus.

There are a number of ways the state could change how schools get reimbursed for transportation costs but one proposal completely removes the mandate to transport students altogether.

[snip]

Schools are searching for ways to keep the buses on the road. One idea involves passing the cost on to parents, forcing kids to pay a fare.

And such a plan might save money in two ways: not only would some parents pay up, others might not, decreasing attendance and thus state funding.

 

Photograph: vxla (CC by 2.0)

 

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