This Week in Civic Ideas

The original Sears Tower, ideas for Chicago’s park deserts, Metra fairs, parking subsidies, and more.

* NewCity tapped into Ideas Week with “Six Ideas Chicago Should Steal from Other Cities.” Of them, capping the Kennedy with a park is my favorite, though it would be extremely expensive; you can see what Seattle’s Freeway Park looks like below. A plastic bag tax is the most likely one; it’s been proposed here and there.

Seattle Freeway Park

* Lee Bey takes a tour of the Sears Tower—the one in North Lawndale on the site of Sears’s original corporate campus. It’s spectacular, even in the early stages of restoration. As Bey notes, “Homan Square Foundation is looking to lure artistic and cultural uses to the tower at some point,” which got me to reading about the Homan Square Foundation, an ongoing neighborhood restoration project based around the Sears campus.

* Blair Kamin has ten ideas to improve Chicago’s park deserts. I’d missed that City Council has relaxed urban farm regulations, a good development.

* Steven Vance notes that Metra is cheaper than driving, and that fares haven’t kept up with the cost of inflation; I like his suggestion for how Metra should be advertising itself.

* Related: “How Congress shapes your commute.” I.e. the employer parking subsidy—$230 a month, tax free—will continue, but the comparable public-transit subsidy is in doubt.

* Also related: an argument that only congestion pricing can reduce congestion, since there’s “such an enormous latent demand for road space, they believe, that whenever a driver shifts onto public transportation, another one quickly grabs the open lane.” In short, the carrot doesn’t work, just the stick—and a stick, in the form of a parking tax, is part of Emanuel’s proposed budget.

* At The Atlantic Cities, Nate Berg takes a look at The Great Lakes Century, headed up by the director of urban design and planning at SOM.

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