Bike lanes for jobs

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says protected bike facilities are important to retain hi-tech jobs in his city.

“By next year I believe the city of Chicago will lead the country in protected bike lanes and dedicated bike lanes and it will be the bike friendliest city in the country,” Emanuel said Sunday at Malcolm X College.

“It will help us recruit the type of people that have been leaving for the coast. They will now come to the city of Chicago. The type of companies that have been leaving for the coast will stay in the city of Chicago.”

Emanuel cited a recent meeting with executives from the hot Internet startup company GrubHub who told him that when they recruit engineers they show the new protected bike lanes which Chicago has been installing since last summer.

LEED ND regional suitability analysis going national

Regular readers know I’m interested in how to use LEED ND as a tool for assessing regional development suitability.  I’ve been tardy in relaying news about good work being done in other regions.  Back in January, Jason Woycke contacted me about replicating the analysis for King County, in the Seattle region.  Jason is the President of Cascadia Planning and at the time was a Masters student in the planning program at the University of Washington.

The Cascade Land Conservancy was Jason’s client for the project, and according to Jason’s website, the maps will “help the Cascade Land Conservancy visually communicate the need for careful planning of where growth should be accommodated in the region and where growth should be avoided”.

Jason finished the analysis (I think near the end of spring semester 2011), and it looks great.  He generously agreed to provide me with a copy of the full report, which you can see here (large pdf).  Jason was awarded the UW Department of Urban Design and Planning 2011 Professionals Council Outstanding Professional Project Award for his work.

The analysis Jason used for King County appears to be very similar to my approach for the Twin Cities – focusing on the Smart Location and Linkage prerequisites.  I don’t believe any of the Neighborhood Pattern and Design prerequisites were included, which is a minor difference between the two approaches.

Is Chicagoland next?

More recently, I’ve heard from another aspiring urban planning masters student who is exploring the possibility of replicating this analysis for the Chicago region.  If this analysis happens, it will be complete in spring of 2012.

French Rail Company Thinks Midwest HSR Will Pay For Itself, Wants to Invest

According to The Transport Politic, SNCF, the French national railroad operator, thinks that a Midwest High-Speed Rail system is economically viable and is interested in building it.

…SNCF’s response was conditioned on viability: it suggests that high-speed rail investment should only occur where operating and maintenance costs would be covered by rider revenue and that socio-economic benefits offset initial public investments in the system. Based on its conclusions, the corridors it has picked for study would meet those guidelines.

Here is what they have to say about a Midwest system:

SNCF expects that the system would more than cover operations costs, allowing the network’s revenues to be used to repay some of the initial construction costs. The public would subsidize 54% of the $68.5 billion total cost of right-of-way, construction, and trainsets. Benefits from reduced car and air travel, however, are expected to make up for 150% of the government investment in construction costs over a period of just 15 years of operation.

Travel time between Minneapolis and Chicago?  2 hours and 42 minutes.

Is a fast train to Chicago fast enough, or do we need real “high-speed”?


The Strib tackles the question of whether new rail service between Minneapolis and Chicago is really going to be fast enough.  As you may already know, the proposed line to Chicago will not travel at a European-style 200+ miles per hour, it will cruise along at 78, possibly reaching 110 in some stretches.  The current Amtrak line averages 54.  The Strib pegs the total trip at 5:21 hours for the “fast” train and 3:22 for a true “high-speed” system running the same route (not including boarding times).

Since spending $33 billion for a true high speed system seems somewhat out of the question in the current political and economic environment, the question becomes: can a 5 hour train ride (not including boarding and alighting times) compete with the car, the plane and the Megabus?  We’ll start with the two latter options: yes and yes.  The Strib’s graphic says a non-stop car trip takes 6.5 hours and the Megabus takes 8.  If you factor in the traffic jams, general unpleasantness of driving 6+ hours, Illinois drivers, and ever-present worry about who you may get stuck next to on a bus and I’d wager a “fast” train would compete well any day if fares were reasonable (sub $200 round trip).

The plane is the real competitor.  However, unlike the car, the train and the bus, which all have relatively short waiting times for boarding, plane travel can include an extra 1.5 hours on the front end minimum for ticketing, security, and other airport hassles.  So you can effectively double the Strib’s estimate of travel time by plane to 3 hours.  Oh wait, have you ever flown into O’Hare?  It’s an hour from anywhere!  4 hours it is.  Union Station is right downtown.  And while there is no garauntee that new rail service wouldn’t result in increased security at stations, it couldn’t possibly rival the silly and offensive security theater currently perpetrated by the TSA.  Last time I rode the Amtrak from Milwaukee to Chicago there was no metal detectors, no baggage screening and no one asking me to take my 8 month old’s shoes off.  If you assume 30 minutes for ticketing, etc. at the train station you are at 6 hours.  6 hours on a clickety-click, comfortable, pretty-scenery train or 4 hours in a cramped metal tube after being x-rayed and frisked and with only 3.4 ounces of liquid to comfort you?  If the price is right, I think the train wins every time.