Urban Design

What You Should Know About Parking

by crandell | 08/14/2007

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Parking policies can have a significant impact on our urban environment, deciding whether your neighborhood looks like Little Paris or Little Schaumburg. The city decides the minimum number of off-street parking spaces required for different kinds of development, from condos to bars, and sets the cost of on-street parking meters. These seemingly innocuous policies also influence developers’ decisions about what to build in your neighborhood, indirectly shaping your blocks.

As concerns about parking shortages have grown, neighborhoods have been complaining that new development is straining the limited parking supply. In response, some neighborhoods are downzoning in an effort to limit the number of new residents (and cars), or requiring that new developments include more than the city minimum requirement of one parking space per unit in exchange for zoning changes.

But we don’t really have parking shortages in the city – the same neighborhoods complaining about parking shortages often have parking garages that sit half-empty. We only have shortages of free parking, which is not something we should be in the business of providing anyway.

Often parking becomes an end in and of itself rather than a means to improve access to homes and businesses. Parking should be part of a larger strategy for access rather than treated as the only means of access.

Reopen Our Crosswalks, Please!

by itakethetrain | 07/20/2007

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You've probably noticed that some of our crosswalks around Grant and Millennium parks have gone missing over the past couple years. The crosswalks were closed in the name of improving traffic flow. The idea is that if we can get some of those pesky pedestrians out of the way, cars can move more easily. Of course, if we really wanted to improve traffic flow, we should close down Millennium Park -- with it's over 2 million visitors a year, it's a constant source of traffic congestion.

This is, of course, sarcasm. But it is indeed this strain of logic that justifies destroying public spaces in an attempt to "improve traffic flow." And sadly, in its attempt to improve traffic flow, the city is actually causing even more traffic by trying to pack even more cars into downtown.

Urban Drive-Throughs?

by crandell | 06/28/2007

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This drive-through pharmacy is on the side of the Walgreen’s at the intersection of Clark and Halsted. While it’s almost expected at this parking-lot dominated, auto-oriented intersection, how many people actually drive to the pharmacy, especially in Lakeview, where over a third of the residents don’t even have access to a car? I consider this intersection the number one priority for an urban makeover in Lakeview.

Crosswalk Buttons: Great Inequalizer?

by crandell | 08/15/2006

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John Hilkevitch’s column today touched on the annoyance of crosswalk buttons in Pushing crossers’ buttons. The column questions whether the buttons have any legitimate use -- and goes on to answer whether the buttons have any impact on the signal timing. But the interesting question is whether the crosswalk button is a legitimate way to control traffic.

Hilkevitch references the button being introduced “more than 50 years ago in the United States as the great equalizer between cars and pedestrians.” But are they rather the great inequalizer? Crosswalk buttons always assume cars are present and never assume pedestrians are present (regardless of location), making pedestrians take special action to cross the street. And while a single car can cruise through a green light at an intersection, a single pedestrian will always have to stop and push the button and wait.

Other important questions to ask:

Welcome to Carfree Chicago

by crandell | 03/14/2006

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