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October 2012 Blog posts

Fix it first: The importance of infrastructure maintenance

courtesy flickr user roeyahram

Wells Street bridge

This week, the Chicago Dept. of Transportation announced the reconstruction of the Wells Street bridge across the Chicago River. The work would repair the 90-year-old steel structure, pavement, bike lanes and the Chicago Transit Authority elevated rail bridge that runs atop. From start to finish, it will take a year to complete. Traffic, bikes and pedestrians will all be re-routed in the meantime. “So what,” you say? Aside from the traffic headache, “who cares?” The Wells Street bridge represents just one of the hundreds of important maintenance projects that take place every year. Too often, officials and the public spend an inordinate amount of time concerned with or enamored by new transportation projects like western access to O’Hare or the new Morgan…

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State of the Smart: Maximizing Capacity with Intelligent Transportation Systems

Stanford's Balaji Prabhakar shows roundtable audience members how apps and incentives can solve congestion.

We must think beyond building new roads, bridges and rail lines to get people moving. Adding new road capacity not only is costly, but on its own it does little to alleviate congestion in the long run. At a relatively low cost, technology tools called Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS),can do more — improve traffic flow, decrease delays — with less. The Chicago region has implemented some forms of ITS like the Chicago Transit Authority’s bus and train trackers that make transit more convenient for riders. I never leave home without first checking my bus or train tracker app so I never have to wonder when the next bus or train will arrive. More importantly, trackers have, in fact, attracted new riders, meaning less congestion on the streets and more revenue for…

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Putting our toolbox to work in a tough economy with congestion pricing

Congestion pricing lanes on I-35W

A recent New York Times op-ed by Robert H. Frank made me stop and think. In his article, Frank, economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, confronts the myth of “painful economic choices the nation is said to confront.” He argues that when it comes to infrastructure investment, the problem is not that we don’t have the financing tools to rebuild our crumbling system, it’s that we have been incapable of thinking about using these tools in new ways. This blog post stems from a sense of urgency about addressing the challenges that drag our region down. Across the Chicagoland region, there’s clearly no lack of tools or creativity, but rather a lack of political will. Turf, fiefdoms, and an unwillingness to revisit…

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Investing in the next 40 years of clean water

Abby Crisostomo

An abundance of fresh water on our doorstep doesn’t mean we can afford to stop investing in our water infrastructure.

Last Thursday marked the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, and as I was standing out on the terrace of the Shedd Aquarium waiting for Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn to arrive for a news conference, I couldn’t help but notice the view overlooking the vast expanse of Lake Michigan that dramatically underscored both the necessity for and beauty of clean, fresh water. What you couldn’t see from that view, however, was exactly what it takes to turn that water into the safe, reliable drinking water that comes out of our taps, or to transform dirty storm and wastewater into water clean enough to put back into local water bodies. When you’re on your daily commute, does transportation spending ever cross your mind? My guess is that when you’re stuck in traffic, hit a…

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In the Loop: October 19, 2012

Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Transit (WSDOT).

There are a lot of good reasons to love transit, especially with all the innovation going on lately.

In the Loop is your Friday round-up of what's going on in the transportation world, posted in conjunction with Talking Transit. MPC Research Assistant Ariel Ranieri authored this post. @ mpc Live-streaming the future: MPC’s roundtable on Intelligent Transportation Systems reviewed how technology is maximizing the efficiency of existing infrastructure through incentive programs, congestion pricing, and asset management, and why value capture matters when it comes to transit funding. In the “era of metro self-help,” MPC’s own MarySue Barrett will co-lead World Business Chicago’s new Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs infrastructure investment team. Plus, how to make Union Station amazing. elsewhere Be honest: how often do you wake teary-eyed from sweet…

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