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December 2011 Blog posts

Pre-tax transit benefit rolling back in 2012

Photo courtesy of John Walker

Metra riders will face increased commuting costs in 2012 as a result of Congress rolling back the pre-tax transit benefit.

According to the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT), while the U.S. Senate agreed to a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday over the weekend, that extension did not include an extension of the transit benefit parity. Unless something unexpected happens before year's end, on Jan. 1, 2012, the maximum amount commuters can set aside pre-tax to cover transit expenses each month will revert back to $125 (the 2009 level, adjusted for inflation), from its current level of $230/month. However, the maximum pre-tax set-aside for parking expenses will increase to $240/month (up from the current level of $230). In an earlier blog post, I wrote about how this transit benefit roll-back will affect Chicago-area commuters. ACT reports that Senate champions are hopeful to…

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University of Portland’s employer-assisted housing success story

On Dec. 1, I attended the 10th Bring Workers Home forum, convened by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and National Housing Conference (NHC). I helped plan the event and moderated the two afternoon panel discussions, at which the speakers shared both their own experiences helping their workers find and afford attractive homes, as well as overall best practices in workforce housing. NHC’s Emily Salomon posted a blog that provides a nice overview of the day. I was particularly inspired by Bryn Sopko’s presentation, describing the University of Portland’s employer-assisted housing program (EAHP). According to Sopko, the university’s commitment to environmental sustainability was a driving factor that bolstered support for their EAHP. The program, through…

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Coca-Cola's Arctic Home conservation campaign hits home

Even on a chilly December day in Chicago, polar bears and their Arctic habitat seem ever-so distant to most of us “southerners.” But on Dec. 5, at Coca-Cola’s Arctic Home event at the Shedd Aquarium, I realized that the 4 million people who call the Arctic home – and the wildlife they share their land with, including the majestic polar bear – face planning and conservation challenges both similar to and intertwined with our own. Through Coca-Cola’s Arctic Home campaign, the company is partnering with World Wildlife Fund to protect 500,000 square miles of Arctic ice from the effects of global warming. The campaign reflects more than just the company’s nearly 90-year advertising relationship with the iconic polar bear. Worldwide, Coca-Cola sells…

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Transforming Chicago's Union Station

Photo by The West End via flickr

With highways and arterial roads plagued by congestion and the price of gas making airline travel more cost-prohibitive, trains – an efficient, economical means of travel – are once again a hot topic. Likewise, cities and planners are re-examining major train stations as potential destinations and economic development hubs, not just places people rush through to catch said train. Into this milieu enters Chicago Union Station. As explained by the Chicago Dept. of Transportation’s Jeff Sriver, who on Dec. 15 outlined a new master plan study for Chicago Union Station, our historic station is due for a redesign. Nearly 200 transit enthusiasts packed the Union Gallery just off the station’s iconic Great Hall to hear the details of the study, which was necessitated by…

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Holiday gift ideas from MPC - 2011

Building off last year's well-received set of "fun, unique gift ideas for your friends and family that also resonate with MPC's mission of building a more socially equitable, environmentally sustainable, and economically competitive region," here's an updated installment for 2011. Hanukkah starts today at sunset, Christmas is this Sunday, and Kwanzaa kicks off on Monday ... so get shopping. My newest MPC colleague, Breann Gala, suggests honey from the Chicago Honey Co-op, located in the North Lawndale neighborhood. The Co-op provides job training and employment to under-employed local residents. They make a lot of organic honey and candle products. MPC has a long history with North Lawndale, and the Co-op is just one part of that neighborhood's resurgence. The Co-op has an online store,…

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