In the Loop: August 6, 2015 - Metropolitan Planning Council

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In the Loop: August 6, 2015

Flickr user Atomic Taco (cc).

Light rail under construction in Seattle.

In the Loop is your round-up of what’s going on in the transportation world, posted in conjunction with Talking Transit.

@metroplanners news

It turns out that trying to bike along the Chicago River is not always as easy as you might hope. MPC staff attempted to commute along portions of the river in northern sections of the city of Chicago and had to give up. They were conducting research as part of MPC’s broader Great Rivers Chicago initiative, which is developing a vision for the city’s waterway system, including improved transportation connections.

While MPC is working to improve environmentally sustainable options for getting to work, we’re also focusing on better approaches to reduce the carbon impacts of our freight. International evidence suggests that if we want to significantly lower the pollution originating from goods movement, we need to shift more of our freight transportation to rail and away from trucks.

We also need to encourage more people to live and work near our public transportation system. MPC launched its Grow Chicago website last month, which makes the case for transit-oriented development in Chicago and encourages regulatory change to support such development, a new city point-person to coordinate it and financing tools designed specifically for it. The site also allows residents, community groups and developers to “design” plans for parcels located all around the city and see how those ideas would impact their communities in terms of tax revenue, local retail sales and other indicators.

transit in the Chicago region

Soon after MPC’s site was launched, the Office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a proposal to reform the zoning code to do more to support such development. MPC analyzed the reform and showed that it could increase local tax revenues by up to $100 million a year and neighborhood retail sales by $400 million annually. The code revision and MPC’s work was covered by Next City, Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Sun-Times.

Peter Skosey, MPC’s executive vice president, also wrote an op-ed on the value of this change in Crain’s Chicago Business.

Of course, the value of transit-oriented development is hardly restricted to the city of Chicago. Recently, a number of suburban towns in the Chicago region are investing in new construction in areas very close to their Metra commuter rail stations.

elsewhere

In the U.S. Congress, transportation took the stage over the past month as lawmakers debated the merits of investing in long-term funding, which was set to expire at the end of July. Finally, the House and Senate agreed to a bill that covered three months of funding, a small amount that will require additional legislation in October. The Senate separately passed a six-year bill, though this has not yet been taken up by the House and this bill would only be funded for three years.

In Los Angeles, community organizations continue to line up in support of additional local funding to expand that region’s transit infrastructure. Seventeen environmental groups are promoting a new sales tax dedicated for transit, which would require a referendum next year. This funding could raise $75 billion over the next 40 years, enough to fund many new rail and bus lines in L.A. County.

Seattle, which is also investing in expanding its transit network, is selling “green bonds” on the public market designed specifically to support environmentally friendly projects. These bonds will be paid back by local sales tax revenues.

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