Friday, June 24, 2011

Did        you know? 

In metropolitan Chicago, 71 percent of workers drive alone to work each day.

Nearly 76 percent of workers commute alone by car in the United States. While that percentage is slightly lower in Chicagoland, almost three million people in our region are still driving to work alone – beginning and ending their day stuck in traffic, funneling more of their income into vehicle maintenance and gasoline, and spending less time doing things they enjoy.  Add in the environmental cost of congestion, and metropolitan Chicago coughs up more than $7.3 billion every year in lost time, fuel and environmental damages.

While some workers have alternatives to driving alone, such as public transit, biking, or carpooling, these options are not readily available to all. It’s not just commuters who feel the pain: Many employers want to provide reliable, easy commute options for their workers because a less taxing commute is proven to reduce stress, fatigue, tardiness and absenteeism – and increase employee productivity. What’s more, it can curb traffic around corporate campuses, help attract and retain younger and lower-income employees, contribute to achieving sustainability and diversity goals, reduce parking challenges and costs, and allow companies to take advantage of tax incentives.

Commute Options is an emerging way for businesses to offer their employees a comprehensive menu of transportation alternatives. Many regions across the country have success stories to share: For example, the commute options program in downtown Bellevue, Wash., resulted in 30 percent fewer commuters driving to work alone between 1990 and 2000. Google, Boeing, Aon Hewitt, and IBM are just a few of the companies offering model Commute Options benefits to their employees, earning some of them the distinction as being among the “best workplaces for commuters.”

In metropolitan Chicago, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is working with the Civic Consulting Alliance to develop a new Commute Options program. Inspired by the Chicago Climate Action Plan, the program’s primary goal aligns with one of the action plan’s transportation objectives: to remove 19,000 cars from Chicagoland’s roads, thereby reducing traffic congestion and all of its associated costs. Through this pilot program, MPC will work with up to 10 employers in metropolitan Chicago to survey their employees' commuting patterns and analyze the data (at no cost to the employer). With the results in hand, MPC and the employer will work together to develop a custom program that encourages as many employees as possible to choose alternatives to driv­ing alone. Six months after each employer’s program has launched, MPC will conduct another no-cost evaluation to measure the program’s fiscal and environmental impacts. This data—which will measure reduced commute times and greenhouse gas emissions, fuel savings, employee retention rates, and more—will allow MPC and the Civic Consulting Alliance to refine the program and available incentives in 2012. 

Commute Options is seeking additional employer partners. For more information, contact MPC Project Manager Tim Grzesiakowski at



Look Out Portland, New York, Minneapolis: Here Comes Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is wasting no time making good on his campaign promise to make Chicago a world-class cycling city. Just 24 days after his swearing-in ceremony, Chicago has its first bike box.

Rehab of historic Lake Forest train station gets on track. The rehabilitation of the historic East Lake Forest Train Station is at last on track after the City Council voted unanimously this week to enter into a 25-year lease agreement with Union Pacific Railroad. It’s been about six years since Lake Forest first applied for an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant for funds to renovate the more-than-century-old structure.

Transit agencies spend big on lobbying at state level, study finds. SPRINGFIELD — Led by Chicago’s transit agencies, spending on state lobbying by local governments and other public bodies jumped 14 percent in 2010, according to a report released Thursday by a prominent government watchdog. The increase to nearly $7.5 million comes at a time when cities and counties are looking to preserve their share of state dollars during an era of austerity at the Capitol.

CTA unveils bus rapid transit plans. CTA riders who take a Jeffery Boulevard bus on the South Side could see their commutes shortened by up to seven minutes during rush hour, under the proposed bus rapid transit plans the CTA unveiled Wednesday. It takes the No. 14 Jeffery Express about 71 minutes, 30 seconds to travel from 103rd Street and Stony Island Avenue to Washington and Jefferson Streets in peak hours, the CTA estimated.,0,1271645.story

Chicago Transit Authority Named Nation's 'Most Romantic' By Craigslist (PHOTOS). Craigslist, the universe's authority on love, used bikes and pyramid schemes, announced Monday that, of the five largest U.S. subway or metro systems, Chicago's "L" system is the most romantic, outpacing New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Boston with its apparently high levels of indirect eye contact and subtle flirtation.

CTA Adds New Retail Concessions to Green, Pink and Blue Lines. The Chicago Transit Board today authorized leases for new tenants for three retail concession spaces at the Cottage Grove station on the Green Line, the Central Park station on the Pink Line and the UIC Halsted station on the Blue Line.

Mayor Emanuel's plans for bike lanes and bus rapid transit make sense. Legend has it that America's first traffic jam occurred right outside Henry Ford's factory, on the day the Model Ts began rolling off the assembly line. The story's mostly apocryphal. But the dysfunctional marriage between big cities like Chicago and the internal combustion engine is all too real.

Quinn wants special session for roadwork, mum on extra spending. SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers say they're happy to return to the Capitol and give Gov. Pat Quinn the approval to spend more on road, bridge and school construction, but not the $431 million he wants. Quinn on Monday said he will call for a special session to address Illlinois' statewide construction plan — $31 billion in new building projects approved two years ago — but he has not set a date.

Chicago's new transportation chief sets a new course. Gabe Klein shows no signs of being your typical transportation commissioner, which means if he makes no waves and leaves Chicago quietly after a couple of years he won't have done his job well.  Klein describes himself on Twitter as "DC/CHI guy, transpo 3.0 visionary, pop culture junkie, entrepreneur, bike collector, Vespa lover, world beach traveler, pizza aficionado, hip hop head.'',0,42455.column

Illiana Expressway: Public hearing opens for long-planned highway between Illinois and Indiana. The first of many public hearings for what promises to be a years-long process to plan the Illiana Expressway drew scores of interested south suburban residents, businesspeople and public officials to Matteson on Tuesday evening. With maps of the 950-square-mile study area before them, members of the public questioned representatives from the Illinois and Indiana departments of transportation and consultants who are launching the long planning process known as the Illiana Corridor Study.,0,2476678.story

Englewood flyover deal set to be signed today. It looks like the last legal hurdle has been cleared for a critical piece of the rail decongestion work on the South Side known as the Englewood Flyover.  U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski's office reports that the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Norfolk Southern railway are expected to sign a contract today for the $133-million flyover, which will bridge an often horrific bottleneck centered at 63rd and State streets.


GM CEO: “We Ought to Just Slap a Dollar Tax on a Gallon of Gas” Well, it’s unanimous – everyone agrees the country needs a significant hike in the gas tax. Everyone outside of Congress, that is. Last week, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson told The Detroit News that a higher gas tax would help solidify the market for more fuel-efficient cars.

Will Congestion Pricing Ever Catch On Here? Those of us who drive to work in metropolitan areas across the U.S. know from experience that congestion hardly ever improves. Now a couple of researchers from the University of Toronto have reaffirmed what my colleague Anthony Downs has been saying for fifty years: “traffic congestion rises to meet maximum capacity.”

Hawaii sign agreement with Mitsubishi for electric vehicle infrastructure. Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) and the State of Hawaii have entered into an agreement to improve infrastructure and deploy the new Mitsubishi i vehicles and other advanced electric-powered vehicles (EVs) in the island. The agreement includes deployment of what's known as the level three chargers, or the DC Quick Chargers, that can fully charge the electric vehicle in 20 minutes.

MoDOT Job, Budget Cuts Approved. The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approved the Missouri Department of Transportation's (MoDOT) plan to cut staff, facilities and equipment in an effort to save the department $512 million. MoDOT presented the plan to the commission on May 4 and it was approved Wednesday.

Transportation Bill Gridlock: Is Doctrine Driving Our Country Into a Ditch? Perhaps the biggest block to creating a viable transportation policy for this country is the rabid anti-tax sentiment in Congress, which has essentially taken revenue increases out of the transportation debate. Our transportation program is broke. For years, Congress has been taking billions of dollars directly out of the Treasury to prop up transportation funding. This makes our current transportation policy a direct and active contributor to our national debt crisis.

Transportation: Charged For What You Use? TDOT Commissioner Proposing Pay Per Mile Idea. Tennessee is predicting it will lose tens of millions of dollars over the next 10 years with more and more fuel-efficient cars on the road. So some officials want to go where no state has gone before and charge drivers for how far they drive and how much their vehicle weighs.

North Fulton CID Spending $250,000 on Transportation Education. A one percent sales tax will be on the ballot in July 2012 that could add billions of dollars to metro Atlanta transportation needs. Residents in metro Atlanta–including Alpharetta and Milton–will get the chance to vote on a proposed 1 percent sales tax for transportation in July 2012, but it's likely few people understand the Transportation Investment Act that set up these regional votes.

Long Island Bus, Nation’s Largest Suburban Bus Line, To Privatize. Nassau County executive Edward Mangano said Long Island Bus will be privatized by the end of the year.  He announced at a Friday press conference that Veolia Transportation submitted the winning bid to take over the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 48 bus lines, which carry an average of 100,000 daily riders.

Has Time Come for Merit-Based Funding? This week, the Bipartisan Policy Center will release recommendations to fund transportation programs based on performance measures, with the idea that money can be spent more efficiently if a cost-benefit analysis is a central component of the decision-making process. If it's a familiar refrain, that's because the Department of Transportation also is honing some of its grant programs to fund the projects that offer the biggest bang for the buck. The White House's idea is to model transportation projects after the Education Department's Race to the Top program, which uses federal incentives to get states to come up with the best ideas to run and maintain their programs.

New Report: High Gas Prices, More Than Low Fares, Encourage Transit Ridership. The rise in gas prices that occurred earlier this year underscored a common wisdom: when fuel costs increase, more people ride public transportation. But gas prices are only one factor that can influence transit ridership. Fares and service upgrades also play a big part, and if you want to inform a policy discussion on how to attract commuters to transit, it’s valuable to compare the relative effects of all three forces.

Senator Cardin introduces bill to prioritize repair of bridges and roads. Whether one looks at our interactive tool mapping the nation’s deficient bridges, or the more recent Smart Growth America study on the sorry condition of our roads, there’s plenty of evidence that we’re spending limited transportation dollars to build things we can’t afford to maintain — all while our existing infrastructure cracks and rusts and crumbles due to deferred maintenance.

Bike-Ped Defunding Proposal Sparks Mutiny in Mica’s Home District. The residents of Florida’s 7th Congressional District must contend with some of the most dangerous pedestrian crossings in the country. And it’s beginning to sound like they’re tired of it.  But is their powerful Congressman listening? Rep. John Mica, chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has put forward a proposal that would eliminate dedicated funding for pedestrian and cycling projects. During tough economic times, Mica has stated, states should have more “flexibility” on how they spend their transportation dollars.

Mica, Shuster Roll Out High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Plan. Washington, DC – A dramatic new direction that focuses on bringing competition to high-speed and intercity passenger rail service across the country was presented today during a national briefing by Committee leaders. The plan incorporates competitive bidding and private sector involvement to bring high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor and improve intercity passenger rail service nationwide.

Think Privatizing Amtrak Services is a Good Idea? Think Again. House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) is moving forward with his plan to hand over the Northeast Corridor to private companies, despite (or because of) the fact that such a move could write Amtrak’s obituary. Is privatizing the corridor a good move? Mica and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) say that with the participation of private companies, they can build “real high-speed rail on NEC – less than two hours between WDC and NYC” and they can “double total intercity rail traffic on NEC.” They claim they can do all that for far less than Amtrak’s proposed price tag of $117 billion.

Gov Cuomo To Decide Whether New York Gets “Complete Streets”. (New York, NY – WNYC) New York State seems primed to gain more “complete” streets in the near future. A bill requiring transportation planners to consider pedestrian and bike-friendly features when building and redesigning roads passed in the New York State Assembly last night, after previously passing in the State Senate.

America's Reviving Its Highway System for Cyclists. Back in the early 1980s, America started building a highway system for cyclists—a grand national grid of bike paths. The first two stretches of the U.S. Bicycle Route System were going to run from Maine to Florida and from Virginia to Oregon. But only small parts of those routes were ever made official and the idea lost steam. Why build infrastructure for a prehistoric mode of transportation like the bicycle? Who's going to need that in the 21st century?


2010 Annual Report-Investing in Infrastructure (AfDB). With more of 70% of its total approvals targeting the infrastructure sector in 2010, the African Development Bank has confirmed its leadership in this area. Approvals in 2010 for infrastructure projects amounted to some U.S.$ 4 billion, representing the largest sectoral allocation. Transportation attracted the most funding (47.6 percent), followed by energy supply (34.1 percent), water supply and sanitation (17.1 percent) and communication (1.2 percent).

Aquino cabinet says PPP to augment gov't infra projects. MANILA, Philippines - The economic cluster of the Aquino Cabinet clarified on Wednesday that the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is not the end-all and be-all of the government's infrastructure program. Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson said the PPP will just be augmenting government projects already lined up and funded by the national budget and official development assistance (ODA) loans until 2016.

Africa: Continent Spends 12 Percent GDP On Infrastructure – Sanusi. London — CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, said on Monday that African countries spent nearly 12 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on infrastructure. Sanusi said this in a paper he presented at the West Africa Global Trade and Investment Forum organised by Business In Africa Events in London.

Thai Funds For Asean Infrastructure Fund Need Parliament OK Official. BANGKOK -(Dow Jones)- Thailand's plan to inject $75 million in seed money into an Asean infrastructure fund will need the approval of parliament after the next government is formed, Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary Areepong Bhoocha-oom said Wednesday.

Bengaluru is BEST! BMTC is growing rapidly, while BEST is losing commuters. Mumbai's BEST and Bengaluru's BMTC are both innovating to cope up with growing populations. But while BMTC has been growing fast, BEST seems to be losing commuters mainly to the railway system. BMTC can be proud of its progress if it is also able to become financially profitable.

Waterloo, Ontario’s Light Rail Transit System Implementation. In June 2003, the Ontario Government’s Regional Council met to begin addressing the issues of urban sprawl, population growth and the future needs of Waterloo, Ontario and its surrounding areas. Their first step was to adopt a program of analysis where all necessary areas were categorized, prioritized, and studied. They implemented the Regional Growth Management Strategy (RGMS). This was designed primarily to help identify how residential and employment growth can be addressed in the future.

Train! How psychological tricks can keep people from being killed on the tracks. The suburban rail system in the Indian megalopolis of Mumbai is best visualized as two slim arteries cutting through a crowded peninsula. On a map, the Western Line runs due north; the Central Line begins similarly, then wanders away into the city’s northeastern parts. These two lines and a couple of adjunct capillaries, making up a rail network dating back to 1857, carry roughly 7 million commuters a day, some of them over distances as long as 75 miles.

Paris to Launch the World’s First Municipal Electric Vehicle Hire Scheme. Parisians will soon be zipping round Charles de Gaulle Etoile in little blue bubble-like cars, as the world’s first municipal electric vehicle (EV) hire scheme gets underway. Mayor Bernard Delanoë has pioneered the €110 million Autolib initiative to complement the Vélib bicycles, introduced in 2007. The fleet of 3,000 lithium battery-powered cars is designed by Italian partner Pininfarina, best known for their work on desirable brands like Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. Manufactured by French company Bolloré, they will be available later this year from 1,000 self-service hire points throughout the city.

On your bike for commuter tax benefits in Europe. (Reuters Life!) - Getting paid for going to work may sound too good to be true, but it's part of an increasingly popular scheme for commuters across Europe. Employers in Belgium, the Netherlands and other European countries are rewarding staff if they come to work on a bicycle, paying them for every kilometer they cycle, all in an effort to promote environmentalism, not to mention a healthier lifestyle.

High-Speed Rail Poised to Alter China. CHANGSHA, China — Even as China prepares to open bullet train service from Beijing to Shanghai by July 1, this nation’s steadily expanding high-speed rail network is being pilloried on a scale rare among Chinese citizens and news media. Complaints include the system’s high costs and pricey fares, the quality of construction and the allegation of self-dealing by a rail minister who was fired earlier this year on corruption grounds.

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