Accessibility, Getting Around, Transit and Parking Hot Topics
by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, a Chicago neighborhood association
Hyde Park's premier website hydepark.org, and the HPKCC Transit Task Force (Chair James Withrow). Writer Gary Ossewaarde.
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Return links: Home. Hot Topics home. Site contents.
The other Hot Topics Community Issues sections: Affordability. Development. Quality. Schools. University of Chicago. CTA service cut Alert (in pdf.) Link to CTA info about.
The Transit webhub homepage starts the more extensive transit news and discussion and has the links to subtopics and to service agency websites and interests and advocacy organizations.
HPKCC Transit Task Force page.
SEE THE HYDE PARK DISABILITIES TASK FORCE 55TH ST. WALK AND ROLL SIDEWALK INSPECTION SURVEY FINAL REPORT.
Parking Worries and Costs page surveys a perpetual, but just maybe overrated concern. Yet there is a real fuss about Lakefront parking charge, and parking has been the main holdup of Shoreland redevelopment. This and a page on a proposal for a Transportation District (aborted for now) have links to studies.
Accessibility, Complete Streets and a Walkable Community page (which includes reports from city task forces) and the Bike and Bike Rules and Safety page give a broader and alternative look to concerns and opportunities and have links to organizations and interest groups. (Of interest is a bike sharing program at U of C and with Blackstone Bicycle Works that could be expandable.) See also Seniors Perspectives and Quality of Life for what some organizations and agencies are doing including on crosswalks, ice clearance and more.
Related and getting hot (as in doing things about, not "under the collar") Snow and ice removal. We'll have to start a section on what neighbors, orgs, wards and the city are doing.
Bicycles are a often a two-sided source of complaint as well as a marvelous way to get around, carry packages, or get your exercise.
Persons with Disabilities homepage has discussion and many links on physical (as well as other) barriers to accessibility, and what activists and organizations are doing or calling for.
Transit. Hyde Parkers are for the most part happy with their transit service and links (except maybe when the bus in "late" in bad weather). We have outstanding service to downtown and all directions.
The same may not be true come February 7 when we lose the X55 (and X3 and X4) service, there will be reduced bus frequency (although the rest of the outdated clunkers will be gone), and service starts a bit later and ends a bit earlier on routes. Service cut alert (in pdf.) Link to CTA info.
We should be grateful that the fares are locked in for a couple years, but some think they would rather have more service in exchange for seniors going back to half-fare and maybe a modest uptick for midday service. Studies by Metropolitan Planning and others show that service in Bronzeville is too slow relative to other parts of the city. Stimulus money will buy new buses and pay for upgrades on some rapid rail.
It will be seen whether University of Chicago students will be really satisfied with or continue to complain about UC bus service. Will they optimally use the new shuttle to downtown EL stations that are no longer open to the general public as CTA routes? Will the changed #171 satisfy both students and residents with increased midday service and back to the old route (and back to intersecting with 53rd St. only at S. Hyde Park Blvd. instead of at Lake Park?) A new route circulating into Woodlawn is student-only despite a lower CTA bid. The evening student shuttles and SafeRide continue to be adjusted.
Metra and Service in the larger context. A study of South Lakefront Corridor transit and transportation, including feasibility of the "Gold Line" increase of Metra Service and fare compatibility with CTA (sought by advocacy groups such as SOUL and HPKCC Transit Task Force) goes forward, but few hold their breath for the Gold Line actually coming anytime soon.
In larger context, will there be an effect from 1) the early 2010 resolution introduced in the State Senate for Metra trains stopping at all stations and creating some competition and service increase by allowing the South Shore to pick up any passengers at their Illinois stops and 2) a lawsuit in early 2010 alleging funding and service bias against minority communities throughout the region, including by an alleged unfair share going to Metra.
Parking is probably the most vocal and continuing hot topic in Hyde Park, especially in the East Hyde Park high building zone, near the University north and east, and close to Metra Electric and express bus lines, where many living more distantly in or outside Hyde Park use the streets for free "park and ride." Parking is frequently the deal-breaker for developments for many--and the city's answer is "you don't need parking because you have transit--and more would switch to that if HP had higher density." And that there is no right to free street parking. Broader studies and re-evaluation in Hyde Park indicate that we may not need as much new parking as we thought, especially by businesses and business staff didn't park right in front of stores. But some degree of deficiencies also seems clear. In a spirit of caution, HPKCC places in its top five demands for Harper Court providing parking beyond demand of new structures.
There is longstanding demand for permit onstreet parking that would include relief for the street's residents especially in the above pinch areas and business districts. In some areas there are more residential units than spaces available, and ways to adjust the machines for "smart pricing" would have have to be in place in a way that would not just beggar nearby streets.
Speaking of pay-and-display parking machines, many are disgusted at the steep and steady rate hikes, broken or limited-ability machines, and the general inconvenience of finding and fumbling with the machines (which sometimes pose personal safety concerns). Many are angry that public amenities such as beaches now have the machines.
Complete Streets is the new name (Walkable Communities is now a subset) for designing optimally for every aspect and mode of streets and arterials from edge to edge of the right-of-way for the needs of every kind of use-- auto, bike, pedestrian and so these can flow seamlessly. And to make sure they are kept up well through all seasons. Several groups in Hyde Park, including Older Women's League, Hyde Park Disabilities Task Force, Hyde Park Chamber, and the HPKCC Transit Task Force participate with city task forces and ward offices. Some have sought to put these issues on the radar for proposed developments. In the general sense, it is mainly organizations for whom these matters are brought up-- unless something is wrong in front of YOUR house or on a route you take.
And, you can take your life into your hands crossing some of the parking lots, especially in shopping malls, and at some building drop offs. And many of our streets are just plain too narrow for efficient, sometimes safe driving and for any buses or trolleys (53rd, Woodlawn) or effective snow removal of street or walk. Others like 55th and Lake Park that were widened to improve traffic are often speedways. At the other extreme are the often confusing cul de sacs and one ways and need to take long ways around. Some Hyde Parkers make things worse by not cooperating with street and catch basin cleaning operations.
Hyde Park is one of the most walkable communities in Chicago and that's one of its great attractions and assets. But people will tell you they have their problems with this--especially in winter or when rushing across intersections or navigating crossing at clogged catch basins. A frequent request is for street furniture such as benches on main streets and business districts and parks.
The "only when it affects me" syndrome is also largely true for broader accessibility matters, such as timely snow and ice removal, poorly done curb cuts, damaged or offset sidewalks (for the those in a chair or pulling carts, a couple inches might as well be a mile), or potholes (of which there seem to be more and more in recent years).
Yes, it is the owner's ordinance-mandated job to make sure the snow and ice are removed. There are groups committed to monitoring and rewarding or "door-carding" the nice and the naughty. The ward offices and 311 can be contacted for emergency removals for places that fall between owners or where the owner is unable to do the job including to their house. Also of importance to disabilities groups are the right kinds of curb cuts (and maybe fewer) and signaled intersections that give too short time for pedestrian or chaired persons to get across or that they think should have audible annunciation (near disabled housing).
Initiatives on snow and ice. Involved in 2010 are Hyde Park Older Women's League (see February 6 meeting in calendars-city is coming) and Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.
Bicycles are related and often a two-sided source of complaint. Despite improved signage and some marking of lanes, many bike riders feel the streets of Hyde Park are unsafe for them, from heavy-turn intersections and crosswalks and poorly configured, potholed streets to drivers' speed, habits and sudden changes, and people opening card doors on them, to pedestrians and kids that do or cannot anticipate a bicyclist whizzing past at the same time. They want more trails, better marked, and more places to secure bikes. .
Pedestrians (and drivers) have their own complaints: Riders (not just UC students!) who do not know or care that those over 12 are not allowed on sidewalks or choose another street if the closest one is truly unsafe, cyclists failing to have safety gear on the bikes and themselves (especially at night), speeding or with bad manners or not dismounting near pedestrians--or just to many together as along the lakefront trail including pinch points such as at the 55th underpass. To many, their biggest fear in going out of doors is being run down by a bike. Bike routes and safety page. Snow/Ice/Streets/Bikes.