Category Archives: Transit-Oriented Development

Transport Nexus in the Polish Triangle

Looking southwest from the Polish Triangle

Of great interest to this site is the connection, or nexus, between transportation and land use.  One prominent example of this failure of this nexus is at the southwest corner of Ashland Ave., Division St. and Milwaukee Ave., historically known as the Polish Triangle. Now part of the East (Ukrainian) Village neighborhood, this site is commonly known as the “Pizza Hut” site.

Needless to say, it is an abomination that this site was designed (allowed) in such a way as to maximize the use of the automobile when you have the following conditions present:

  • Access to the CTA Blue Line at Division St.
  • The #70 Division bus (running east-west) stop literally next to the property
  • The #56 Milwaukee bus (running NW-SE) and #8 Halsted bus (running north-south) stops across the street.
  • Designated, striped bike lanes on Division St. and Milwaukee Avenue.
  • Rare pedestrian space in the plaza like setting of the Polish Triangle.
Thankfully, this egregious market failure will be rectified.
It seems that after years of waiting, East Village residents will get what they have always wanted: 
In early 2007, immediately after the Pizza Hut was shuttered, a coalition of community organizations lead by the East Village Association set forth four policies for redevelopment of the property. They called for a significant building that was mixed-use, high density and transit oriented.

 

This is, of course, despite the fact that the site faced significant development pressure for a Walgreens and various drive-thru bank facilities. Instead, the community got this:

11 story mixed use building.

The building is an 11-story mixed use facility with ground level retail, second floor office and  apartments above. Reportedly, a coffee shop and bank are among the tenants thus far. 117 apartment units are provided with 35 parking spaces provided, 15 on site. One concession: a drive-thru for the bank using an existing curb cut. Interestingly enough, the 20 off-site parking spaces are in a parking lot adjacent to the property, home to an auto-oriented Wendy’s. The parking will not be available to residents, only for visitors, customers, and car sharing. This seems right.

What I find most interesting is that the developers acknowledge that the apartments are primarily for people who do not own cars. It is a tacit admission that not everyone needs a car, that the site will take advantage of its nexus to so many other transportation options that a car can be just one option among many, rather than catered to and coddled into the site. When you have this many transportation options and an urban environment designed for pedestrians, this concept had to fit within and respect those parameters.  Kudos to the East Village community and developers Rob Buono and Paul Utigard. If more people thought like this we would have more Strong Towns. 

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Filed under Transit-Oriented Development, Urban Design

Access to Transit

Metra and TOD in Morton Grove. Source: katherine of chicago @Flickr

I would like to take the opportunity to give a little shout out to the RTA to promote a new document they put together called Access & Parking Strategies for Transit-Oriented Development.

This is a much-needed guide for municipalities in the Chicago area on the “how” of TOD. Sure, all urban planners are familiar with TOD but in practice, how many know how to really make it work? A big reason why TOD fails is parking. As in, too much parking. Many municipalities will build TOD but still keep parking minimums that are more appropriate for suburban style development patterns. The great thing about the RTA guide is that it rightly reminds people that one of the biggest ways to support TOD is to make it more difficult to use a car. Because, as any driver knows, people who are already in cars tend to stay in cars. Adding density and mixed land uses within close proximity and easy access to transit makes transit successful. It makes TOD successful. The RTA points out the need to reduce parking demand is the key to a successful TOD.

So, how do we reduce parking demand, particularly in suburban areas that are designed around the automobile? In creating a TOD area, we do the following:

  • Provide as much on-street parking as necessary at a variable market rate.
  • Unbundle parking from private development, particularly in TOD areas
  • Set parking maximums rather than minimums.
  • Implement shared parking
  • Create alternatives to access transit. This includes bike and pedestrian trails, shuttle buses, and remote parking facilities.

When we do these things, we create a way for transit to be successful. When transit is successful, frequency can rise, resulting in a positive feedback loop that generates more transit customers.

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Can Big Box Stores in Cities Work?

English: Exterior of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in...

Image via Wikipedia

This morning’s Atlantic Cities article on whether big box stores can reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) because it “brings shopping closer to where people live” fundamentally misunderstands the problems that big box stores cause in urban communities and why many urbanites do not want them in their communities even though they may patronize these stores. Nothing about these stores’ design is urban. It is not walkable, there are no accommodations for transit or bike/pedestrians. The only way to access these stores comfortably is with a car. This development pattern drives up traffic locally on urban streets that may not have been designed for these traffic volumes. It impacts neigboring land uses through light pollution from its vast parking lots, through water runoff,  and through large deliveries at night in the back of the store (sometimes facing residential neighbors).

Whole Foods in Chicago Source: Beer Advocate

That’s not to say that big box stores can’t work in urban areas. They can and do. When you reorient them to face the street, making it easier to access via transit, bicycle and pedestrian modes, reduce parking ratios (per square foot) and build big box stores in a more mixed use environment, they can work in a much more urban-friendly way.


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Filed under Transit-Oriented Development, Urban Design