“Transit Oriented Development:” so not going to fix Chicago’s car problem

This DNAinfo article on “Transit Oriented Development” (and its comments) made me have so many feelings.

I appreciate the comments that say we should focus on making Chicago more pedestrian-friendly, and their frustration that it seems like their opposites are simply pro-driving; some of them are. But some of those comments are also pointing out a fine line – just because we want less driving doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. As much as we want to drop reliance on cars, Chicago is a driving city.

Does Gotham have better public transit than Chicago? Picture of Lawrence red line station transformed to Green River station for Batman vs. Superman filming.

Does Gotham have better public transit than Chicago? (El station transformed for Batman vs. Superman filming)

Having access to a car in Chicago is so helpful. Much of Chicago has crappy public transit and is based on the assumption that you only want to go downtown. My neighborhood has great public transit, but trying to go west instead of north/south? Such a pain in the butt. A car means not having to wait forever for a bus in the cold, not having to juggle groceries on a packed train or buying them at expensive neighborhood stores, or worrying that the bus you depend on will be cut. It means that you can live in those places with crappy public transit, places that often have cheaper living costs.

But more importantly, employers expect to have you to have a car.

I know this because while I live in a household with a car, I don’t drive. I was born without depth perception, which makes city driving a poor idea at best. (I can and do drive in rural areas. Give me a wide-open, curvy New Hampshire road and I’m happy, but anything involving merging or tight parking is just asking for problems.)

I also job searched for a long time before I was lucky enough to be able to freelance fulltime. And not driving? Really screwed my job search.   While there are certainly many jobs downtown, many many jobs are in the suburbs. Even companies downtown often have offices in the suburbs, offices they expect their workers to go to on a regular basis. A lot of companies are even closing up downtown locations or moving most of their workers to suburban offices.

And the assumption is that type of travel isn’t going to be an issue. When I was talking to recruiters or looking at jobs, they’d always look at me funny when I said I couldn’t drive. At best, I’d get the expectation that I didn’t currently have a car but could always get one if I got hired. Explaining that no, really I can’t drive didn’t ever seem to sink in. There wasn’t any awareness that the only way to get to their office was to take a Metra to a Pace bus via walking half a mile along the highway, or that it might be a problem (and again, remember I live someplace with good public transit).

Transit oriented development assumes that people will always have the luxury to work in their neighborhoods or downtown, and that simply making it harder to own a car will make cars less necessary. That is so unrealistic.

Believe me, I am exceptionally pro making Chicago more pedestrian friendly; after all, I am an often-time pedestrian. But building a bunch of apartment buildings without parking near public transit is just building a bunch of apartment buildings near public transit. It won’t solve any of Chicago’s actual public transit issues like access for those who can’t afford to live near good public transit or who have to take whatever job they can get;  it’s a bit dumb and offensive to focus on that instead of actually improving public transit access.

Mini Jaffa Cakes! (There were delicious!)

A complete-computer-meltdown derailed my goal to post every Tuesday but I’ve finally started to get things all arranged again and have big big goals for next year!  (posting regularly here, an architectural series on the buzz, and hopes to get involved with Atlas Obscura).
Mini jaffa cakes from Scotland

Veterans Day at Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery

Civil War Union Soldiers graves at Rosehill Cemetery ChicagoAfter visiting Graceland Cemetary, I realized that a visit to Rosehill was also in order.  Rosehill is way larger than Graceland and, without a plan going in, I got overwhelmed and couldn’t see half of what I wanted to.  Unfortunately – and unlike Graceland – Rosehill doesn’t have a map and allegedly doesn’t give out  grave locations.  So next visit I’ll have to be more prepared!

Luckily, I accidentally went on the Sunday before Veterans Day to a graveyard that has extensive civil war graves.  And of course, soldiers’ graves combined with Veterans Day requires gun shots and also… cannons?

Cannon for Vetrans Day at Rosehill Cemetery ChicagoFor real, cannons, or a cannon anyhow.  I’m pretty sure everything I heard was gun shots but at least I got to see the cannon.  (side note:  I have no idea what I did to this picture to make it look like a drawing, which is sad because it’s awesome, if confusing)

Walking soldier Vetrans Day at Rosehill Cemetery ChicagoWe also saw a few people in more conventional military garb, but this guy caught my fancy.  I was too chicken – or well-mannered – to run after him and ask how one ends up in historical garb in a cemetery on Veterans Day, but I would love to know how that happens.

I have some, scratch that a lot of mausoleum photos from my visit that I can’t wait to share soon.

 

I <3 Flamingos!

Flamingo House Edgewater Chicago

Vote Hardcore and All-Awesome-Like

When people think about voting in Chicago, they think corruption. Even the local newspaper’s voting column is called “Early and Often,” referencing the infamous vote early and often statement.

Chicago Voting Ballot 2014What they don’t know is that voting in Chicago is hardcore. Ballots are a foot-long and double sided; there were two this year, e.g. four pages of voting. It starts easy enough, governor, senator, but then it just becomes a muddle. Who did you want for state treasurer? What about county treasurer? (and that doesn’t even touch city treasurer; city elections are in January). How about water reclamation board? (which is a city position) Vote for no more than three choices out of nine for a six year term and a quick google won’t tell you anything about this year’s candidates. This year’s – you vote for water reclamation board every year.

After this warm up, you get the judge page. For some reason, we get to vote on judges, which is cool but also ends up just being overwhelming. An entire foot of “should we retain this judge? What about this one.” Yes/Si vs No/No for a page at least 30 choices.

I don’t have a good understanding of exactly how the judge voting works and I have a friend whose aunt is a judge.

Then there are polling places. There is a polling place in the school across the street from my house, but it’s not my polling place. Mine is, in fact, in a nursing home on the other side of the school.   They send a ton of mail telling you where to vote but it’s still confusing enough that the Democratic party put signs up on everyone’s door letting them know where to vote this year.

where to voteI passed by an apartment building between the school and the nursing home; their sign said they vote at a church three blocks away. The polling place thing, although confusing as all get out, is one of the most awesome factors about Chicago voting. Most places I’ve been, voting happens in a school gymnasium or maybe a public library. Chicago? Not so much

While the locations in my neighborhood are fairly prosaic – as I said my location is a nursing home – some people in Chicago get to vote in bars, bowling alleys, funeral homes, beauty salons, and auto dealerships.

I love voting in Chicago. It feels like a real accomplishment to vote. Even though the judge voting is overwhelming and nigh impossible to keep track of, I have gotten to vote “no” on a few really corrupt people, which always feels good.

I also love that every effort is made to make sure that people can vote. You never have to show a photo ID and a utility bill (or voter card) can be used for proof of residency if you’re not on the rolls. This year we got to vote on amending the constitution to make voter ID rules illegal.   While it’s a little political-machine, it’s great that the Democrats put up signs giving voting information. I love that so many people are willing to work a 14-hour shift for $75 so that we can all vote.

So while I appreciate the fun of talking about Chicago voting as all corruption, there is so much more going on that is bizarre and awesome and is so much more Chicago-y.

I don’t need to tell you to vote, right?

Visit to Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery

Graceland Cemetery Chicago October 2014

A few visual delights from Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery (in Uptown).  I wandered over to grab a few shots of the Inez Clarke memorial for a post on ghost stories, and got caught up in all of the beauty (I hear that Rosehill is even more amazing).

The top is Eternal Silence, rumored to show you a view of your death if you can manage to look into its eyes.  Down the left side is an unusual church-window marker;  Kroeschell’s memorial, deliberately created as one half to show the incompleteness of life; and then what t looks more like a plant-care sign than a grave marker, thus catching my fancy

The right is the Schoenhofen Pyramid and then a dead-tree-stump marker.  I’d never seen those until I moved into Chicago; I wondered if they’re a Swedish thing, although a quick Google tells me that they have something to do with the Woodman of the World association.

Finally at the bottom is the Marshall Field’s memorial.  I like how she is face-palming, perhaps embarrassed by the hijinks of Marshall Fields Jr. who was shot to death in a brothel.

Working On a Story on the Chicago Open House

and looking at a few of my photos from this year! (can you tell I love 1920s’ era pools?)Park Castle Apartments, Chicago Architectural Foundation Open House 2014, featuring the pool Edgewater Beach Hotel OHC 2014