Starting in spring 2014, Amtrak trains bound for Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids may start allowing passengers to roll on four bikes per train.
|Derrick James shows off the proposed bike racks.|
While there are still some hurdles to overcome — namely funding — our fingers are crossed with the hope the project will come to fruition.
Currently, no bikes are allowed on these trains — either boxed or fully assembled.
Recently, Amtrak gave Active Trans an exclusive look at the new bike racks, which will be bolted to the floor in the snack car.
Derrick James, director of government affairs for Amtrak’s central region, said Amtrak has a commitment to intermodal connectivity. And he said the process for installing these racks was pushed along by a lobbying effort by the League of Michigan Bicyclists and pressure from the Michigan Department of Transportation.
James, who happens to be a former Active Trans Board of Directors vice-president, said that he helped push the process along, as well.
“This will improve intermodal connectivity,” said James. “It means more options for folks to combine their modes of travel.”
The proposed racks, which take the place of some seating in the snack car, will also be outfitted on trains going from Chicago to Quincy and Carbondale. These Illinois routes already allow passengers to roll on bikes and stow them in the handicapped seating area.
James explained that the year-long wait is necessary because all the trains on the individual routes must be retrofitted before the service can be launched.
When buying a ticket online, riders will indicate if they are bringing a bike on board.
The proposed racks are outfitted with straps and bungee cords; riders will be able to lock their bikes to the steel racks.
Eventually, James said, the hope is that 20 cars will be retrofitted with the new racks. The Chicago train to Grand Rapids is a two level train and will have the bikes in the first level baggage area instead of the snack car.
“Funding to convert 20 cars … needs to be secured,” said James. “Capital funding is tight especially after our budget took a sequestration hit.”
James said the proposed racks will serve as an interim solution until Amtrak dramatically expands the options for bringing bikes on Midwest train routes. In 2016, new trains will be introduced into the Midwest system that will allow four bikes on each train car. James said it’ll be a few years after the initial introduction before those cars become universal on local routes.
Take a ride and provide feedback
Amtrak is seeking a few people who ride bicycles to provide feedback on the proposed bike rack system aboard its trains.
Next Wednesday, May 15, Amtrak is inviting a few people with bikes aboard the 7:20 a.m. train that departs Chicago Union Station for New Buffalo, Niles and Dowagiac, Michigan to use the proposed racking system.
When you get off the train at one of those stops, you are welcome to return on the next train back to Chicago, arriving at 11:45 a.m. Or you can take a later train. Your tickets will be paid for.
Please contact Ted Villaire at Active Trans if you’re interested. You must have a reservation arranged through Active Trans to participate in this demonstration trip.
On May 26, riders from the Center for Independent Futures (CIF) in Evanston, along with thousands of other cyclists from around Chicago, will take the over Lake Shore Drive during MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive.
But the CIF riders will have an added purpose to their day -- these riders will be raising funds to support the community that helps them daily.
CIF is an Evanston-based organization that helps adults with disabilities and their families live fuller, freer lives through housing assistance and a supportive community.
CIF is one of 16 organizations that have signed up thus far to take part in MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive’s charity partner program this year.
The event’s charity partner program began last year with the goal of providing an opportunity for other nonprofits to raise money to support their own work.
Partner charities save money by raising funds for their own cause without the expenses of producing their own special events. Riders receive a discounted registration in return for supporting their passions.
For CIF, this means raising funds that supports weekly events and activities that are the heart of their community. In the past, these have included a trip to Six Flags Great America, the creation of a dating club and hosting a poker night. CIF plans the events based on community members’ requests.
Rob Larson, the community life coordinator for CIF, is organizing the team for MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive. He said CIF doesn’t receive government funding, so fundraising events like this are vital.
“We really do rely on community effort and community partnership to make this sort of thing happen,” said Larson.
But perhaps most important is the involvement CIF community members are able to take in the fundraising process.
“Last year was the first year that we ever had our community members actively participate in fundraising themselves,” said Larson. Being able to take ownership of the process was empowering. The team set up a website and reached out to family and friends to raise support.
This year, CIF hopes to have 30 or more riders on its team. They’ll be preparing for the event with safety information sessions, tune ups and practice rides.
Larson said CIF participants are looking forward to the big day. Remembering last year’s ride, Larson said, “For our community to sign up, register, go downtown and ride with thousands of other riders from Chicago just felt like an inclusive spirit.”
If you represent a charity and are interested in raising money while participating in MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive, you must register your team before May 10 (riders have until May 25 to register).
Not yet signed up for MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive? Register here.
This post was contributed by Julie Davis, a volunteer blogger for Active Trans. Photos show CIF participants in MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive 2012.
If you read the recent Chicago Sun-Times article describing the April 30 public meeting on a proposed protected bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue, you might get the impression that local residents and business owners are deeply opposed to the project.
That’s why three West Town business owners decided to set the record straight in a letter to the editor published on May 6 in the Sun-Times opinion section.
The letter — submitted by Tim Coonan of Big Shoulders Café, Angelo Karras of Windy City Café and Chris Dunstatter of 694 Wine & Spirits — challenged the Sun-Times to looking beyond the handful of complaints to see the bigger picture:
“These street improvements for the city’s most popular street for cycling will make our neighborhood safer for everyone and help our businesses grow by creating a more livable street. By framing the issue in terms of cyclists vs. anti-cyclists, your coverage overlooks the fact that most city dwellers (and business owners) don’t fit into exclusive categories when it comes to how we get around.”
We’d like to thank these three business leaders for helping to re-frame this important conversation. With their help, we’re spreading the word that improving street safety isn’t just good for people, it’s good for business.
Show Tim, Angelo and Chris your gratitude by stopping by their businesses to say thanks. And be sure to grab a bite or a drink while you’re there!
Fortunately, Chicagoland is rife of bike-friendly businesses. Check out our Bike Friendly Business directory to find them near you.
There's no doubt that the aging Circle Interchange needs to be rebuilt.
Unfortunately, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has proposed to expand the interchange where I-90/94 and I-290 come together so that it can carry more cars and trucks — a strategy that has proven to provide short-term benefits at best while unleashing more driving that fills the additional capacity.
IDOT's plan includes "flyover" ramps swirling above city streets instead of the current configuration that mostly keeps cars below the city streets.
These ramps will make the West Loop and Greek Town neighborhoods less walkable and less inviting with more noise, grit and visual clutter.
Photo courtesy of greektown.org.
It turns out when you build complete streets with community input, everybody wins. And based on new plans the city announced this week, West Town residents are about to win big.
At an April 30 public meeting hosted by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), community members got their first look at plans for a new protected bike lane on Milwaukee Ave. from Kinzie to Elston.
The proposed design would dramatically improve conditions for people riding bikes, who make up as much as 40 percent of traffic on Milwaukee Avenue during peak periods, while also enhancing safety for motorists and pedestrians.
The plan includes many of the elements highlighted in a petition circulated by Active Trans and signed by more than 2,800 supporters. In a big victory for safety advocates, barrier-protected bike lanes will be included along much of the length of the project, similar to those already installed on Kinzie Street downtown.
A few media reports may have hyped Tuesday’s meeting as a tense showdown between people who drive and people who ride bikes, but the plan’s details clearly show consideration for the needs of all road users. The proposed design will increase overall safety and livability, which is welcome news to many local business owners.
"Milwaukee Avenue is currently chaotic and there's a lot of unsafe speeding," said Tim Coonan, owner of Big Shoulders Coffee, located at Milwaukee and Chicago. "Most of our customers arrive by foot, bike or transit, so safety improvements and protected bike lanes will really capitalize on one of our strengths and help attract more customers."
In order to achieve desired improvements in safety, the city is proposing the removal of parking along one side of the street in certain areas. Some observers have seized on this aspect of the plan in an effort to drum up controversy, but local business owners say that the changes will ultimately help them attract more customers in a neighborhood that is rapidly becoming more bike and transit friendly.
"Protected bike lanes will make Milwaukee Avenue a more vibrant and livable place," said Doug O'Donahue of Upgrade Cycle Works. "By providing safe, comfortable and appealing places for people to bike, the new protected bike lanes will contribute to the area's growing energy and economic vitality."
Upgrade Cycle Works was one of several Bike Friendly Businesses in the area that joined Active Trans in releasing a statement early this week showcasing business support for the city’s plan. Active Trans’ Bike Friendly Business program partners with nearly 200 businesses throughout Chicagoland spreading the word that bikes are good for business, which is a connection many West Town merchants are already making.
"The faster the money goes by our front door, the less likely it is to end up in our establishment," said Angelo Karras, owner of Windy City Café, located at Milwaukee and Chicago. "The planned safety improvements and protected bike lanes will help to calm traffic while making our block more welcoming for walking, biking and lingering."
West Town isn’t the only neighborhood poised to benefit from improved biking conditions. Several other corridors around the city are slated to receive improvements this year, according to the city’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020.
Sign up to our Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign to stay up to date on all the latest bikeway developments in Chicago.
On May 19, the south portion of the Red Line will be closed from Chinatown/Cermak station to the 95th Street terminal while the tracks are replaced.
During the 5 months of scheduled construction, nearly 45,000 average daily riders of the Dan Ryan Red Line will need to use alternative transit service. The CTA has made it clear that this project is a necessity and that it will result in a faster, smoother Red Line ride.
We understand that this construction is necessary to improve our transit system, but we also know it will be an inconvenience for many riders.
Transit is vitally important on the south side of Chicago (and throughout the city) because it provides an affordable, convenient and healthy way to get around the city. As the backbone of our system, the Red Line connects many Chicago communities to schools, jobs and healthcare.
Because we believe the rights of transit riders should be respected during this 5 month construction period, we have outlined the following Transit Rider Rights during the Red Line south reconstruction.
We have a right to quality public transit, even during the Red Line south reconstruction project.
1. We deserve fast and reliable transit service, even during Red Line construction.
2. We deserve transparency from the CTA on temporary service performance, the jobs promised and the status of construction.
3. We deserve clear and proactive communication from the CTA that ensures our communities understand the changes to transit service.
4. We deserve stations and amenities that can accommodate the additional passengers along alternative transit routes.
5. We deserve to be listened to during the Red Line closure.
Sign up and learn more at www.activetrans.org/redline.
On May 19, the south portion of the Red Line will be closed from Chinatown/Cermak Station to the 95th Street terminal while the tracks are replaced. During the five months of scheduled construction, nearly 45,000 daily riders of the Dan Ryan Red Line will need to use alternative transit service.
We understand that this construction is necessary to improve our transit system, but we also know it will be an inconvenience for many riders.
So here’s the scoop about getting around during the closure, where to get the latest travel info and how to avoid delays.
Tip 1: Get to know the Green Line
During the Red Line south closure, the CTA will be using the Green Line 63rd/Ashland to connect south side riders to the Loop and beyond. If you live or work close to a Green Line station, use that during the construction.
The Green Line will operate 24/7 and all buses on east-west streets that currently serve Red Line stations will also stop at the Green Line. For example, if you currently take the 47th Street bus to the Red Line, that bus will drop you off at the Green Line.
Tip 2: Remember to get off at the Garfield Green Line station for shuttle buses
If you regularly travel south of 63rd Street on the Red Line, you will need to use the shuttle buses that CTA is providing. These buses connect the 69th, 79th, 87th and 95th/Dan Ryan stations to the Garfield station on the Green Line.
At most times of the day (4 a.m.-1 a.m.), there will be express buses that take you directly from each of these stations to the Garfield Green Line station and back. These express buses are called R69, R79, R87 and R95.
Remember, these buses only stop at Garfield and the final destination indicated by their route name. All shuttle buses are free and you will also get free entry to the Green Line if you arrive by shuttle bus.
Tip 3: Pay close attention to bus route names and destinations
If you travel between two stations south of 63rd Street (from 95th Street to 69th Street, for example), you will need to use the free local shuttle called R63. This route will run between 95th and 63rd Streets making stops along the way at all the normal Red Line stations.
Keep in mind that most of the time (4 a.m.-1a.m.) the R63 will terminate at 63rd Street; it will not take you all the way to Garfield to connect to the Green Line. So if you are hoping to get to the Loop, make sure to take an express bus instead.
If you need to travel between 1a.m. and 4 a.m., no need to worry about which bus to take. Only the local service will operate at that time and it will make all stops between 95th and the Garfield Green Line station.
Tip 4: Allow extra time for traffic and transfers
The shuttle buses may travel directly on the Dan Ryan or through side streets as traffic allows. CTA will do its best to find the quickest route for the buses, including having real time information for bus drivers to make adjustments, but it’s a fair bet that travel times may take longer than the train, especially during rush hour.
Tip 5: Consider a different route
As part of this plan, all buses south of 63rd Street will be offering a reduced fare.
Pace and Metra are also helping make it easier to get around during the Red Line closure. Pace will run two new express buses to the CTA’s Roosevelt Red Line station during rush hours: one from the Pace Blue Island park-and-ride lot, the other from the Harvey Transportation Center. Each service will provide six morning and six afternoon trips for the duration of the project, as well as one midday round-trip serving Blue Island, Harvey and the Roosevelt station.
Metra will change the flag stops to regular stops at five Metra Electric stations in proximity to the Red Line for two inbound trains during the weekday morning rush hour, and two outbound trains in the weekday evening rush hour. Those stops are: 63rd, 75th, 79th, 87th and 95th. In addition, several Saturday trains also will make regular stops, instead of flag stops, at those five stations.
Tip 6: Stay connected with real-time updates
We hope everything runs smoothly with the alternative service, but delays can happen. Use one of these methods to stay connected so in the event of traffic, overcrowding or service breakdowns, you can make changes to your travel plan.
Know your rights! Sign on to the Red Line South Riders Bill of Rights asking the CTA to keep its commitments to residents living in affected areas.
Active Transportation Alliance’s annual Bike Commuter Challenge is now open for registration!
Last year, Active Trans introduced a new website – www.bikecommuterchallenge.org – that allowed all team members to track their own trips, and offered Bike to Work Week and Commuter Challenge information in one, easy-to-access location. The real-time leaderboards encouraged friendly competition between rival companies that often flared up on Facebook and Twitter.
This year, after 21 years of competitions, participants and organizations now can also measure their mileage, greenhouse gases prevented and calories burned. Online prize drawings will be offered to encourage people to track their trips, and teams can even offer their own prizes to their participants through the website.
Here’s how it works:
Stay tuned for upcoming announcements at www.bikecommuterchallenge.org, as well as on our Twitter and Facebook feeds, regarding Team Leader packet pick-up and our line-up great of Bike to Work Week events! Join today!
Four Chicago wards (5th, 45th, 46th and 49th) are using participatory budgeting to give you the chance to vote on how to spend $4 million on local infrastructure.
The multi-ward process kicked off last fall with neighborhood meetings that solicited thousands of ideas from community members (including Active Trans supporters like you).
Over the winter, ward residents formed committees to evaluate those ideas and decide which to put on the ballot. Those ballots will include projects like protected bike lanes, transit station enhancements, crosswalks and intersection safety improvements.
Now it's time for you to vote on which projects to fund! Each ward will have voting assemblies between April 27 and May 5. Dates and details vary by ward, so please check here for voting details and to look up your ward.
We know Chicagoans want better transportation options and safer streets for biking and walking. This process is an exciting opportunity to make these improvements happen!
We learned today that “Divvy” is the brand name for Chicago’s new bike-sharing program. I am warming up to the name after seeing how cool it looks on the Chicago Blue bikes, with sharrow arrows representing the “Vs” in Divvy (see photo).
This is a big deal for Chicago that will change how people get around, and could easily double cycling in Chicago in about a year.
It’s perfect for trips under a few miles that are too short to wait for a bus and a bit too far to walk. Many people will be thrilled to know that it will be much cheaper than a taxi.
Tens of thousands of Chicagoans will be able to use it to get from transit stations to their jobs, to get to their next meeting, grab lunch and run errands. In other cities with bike sharing, the lion’s share of users are new cyclists! That’s great news for growing cycling in Chicago.
Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC has grown to 24,000 annual members with nearly 11,000 trips per day and 1,800 bikes. I used that system to get to the nation’s capitol to lobby for bike and pedestrian funding, and to check out some of the innovative new bike lanes in DC. It was easy to use, with plenty of bike docking stations to choose from and kiosks that show you where stations are located. The bikes are sturdy with chain guards, fenders, lights and a bell. No mess, no fuss, and you don’t have to worry about locking the bikes. Just return them to any docking station – sort of like Red Box for bikes.
Divvy will be very similar to DC’s system, but with more bikes – 3,000 by the end of the summer and another 1,000 next year. We’ll let you know as soon as Divvy memberships are available – sometime next month most likely, and Divvy bikes should be in service during Bike to Work Week (June 10 – 16).
So how will you use Divvy? I’ll “Divvy” from the Ogilvie train station to the Active Trans office in River North. I’ll Divvy from our office to the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meetings at city hall!