The Chicago Dispatch

When this blog really got going, most of the energy came from a desire to answer questions I had about Chicago, and sometimes cities more generally. Over the last several years, I’ve taught myself (and been taught) a fair amount about finding data, manipulating it, and making maps to help get those answers. But obviously there are a lot of questions one might have that aren’t best answered through data and maps, and I often find my thoughts bumping up against the borders of what this blog can do. So, on nights and weekends over the last several months, I’ve been putting … Continue reading The Chicago Dispatch

In praise of diagonal streets

I have an entry in this year’s “Best of Chicago” issue of the Reader: There were supposed to be more of them. It was in the Plan. (You know which Plan.) In the Plan, diagonal streets spanned the city like the Hancock Center’s Xs, creating crosstown routes and turning perfectly perpendicular intersections into junctions of six or even eight corners: 51st and King, LaSalle and Ohio, Western and Fullerton. But Chicagoans love Daniel Burnham’s Plan mostly in theory, and so today the city has fewer Grid-defying streets than in 1909, when Burnham and his coauthor, Edward H. Bennett, made their … Continue reading In praise of diagonal streets

More bus improvements in Chicago

Last fall, new-ish CTA president Dorval Carter—who has said in interviews that making bus service better will be one of his top priorities—re-introduced the “X route” expresses along Western and Ashland during rush hour, and, perhaps more excitingly, announced a stop consolidation program that would notably reduce travel times even on the locals. This morning, the CTA announced a series of service enhancements to bus lines on the South Side, as well the Green Line L: As you can see, the changes are mostly improvements in service frequency, as well as significant expansion to service hours on the 26-South Shore Express; a … Continue reading More bus improvements in Chicago

More on neoliberalism

A while ago, I wrote a post in response to a) the widespread use of the word “neoliberal” to describe urban policies among my youngish leftish social set, and b) the ambiguity of what that word was actually supposed to mean. I thought of this again when I saw this tweet: Ur-neoliberal idea touted as blasphemous to neoliberals https://t.co/82cumZu8t2 pic.twitter.com/XfhODy7pky — Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) April 18, 2016 The background here is that early champions of UBI include such neoliberal luminaries as Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. They found it attractive because it replaced a massive, complex bureaucracy tasked with implementing a thousand … Continue reading More on neoliberalism

One of Chicago’s most important trends is flying under the radar

Chicago is a city obsessed with neighborhoods, neighborhood boundaries, and neighborhood character, and therefore with neighborhood change. Demographic trends, from the rapidly declining black populations on the South and West Sides to the gentrification of the Northwest Side, get a lot of play in the media and in conversation. Which is why it’s weird that we’re in the middle of a demographic transition that is already of historic importance for the city and almost no one is talking about it. Which is: the Southwest Side, first a bastion of European immigrants and their descendants, and then of Mexican immigrants and their descendants, is … Continue reading One of Chicago’s most important trends is flying under the radar

Why everyone drives in DuPage

This is crossposted from City Observatory.   More than half of workers in DuPage County, outside Chicago, say they’d like to get to work without a car. But nearly 90 percent of them drive anyway. What’s going on? First, a little context. Your city probably has a DuPage County—if not by name, by profile. Beginning about 15 miles due west of Chicago’s Loop, DuPage boomed in the last several decades of the 20th century, filling the spaces in between 19th century railroad suburbs with low-density subdivisions and office parks, and growing from just 150,000 people in 1950 to nearly a … Continue reading Why everyone drives in DuPage

Introducing the Pedestrian Pain Index

America’s pedestrians are in pain. Every day, tens of millions of Americans waste tens of thousands of hours stuck waiting on the side of streets for car traffic to get out of their way. We estimate that the annual value of time lost waiting to walk totals $25 billion annually. Today, City Observatory announces the launch of our latest data product: the Pedestrian Pain Index (PPI). Following the techniques developed over the past thirty years by the highway-oriented Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), PPI uses similar methods and assumptions —to calculate the amount of time pedestrians lose each year having to … Continue reading Introducing the Pedestrian Pain Index

Readers deserve a bigger picture on “super-vouchers”

I co-wrote this post with Amanda Kass, a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s urban planning school, and Research Director at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.   Housing Choice Vouchers, also known as Section 8 vouchers, were intentionally designed as a segregation-fighting tool. Theoretically, their recipients can use them to rent anywhere, breaking with public housing’s sad history of concentrating low-income people—and, in Chicago, usually black people—in neighborhoods that are systematically deprived of investments. But a new article from the Better Government Association and the Sun-Times—the first in a series on the state of the … Continue reading Readers deserve a bigger picture on “super-vouchers”

What I learned playing SimCity

Like most city lovers of a certain age, I spent many hours as a kid playing SimCity. For readers who are tragically uninitiated, SimCity is one of the iconic computer games of the 1990s, though new versions have been released as recently as 2013. Playing as mayor (or, really, dictator, but more on that later), you shepherded the growth of a city from its very first streets to towering skyscrapers—assuming you weren’t wiped out by tornados, fires, or aliens. By making thousands and thousands of people plan commercial, industrial, and residential districts for their virtual towns, the creators of SimCity … Continue reading What I learned playing SimCity