Featured News

Transit Deserts

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Transit Deserts

Like food deserts, transit deserts have demonstrable demand but a dearth of supply. Those who live in transit deserts face restricted mobility and limited access to jobs and amenities.

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Affordable Housing Near Transit Will Help California Combat Climate Change

Friday, June 20th, 2014

FlickrCC - Frederick Dennstedt

Photo by Frederick Dennstedt/Flickr Creative Commons License

The State of California will devote billions of dollars in new cap-and-trade revenue to fund projects intended to further curb climate impacts. In addition to investments in high-speed rail and public transit, millions of dollars will support affordable transit-oriented development (TOD). CNT research helped make the case that building affordable housing near transit can significantly reduce GHG from auto emissions.

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Task Force Report Can Shape the Future of Transit

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Statement from Kathryn Tholin, CEO

Today, I joined my fourteen fellow members of the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force in unanimously approving and delivering to Governor Quinn a series of recommendations to improve our regional transit system.

Our report details a mixed history of advances and missed opportunities, of good intentions and poor executions, of leadership and mismanagement. However, the most important takeaways from the Task Force report are not things that happened in the past, or the current state of the transit system. We must learn from history and understand our present situation, yes, but our focus should be on how we can take what we know and use it to shape the future of transit in our region.

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CNT’s Urban Flooding Work Honored by Stormwater Managers

Monday, March 17th, 2014

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Members of CNT’s stormwater team with the IAFSM award

On March 13, CNT received the 2014 Public Awareness and Outreach Award from the Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management (IAFSM). The unanimous decision by the awards committee was based upon CNT’s “outstanding research, publication of The Prevalence and Cost of Urban Flooding, media coverage of that report, and the Gross Gathering events which were held in the Chicago area last year.”

The award was presented at the IAFSM annual conference in Rosemont, IL. Harriet Festing, CNT Water Program Director, and Hal Sprague, CNT Water Policy Manager, received the award.

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Thinking Outside the Pipe on Urban Flooding

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Photo by Jay Kleeman/Flickr Creative Commons License

Photo by Jay Kleeman/Flickr Creative Commons License

Communities across the country are suffering the repetitive and often chronic impacts of urban flooding. Many are struggling to respond to the real-time needs of residents who simply want the flooding to stop.

For a municipality, the default response is to upgrade storm sewer storage infrastructure. While this can expand capacity, it can be extremely expensive, take many years to complete, and may be ill-designed to tackle the kind of localized flooding that gets into people’s homes, basements, and backyards.

The Village of Winnetka, IL (one of Chicago’s near-north suburbs), where approximately one in four properties are affected by flooding, is grappling with such a decision right now.

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Blame Burnham?

Monday, January 13th, 2014

December 1913 map of the railroads in Chicago.

December 1913 map of the railroads in Chicago.

Some of his ideas drove the regional economy, some drove prosperity away

Nearly a hundred years ago, Carl Sandburg dubbed Chicago the “City of Big Shoulders.” In the same 1914 poem, he also identified the city as a “Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler.” Daniel Burnham recognized this, too. His Plan of Chicago called for investment in rail infrastructure, leading business leaders and governments to plat towns around the tangled web of train lines that converge in northeastern Illinois. Over time, those communities grew and prospered.

Throughout the last 60 years, however, a combination of relatively cheap fuel and massive investment in highways literally drove us away from these compact, rail- and transit-served communities. Sprawl severed the connections between transportation, land use, and economic growth. Suburban communities outmaneuvered each other to snag fleeting retail centers. Jobs and people scattered, each getting farther away from the nation’s second-largest train system.

For this, oddly enough, blame Burnham.

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35 Sustainable Contributions

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

CNT celebrated a milestone in 2013: 35 years of solutions for sustainable cities. Here are just a few of our 35 contributions from our 35th year:

  1. Location Affordability: Helped the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) develop the new Location Affordability Portal, advancing awareness of the combined costs of housing and transportation.
  1. Location Efficiency: Collaborated with King County Metro Transit to develop the Right Size Parking Calculator, an online tool that allows decision makers to estimate the true need for parking in multi-family residential buildings and reduce overbuilding of parking in location-efficient areas.
  1. Urban Flooding: Published The Prevalence and Cost of Urban Flooding, a revolutionary analysis of insurance claims data from flood damage in Cook County. Press coverage locally in a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune, nationally by Atlantic Cities and others.
  1. photo by Jamie ManleyCommunity Organizing: Hosted three Gross Gathering events throughout Chicago, and created a corresponding online forum, to give urban flooding victims the opportunity to share their stories and connect with resources that can help keep their basements and backyards dry.
  1. Housing Near Transit: Released The New Real Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transportation, written by CNT and commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), which found that residential real estate sales prices for properties located near transit are healthier and more resilient than in the broader metropolitan region. Press coverage locally on WBEZ and in cities nationwide.
  1. Transit Leadership: Lent our voice to improve the governance of Chicago’s regional transit system through CEO Kathryn Tholin’s appointment to the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force.

Check out the full list of highlights, and consider making a donation today to sustain our work into 2014 and beyond.


What We’re Reading: New Books Featuring CNT’s Research

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Several excellent books on urbanism and sustainability hit the shelves in 2013. Many of these new titles feature examples of CNT’s research and thinking.

citybooks

Leigh Gallagher’s The End of the Suburbs cites CNT’s work in location efficiency, including our Housing and Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index and Location Efficient Mortgages (LEMs), particularly in the context of the housing crash, the degree to which it was centered in inconvenient suburbs, and how the high cost of transportation contributed to the inability of places and households to recover. Happy City, by Charles Montgomery, includes examples of community costs from the H+T Index, as well as a pair of maps we provided to show that the places in Atlanta with low CO2 emissions from transportation were also the places with low household transportation expenditures.

Our work is also mentioned in Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube’s Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, and in Jeff Speck’s Walkable Citywhere we are credited with developing a world-changing view due to our remapping of transportation-related GHG emissions from GHG/acre to GHG/household. Two of our former Board members, Sadhu Aufochs Johnston and Julia Parzen—along with Steven S. Nicholas—recently released The Guide to Greening Cities. And, there are at least two more books coming out for which we supplied maps and other data. Looks like our holiday gift list is set.


CNT Competition Produces Mobile Apps that Reinvent Chicago

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Coders, Community Combine to Create Solutions for Citizens

CHICAGO – October 28, 2013 – What do you get when you combine competition, community leaders, computer programmers, and copious caffeine? In Chicago, the answer is a set of smartphone apps designed to promote urban sustainability.

Ronnie Harris of BuildIt! Bronzeville presents his team's app

Ronnie Harris of BuildIt! Bronzeville presents his team’s app

The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) hosted its second Reinventing Chicago Urban Sustainability Apps Competition from Friday, October 18 through Sunday, October 20. Unlike a typical apps competition, or hackathon, CNT’s version mandated that teams be comprised of both coders and community representatives.

“Civic hackathons aren’t new, but we think our take on it is,” said Kathryn Tholin, CEO of CNT. “This apps competition was about more than just data and design and development for development’s sake. We set ours up to answer real, community-level questions and create apps that help solve local issues.”

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Celebrating 35 Years: Surface Transportation Policy Project

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

35 Facts for CNT’s 35 Years: Each week we’ll expand on one fun fact. Enjoy! 

#34 Surface Transportation Policy Project

flickr-ifmuth

Photo by Ian Freimuth/Flickr Creative Commons License

In the decades after World War II, the American urban landscape underwent a dramatic transformation. With the construction of President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, sprawling suburban communities began fanning out from city centers across the nation. As highways came to dominate transportation policy, little attention—and even less federal funding—was paid to downtown transit and economic development. In fact, many of the Interstate investments were destructive of those interests.

That is, until late 1990. The first Gulf War was winding down, and lawmakers were beginning to focus on domestic policy again. The congressional agenda included revisiting the Highway Bill, which was set to expire in 1991. CNT co-founder and President Scott Bernstein saw this as an opportunity to make urban downtowns matter in transportation policy. Bernstein joined with other visionaries in such diverse fields as transportation, environment, design, and economics, to form a group that sought to make cities a priority in transportation policy and reintegrate alternative modes of transportation into our national transportation strategy. The Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP), as the group came to be known, developed an alternative vision and drafted legislative provisions for what should be included in the new transportation bill.

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