Staff Blog News

Illinois Gubernatorial Campaigns Neglect Public Transportation

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

The November 4 Illinois gubernatorial election is just around the corner. While there are many important topics being debated, we’re hearing next to nothing about funding for improved and expanded public transportation.

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Highway Boondoggles + The Illiana Expressway

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Photo by Brad/Flickr Creative Commons License

Photo by Brad/Flickr Creative Commons License

(This post also appears in Going Places, a policy blog by CNT’s Jacky Grimshaw)

I recently read the U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s excellent new report, Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future. I couldn’t help thinking about the decision(s) looming in CNT’s backyard about the proposed Illiana Expressway.

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CNT’s 3rd Urban Sustainability Apps Competition Creates Pocket-Sized Solutions to Big City Issues

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

For the third straight year, CNT paired community leaders and mobile developers to create apps that tackle the challenges of urban living. On Saturday, June 28 at TechNexus, 80 participants and guests joined forces at CNT’s 2014 Urban Sustainability Apps Competition to produce 13 apps that connect Chicago residents to crucial information, like environmental data and crime reporting, that can make urban neighborhoods safer and more sustainable.

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Moving Away from Illiana and Toward Sustainable Transportation

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

freightreportsmall_Page_001The US Congressional House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Special Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation recently released a report examining the state of US freight transportation. It offers recommendations for capitalizing on freight assets to strengthen the economy, and stresses investing in railways to move freight more efficiently. This position differs from the one currently taken by authorities in northeastern Illinois that favors myopic investment in major highway projects.

Right now, Chicagoland is at a crossroads. According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the region will experience a 60% increase in truck volume and 62% increase in rail volume by 2040 (from a 2007 baseline). The current and projected uptick in freight traffic brings with it a heated debate about what type of infrastructure investment will keep cargo movements running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

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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.


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.

Celebrating 35 Years: MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

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

#35 MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions


Former MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton, CNT CEO Kathryn Tholin, former CNT Board Chair Julia Parzen, and former MacArthur Board member Donald Hopkins at the award ceremony

For 35 years, CNT has pioneered new approaches to urban problems that use resources more efficiently, reduce costs for households and communities, and improve the environment. While we’ve never needed validation, we’ve been privileged to receive recognition from organizations and individuals that we greatly admire. Chief among these honors: the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

On April 28, 2009, CNT was one of only eight organizations worldwide to receive the award, which recognizes organizations that are “highly creative and effective, have made an extraordinary impact in their fields and are helping to address some of the world’s most challenging problems.”

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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


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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People, Places + Progress: Celebrating 35 Years of Community Innovation

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

In honor of our 35th anniversary, CNT staff compiled stories about our 35 most game-changing innovations. People, Places + Progress chronicles CNT’s growth in capacity, reputation, and impact. From the construction of solar greenhouses to grow vegetables in what we now call “food deserts” to the development of revolutionary energy efficiency programs. From the Location Efficient Mortgage® to the Surface Transportation Policy Project. From driving the concept and business of car sharing to shattering the traditional view of housing affordability (hint: it’s the transportation costs!). From the Green Line to green dry cleaning to the Green TIME Zone, CNT has reimagined how our cities can become more sustainable and prosperous for everyone.

Celebrating 35 Years: Right Size Parking Calculator

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

35 Facts for CNT’s 35 Years: Each week we’ll expand on one fun fact. Enjoy! 
#33 King County Right Size Parking Calculator

PrintBy law, municipalities have minimum requirements for how many parking spaces need to be included with every building. In many cases these laws can make it difficult to develop dense, walkable communities because they rely on one-size-fits-all standards and do not reflect the actual usage of parking.

Seas of asphalt have become so central to our communities that we often don’t question whether space devoted to parking could be put to better use. In the Seattle area, King County Metro Transit took an innovative approach to this question with the Right Size Parking Calculator, an online decision-support tool developed by CNT for King County to estimate parking use for multifamily developments throughout the county.

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