35th Anniversary News

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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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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Celebrating 35 Years: Energy Impact Illinois

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

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

#32 Energy Impact Illinois

EI2 logo stackedIn early 2010, CNT Energy learned about the major national initiative to use American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for energy efficiency projects that also created jobs and general prosperity. Locally, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) applied for and was awarded ARRA funds from the US Department of Energy to align all of the energy efficiency programs serving the Chicagoland region into one easily recognizable place. As CNT and CNT Energy had already helped establish the need for coordinated regional energy efficiency efforts through work on things like the Chicago Climate Action Plan, Chicago Regional Energy Snapshot, and the Municipal Energy Profile Program (MEPP), we applied for and won a competitive bidding process to serve as CMAP’s implementation agency, overseeing the execution of all the program that would become Energy Impact Illinois.

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Celebrating 35 Years: Green TIME Zone

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

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

#31 Green TIME Zone

Morgue-31In the same 1914 poem that dubbed Chicago the “City of Big Shoulders,” Carl Sandburg also identified the city as a “Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler.” If Chicago’s meteoric rise from backwater settlement to global metropolis could be attributed to one single thing, it would very likely be the railroads. Maps of the American railway system reveal a tangled web of train lines converging in northeastern Illinois, transporting goods and passengers to and through Chicagoland. Over time, communities sprouted along these freight lines, especially in what would eventually become Chicago’s southern suburbs.

These communities grew in the nineteenth century around both commuter rail, transporting workers to downtown jobs, and freight rail, which allowed industrial centers to flourish. After decades of prosperity, the area nicknamed “the Southland” began to decline as people moved to newer suburbs. Farmland was paved over, and unused industrial land decayed into brownfields. Despite the downturn, however, the region’s principal economic asset remained. Freightliners continued to pass through the southern suburbs in their cross-country transport of goods.

We, and our long-time partners at the South Suburban Mayors and Mangers Association (SSMMA), wondered how capturing the value of freight traffic could bring prosperity back to the Southland. We spent years researching transit-oriented development (TOD) and other options for the Southland, and eventually the Green TIME Zone was born.

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Celebrating 35 Years: Losing Ground

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

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

#30 Losing Ground

With the launch of the Housing + Transportation (H+T) Affordability Index in 2006, interest in our unique perspective on housing and transportation affordability took off. That same year, we collaborated with the Center for Housing Policy, Virginia Tech, and UC-Berkley to publish A Heavy Load: The Combined Housing and Transportation Burdens of Working Families. A Heavy Load used H+T data to analyze the cost burden of housing and transportation on moderate-income families in 28 metropolitan areas. It was a game changer.

A Heavy Load is a great example of using our research in collaboration with national organizations to illustrate that affordability for any given location should include the cost of transportation,” said Peter Haas, CNT’s Chief Research Scientist. “Images, graphs, and maps from this report have been used extensively around the country to show the importance of this concept.”

losinggroundcoverUnderstanding the significance of A Heavy Load and the impact it had on policy and planning decisions, CNT and the Center for Housing Policy decided to release an updated version with data from the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey. The result was Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation.

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Celebrating 35 Years: Solar Canopy Charging Stations

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

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

#29 Solar Canopy Charging Stations

Uncommon Ground Canopy and EVsAn idea that sounded like science fiction just a few years ago is becoming reality in Chicago, thanks to one of CNT’s affiliates. Electric vehicles (EVs) have become increasingly popular amongst urban dwellers seeking efficient and eco-friendly personal transportation. Taking sustainability one step further, they can now be fully charged by solar power at a handful of solar canopies installed in neighborhoods across the city.

Years in the works, the solar canopies are the product of Alternative Transportation for Chicagoland (ATC), a nonprofit affiliate of the Center for Neighborhood Technology that operated IGO CarSharing before its acquisition by Enterprise. Sharon Feigon, ATC’s CEO, first dreamt of harnessing the sun’s energy as clean power for vehicle charging stations when IGO started introducing EVs into its fleet. “Electric power is good,” Feigon said, “but we have to ask ourselves where that power comes from. To make EVs truly emission-free, we need a clean energy source. Our solar canopies make this both possible and practical.”

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Celebrating 35 Years: Prospering in Place

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Celebrating 35 Years: Prospering in Place

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

#28 Prospering in Place

The environmental resilience and economic prosperity of the Chicago region stem from its fabric of interconnected communities. When places grow compactly and near transit, households have greater choice between affordable communities in which to live, job opportunities close to home, and multiple transportation options connecting the two. For decades after World War II, fragmented regional planning deemphasized this connection between housing, transportation, and the economy in favor of more roads and unbridled suburban expansion. Cheap fossil fuels gave the impression of growth, but rising transportation costs revealed the shortsightedness of building communities solely around the automobile.

Prospering-in-Place-smCNT’s Prospering in Place: Linking Jobs, Development, and Transit to Spur Chicago’s Economy, published in early 2012, set an alternative vision for regional economic development anchored in investment in those places that bring people, jobs, and transportation closer together. The report builds off of the momentum for regional cooperation outlined in the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)’s GO TO 2040 plan. Prospering in Place compliments GO TO 2040 by explicitly stating how spatial efficiency leads to stronger economic growth and identifying the communities that will help this region get there the fastest.

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Celebrating 35 Years: 10,000 units

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

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

#27 10,000 units

retrofit_revolutionLast week, we told you about Energy Savers, a program created by CNT Energy to help building owners save money by providing energy efficiency retrofits. In January 2013, the program reached a significant goal: it retrofitted its 10,000th apartment unit.

These 10,000 retrofits not only saved building owners significant amounts of money, they also had important impacts on the community and the environment:

  • 400 new jobs were created in the Chicago region to keep up with the demand for energy efficiency work created by the program.
  • The retrofits completed on those 10,000 units led them to collectively save 6,518,200 kWh of  electricity.
  • The decreased  use of natural gas  resulted in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 13,965 tons.

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Celebrating 35 Years: The Energy Savers Program

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

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

#26 Energy Savers

Landlords have tough jobs. Though unpredictability comes with the terrain, there is one thing that landlords can take control of thanks to CNT Energy: their building’s energy bills.

energy-savers-logo-stackedSaving consumers money and preserving affordable housing have always been important priorities for CNT, so it is natural that our energy efficiency work grew to include multifamily buildings. Some 40% of our nation’s energy is expended in buildings. Improving building efficiency is central to reducing that energy use, which cuts costs for owners and tenants, preserves affordable housing, and helps meet climate change reduction goals.

CNT Energy, now an affiliate of CNT, began as the Community Energy Cooperative in 2000 to help specific communities reduce energy use and lessen the strain on the electricity grid. In 2007 the Cooperative became CNT Energy, and set out to help retrofit apartment buildings with the launch of the Energy Savers program.

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