CNT in the News

Three Major Factors That Impact Your Cost of Living

Refinery29 | April 13, 2018

One of the first things you might do when thinking about moving (or actually moving) to a new place is get a rough estimate of how much it costs to live there.

Any number of cost-of-living calculators might help you find that out, considering how far your current salary might go, or even comparing the costs of groceries. But if you want to project a little farther into the future, try taking a look at the Economic Policy Institute's (EPI) budget fact sheets and family budget calculator. This year, EPI partnered with the CNT to come up with figures for Americans' transportation costs. EPI says the nonprofit helped them come up with a more comprehensive look at this expense, which has nuances that drivers and underground dwellers alike can overlook.

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Talking Headways Podcast: What Midsize Cities Can Learn From Albuquerque

Streetsblog USA | March 28, 2018

Hear Brian Reilly in this podcast discuss integrating transportation and land use in Albuquerque, where a new bus rapid transit line, ART, forms a backbone of frequent and reliable service for the city’s transit system.

Brian is the former economic development director in Buffalo and Cleveland, and currently the principal of planning consultancy Doing Good. He tells us about how Albuquerque is shaping development along Central Avenue (part of the historic Route 66), where ART runs, and how transportation policy fits into the city’s poverty reduction strategy.  CNT has presented Alburquerque with an Urban Opportunity Agenda anti-poverty strategy, which looks to leverage infrastructure investments such as the ART.  

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Public Transit in the City of Tomorrow--Does CarSharing Compete with Transit?

Move Forward | March 28, 2018

The next 15 years promises to bring a sea change in how we commute as a society. We may very well look back on this moment in history as the transition point between static and fluid public transit. Today, under the established, static model, the public largely adheres to set schedules to commute around our cities. We travel within the constraints of the system. Tomorrow’s fluid model may look drastically different. Traditional modes like buses and light rail will be partnered with new advancements like autonomous car fleets and the Hyperloop. Stitched together, the transportation experience will be catered to the individual’s commuting needs.  

Perhaps one of the most exciting developments is the fast-approaching reality of autonomous car fleets. A recent report from the independent think tank ReThinkX found that by the year 2030, 95% of passenger miles in the US will be serviced by fleets of autonomous, electric vehicles. The biggest question, perhaps, is whether this advancement will progress in the public or private sector. “Uber is pretty clearly reducing public transit use,” said Dave Chandler, Director of Economic Development at the Center for Neighborhood Technology. “The trend of public transport went up from 2008 until two years ago and has declined since. People look at it and think it’s probably Uber. It’s a competing model currently.”

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Ghost of Old "L" Branch Haunts Obama Library Project

Chicago Tribune | March 19, 2018

When the Obama Presidential Center opens in about three years, visitors can get to it by car, Metra, bike or bus, but not by that most iconic form of Chicago transportation — the “L.”

That’s because a Green Line branch that would have led right to the center was torn down in 1997, after some community leaders complained that it was hurting development.

It is one of those Chicago decisions — like the selling of the city’s parking meter franchise — that leaves posterity scratching its head.

“It would have been so great … ” said Arthur Lyons, director of the Center for Economic Policy Analysis, which had done research in support of keeping the branch. “It was always our view that it would have helped development in that corridor.” The controversial razing of a nearly milelong branch of the Green Line along 63rd Street was the most recent of more than half a dozen “L” branch losses since the Chicago Transit Authority’s creation in 1947 out of private transit companies.

CNT actively opposed the demolition of the line.  

The entire Green Line was closed for rehabilitation from 1994 until 1996. When the line reopened, the part east of Cottage Grove remained closed, waiting for repairs. Some South Side community leaders, including the late Bishop Arthur Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God, and the Rev. Leon Finney Jr., chair of the Woodlawn Organization, wanted the structure torn down.

Supporters of demolition argued that it interfered with development by darkening the street beneath and contributing to a perception of crime.

After a hearing and other public comment, city officials told the Federal Transit Administration that most residents favored demolition. Activists who opposed demolition charged that survey numbers were phony and that the community’s wishes were being ignored.

“They misrepresented the data,” Lyons said.

Opponents also charged that the tear-down plan was designed to permit the Apostolic Church’s and Brazier’s continued purchase of city-owned parcels along 63rd. Finney’s nonprofit also had property along 63rd.

“They (Brazier and Finney) wanted to suburbanize Woodlawn — they didn’t want to have typical urban type housing in Woodlawn,” said Jacky Grimshaw, vice president for governmental affairs at the Center for Neighborhood Technology.  Grimshaw, who was on the CTA board between 2009 and 2015, said the razing of an “L” branch would be more difficult today, since more people are aware of the value of transit-oriented development, which means putting high density retail and residential buildings near transit. 

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Even With $1B Upgrade, Chicago's Deep Tunnel Swamped by Winter Storm, as Streets and Basements Flooded

Chicago Tribune | March 15, 2018

Despite a new $1 billion flood-control reservoir more than 20 times bigger than Soldier Field, rain and melting snow swamped the largest section of the Deep Tunnel project in less than a day last month, according to records obtained by the Tribune.

Starting on Feb. 20, more than 2 inches of rain flushed a torrent of sewage mixed with runoff from rooftops, streets and parking lots into stormwater tunnels stretching from Wilmette to Westchester, rapidly filling the McCook Reservoir built to hold wastewater until it can be treated.

After the 5.1 billion-gallon system swelled to capacity, leftovers from the storm surge began backing up in basements and pouring out of overflow pipes into the Chicago River and other area streams during the next two days. Nearly 4 billion gallons of raw sewage, debris and runoff gushed into the waterways, most of it from a pair of pumping stations that convey waste from homes and factories on the North and South sides to the district’s treatment plants, according to a summary compiled by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District at the Tribune’s request. Another government agency, the Chicago Department of Water Management, fielded 510 reports of basement flooding during and after the storm, and recorded 240 cases of standing water on city streets.

“Before McCook came online, we would start seeing (sewage overflows) almost as soon as it started raining,” St. Pierre said. “This time the system held on for 20 hours, which makes me fairly optimistic that what we saw last month will be relatively rare.”

With the bulk of the project completed, even some of the project’s most ardent backers say the city and county need to start focusing more intensely on neighborhood-focused improvements that allow runoff to soak into the ground before it reaches local sewers. Yet state legislative leaders in Springfield have blocked measures that would authorize the water reclamation district to spend taxpayer funds on the smaller-scale initiatives, which can help prevent sewage from backing up into basements and take pressure off the larger system of sewers and stormwater tunnels.

Meanwhile, staff turnover at the city has slowed progress on a pilot project in the low-lying Chatham neighborhood on the South Side, where the nonprofit Center for Neighborhood Technology has drafted plans to direct downspouts away from homes, seal foundation cracks and install rain gardens and other landscaping improvements to absorb runoff.

“They are good at what they do,” Scott Bernstein, the center’s co-founder, said of the Deep Tunnel’s operators. “But we are seeing more intense storms like what happened in February, and it’s clear we still aren’t ready to deal with all of that rain.”

St. Pierre agrees. “We are not going to be able to solve this with pipes alone,” he said. “Once again, this storm shows why you shouldn’t build a large city in a swamp.”

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Study Says Transportation Costs Add to Housing Affordability Crunch

The | March 14, 2018

More than half of the Tennessee communities where housing is currently considered affordable are actually unaffordable when transportation costs are factored in, according to new research from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA). "Seven out of every 10 census tracts are considered affordable when you look at housing costs alone, but only about two out of every 10 census tracts would be considered affordable when transportation cost are included as well," said Muhammad Yadudu, research advisor and author of THDA's Transportation as a Key to Housing Affordability Issue Brief. The effect is especially pronounced in rural areas of Tennessee and among low- to moderate-income households, according to the report.

The THDA Issue Brief explores a new definition of a "cost-burdened household" that includes monthly transportation costs in addition to monthly housing costs, as is recommended by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a Chicago-based nonprofit focused on creating economically sustainable communities. Under this model, the number of Tennessee census tracts where regionally typical households are cost burdened changes dramatically, from about 30 percent of the state to about 80 percent.

"A large number of areas currently deemed affordable to a regionally typical resident are not when viewed in the context of both housing and transportation expenses," Mr. Yadudu said.

The new standard, as proposed by CNT and used by THDA in this report, considers a household to be "cost burdened" if it spends more than 45 percent of household income toward housing and transportation costs together. By the current standard, a household is considered "cost burdened" if it spends more than 30 percent of its total income toward housing costs alone.

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