CNT in the News

Three Steps to Help Survive Climate Change

Crain's Chicago Business | August 23, 2019

The City Needs a Community-First Approach to Solutions

An invited op-ed by CEO Bob Dean

No city is unaffected by climate change. In Chicago, we are protected from rising sea levels and we benefit from the world’s largest supply of fresh water, but our lives will still be disrupted. Climate scientists project that Chicago will experience more frequent severe storms, more neighborhood flooding and hotter summers—and recent experience has borne out these projections.  

Climate change demands a twofold response. We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, power generation, buildings and industry. Equally important, we must adapt to the reality of a changed climate. To survive and thrive in this future, Chicago should:  

First, recognize and address disparities in climate impacts. 

Second, invest systematically in green infrastructure. 

Third, rebuild the Department of Environment. 

The climate challenge facing our city is serious, and the scope of needed action is daunting. But the city that once changed the direction of a river certainly has the grit and the audacity to thrive in the face of climate change. Does it have the political will?

Boulder-Based Green Energy Group Makes Case for Density to Meet City's Climate Goals

Boulder Beat | August 19, 2019

A local nonprofit focused on energy efficiency has released a comprehensive report calling for increased density in Boulder. Through exhaustive use of data, the 50-page “Growing Greener: The Environmental Benefits of a Compact and Connected Boulder” makes the case that the city cannot meet its climate goals without housing more people and lambasts the city’s anti-growth policies for exporting its environmental impacts into neighboring communities — despite Boulder’s reputation as a leader in sustainability. Even without more density, Boulder as it exists today is greener than its neighbors. In 2017, per capita emissions were 14 metric tons of CO2, compared to 17 for Colorado as a whole. According to Growing Greener, which used data from The Center for Neighborhood Technology,other cities and towns in Boulder County have 20% higher per capita emissions than Boulder based on vehicle use alone.

Homelessness among Michigan’s children: The problem is far larger, and more diverse, than you think

Daily Kos | July 30, 2019

More than 15,000 of Michigan’s very young children, from newborns to 4-year-olds, are homeless. There are Michigan babies living in cars; toddlers sleeping on blankets on floors; and preschoolers being shuttled from one relative’s, or friend’s, or total stranger’s couch to another.

Expand the age range and the tragedy only grows larger. According to the University of Michigan’s 2018 “Child Homelessness in Michigan” study, more than 36,000 of Michigan’s elementary-, middle-, and high-schoolers don’t have “a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”

And while the word “homeless” tends to bring up certain assumptions about what the people involved look like or the neighborhoods where they’re fighting to find a stable home, childhood homelessness defies many of those stereotypes. In wealthy Oakland County, for example, 1% of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers—more than 3,000 children—don’t have a place to call home.

According to the Michigan League for Public Policy’s June 2019 “Homelessness in Early Childhood” report, it’s true that more than 75% of Michigan’s very young homeless children live in urban areas. “However,” the report continues, “children are about twice as likely to experience homelessness during their first four years of life if they are living in a rural or midsize county.”

In three very rural (and very white) Michigan counties (Alger, Arenac, and Lake), from 11% to 13% of very young children are without a home. The University of Michigan’s study of school-age children facing homelessness found that “In 12 school districts serving fewer than 1,400 students, between 1-in-7 and 1-in-4 students experienced homelessness during the school year.”

The problem is also much larger than the League’s report suggests.

[...] To calculate their estimate that 15,565 very young children in Michigan are homeless, Ostyn and researchers from the League, Kids Count Michigan, and the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions Program extrapolated from the percentage of first-grade Michiganders who are known to be without a place to live. “There’s not one single system that captures [the data about] this issue for this age group,” Ostyn explained. One thing the researchers do know, though, are the factors that come together to cause a situation where babies are sleeping in cars or on couches. Those issues range from jobs that don’t pay a living wage, to the lack of affordable housing in many areas, to overtaxed and underfunded public services that can be spread out over a wide area and difficult to access in communities without public transportation. (Michigan ranks a dismal 27th out of all 50 states according to the 2019 AllTransit Performance Score, judged on a combination of public transit connectivity, access to jobs, and frequency of service.)

DC Ranks Among Most Walkable Cities, But at a Cost

NBC 4 Washington | July 17, 2019

The D.C. metropolitan area is a model for the development of walkable cities, but pedestrian-friendly areas come with higher rent costs, a recent report found. 

The George Washington University’s Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis, with others, found that walkability is positively correlated with gross domestic product per capita, workforce education level and general economic performance.

The Foot Traffic Ahead report used Walkscore data on how easy it is in an area to run errands on foot, access public transportation and more.

The District ranks fourth behind New York City, Denver and Boston for most walkable urban real estate, third in population per walkable urban place and fourth in Future Growth Momentum, a measure predicting a region’s future walkability performance.


Walkable urban places are not distributed equally. According to Leinberger's D.C study, they tend to be clustered “in the northwest portion of the metropolitan area, which has been metro D.C.’s ‘favored quarter’ since at least World War II.”

Despite the uneven spread, D.C. ranked second in the nation for social equity in walkable urban places — a finding the researchers admitted seemed "counter-intuitive."

A number of factors may explain the high ranking, [Jordan] Chafetz said.

The social equity index is based on cost of housing, cost of transportation and percent renter-occupied housing in a metropolitan area, the study says. 

Lower transportation costs in walkable D.C. significantly offset the higher cost of housing compared with other cities, which may also explain the high social equity score, Chafetz said. She explained that the data used to create the rankings — housing and transportation data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology — is based on households making 80% of the median income, which for D.C. is about $66,000 of an $83,000 median, according to Data USA.

“One of the data limitations is just that households making 80% of the area median income also tend to be making a lot,” Chafetz said.

How congestion pricing can help Chicago's infrastructure

Crain's Chicago Business | July 9, 2019

Imagine a Chicago with less crumbling infrastructure, fewer congested roads and more extensive transit and bicycling options. Envision the Windy City with local transportation to match its world-class stature as a place to live, visit and do business.

Then confront this cold reality: Mayor Lori Lightfoot has few good options when it comes to finding revenues to pay for such improvements. In the wake of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s capital plan, further boosts to fuel, parking and real-estate transfer taxes appear to be untenable, at least in the near term. Markedly higher residential property taxes would generate much pushback. Sales taxes are already among the highest in the country.

Fortunately, attractive opportunities exist in the area of "congestion pricing." Such incentive pricing would improve the quality of life and accelerate Chicago's transformation into a bona fide "Smart City," i.e., a place relying on advanced technologies to promote the efficient use and maintenance of infrastructure. Fees to manage congestion within the city and on certain expressways would generate funds for street enhancements, transit service, cycling and walking improvements, and innovations in mobility. Innovations could include promoting much-needed microtransit (e.g., flexible and demand-responsive services using small buses and vans) to fill gaps in our transit system.

For too long, Chicago has lagged behind other cities in using variable fees to manage its roads, rails and parking. Many metro regions have adopted congestion pricing on expressways, and Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle are actively considering it for downtown streets. Recently, [Joseph Schwieterman] joined experts at the Active Transportation Alliance, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Metropolitan Planning Council, Shared-Use Mobility Center and ride-share provider Via as well as University of Illinois at Chicago researchers in urging Mayor Lightfoot and relevant committee heads to study the possibility of congestion pricing.

Uber and Lyft said ride-sharing would cut traffic congestion and supplement public transit. But has it worked?

Chicago Tribune | June 7, 2019

Ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft promised they would supplement public transit and help ease traffic congestion.

But data collected by the city and now made public shows almost half of Chicago’s millions of monthly ride-share trips are taking place in just a few wealthy, crowded and already transit-rich areas.

A Tribune analysis of ride-share trips that occurred in March shows that more than four of every 10 passenger pickups happened in five of the city’s community areas — the Loop, the Near North Side, the Near West Side, Lakeview and West Town. Many of the drop-offs were concentrated in those areas, too.

A more granular look at ride pickups and drop-offs by Census tract, which can be areas of just a few blocks in a dense city like Chicago, shows that aside from airport trips, the most popular ride was a short one between the Loop and the Near North Side.

Nearly 1 in 5 trips in March occurred during rush hour, when trains and buses are most readily available.

Ride-sharing services have ushered in new convenience for residents trying to get around the city and represent another transportation option in lower-income communities. But the city’s data also reflects ride-sharing’s impact on city streets and balance sheets — Uber and Lyft drivers competing with taxi cabs in already congested neighborhoods and millions in dollars of lost revenue at the Chicago Transit Authority as people shun public transportation for a solo ride in the back seat of a stranger’s car.

The release of the data comes as new Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot considers new fees for ride-share trips. Chicago already imposes a 72-cent-per-trip fee, which helps fund the CTA.

Lightfoot has not specified what new fee the city could impose, though her transition document suggested exploring additional funding for transportation, including congestion pricing and a new Loop ride-share surcharge.

“We will continue to look at creative ways to address our challenges and to improve transportation access in Chicago, including as it relates to ridesharing,” a spokeswoman for Lightfoot said in an email.

Transportation experts who have reviewed the data say that it appears some people are choosing ride share over transit.

“We’re definitely seeing trips that could have been served by transit — people are taking Uber and Lyft instead,” said Elizabeth Irvin, transportation director for the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a sustainable development nonprofit.