Network Roundup: Building Trains Is Hard, Building Parking Is Easy

Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening around the Streetsblog Network today: headaches and heartbreaks on the way to passenger rail, smooth sailing for parking developments:

This illustrated rendering of a new mixed-use apartment complex in Chicago's Wrigleyville is being sold as transit-oriented development, though it would have twice the required parking spaces. Image: Transitized

Wisconsin Paying a High Price for Passenger Rail Refusal: James Rowen at Network blog The Political Environment points out that Amtrak’s Hiawatha Line is breaking ridership records, despite Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s refusal of $810 million in federal funds to connect the line to Madison. Upgrades to Midwest intercity passenger rail, thanks to President Obama’s high-speed rail initiatives, are making cities throughout that region better connected. The rail connection between Chicago and the Twin Cities could soon be competitive with driving, and faster than flying, when you consider total travel time, a local writer says. Watertown, Wisconsin Mayor Ron Krueger says Governor Walker’s “decision will hurt the state of Wisconsin for decades to come.”

500 New Parking Spaces for Chicago’s Wrigleyville: A 500-space parking garage is planned for Chicago’s Wrigleyville area, reports Shaun Jacobsen at Network blog Transitized. The Addison Clark on Park apartment complex is being sold as transit-oriented development; it sits less than 600 feet from a CTA station. However, it has nearly twice the required amount of parking. Even the minimum allowed, 273, is “far too many for a dense neighborhood like Lakeview,” says Jacobsen. “The nature of the development is walkable by design — storefronts at the sidewalk, apartments above — so why is the developer planning to add so much parking?”

A Streetcar fight in Minneapolis: In Minneapolis, a skirmish of sorts has broken out between city and regional transportation planners over a streetcar proposal for the city’s northeast side. The Twin Cities’ regional planning body, Met Council, is balking at Minneapolis’ plans to use regional transportation funds for the project, which critics say is more about  development.

Bill Lindeke at Network blog Streets.mn says it’s an example of the controversy that frequently surrounds streetcar projects: “On the one hand, detractors argue that streetcars are little more than gimmicks, cute but expensive projects that have some sort of svengali-like hold over yuppies (which is why developers like them so much). They’re inflexible, slow, and costly, and the money would be far better spent on buses. On the other hand, streetcar supporters (like myself) argue that they provide advantages beyond illusions of permanence. They’re quiet, spacious, and offer smoother rides. I’ve heard them called ‘pedestrian accelerators’ that catalyze walkable cities while calming traffic.”