“You just gotta make s#!t happen,” says Gabe Klein, outgoing Commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation, speaking at the ULI Fall Meeting here in Chicago. He was discussing how the owner of his office building didn’t allow employees to bring their bikes in the elevator. He understood it is corporate policy but that doesn’t make it right. He got the building owner to make some changes, but the larger lesson is developers and owners need to be proactive and work to provide facilities to make their buildings more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. This can include bike parking, showers, even a valet service, and widening sidewalks or other improvements.
Gabe Klein is a change agent. He believes government bureaucrats are smart and talented and should be given the tools to make change. A good manager gives staff the tools but allows them room to breathe. Klein has certainly made an impact in Chicago. Divvy, Chicago’s new bike share program, opened this year and now has 300 stations and 3,000 bikes. Klein pointed out that at the beginning of June, it didn’t exist; it wasn’t possible to rent a bike in this way in Chicago, and now it is immensely popular. That positive change alone is quite remarkable, as so many other cities with biek share programs have discovered. Klein likes to say that under mayor Emmanuel Chicago is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.
With regard to the future of transportation everywhere, Klein is especially intrigued about the myriad ways technology can help make cities more livable. He believes there is already and will continue to be a “convergence of modes,” which he finds fascinating. He sees opportunities for car share and bike share services to become one, and believes the traditional, and particularly many transit agencies, aren’t asn’t as innovative as they need to be. But just making it easier and sexier to do these things won’t be enough; it must be a carrot and stick approach. “You must create pain for people so they don’t drive everywhere,” he says.
Perhaps most importantly, Klein, acknowledges that resources are limited but there are ways for cities and transit agencies to raise capital. To help pay for Riverwalk improvements in Chicago, for example, the city renegotiated leases with tour boats, will charge for kayak rentals, and will install parking meters for boat slips along the river. Klein demonstrates that applying this kind of holistic, un-siloed thinking to cities anywhere will generate results and improved livability. He’s right, you just gotta make s#!t happen.
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