“Eco- Tourism: Chicago as a Future Sustainable Green Global Metropolis of the World”
- Olu Oluduro
- Alejandro Rojas
- Cody Fallico
Infrastructure and Transportation
Our group’s decision to select this option was based on careful critical research and a clear agenda to determine what would best increase Chicago’s standing as a Global city. Our first set of investigations was to examine all the characteristics of a global city and establish a concise justification as to why we believed that investing in infrastructure + transportation would be the best avenue through which Chicago could achieve that goal.
In order to also clarify several of the points that I will make in this blog post, I have taken the liberty of uploading our RFP presentation online at ISSUU.com. Please click on the following link to access the PDF version.
First, what constitutes a global city? What are the elements that define a global city? Most importantly, how can one increase the status of a municipality from being just a large city to become a global city that exhibits diversity, creativity, sustainability and technological advancement?
To respond effectively to these questions, we examined Chicago’s history, Chicago’s available resources (including human capital resources, natural resources, and socio-economic resources); and the projected effects of investing in these resources. Following this, we coined our summary presentation as “Eco- Tourism: Chicago as a Future Sustainable Green Global Metropolis of the World”
Global City Definition
Quote from What is a Global City? by Aaron M. Renn
“I sense that these rankings attempt to look at global cities in four basic ways:
- Advanced producer services production node. This is basically Sassen’s original definition. I think this one remains particularly important. Because the skills are specialized and subject to clustering economics, the cities that concentrate in these functions have a Buffett-like “wide moat” sustainable competitive advantage in particular very high value activities. For cities with large concentrations of these, those cities can generate significantly above average economic output and incomes per worker.
- Economic giants. Namely, this is a fairly simple but important view of that simply measures how big cities are on some metrics like GDP.
- International Gateway. Measures of the importance of a city in the international flows of people and goods. Examples would be the airport and cargo gateway figures.
- Political and Cultural Hub. An important distinction should perhaps be made here between hubs that may be large but of primarily national or regional importance, and those of truly international significance. For example, there are many media hubs around the world, but few of them are home to outlets like the BBC that drive the global conversation.”
Thus, using the information above, our comprehensive definition of what defined a global city was that we believed it to be an international hub of economy, diversity and sustainability. We also consider a global city to be an international hub for the efficient flow of goods, services and creative people. It must also be an international hub for the arts, entertainment, culture and politics.
Now that we understood what Chicago as a global city should be, our agenda was to then research and understand the order of priorities needed for Chicago to achieve that goal. The proposal we drafted was to create a new global Chicago by building various innovative Eco-sustainable infrastructure that will create jobs, improve the economy of the region and re-affirm its place as a Global city for tourism. Speaking of tourism in Chicago, we found out that the number of annual tourists has gradually been increasing over the past five years and we predict that there will be a rapid increase over the next five years.
Summary of our presentation:
- History of Chicago being innovative
- Justifications – Why should the municipality of Chicago select our proposal?
- The facts about Infrastructure we need to build
- —Trains- evolving to high speed electric trains and making us a hub again
- —Green spaces – Evolving our parks into centers of arts and culture
- —Biking – Chicago has always been a cyclist city
- —Roads – Improve our roads and bridges issue
- —Water and the fresh water content of the Great Lakes
- —Utilizing Wind and Solar sources as renewable energy
- —Vertical Hydroponics + Urban farming from harvesting rain water
- —Sewer systems
History of Chicago being innovative
The history of Chicago is filled with several innovations in infrastructure. One primary example is the 96 mile Illinois – Michigan Canal which created the waterway connection to the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. When it was completed in 1848, it helped secure Chicago’s place on the map on the world as a new central hub for trade, commerce and social development. Then of course, there was Ellis Chestbrough who reversed the Chicago River and designed the innovative sewer system, the first of its kind in the United States of America. The reversal of the Chicago River in 1900 was a global engineering feat; and was very integral in establishing a lasting solution to the sanitary issues facing the city’s fresh water supply.
Yet another example is Chicago’s railway system, which again exhibited Chicago’s incredible resilience, ambition and spirit of innovation. Robert Spinney’s book “City of Big Shoulders – a history of Chicago” does a brilliant job at describing how the invention and innovation of its railway system helped develop Chicago into a global metropolis within a century. Online research explains that by December 1921, Chicago had the greatest railway system in the world (according to an article in Chicagology titled “Chicago The Greatest Railway Center in the World” By Robert J. McKay, Vice-President for Fort Dearborn National Bank)
As discussed in my first blog post, “History has repeatedly taught us that when a new city can find a way to feed and water itself, its citizenry become inspired to sustain their new home. I tentatively think one of the earliest keys to the success of this new city was the drive for food in the form of grain; thus, McCormick’s invention of the reapers and Ogden’s railroads helped expand Chicago’s strive for securing its place as the grain and meat center of the continent. The industrialization of its early factories then helped to keep its residents employed, thus preventing large-scale emigration from Chicago.”
These are but a few of the examples of all the innovations that have occured in Chicago’s history and it is only fitting that the city starts to prioritize investing in our infrastructure once again. Afterall, if you build it, they will come.
The “Why” about investing in our transportation and Infrastructure
- Construction of these infrastructures mean jobs which means economic progress; which in turn means an avenue of increasing the number of the creative class
- For every $1 billion that the government invests in infrastructures, 47,000 jobs are created and generates $6.2billion in economic activity. (Source for this data is directly from the Economic Policy Institute and several other government websites)
- The cost of investing in our train transportation system will be about $9.6 billion, which will create almost half a million jobs.
Quote from the 2011 Economic Study by Midwest High Speed Midrail Association
“As the world’s fifth largest economy, (at $2.6 trillion and approximately equal to France, only the U.S., Chinese, Japanese and German economies are larger) the Midwest possesses a diverse manufacturing, agricultural and business services base anchored by nine major metropolitan areas. High speed rail (HSR) will have a transformative impact that will unify the Midwest and solidify its future position as one of the world’s most powerful economic mega-regions”. The image below shows some of the primary benefits of investing in a high speed rail system.
The economic impact would be staggering. New jobs and business opportunities will support and enhance the Midwest’s global competitiveness by linking the financial, educational, technology and medical research resources of the entire region to produce:
- $13.8 billion per year increase in business sales for the Chicago Metro area alone,
- 104,000 new jobs and an additional $5.5 billion in wages each year in the Chicago Metro area resulting from increased economic activity,
- $314 million in new annual visitor spending in downtown Chicago.
New jobs in the Chicago metropolitan area alone represent $118 billion in wages over 30 years, and the new business sales generated by economic activity associated with the HSR system are estimated to be almost $300 billion over 30 years. The new terminals and train stations, for instance at Union Station, would generate a highly efficient transportation system for the movement of people, commerce, goods, services and tourism.
According to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association’s 2011 study, “The Economic Impacts of High Speed Rail: Transforming the Midwest,” a four-spoke, 220-mph bullet train network linking Chicago to Minneapolis, Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, and St. Louis would serve 43 million annual riders and generate over $2 billion in ticket revenue alone.
The image below shows how Chicago will be one of the main central hubs for the high speed train network when it gets implemented and it will connect Chicago to all the other major cities in the MidWest and to the rst of the nation..
Easing the CTA train bottleneck at the Loop
Our research uncovered the fact that the current train routes of the CTA is wholly inefficient, especially when trying to get around the city between two extreme points. This makes commuters waste time and adds to the overcrowding issues at all the main transfer stops. Hence, an investment in expanding the routes will create more efficient routes that are direct links to the airports, suburbs and other places of interest. The ideal scenario is that it will promote tourism, increase diversity of the populace and integrate the various neighbourhoods of the city. Below, the image on the left shows the current train route system in place and on the right is the proposed system with the expanded routes that will also connect to the airports..
What about a adding additional lightrail train systems?
Using lightrail trains to create a new “Stroll” in each neighborhood by utilizing Denver’s FreeMetro Mall system will also be a highly desirable attribute to have in each of the main neighboorhoods of Chicago (more on this is covered in the Conclusion section below). During our visit to Bronzeville, we were able to learn about the histories of ‘The Stroll” and how it impacted its community during the ealr part of the century. Using the free Denver system here in Chicago will be a great oppurtunity to increase its vibrancy and its diversity.
Improving economic activity helps improve diversity
- Improving diversity because it improves Creativity which in turn expands the human capital of our city (a key component in driving technological innovation)
- Improving our infrastructure will enhance co-operation between all the cities around the Great Lakes
- Tourists will come to explore the architecture of not just our buildings but also our infrastructures and a new efficient transportation will ensure seamless movement of people around the city.
Why Invest in our Great lakes?
By 2050 almost 40% of the world is expected to face water shortages and the Greak Lakes already possesses over 20% of the global fresh water supply
Why invest in our roads?
- Roads have always been a key factor in the efficient transporation of goods and services. In addition, it sustains an efficient method of moving people from place to place. The city could use more efficient electric buses which will lower emissions; and improve the comfort, ridability and aesthetics of the CTA fleet.
We propose a new bus system that services high traffic commercial and retail industries, recreational and festival locations. This system essentially runs along a single street or simple route picking up passengers and dropping them off a couple blocks away. The system is in constant motion during active hours and is free of charge. This new bus system allows easy travel stopping every block and offers free access to anyone.
- It must be noted that Chicago currently has a very overcrowded public transportation system that creates stressful conditions especially during heavy rush hour periods.
- From a psychological viewpoint, this is not mentally or socially healthy for Chicago residents and eventually begins to affect productivity at work. One possible solution for this could be to adopt the Straddler bus system currently being developed in China
- Investing in our roads and improving their conditions to be Green and sustainable will help alleviate those problems. This will also encourage more poeple to either ride their bikes or use electric cars
Chicago’s history included the first women cyclists. We propose an upgrade to the biking routes and boulevard system in Chicago. This boulevard system will consist of only pedestrians and cyclists. It will become a beautiful stroll for people to enjoy, relax, ride and recreate. This system gives the streets back to the people rather than the car. Ultimately, this system leads to healthy and sustainable lifestyles helping Chicago become the greenest high-density urban urban development in the world.
- In addition, our proposal shows that an investment in several of the abandoned parking lots in the city could be converted into solar parks to help generate solar energy for the electric cars
- Finally, investing in our roads will help bring back the essence of the Boulevards which were the first of its kind in the United States.
We propose that more of our buildings in the ciy should start using BIPVs (Building Integrated Photovoltaics) which can convert rooftops, windows and sidewalls of existing buildings into solar energy generation points.
Chicago is well known for its parks systems and its innovative Boulevard system. We want the city to be able to continue maintaining them while using some of the suggestions in our proposal to utilize them more often. Investing in the renovation of old abandoned buildings around the city into centers for vertical farming will also help increase agricultural production, employment, support local farmers, increase sustainability and reduce our carbon footprint.
Green Water Infrastructure
We live in an area which surrounds a natural fresh water resevoir known as Lake Michigan. As Chicagoans we take this easily accessible water source for granted. Due to the lack of soft scape within the high density urban hard scape, none of the rain water is permitted to infiltrate through to groundwater. Groundwater is the main source of potable water for communities.
To deal with this we propose the introduction of permeable surfaces to permit water into the ground, rendering the black asphalt obsolete. Another issue in chicago is that we have, a once glorified, combined sewer system. This means that all run-off water and gray water is mixed with the black water on the way to being directly dumped back into the lake. This is a problem. We must rework the sewer systems so that the water can be naturally filtered through vegetation and soil before being put into our clean lake.
“Building on years of innovative environmental programmes, the City of Chicago is now developing community plans and cradle-to-cradle systems that will make it an international model for cities seeking designs that allow industry and ecology, human settlements and the natural world to flourish side by side.” (William McDonough and Michael Braungart)
Our group listed several innovative infrastructures and transportation options that the city could invest in; however, great investments always come with a large price tag. The question then became which ones should we invest in first? How do we establish a priority of investment that will improve diversity, creativity and sustainability while also evolving Chicago into a Global city?
One of the first options that we thought would be a great starting point was to adopt the excellent FreeMetro Ride system that was implemented in Denver, Colorado. The way it works is that the buses and lightrail trains run passengers for free along a long stretch of city attractions. Bringing this system to Chicago and implementing it in each of the main neighboorhoods will help to develop a new modern day version of Bronzeville’s Stroll; a lovely long stretch of commerce, malls, smaller shops, bars, entertainment, arts and culture that will rapidly improve diversity. Once these were in place, we could then expend our investments into expending the CTA routes system and then into the speedrail system.
Secondly, we also thought that our proposal for tempoary street closures (using portable green turf-grass mats) would be a great method of bringing a vibrant feel to neighborhoods and the city in general. This would promote diversity within the neighboorhoods and exhibit Chicago’s dedication to being a Green city.
Finally, we thought that the further development and careful conservation of our fresh water supply was key in maintaining our current infrastructures. This will also be very critical in helping us kickstart the renewable energy program that would promote Chicago as a Green global city.
Reference material and online sources:
- Midwest Great lake Collaboration effort (Link given to the class by Professor Friedman)
- Congress for the New Urbanism 2050 vision
- SOM great lakes 2050 vision
Trains and Buses
- Scaled drawings of various train systems around the world
- Straddling Buses being developed in China (Videos)
- Crossrail and Highspeed rail information
- Denver’s FreeMetro Mall Buses system
- Chicagology (Chicagos history of train and its previous superiority in the world)
- CTA expansion and re-connection system
Green Infrastructure for sustainability
- Pedestrian Street and Tempoary Street closures
- Greening Infrastructure
- Portable Solar energy canopy for cars
The value of infrastructure investment
- Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1billion invested in infrastructure creates 47,000 jobs