Have you ever wondered what major cities are doing to lessen the impact that millions of metropolitan residents and visitors have on the ecology? Take Chicago, for instance. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the population was 2.7 million in 2012. It takes a gifted and innovative team of city leaders and civilian managers to bring significant change to a bustling city.
This summer, subways and city metrolines got a little less crowded for people living and working in the windy city. Along with officials in other U.S. cities such as L.A. and New York, Chicago city managers are hoping tourists and commuters will make a transportation change in favor of a single passenger vehicle — the bicycle.
Offering Alternative Transportation
Chicago joins a select group of metropolitan transit programs to announce bike-sharing options. Although only 10 stations opened this summer, expansion plans include 400 stations and 4,000 bicycles within the next year, as The Chicago Tribune mentioned.
The first 10 parking stations are located near high-traffic areas and the Chicago Transit Authority routes and Metra lines. Community feedback is expected to impact location decisions for the remaining stations, which are still in the planning stage. The program is intended to primarily serve one-way commuters and visitors looking for a faster, cleaner trip, compared to car or bus transportation.
The bike-sharing program is similar to a bike-taxi service. Riders might use the rental program for a portion of their daily commutes to speed up travel time. It isn’t like other modes of transportation that require parking fees or long-term commitments.
Purchasing a 24-hour permits for $7 each, or a $75 annual membership pass gives bikers access to an unlimited number of half-hour rides. Additional fees apply if renters return bicycles past the 30-minute window.
In a 2012 press release, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced his support for ComEd’s commitment to invest $1.1 billion to modernize the utility infrastructure. Plans include incorporating Smart Grid technologies into Chicago’s aging electric grid.
Emanuel said technology such as Smart Meters will bring the city into the 21st century, adding new jobs and creating opportunities for Chicago families to take control of personal energy consumption to save money, according to CityofChicago.org. With deregulation, consumers now have choices to select 100 percent green electricity suppliers in ComEd districts in Chicago.
Other Eco-Friendly City Initiatives and Programs
Like most U.S. cities, Chicago falls short of that elusive mark that signals 100 percent sustainability in theory and practice. However, city leaders are trying. According to the EPA, Chicago has plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent in the near future and has grants in place for programs that eliminate barriers to solar energy expansion. The rehabilitated municipal building housing the Chicago Center for Green Technology currently sets the standard for retrofitting and rehabilitation designs to meet sustainability benchmarks
Turning a city inhabited by a million-plus individuals into a community of eco-focused neighbors is difficult, at best. New programs such as bike-sharing and energy-efficient smart grids are slowly turning these congested metropolitan areas into greener places.