Today’s Headlines


37-year-old Oak Forest woman dies after January 12 car crash in Alsip (Southtown)

Drivers illegally use I-190 shoulder to wait for O’Hare passengers, creating a hazard (Tribune)

Fire on Green Line near Laramie station in Austin causes delays (Tribune, RedEye)

Certified LAB instructors meet in Loop to launch online bike safety curriculum (Kevenides)

$250K settlement for family of Dekalb girl injured by car while biking to school (Keating Law)

Strategies for getting compensation after a hit-and-run (Lawyer Jim)

Construction sawhorses and beacon in Uptown act as de facto traffic circle (Transitized)

Dismal underpass at Addison and Avondale transformed by colorful mural (MPC)

Video: bike commuting from the Loop to Lincoln Park (BWLP)

Video illustrates how to cycle in a long(ish) skirt (LGRAB)

Next South Shore alderman must expand and protect existing transit


A Metra Electric train crosses Yates Boulevard out of the South Shore station. Photo by Jeff Zoline.

Applications are being accepted by Mayor Email until Friday, January 25 at 5 PM.

Alderman Sandi Jackson of the 7th Ward, which includes South Shore, South Chicago, Rainbow Beach, and Jeffery Manor, resigned effective Tuesday. Mayor Emanuel has 60 days from Tuesday to appoint a successor and hinted at the process in which he would vet candidates. A website will be launched today; people can submit applications to be considered for the job by a panel of four – yet unnamed – community representatives.

The Chicago Tribune reported, “The next alderman for the South Side ward must have a record of ‘community involvement and engagement,’ the mayor stated in a news release. Emanuel hopes to pick the replacement by mid-February.” On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune speculated as to who might be jockeying for the position.

I talked to four residents in the South Shore neighborhood about the transportation issues and assets to understand the needs in the community that the next alderman should address. Community members are organizing rapidly: two of the three residents I interviewed, independently, knew of each other through a brand new organization called Reclaiming South Shore for All (RSSA), led by Mia Henry. Henry was planning for an RSSA meeting when I caught her on the phone; she only had time to convey that the Jeffery Jump “was a good move for people” in the neighborhood. Continue reading Next South Shore alderman must expand and protect existing transit

Metra takes another step to get wifi on trains


People ride a Metra train. Photo by Clark Maxwell. 

Metra is looking for board approval to hire Xentrans to help them find the best solution and vendor who would test wi-fi service on one route. The contract is worth $200,000.

Xentrans has previously done work with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), an agency providing bus, express bus, and light rail transit around San Jose, California. Wifi is available on all its Express coach buses (that are similar to Pace’s express routes that run on the I-55 expressway) and three light rail routes.

Xentrans doesn’t provide the infrastructure itself. According to its website, it manages projects and consults, providing “unbiased, vendor-independent, technology-agnostic consulting…for in-vehicle wireless system design and deployment”. Metra had previously solicited proposals to provide the wifi at no cost to the transit agency.

Continue reading Metra takes another step to get wifi on trains

Charging by the mile, a gas tax alternative, sees serious movement


The Illinois Department of Transportation is ready to build many more lanes and flyovers at the Circle Interchange, shown here in a postcard from 1963. Posted by Brandon Bartoszek. 

Because of vehicles with higher fuel efficiency, slightly less driving, and the gas tax not being changed since 1993, the motor vehicle fuel tax, or “gas tax”, has failed to pay for everything that Congress has legislated that it should pay for. The Highway Trust Fund, which includes the Mass Transit Account, has received several infusions of money from the “general revenue fund” – to the tune of over $60 billion.

But a new report from the Government Accountability Office, the congressional think tank focused on financing, past, present, and future, has made the country take a giant step forward in considering a switch to a fee that more accurately charges usage. The report, like all GAO studies, was commissioned by the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee*.

The gas tax charges drivers based on their use of petroleum, different vehicles can go different distances on the same amount of petroleum: essentially, some pay less than others for the same use of the road. Addiitionally, the counts of how much people drive has decreased (called vehicle miles traveled, or VMT), yet our demand for funds to maintain and build new infrastructure outpaces the incoming revenues from the gas tax. Lastly, the federal gas tax hasn’t changed at all, sticking to a cool 18.4 cents per gallon (for non-diesel drivers) since 1993. “While the gas tax was equal to 17 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas when it was set at its current level in 1993, it is now only 5 percent” (Streetsblog).

Continue reading Charging by the mile, a gas tax alternative, sees serious movement

First CTA fare hike in four years begins today


A Blue Line train towards O’Hare approaches the UIC-Halsted station. CTA has added more runs to the O’Hare branch, in its “plan to reduce crowding” (more commonly called “decrowding plan”), which are short-turned at UIC-Halsted station. Photo by Jeff Zoline. 

The 55% of Chicago Transit Authority passengers who use passes will see an increase in their per-trip fare when they buy new passes or reload a Chicago Card Plus today. This is the first fare increase since January 2009. (See the full schedule of fares on CTA’s website.)

My friend Ryan Lakes, an architect, bike polo player, and West Town Bikes volunteer in Humboldt Park, strongly recommended I watch “Taken For A Ride“, a documentary about the systematic dismantling of rail transit in tens of cities nationwide, and the conversion of those routes to diesel buses manufactured by General Motors. I strongly recommend it, too. It was released in 1996, but watching it today shows me how transit history repeats itself.

Continue reading First CTA fare hike in four years begins today

State of Independence: The protected lane will change to a buffered lane


The city has placed barricades in the protected bike lanes on Independence Boulevard to discourage cycling in them until they are converted to buffered lanes. 

View more photos of the Independence Boulevard bike lanes here.

In December Red Bike and Green’s Eboni Senai Hawkins notified me that residents of Lawndale, an underserved community on Chicago’s West Side, were “up in arms” about the new protected bike lanes on Independence Boulevard. This roughly mile-long stretch connects the Garfield Park green space with Douglas Boulevard and is part of a new 4.5-mile network of protected and buffered lanes leading from the park to Little Village. I interviewed Hawkins for her perspective on the situation.

Hawkins, a Lawndale resident, told me the locals had a number of complaints. After the new lanes, which move the parking lane from the curb to the left of the bike lane, were striped but not yet signed, dozens of motorists who parked curbside were ticketed. Those tickets, and all subsequent tickets were eventually dismissed. Independence is home to several churches and the pastors felt that the new lanes made it difficult for members of their congregations to park.

Although the lanes are designed to reduce speeding and shorten pedestrian crossing distances on the wide boulevard by narrowing the travel lanes, drivers said they felt uncomfortable parking in the new “floating” parking lanes. They said the new configuration made them feel more exposed to the still-speeding traffic as they exited their cars. They found the new street configuration, which incorporates sections of protected as well buffered lanes, to be confusing. And they objected to the removal of some parking spaces as part of the design.

Residents complained to 24th Ward Alderman Michael Chandler. Although Chandler had signed off on the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) plans for the lanes a year earlier, at a couple of recent community meetings the alderman blasted the new design and asked CDOT to bring back curbside parking. The department has agreed to use paint to convert the protected lanes to buffered lanes later this winter at an estimated cost in the low $10,000s, according to deputy commissioner Scott Kubly.

Continue reading State of Independence: The protected lane will change to a buffered lane