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

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

Renovated Morse and Thorndale ‘L’ stations have new bike parking


Morse’s new bike parking area. Photo by Justin Haugens. 

The Chicago Transit Authority’s Morse Red Line station in Rogers Park, recently renovated, now has 45-108 new bike parking spaces (on what looks like 9 racks); the capacity depends on how people lock up their bikes. The bike rack type is called the “campus rack” and “hangers” are what you lean a bike against and lock to. The bike parking area is partially sheltered, has some lighting, is visible from multiple streets, and very close to a station entrance. The area is in the site of what used to be a retail space at approximately 1400 W Lunt Ave, at Greenwood Ave on the west side of the ‘L’ viaduct.


Morse’s new bike parking area. Photo by Justin Haugens. 


Thorndale’s new bike parking area. Photo by Rudy Luciani. 

The Thorndale Red Line station received the same racks with an identical capacity. According to an email conversation I had with a CTA staffer and a staffer in 49th ward Alderman Joe Moore’s office, the area will be fenced with “two (2) 10′ openings exiting the bike lot to the north (sidewalk) and east (alley)”; these will not be gated entrances. A DIY bike repair stand, the seventh in Chicago (all installed in 2012), was also installed. The bike parking area is on the south side of Thorndale, across the street from the station entrance, in what used to be a car parking lot.


Thorndale’s DIY bike repair stand. Photo by Rudy Luciani. 

I am awaiting funding cost and source information from the CTA.

Open thread: Post your CTA Holiday Train photos


Santa rides the train outside! Photo by CTA. 

Every November and December the Chicago Transit Authority operates the Holiday Train, a revenue service train with a flatbed car and a brave Santa Claus (brave because he rides outside!).

The experience has become very popular in Chicago, akin to the cachet of the Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree in New York City. Saturday was the final day of operation for 2012.


No space is left un-transformed for the special ride. This spot is usually reserved for service changes and announcements. Photo by CTA. 

See more photos by the CTA on their Flickr.


The Holiday Train passes over the Wabash Avenue bridge. Photo by Drew Baker. 


People wait to board the Holiday Train at the Forest Park Blue Line station. Photo by Jeff Zoline. 

Post a link to your photos in the comments.

Holiday Express: A Chicago sustainable transportation gift guide


[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings. Although we’re running this on Grid Chicago a bit late for some of the winter holidays, we hope you’ll enjoy reading about some of the great products coming out of Chicago nowadays and consider them for future purchases.]

A true Chicago sustainable transportation blackbelt is never late, unless it’s the CTA’s fault. But if you’re running a little behind in your winter gift shopping, here are a few last-minute ideas for the walking, biking and transit enthusiasts in your life. Most of these nifty items are locally made and available at independent stores, which means a minimum of gasoline was burned getting the products to market, and by purchasing them you’ll be supporting the local economy. Plus, these presents will encourage your friends’ and family members’ healthy commuting habits. You can’t get much more politically correct than that.

Our city’s over-dependence on automobiles really makes you appreciate those rare spots where you can take a break from the sight, sound and smell of car traffic. Give the gift of tranquility with Peaceful Places Chicago by local journalist Anne Ford. Her book features over one-hundred serene locations, most of them accessible by transit, with many destinations for relaxing, strolling and biking. Some of my favorites include the Indiana Dunes, Bridgeport’s Stearns Quarry Park, The Magic Hedge bird sanctuary at Montrose Harbor, Rosehill Cemetery and the Osaka Japanese Garden in Jackson Park. $14.95 at Women and Children First, 5233 North Clark.

Continue reading Holiday Express: A Chicago sustainable transportation gift guide