Grid Bits: Taxi reforms, bike sharing update, crash analyses

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Transportation commissioner Gabe Klein gives a thumbs up to stricter taxicab regulations. This photo was taken on a bike ride with John Greenfield for this article. Okay, he actually wasn’t giving a thumbs up to that, but I can only imagine that he would. 

There are six stories in this edition of Grid Bits.

Safety

(1) Taxis

In October, we linked you to the Chicago Tribune’s coverage on unsafe taxi drivers and how it’s sometimes hard to revoke or suspend their driver’s or chauffeur’s licenses. Monday, Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Beale announced proposed changes to the taxi ordinance to deal with this and other issues:

Real-time access to the Secretary of State’s moving violation’s database, which will allow the City to take dangerous drivers off the street immediately, instead of waiting for annual reviews. Additionally, this will eliminate the need for drivers to submit their own driving records;

Denial of renewal for chauffeurs with three moving violations in a 12-month period;

A revamping of the City Colleges of Chicago coursework for taxi drivers, with an increased focus on safety and mandatory behind-the-wheel training; [this course is something that every taxi driver must take currently before receiving a license to drive the taxi]

It will be introduced to the City Council at their December meeting today, but I’m not sure if it will be voted on. The press release makes at least one mistake, misidentifying the committee as “Transportation and Infrastructure” when it’s known as “Transportation and Public Way”. Also, one benefit of the ordinance is oddly worded, making it seem as if higher leasing rates on fuel efficient vehicles will encourage vehicle owners to buy them over less fuel efficient vehicles (“By raising lease-rates on more fuel efficient vehicles, vehicle owners will be incentivized to modernize and upgrade their fleet”) – I think the opposite, lower leasing rates, would lead to more upgrades.

(2) Crash analysis

I’ve written some low-level, “back of the napkin” analysis of Chicago crash data on Steven Can Plan about transportation imbalances between men and women. My initial findings?

1. Men make up 72.73% of people cycling (to work, the only trip purpose for which I have data). And they experienced 75.75% of the crashes with automobiles (to where is unknown).

2. Men make up 48.45% of people walking (to work, again, the only trip purpose for which I have data). And they experienced 53.38% of the crashes with automobiles (again, to where is unknown).

In other words, while more men than women cycle to work, they may experience an even higher rate of crashes than women. And, more women than men walk to work, but men experience crashes at a higher rate than women. (I did not calculate injury rates.) A researcher in Melbourne, Australia studied gender, risks, and cycling:

The risks (actual and perceived) associated with active transport in countries with low rates of utilitarian walking and cycling [like the United States] are likely to have a differential impact on women, as women are more risk averse than men. In a meta- analysis of gender differences in risk taking, [another study] found a statistically significant gender difference in a wide range of risk taking behaviours including driving (cycling was not included). Read the study.

I hope to dedicate more time to researching and reporting on the sex and gender imbalances in the ridership and crash rates of citizen cyclists. On that note, Dottie from Let’s Go Ride a Bike interviews the women of West Town Bikes, one of Grid Chicago’s favorite institutions.

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Photo by Jeremy Hughes. 

Bike Sharing 

(3) Bike sharing is still in progress in Chicago, but the news remains good.

1. A vendor hasn’t been selected yet (hopefully by the end of the year, I was told by the contract negotiator), and neither has the outreach and marketing partner. A second RFP was issued, with a due date of Friday, December 16, 2011. The purpose of this second RFP is for the interested bidders to submit revised proposals that are easier to evaluate against each other based on a new framework in the second RFP.

2. The City of Chicago has released a third RFP (request for proposals) for a bike sharing system “media broker”, an organization that will seek sponsorship and advertising partnerships for the system which would help fund and promote it.

3. Senator Dick Durbin announced that the City of Chicago received a share of $20 million to help launch the bike sharing program. Bike sharing will get $4 from this grant, after Ray LaHood stopped by Logan Square. The other share is for the CTA (explained below). The press release offered some new information: users are expected to make 2.66 million trips over 3.8 million miles in the first year of operation.

Transit

(4) The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) gets to share in the $20 million grant from TIGER III, a competitive and discretionary funding program administered by the Department of Transportation. The money will go to fix deteriorated track on the Blue Line between Damen Avenue and Belmont Avenue.

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A Blue Line train to Forest Park approaches the California station. Photo by Clint. 

(5) Congress will show its commitment to sustainable transportation soon (whether supportive or not): the transit commuter pre-tax benefit offered through an employer will be reduced from $230 to $125 unless Congress extends the benefit (it automatically expires). Conversely, the parking pre-tax benefit will rise from $230 to $240. How does this benefit work? I wrote about a transit benefit program operated by the Center for Neighborhood Technology in September; it works by having a monthly transit pass deducted from your payroll before taxes are calculated, thus you pay less in taxes. If you’d like to learn more, check out Less Taxing Commute, an RTA website.

Tell your representatives to extend the benefit. As a matter of good policy, it should at least match the parking benefit, but as a matter of sustainable transportation policy it should exceed the parking benefit (at least in places where a certain level of transit is available).

(6) And rounding out this edition of Grid Bits, transit ridership growth has outpaced the rise in the number of miles Americans drove: “Ridership on the nation’s buses, subways, commuter rail lines and other transit systems grew 34% in 1995-2009, outpacing 23% growth in the number of vehicle miles driven on highways in that period. The number of workers who rely on transit regularly grew by a million, to nearly 7 million nationwide, in 2005-09”. Detroit Free Press

Get more news like this constantly by following the Grid Chicago Network page, or its RSS feed. Some of the photos in this post came from contributors to our Flickr group. Updated December 16, 2011, to update bike sharing items 1 and 3. 

6 thoughts on “Grid Bits: Taxi reforms, bike sharing update, crash analyses”

  1. Good collection of ideas and info here.

    Men make up 72.73% of people cycling
    I’ve volunteered a few times for bike traffic counts at morning rush hour for locations near the Loop.  The first time I was really surprised at this huge imbalance between male and female riders.  On later counts, the numbers were consistent with this.

    In neighborhoods with more bike-friendly conditions (mostly north and northwest sides), I’ve observed higher numbers of women riding.  On the south side, where I now do much of my riding, it appears to be even more lopsided.

    When I ride on busier streets like Vincennes, 103rd St. or Cottage Grove, I rarely encounter another female cyclist.  I don’t know if traffic counts have ever been done in those locations, but my observations over the last several years have been that over 90% of ridership on busy south side streets appears to be men.  On quieter neighborhood streets, the difference is less exaggerated, although it still appears to be at least 60% male.

    I hope that bike network improvements from the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan will make women feel more comfortable riding on the streets so this imbalance will even out.

    1. I do have the list of locations at which people riding bicycles were counted. Please bug me to check if those places were counted. 

      I should add some additional information and analysis, like the percentage of men and women who were employed at the time the data was collected. 

  2. Hi,
    As regards the proposed changes to the taxi ordinance, I would like to see a provision that limits the horsepower or engine size of taxi cabs. I say this because I think the enormous engines largely in use (I assume they are V6 or V8 engines in the “standard” taxis) encourage taxi drivers to floor it from one red light to the next. Do they really need all that horsepower? The Priuses and other smaller cabs are not nearly as menacing as the huge Fords which make up the majority of the cabs in Chicago (or whatever manufacturer they are…I’m no expert on car makes/models).

    1. Except you can hardly hear a Prius rolling up on you. You’re giving me nightmares just thinking about an entire city full of silent taxis. Maybe if we put bells on their collars, so to speak.

      1. I think a federal agency has proposed rules to ensure cars make a minimum noise (specifically targeting hybrids that make very little sound). This is being done to provide those who are blind or with limited vision can detect these cars. 

  3. Hi Steve,

    The section of the press release regarding higher taxicab lease rates as an incentive for investment in hybrid vehicles is indeed a bit confusing if you’re not familiar with how the taxi industry is set up.

    Taxi drivers are independent contractors who pay cab owners a daily lease rate in order to use their vehicles. There are laws limiting how much the owners are able to charge, and what the mayor is proposing is allowing them to charge drivers more for the ability to use hybrids as opposed to gas guzzlers.  

    So higher lease rates are, in fact, an incentive for fleet owners to replace traditional cars with ones that run on alternative fuels. The argument put forth by the city is that drivers will end up saving money since although their leasing costs will be higher, hybrid vehicles will cut down on their refueling expenses—costs they pay out of pocket.

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