Grid Bits: Electric car charging network; pinup chicks calendar

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One of the new electric vehicle charging stations popping up at Walgreens around Chicago. 

Driving

Walgreens is adding charging stations for electric vehicles at many of its Chicago-area stores and around the country. I read about a Chargepoint station at the Walgreens nearest me (2744 N California) when I was browsing my block on EveryBlock. Then I read about this and other stations around the city, including at Soldier Field, on Curbed Chicago.

I checked it out on my next visit to the store. There’s one station, and it’s next to the accessible parking stall. Here’re some more details:

  • It’s free to use. If they choose to, Walgreens can charge for the electricity they’re giving you.
  • It can only charge cars at 240 volts.
  • It uses a special connector, for cars only, so you can’t get some juice for your phone as you wait.
  • It’s compatible with all the major electric cars on the market, including the Ford Focus Electric, Nissan Leaf (for sale in Chicago in October), and Chevrolet Volt.

Governor Quinn spoke last week, at a Nissan Leaf test driving event at the Field Museum, that “[w]e want to be the electric vehicle capital of the United States,” Quinn said, adding he wants to make Interstate 55 into a ‘Land of Lincoln Electric Highway from Chicago to Springfield’ with charging stations along the way.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

I’m curious to know how a $23,500 (after $11,500 in tax credits) and free electricity will change how often people drive, how far they drive (the Leaf has a limit of 100 miles), and what effect there is on electricity generation needs, pollution, and recycling strategies (for the car’s lithium-ion batteries).

Community

The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) is holding a photography contest about Transit Oriented Development (TOD). What’s a TOD? Here’s what CNT says in the contest information:

By TODs, we mean relatively compact, multi-use areas near or around transit. Think images that capture a vibrant street life in addition to showcasing various alternative modes of transportation, including trains, buses, bikes and walking.

Get contest details (ends on Monday, September 5). Anyone is allowed to enter and photos must feature places in Cook, DuPage, McHenry, Kane, Lake or Will counties.

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This photo would probably be eligible for the contest. I had a really hard time finding it (I had none in my huge photo library), so I see the need for CNT to build its own library. Photo by David Wilson. 

Transit

Employers who sign up via CNT for “Transit Ridership Improvement Program’ (TRIP) for a no-cost transit benefit program can get cash for their business and their employees who use transit can save on income taxes.

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If you use one of these or other transit passes (Metra 10-ride ticket, Chicago Card Plus), you could save on income taxes at the end of the year if your employer is signed up for a transit benefit program.

TRIP is funded by Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, a stimulus program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“Recovery Act”) of 2009, and administered by the federal Department of Energy. One of the program’s goals is to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Participants save on taxes by deducting from their paycheck the cost of transit for that month (up to $230, which can cover the highest cost Metra and Chicago Transit Authority monthly passes).

Employees can only be signed up after the employer signs up. If I understand the program correctly, the employer will receive some cash for each employee who signs up, and employees who aren’t already part of a transit benefit program will save on their income taxes. According to the TRIP website, participants who deduct the full amount for transit expenses will save $1,066 in income taxes each year.

Bicycling

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Miss September 2012. Photo by Kimberley Capriotti. 

Thought You Knew (TyK), a Chicago-based photography project depicting local cycling women, is launching its fourth year of a fundraising calendar, the “Thought You Knew Bicycle Chick Pinup Calendar.” They’re raising funds on Kickstarter to cover the printing and shipping costs.

I talked with founder Alexis Finch about how Grid Chicago and TyK might have similar aims. We compared the Grid Chicago mission statement to that of TyK and the results surprised me.

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