WBEZ | Transportation http://www.wbez.org/news/transportation Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The unsung hero of urban planning who made it easy to get around Chicago http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/unsung-hero-urban-planning-who-made-it-easy-get-around-chicago-112061 <p><p>Jessica Fisch and Paul Toben are engaged to be married this fall. But before the two new arrivals to Chicago start a new life in a new home, they want to solve a mystery with roots in the city&rsquo;s early history.</p><p>Toben and Fisch bought a house in the Edgewater neighborhood last year, and they&rsquo;ve been fixing it up since. But they discovered something odd about the address displayed on their siding.</p><p>&ldquo;It was underneath the vinyl siding that was here before and it shows our current house number, which is very visible,&rdquo; says Toben, pointing to metal numbers nailed into the wood slat. It spells out 1761. &ldquo;But then two boards below, there&#39;s a sort of ghosted, painted-over paint.&rdquo;</p><p>That number, barely visible in the 110-year-old wood, reads 615.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to know when we went from 615 to 1761,&rdquo; says Fisch. She and Toben asked Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;Where did the old number come from? When and why did they renumber the streets?&rdquo;</em></p><p>Fisch and Toben aren&rsquo;t the only Chicagoans with two house numbers &mdash; in fact, any building in the city built before 1909 probably had a different number than it does now.</p><p>These are the result of a massive shift in how the city handles street names and addresses. Today Chicago is known for having one of the simplest street systems of any big city in the world, with every address emanating out from a central origin point at the intersection of State &amp; Madison Streets. It wasn&rsquo;t always going to be that way, though, and many people fought the change. But Edward Paul Brennan, an unsung hero of urban planning, spent much of his life taming the navigational chaos of Chicago&rsquo;s adolescence, and his legacy lives on more than a century later &mdash; even if few people know his name.</p><p>So answering the &ldquo;when&rdquo; of our questioners&rsquo; inquiry is easy: September 1, 1909. But to answer &ldquo;why,&rdquo; we need to go back to some early Chicago history, when a map of the city looked very different.</p><p><strong>The expanding city</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">Chicago was booming in the late 19th century, gobbling up neighboring towns and annexing them as new neighborhoods of the city</a>. Hundreds of thousands of European immigrants poured into the city, helping triple the city&rsquo;s population between 1880 and 1910. It ballooned in both population and physical size, quadrupling in area in 1889 alone.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/CityLimits/cityLimitsGIF.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chicago%20grow%20graphic.jpg" style="height: 356px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago's population grew tremendously throughout the mid-to-late 19th century. There was hardly an effort to standardize street names and addresses until Edward Paul Brennan came up with a plan. (Click to watch animation of how Chicago grew)." /></a></div><p>&ldquo;That was great for those communities because they got the promise of a good infrastructure, but it also created logistical problems obviously for managing a city that size,&rdquo; says Andrew Oleksiuk, secretary of the Illinois Postal History Society.</p><p>Every town that folded into Chicago, from Lake View to Hyde Park, had its own system for naming and numbering streets. Some towns counted out addresses starting from the Chicago River, while others started from Lake Michigan. Some placed even numbers on the north side of the street, others put them on the south. Some even let developers choose their own street names or numbers if there wasn&rsquo;t a lot of local opposition.</p><p>Oleksiuk says the topsy-turvy numbering system contributed to mailmen&rsquo;s struggle to keep up with changing tech, such as the telegraph, streetcars and a new entrant: the telephone.</p><p>&ldquo;The post office really did see itself as being challenged by these new technologies,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So doing something like straightening out the numbering system and making it more efficient for mail delivery made them able to compete better in this world of new technologies.&rdquo;</p><p>As city limits swallowed up existing towns, no one bothered to standardize street names and addresses. Not surprisingly, this system frustrated Colonel LeRoy D. Steward, superintendent of city delivery for the Chicago post office, who spoke at an Industrial Club meeting in April 1908.</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Chicago is suffering from improper mail delivery because of improper street arrangement. ... At present there are 125 towns within the city limits, and all have local street names and numbers. At present there are 511 streets of practically duplicate names. No one knows how many duplicate street numbers there are.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>In a later speech Steward asked: &ldquo;What is the use of spending large sums in beautifying the city when one cannot find one&rsquo;s way about it?&rdquo;</p><p>Such critiques emerged alongside the so-called <a href="http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/citybeautiful/city.html" target="_blank">City Beautiful movement</a>, whose proponents believed societal ills would evaporate with the development of rationally designed cities. Private groups like the <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/290.html" target="_blank">City Club</a> and the <a href="http://www.commercialclubchicago.org/" target="_blank">Commercial Club</a> banded together to improve the city, promoting ideas like <a href="http://burnhamplan100.lib.uchicago.edu/history_future/plan_of_chicago/" target="_blank">Daniel Burnham&rsquo;s famous Plan of Chicago</a>, which was published in 1909 &mdash; the same year Brennan&rsquo;s system for rationalizing city addresses first took effect. Celebrated architects and engineers built the Loop, standardized the city&rsquo;s cable car system and carved out green spaces that we still use today. But the elegance of our street system is taken for granted.</p><p><strong>New solutions from a man with a plan</strong></p><p>It wasn&rsquo;t a postal worker or even an urban planner that smoothed out the system. It was a man named Edward Paul Brennan.</p><p>Brennan was a delivery boy for his father&rsquo;s grocery store, and later a bill collector for the music company Lyon &amp; Healy. He was so frustrated with the chaos of Chicago&rsquo;s address system that in 1901 he came up with his own. But it would take him years to get it implemented.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Brennan 1910 courtesy Adelaide Brennan.jpg" style="height: 385px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Edward Paul Brennan in 1910, who devoted his life to crafting a perfect plan for Chicago street nomenclature. (Photo courtesy Adelaide Brennan)" /></div><p>Brennan wasn&rsquo;t the first person to recognize the problem, but he was the most persistent at arguing for a solution. As early as 1879, the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> reported on an ordinance for renumbering South Side streets based on Philadelphia&rsquo;s plan, where addresses increased by 100 with every block. It didn&rsquo;t pass.</p><p>&ldquo;His daughter told me that when he was delivering groceries for his father. Before he was even a bill collector, he was running into this problem,&rdquo; says Patrick Reardon, an author and journalist who has researched the history of Chicago&rsquo;s street grid. &ldquo;So this was not something that Brennan uncovered &mdash; it was what everybody lived with. It was like snow in the winter &mdash; it was just part of the nature of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>But Brennan wouldn&rsquo;t accept the status quo. Beginning in the 1890s he started a scrapbook, collecting newspaper articles about problems with city navigation or delays due to address confusion. Articles had headlines like &ldquo;Streets in a Tangle. Visitors Lost.&rdquo; One report tells about a doctor who couldn&rsquo;t find a patient during a house call emergency. Brennan lobbied business leaders and newspaper editors for decades, needling them with letters that began like this one:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Dear Sir, Do you think a city should have two streets with the same name? Do you think a city should have one street with two or three, or even ten names? You agree that such naming of streets is ridiculous and an insult to the intelligence of any city. Yet Chicago, your city, has hundreds of such streets. This confusion costs you and the other citizens of Chicago hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. &hellip;&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Like many Progressive Era activists, Brennan was motivated by the spirit of the time, devoting his life to crafting &ldquo;a perfect plan for Chicago street nomenclature.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;So let us go forward with the spirit that built the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/your-ticket-white-city-108994" target="_blank">World&rsquo;s Fair</a>, correct our error and present the people of Chicago with a perfect house numbering plan,&rdquo; he said in one of many letters lobbying Chicago aldermen and local business leaders.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Thompson_Chicago_plat_1830.jpg" style="height: 491px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="James Thompson's plat map of Chicago, 1830. (Wikimedia Commons)" />Brennan&rsquo;s plan benefitted from the grid system laid out by James Thompson&rsquo;s official plat map for the city in 1830. Because of the regular spacing of Chicago&rsquo;s city blocks, the continuation of the grid despite any geographic features, and the absence of curved roads, Brennan&rsquo;s 1901 plan could be highly logical and mathematical. &ldquo;In this way,&rdquo; Brennan wrote, &ldquo;the numbers will indicate the locality at a glance.&rdquo;</p><p>With the help of an independent alderman named Charlie Byrne (who happened to be Brennan&rsquo;s cousin) he presented his &ldquo;Street Nomenclature Plan&rdquo; to the City Council in 1901. It included four big ideas: All addresses would be centered around a 0,0 point at State and Madison Streets; street names would include the direction; even-numbered addresses would always be on the west and north sides of any street, with odd numbers on the east and south sides; house numbers would increase by 800 (or 8 blocks) every mile, although Brennan had originally proposed 1000 addresses per mile.</p><p>Brennan&rsquo;s plan would also involve renaming many streets in order to cut confusion caused by duplication and other problems.</p><p>After his initial proposal, Brennan argued that Kinzie and State should instead be the new 0,0 baseline street, in honor of early settler John Kinzie. Alternate plans from other map enthusiasts proposed Western and Madison, because of its proximity to the geographic center of the growing city.</p><p><strong>A new address for every house in town</strong></p><p>After more than seven years of petitioning, the City Council passed Brennan&rsquo;s house numbering plan in 1908 and it went into effect on September 1, 1909. Businesses within the Loop fought the change early on, arguing that &mdash; among other things &mdash; it would cost too much to reprint their stationery. They received an extra two years to adopt the same system as the rest of the city.</p><p>The process of converting the address of nearly every household in Chicago was a daunting task. Newspaper accounts in the days and weeks leading up to the mandatory changes indicate confusion, resignation, and also humor. City directories published maps and thick new guides that residents and businesses could purchase, listing every old address and its new equivalent. Residents sent illustrated postcards with poems or cartoons to friends, notifying them of the change.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had your Aunt Matilda in Kansas who&#39;s sending you a letter, she doesn&#39;t necessarily know about the re-numbering system,&rdquo; says Oleksiuk. &ldquo;You have to write her a letter to tell her, &lsquo;My new address is such and such.&rsquo; &lsquo;Oh you moved?&rsquo; &lsquo;No I didn&#39;t. They&#39;re just re-numbering the streets.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Trouble lived beyond the initial confusion, though, as some people actively fought the change.</p><p>&ldquo;There were people who saw what [Brennan] was doing and what the city was doing in changing street names as meddling with the historic nature of their streets,&rdquo; says Reardon. &ldquo;So it was not a simple or an uncontroversial thing.&rdquo;</p><table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 620px;"><tbody><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/1.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/old_residence_1_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/5.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mailman_newspaperclip_6_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/3.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/town_5_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></div></td></tr><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/2.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/newhomenumber_3_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/4.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sameoldhammock_4_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/6.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mayor_newspaperclip_7_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></td></tr></tbody></table><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: Postcards and newspaper clippings show the humor and confusion the city felt after the house number changes. Click on an image for large view.</span></span></p><p>Some residents banded together, lobbied their aldermen, and fought the city&rsquo;s proposed street name changes.</p><p>Under Brennan&rsquo;s plan, the tiny streets of Arlington Place and Deming Place in Lincoln Park should have been renamed as Montana Street and Lill Avenue, because they aligned east to west with those longer streets, despite not having a continuous block of streets.</p><p>&ldquo;Deming Place and Arlington Place residents joined Bellevue Place residents yesterday in expressing indignation at the cold-bloodedness of the council committee on street nomenclature which has threatened to rob them all of their euphonious titles.&rdquo; &mdash; <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em>, Dec. 19, 1908</p><p>Others in the city were upset that they were losing a familiar house number. Mrs. Charles E. Pope, a resident along Chicago&rsquo;s Lake Shore Drive, wrote to the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> in early 1909:</p><p>&ldquo;Really, I don&rsquo;t see how we shall be able to bear the burden of four numbers after being used to only two. Besides, most of us have lived here many years, and we don&rsquo;t like to see things changed.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.chsmedia.org/househistory/1909snc/start.PDF" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/map%20showing%20house%20number%20cutout.PNG" style="height: 153px; width: 220px; float: right;" title="Click for full document of Chicago's 1909 street name and number changes." /></a>But even after the city-wide address renumbering, Brennan&rsquo;s work wasn&rsquo;t done. For the next 30 years he rooted out duplicate street names and inconsistencies, lobbying incessantly as part of the City Club&rsquo;s two-man Street Nomenclature Committee.</p><p>Brennan didn&rsquo;t get everything he wanted. He publicly lamented when aldermen wouldn&rsquo;t take his suggestions for new street names, all of which he said should reference &ldquo;meaningful&rdquo; things like art, literature, history, poetry, and &ldquo;illustrious names from many foreign lands.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It is for us of the present day to continue the work so well begun by the pioneers of Chicago instead of being looked upon as iconoclasts by future generations,&rdquo; he said in 1913. &quot;With a history rich in meaningful names there will be no need of our innocent thoroughfares being rechristened Hinton, Dunmore, Dennison, Empire, or Limerick.&quot;</p><p>As always for Brennan, it was a matter of historic importance.</p><p>&quot;We are about to do something which will last as long as Chicago does,&rdquo; he wrote.</p><p><strong>Brennan&rsquo;s legacy</strong></p><p>After the initial disruption caused by the changes, Chicagoans eventually appreciated the relative simplicity of the city&#39;s new street names and addresses. But Brennan&rsquo;s name was largely forgotten in the years after his death in 1942. His daughters wrote to newspaper editors and the city&rsquo;s map department attempting to have their father&rsquo;s work recognized.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Five years later, City Council named a South Side street in his honor: South Brennan Avenue runs from 96th Street south to 98th Street in the Jeffery Manor neighborhood. At the time the city publicly acknowledged the elegance of Brennan&rsquo;s system, noting &ldquo;There are now fewer street names in Chicago than in any other city in the country of even one-half the area of Chicago.&quot; Chicago had 3,629 miles of streets with just 1,370 names &mdash; far fewer than other cities with smaller geographical footprints at the time: New York (5,003), Baltimore (3,929), or Cleveland (2,199).</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/honorary%20brennan.jpg" title="Today, Brennan's got an honorary street named after him at the intersection of State and Madison Streets, the city's 0,0 point. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><p>Every time Chicagoans navigate the 227 square miles of their city, they&rsquo;re unwittingly perpetuating Brennan&rsquo;s legacy. But until recently one of the only explicit reminders of the man himself was a collection of weathered scrapbooks he carefully collected, which was placed in the care of the Chicago History Museum by Mary Brennan, one of his daughters.</p><p>Another daughter, Adelaide, lived to the age of 99 and was able <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-25/opinion/ct-perspec-0825-madison-20130825_1_south-branch-north-branch-chicago-river" target="_blank">to see Ald. Brendan Reilly dedicate the northwest corner of State and Madison as Edward Brennan Way</a> in 2013.</p><p>Still, few people recognize the name of the man instrumental in rationalizing Chicago&rsquo;s streets. Compare that to the fate of Daniel Burnham.</p><p>&ldquo;Edward Paul Brennan was the man who, in my mind, is comparable to Daniel Burnham,&rdquo; says Patrick Reardon. &ldquo;Burnham had the Plan of Chicago, which was set up to change the landscape, the physical landscape of the city. Edward Brennan changed the mental landscape of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>And that mental landscape persists today. Since Brennan&rsquo;s system is universal across the city, with 800 numbers to a mile, Chicagoans still use that same mental landscape to get around their city.</p><p>Raphael Nash was born in the West Side&rsquo;s Austin neighborhood, but has lived all over the city. He had to learn Brennan&rsquo;s system, even if he didn&rsquo;t know it was Brennan&rsquo;s.</p><p>And even though most people today use a GPS to get around, Nash says it&rsquo;s useful to have a mental map as precise as Brennan&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes I&#39;m driving and I don&#39;t need to be fumbling with the phone or anything so I just look up and pay attention to the number,&rdquo; Nash says.</p><p>Brennan&rsquo;s system is so simple that Nash and several other Chicagoans interviewed for this story say it has ruined them for other cities.</p><p>&ldquo;When I spent time on the East Coast I learned cities like Boston, which is just a mess. I was like OK, we had order,&rdquo; says Nash. &ldquo;And when I came back home was I was like, &lsquo;wow this is really easy.&rsquo; I don&rsquo;t know why I never paid attention to it.&rdquo;</p><p>Now Nash knows who to thank for that.</p><p>&ldquo;Thank you, Mr. Brennan,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><strong>Who inspired our question?</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/toben%20_%20fisch1%20%281%29%202.jpg" style="height: 434px; width: 620px;" title="Paul Toben, left, and Jessica Fisch, right, discovered their old house number while fixing up the place they recently bought in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>We have several questioners to thank for inspiring this look into the city&rsquo;s rational street-numbering system. Jessica Fisch and Paul Toben started us off, but so did Marina Post, a Chicago homeowner.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/post6%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 484px; width: 270px; float: right;" title="Marina Post asked us a similar question about her home in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />Post wondered why her 1890s home in Wicker Park (today 2146 W. Caton St.) was one of several homes in the neighborhood with stained glass windows displaying lower, outdated address numbers. Post&rsquo;s is 51.</p><p>&ldquo;I can imagine it would feel somewhat demeaning to go from 51, which feels kind of exclusive,&rdquo; Post says, &ldquo;to 2146, which just makes you feel like you&#39;re one of the masses somehow. I could imagine if I were living at that time I would feel attached to my number.&rdquo;</p><p>She may as well have been talking about Mrs. Charles E. Pope, who complained about &ldquo;the burden of four numbers&rdquo; to the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> during the address change. In fact we might owe our questioners&rsquo; curiosity to those stubborn homeowners from the early 20th century who kept their old house numbers beside the new, standardized addresses under Brennan&rsquo;s plan. Without them we wouldn&rsquo;t have the physical evidence of the pre-1909 system &mdash; or lack thereof &mdash; that piqued the interest of people like Paul Toben, Jessica Fisch and Marina Post.</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley is a freelance journalist</a> who reports regularly for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at <a href="http://cabentley.com/">cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>. Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research at the <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/jmasengarb" target="_blank">@jmasengarb</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 May 2015 12:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/unsung-hero-urban-planning-who-made-it-easy-get-around-chicago-112061 NTSB: CTA shares blame for O'Hare Blue line crash http://www.wbez.org/news/ntsb-cta-shares-blame-ohare-blue-line-crash-111955 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ctacrash.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&#39;s transit agency shares in the blame for an accident last year in which a driver fell asleep and crashed a commuter train into a platform and up an escalator at O&#39;Hare airport, federal investigators concluded Tuesday. And they warned that, without changes, a similar accident could happen elsewhere.</p><p>The National Transportation Safety Board announced its findings at a meeting in Washington, D.C., and made nationwide safety recommendations, including that all U.S. transit agencies consider the effects of operator fatigue when preparing employee work schedules. The board also pressed for transit agencies to install more advanced control systems that automatically apply a train&#39;s brakes and prevent collisions if a driver fails to act.</p><p>The Chicago derailment happened just before 3 a.m. on March 24, 2014, when the exhausted driver was on her 12th straight day of working primarily night shifts. The accident injured more than 30 passengers and caused $9 million in damage to the transit station at one of the country&#39;s busiest airports. No one was on the usually busy escalator at the time.</p><p>The train operator acknowledged dozing off and was fired. But the investigation also found that the Chicago Transit Authority had the driver working a schedule that contributed to her exhaustion. The agency also failed to spot hazards in the station&#39;s design that meant track-side emergency braking systems and the platform bumper could not stop the train at the speeds permitted in the station.</p><p>Those conclusions should raise alarms around the country, NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said, noting overnight schedules have become the norm in today&#39;s 24-7 culture, even in safety-critical jobs.</p><p>&quot;To its credit, CTA has revised its work-rest policy since the accident, but ... this begs the question of what is happening elsewhere in the country,&quot; he said.</p><p>The Chicago agency has increased drivers&#39; off-duty time from eight hours to 10 hours between shifts and barred first-year operators from working overtime. They&#39;ve also increased employee training on fatigue management and lowered the speed limit for trains entering O&#39;Hare station.</p><p>&quot;The changes created some of the most stringent guidelines among U.S. transit agencies, and demonstrated the CTA&#39;s ongoing commitment to safety,&quot; the agency said in a statement Tuesday.</p><p>Investigators said the train operator failed to use her hours off to get proper rest, but acknowledged that sleeping during the day would have been hard because she was still adjusting to working night shifts.</p><p>The NTSB previously has recommended hours-of-service rules based around the science on fatigue for all major modes of transportation except transit. The Chicago accident revealed the gap and Tuesday&#39;s recommendations were aimed at resolving the problem.</p><p>The suggested changes also include a proposal for all new or rehabbed transit trains to be equipped with data recorders.</p><p>But perhaps the most sweeping recommendation was for all transit agencies to install automatic transmission-based braking systems as a safety net for human error. That&#39;s similar to the GPS-based emergency braking technology known as Positive Train Control that the heavy rail industry is under pressure to install.</p><p>It would be a significant expense for many cash-strapped transit agencies.</p><p>It will be up to the Federal Transit Administration to decide whether to require the proposed changes.</p></p> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 14:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ntsb-cta-shares-blame-ohare-blue-line-crash-111955 Changes in taxi industry leave cab owners underwater http://www.wbez.org/news/changes-taxi-industry-leave-cab-owners-underwater-111920 <p><p>If you were looking for a good return on investment in the last few years, it was hard to beat a Chicago taxi medallion. Medallions, which are city-issued licenses to operate cabs, increased in value at least fivefold between 2006 and 2013. But now after huge shifts in the industry, many owners are deep underwater on their medallion loans, and some say they&rsquo;re nearly worthless.</p><p>&ldquo;I haven&rsquo;t written a new taxi loan in well over nine months? Ten months?&rdquo; said Charlie Goodbar, an attorney and taxi fleet owner. &ldquo;The access to capital&rsquo;s disappeared.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago limits the number of medallions to roughly 7,000. Without those metal plates affixed to the hood, a taxi cannot operate in the city. Goodbar has facilitated hundreds of medallion sales over the years. But today, would-be buyers are finding it nearly impossible to find loans to purchase medallions.</p><p>&ldquo;I probably have put together at least 20-30 percent of all transfers, at some point probably more than half,&rdquo; said Goodbar. &ldquo;And as a market-maker, and as a license broker, and as an attorney, and someone who&rsquo;s in the lending business, how in good faith can I make a market when I can&rsquo;t value the asset or value cash flow?&rdquo;</p><p>Disruption in Chicago&rsquo;s taxi industry &mdash; both from the entry of competing rideshare services, and changes to city policies affecting medallion owners &mdash; have turned the business model on its head in just two years. At one time, investing or lending in a medallion purchase was a sound business decision, because cab owners could make a good living.</p><p>&ldquo;It was a way for an immigrant family to move up the social ladder and economic ladder through the use&nbsp; of leveraged financing in the taxi industry, and a lot of hard work,&rdquo; said Goodbar.</p><p>But today, Goodbar said it&rsquo;s nearly impossible to find a bank willing to lend money for a medallion purchase, and so the avenue that many immigrants once took is increasingly closed off.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="233" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Taxi%20medallions%202.0.jpg" style="float: left;" title="" width="350" /></div><p>You can tell by looking at the numbers. Between 2011 and 2013, when the market was robust, an average of 30-40 medallions changed hands monthly. But starting in February of 2014, that number dropped sharply, and never recovered. In 2015, only seven medallions were transferred in the first three months.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no buyer in the market,&rdquo; said Shyam Arora, a medallion owner. &ldquo;So it&rsquo;s a piece of garbage.&rdquo;</p><div id="responsive-embed-taximedallions">&nbsp;</div><script src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/taximedallions/js/lib/pym.js" type="text/javascript"></script><script type="text/javascript"> jQuery(document).ready(function(){ var pymParent = new pym.Parent( 'responsive-embed-taximedallions', 'http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/taximedallions/child.html', {} ); }); </script><p>Arora is one of those immigrants who found success in the taxi industry. He came from India in 2002 and bought a medallion a few years later. Today, he has three. He and his son drive two of the cabs during the day, and he leases the third. At one time, he had as many as four drivers for his small fleet &mdash; but those days seem long ago.</p><p>On a recent early morning, he took one of his cabs to a city-owned site on the South Side for an annual taxi inspection.</p><p>&ldquo;This inspection process is stressful, very stressful,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>This day, he was especially nervous. The car is a 2010 Toyota Prius with a whopping 313,000 miles on it. Arora knew inspectors would be looking for even the smallest flaw to take it out of operation.</p><p>&ldquo;Yesterday I spent $200 to the mechanic and the day before yesterday I paid $100 for detailing,&rdquo; he recounted.</p><p>He also got the engine cleaned, and drove an hour out to the suburbs just to pick up a small paint marker that he could use to cover minor exterior nicks. Altogether, he estimated spending $500 to get the car in tip-top shape &mdash; about three days&rsquo; earnings.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m losing nowadays, every day, in my business,&rdquo; said Arora. Three months ago, he fell behind on his mortgage and medallion loan.</p><p>Arora explained that most of his income comes from leasing his taxis to other drivers, rather than driving his own cab. But amid a shortage of taxi drivers in Chicago, he&rsquo;s struggled to find people to use his taxis. That&rsquo;s meant his vehicles sit empty about one-third of the time, while he still foots the bill for their medallion loans, the car payments, taxi affiliation fees and other expenses.</p><p>Even when Arora does have drivers, he said it&rsquo;s gotten much more difficult for them to find passengers. He blamed rideshare companies like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar for stealing business.</p><p>&ldquo;When you don&rsquo;t get a customer for an hour, the [taxi] driver gets so frustrated, he goes to Starbucks or he goes home,&rdquo; explained Arora.</p><p>Arora would love to sell his medallions and be done with it. But he knows he won&rsquo;t find a buyer at a good price. Plus, he&rsquo;s facing the same dilemma that homeowners once did during the recent housing crisis. Many borrowed significant sums of money against their homes as housing values increased, only to find themselves underwater on those loans once the market settled.</p><p>Similarly, Arora and many other owners borrowed heavily against their medallions while they increased in value. Arora said that helped his family get through the recession.</p><p>&ldquo;Medallions were the source of feeding everybody &mdash; every expense we have,&rdquo; he explained.</p><p>But now, he owes $600,000 against his medallions, and he knows that nobody will buy them for anything close to that amount.</p><p>Arora believes his only way out may be a loan modification. Goodbar says medallion lenders have every reason to cooperate.</p><p>&ldquo;There will be shakeout in the market, the lenders will have to work with the borrowers,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;because I think the last thing a large medallion lender wants is a bunch of medallions sitting in a drawer.&rdquo;</p><p>Arora hopes that&rsquo;ll be true in his case, because he wants to stay in the taxi business.&nbsp; Otherwise, he&rsquo;s looking at filing for bankruptcy.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 19:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/changes-taxi-industry-leave-cab-owners-underwater-111920 Ice stalls Great Lakes shipping season http://www.wbez.org/news/ice-stalls-great-lakes-shipping-season-111806 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Great Lakes_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For the second year in a row, the spring shipping season is off to a slow start. Ice still covers much of the lakes and most ports don&rsquo;t expect to see international cargo ships for another two weeks.</p><p>April is historically the busiest time of year for the more than 100 ports and commercial docks along the Great Lakes.</p><p>Rick Heimann is port director for Burns Harbor in Portage, Indiana.</p><p>Burns Harbor handles more international cargo than any other port along the Great Lakes, including 15 percent of U.S. steel shipments to Europe. But at the end of March, the docks are empty.</p><p>On any given year, an average of 500,000 trucks, 10,000 railcars and 100 ships will pass through the port.</p><p>It was so cold last year, he didn&rsquo;t see a cargo ship until mid-April.</p><p>Around this time last year, more than half of Lake Michigan was covered in ice. The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard share the responsibility of clearing the Great Lakes waterways.</p><p>Every year, in early March, they deploy a fleet of icebreakers before the official opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a 22,000-mile-long waterway that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.</p><p>But U.S. Coast Guard Mark Gill says it was 13 days after opening up the waterway that the first ship was able to reach the locks.</p><p>&ldquo;And a lot of ships incurred damage because they came out and the ice was too hard for them,&rdquo; Gill said.</p><p>Gill says the Coast Guard logged more than 11,000 hours of breaking ice in 2014.</p><p>According to the Lake Carrier&rsquo;s Association, last year&rsquo;s icey waterways cost the economy more than $700 million and nearly 4,000 jobs.</p><p>Mark Baker is president of the Interlake Steamship Company and a member of the Lake Carrier&rsquo;s Association. His boats carry steel. Others along this route carry grains.</p><p>Baker says it took one his ships 23 days to complete a trip that normally takes six.</p><p>&ldquo;And so what happened there was, their inventory levels became critically low. And in some cases, some steel mills last year had to idle plants and cut down on on production,&rdquo; Baker said.</p><p>Baker adds that the the repercussions of a bad shipping season would be felt throughout the U.S. steel industry, which feeds the U.S. auto industry. Baker says his steel is used in small plants in Michigan and Wisconsin.&nbsp;</p><p>The Lake Carriers Association wants the Coast Guard to invest in another heavy icebreaker to keep shipping lanes open during harsh winters.</p><p>But the Coast Guard says last year&rsquo;s winter was unique.</p><p>At the port of Indiana, Heimann says that&#39;s what scary.</p><p>&ldquo;Ice is something that you don&rsquo;t have control over,&rdquo; Heimann said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t just say: &lsquo;Ice be-gone or bring the coast guard cutter in all the time.&rsquo;&quot;</p><p>He adds that the delayed start to the 2015 season doesn&#39;t phase him, but he is counting the days until the first ships roll in.</p><p>&ldquo;We are connecting the state of Indiana to the world,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re in the state of Indiana, the heartland of the USA, yet we are only six and a half days away from the Atlantic Ocean.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, at a time of widespread delays, Burns Harbor recorded its highest cargo volume since the port opened in 1970.</p><p><em>Claudia Morell is a reporter in Chicago. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/claudiamorell" target="_blank">@claudiamorell</a></em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 16:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ice-stalls-great-lakes-shipping-season-111806 Illinois driver's licenses may not be good to fly by 2016 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-drivers-licenses-may-not-be-good-fly-2016-111540 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/dl sec site.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois residents might not be able to use their driver&#39;s licenses at airports starting in 2016.</p><p><em><a href="http://bit.ly/16TS2QC" target="_blank">The Daily Herald</a></em> reports the licenses don&#39;t meet requirements set by the 2005 Real ID Act that were meant to increase security. Illinois doesn&#39;t require a birth certificate to get a driver&#39;s license, which Illinois Secretary of State spokesman Henry Haupt said is one of the law&#39;s mandates.</p><p>Haupt said state legislators would have to approve funding for changes to driver&#39;s license requirements. He said he&#39;s not sure how much it would cost, but the Secretary of State&#39;s office previously estimated it would take $100 million to $150 million to be in compliance. The federal government isn&#39;t offering funding.</p><p>Driver&#39;s licenses meet the federal mandates in 22 states. Illinois is one of 21 states to be granted extensions. Seven other states refuse to follow federal requirements. A 2007 resolution passed in Illinois said the Real ID Act &quot;would provide little security benefit and still leave identification systems open to insider fraud, counterfeit documentation and database failures.&quot;</p><p>The Illinois Secretary of State&#39;s office hopes to unveil a new card with better security features in the near future, Haupt said, but it&#39;s not known whether it would meet federal requirements.</p><p>As early as 2016, the Department of Homeland Security website says fliers with noncompliant driver&#39;s licenses would need another valid ID, such as a passport or military ID. The requirements are already in place to gain entry at certain federal buildings and nuclear facilities.</p><p><strong><em>Correction, Feb. 11, 2015</em></strong></p><p><em>An earlier version of this story misstated the title for Henry Haupt. He is the Deputy Press Secretary for the Illinois Secretary of State&#39;s office.</em></p></p> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 14:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-drivers-licenses-may-not-be-good-fly-2016-111540 Union Station to get a facelift http://www.wbez.org/news/union-station-get-facelift-111491 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Union%20Station%20stairs.jpg" title="The staircase at Union Station will get an upgrade as part of $12 million in renovations. (WBEZ/Greta Johnsen)" /></div><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-union-station-funding-met-20150128-story.html">last week</a> that Chicago&rsquo;s landmark Union Station will be getting some repairs, thanks to $12 million from the station&rsquo;s owner, Amtrak. Emanuel said the station hasn&rsquo;t been keeping up with a changing transit system.</p><p>&ldquo;Union Station, given it&rsquo;s the third busiest rail hub, is actually fighting below its weight class,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>The renovations are being called a &lsquo;first step&rsquo; toward expanding and modernizing the historic building. There is a <a href="http://www.unionstationmp.com/">Master Plan</a> for the whole structure &mdash; $500 million worth &mdash; but that&rsquo;s a long-term project.</p><p>I asked <a href="http://twitter.com/leebey">Chicago architecture critic Lee Bey</a> to show me around Union Station.</p><p>&ldquo;It isn&rsquo;t enough to get as far as you&rsquo;d want to in a building like that, but it&rsquo;s a good first step,&rdquo; Bey said about the $12 million in upgrades. &ldquo;And spent the right way it&rsquo;ll bring a bang that&rsquo;s quick and visible, and will then allow transportation officials to be able to rally other money and other assistance to it over time. And time is of the essence.&rdquo;</p><p>He says beneath the crowded concourse and the dirty platforms that annoy many commuters, Union Station is still a work of art. Especially if you enter through the Great Hall on the east side of the building.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Union%20Station%20Great%20Hall.jpg" title="Union Station's Great Hall. (WBEZ/Greta Johnsen)" /></div><p>Sunlight streams in from huge windows high above us.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re like a king,&rdquo; Bey said. &ldquo;You come in and you&rsquo;re greeted by marble and beautiful columns and this grand space on the inside&hellip; you know, just to ride a train.&rdquo;</p><p>The area is simple and massive, almost like a museum or an elegant old theater.</p><p>&ldquo;What I&rsquo;m really impressed about in this building&hellip; is the volume,&rdquo; Bey said. &ldquo;The volume of the interior. And how few spaces there and in the city or any place where you can walk into a space like this&hellip; there&rsquo;s enough foresight by Amtrak and ownership to just let this space be what it needs to be. And that&rsquo;s beautiful.&rdquo;Like the Great Hall itself, train travel has a nostalgic sensibility.</p><p>Places like Union Station were often travelers&rsquo; first impression of Chicago as they arrived, or the last thing they saw as they left.</p><p>We stand under a coffered ceiling, looking up at a marble staircase with gilded handrails.</p><p>Yep, that staircase.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QJpRSf4q-hI?showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>It&rsquo;s the staircase where the gangster bloodbath from <em>The Untouchables</em> was filmed.</p><p>It still makes a nice photo, but the stone stairs are worn deeply in the center from nearly a century of travelers&rsquo; shoes. Pieces are gouged out.</p><p>Fixing this staircase is part of the $12 million of repairs, along with the limestone facade out front.</p><p>The money is also meant for better, more energy-efficient doors and a more spacious passenger waiting area.</p><p>Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says Union Station sees about 300 trains a day, which is the same number that came through in the 1940s and 50s. More than 100,000 people move through Union Station every weekday.</p><p>The difference is, more than ever before, they&rsquo;re commuters rather than long distance travelers.</p><p>&ldquo;The crowds are sort of begging for this building to be more than just a place where you get off trains,&rdquo; Bey said. &ldquo;To make this more useful again, you&rsquo;ll have to do the cosmetic fixes, of course. But you&rsquo;ll also have to put spaces in here that do what the old spaces did &mdash; give you that embrace when you come in or that kiss goodbye.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Greta Johnsen reports and anchors weekends on WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/gretamjohnsen">@gretamjohnsen</a>. </em></p></p> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 11:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/union-station-get-facelift-111491 Rauner puts Illiana Expressway on hold http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-puts-illiana-expressway-hold-111394 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Illiana 3 (2).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; A planned 47-mile expressway between Illinois and Indiana is on hold after new Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order aimed at addressing the state&#39;s deep budget problems.</p><p>In his first act after taking office Monday, the Republican suspended planning and development of any major interstate construction projects pending a &quot;careful review&quot; of costs and benefits. Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said Tuesday the planned Illiana Expressway is among the projects that fall under the executive order, adding that it&#39;s part of &quot;a broader review to maximize taxpayer investment in infrastructure.&quot;</p><p>It was unclear Tuesday how long that review may take.</p><p>The $1.5 billion project would provide an east-west link between Interstate 65 in Indiana and Interstate 55 in Illinois.</p><p>Supporters, including Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, say the expressway would relieve traffic congestion on Interstate 80 south of Chicago and create much-needed jobs.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re ready to build the Illiana whenever Illinois is,&quot; Christy Denault, communications director for Pence, said Tuesday.</p><p>Opponents have called the project unnecessary and say it could become a boondoggle, leaving taxpayers on the hook if toll revenue falls short. Among those who have been critical is Randy Blankenhorn, Rauner&#39;s pick to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation.</p><p>Blankenhorn, who currently leads the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, couldn&#39;t be reached for comment Tuesday. But he&#39;s said publicly he wasn&#39;t sure Illiana was a good deal for Illinois and could expose taxpayers to undue risk.</p><p>Environmentalists also oppose the project, saying it will spoil rural areas in Illinois&#39; Will County.</p><p>Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, supported the expressway. Last month, the Federal Highway Administration approved plans for the project, giving officials the green light to begin looking for public-private partnerships to construct, maintain and operate it.</p><p>Opponents have vowed to continue a fight against it, and a lawsuit is pending.</p></p> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 18:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-puts-illiana-expressway-hold-111394 Study proposes fairer rules for cab industry http://www.wbez.org/news/study-proposes-fairer-rules-cab-industry-111392 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cabs.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago should revamp its rules for taxi drivers and create a task force to professionalize the industry, according to a report issued Tuesday by a group of labor, faith and community leaders. The Chicago Taxi Drivers Workers Rights Board, working in conjunction with Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Local 31, plans to pass along their findings and recommendations to a new city task force that is looking into changes for the taxi industry.</p><p>&ldquo;The system that the City has established to impose tickets, fines and licensure threats on drivers is at the root of an escalating collective worker anger,&rdquo; said Robert Bruno, a labor relations professor at the University of Illinois and an author of the report. &ldquo;And we believe it is in need of systemic change.&rdquo;</p><p>The group held a public hearing for taxi drivers in November to identify the key areas to target in the study. It found that cabbies resented having little to no input on rules that apply to their industry; the system of fees, fines and penalties that they work under are unnecessarily burdensome; and, they feel there is a lack of due process in the administrative hearings court that adjudicates tickets and complaints against cab drivers.</p><p>&ldquo;Cab drivers are sent to a special court, where the rules are arbitrary and opaque,&rdquo; explained Tracy Abman, Associate Director of AFSCME Local 31, &ldquo;where complainants are not required to be present or even reveal their identity, and where city prosecutors routinely threaten and coerce drivers into foregoing their right to a hearing.&rdquo;</p><p>Abman contrasted that with the process that drivers for rideshare services like UberX and Lyft face when they are ticketed or charged with breaking the law. She said those drivers are able to face and cross-examine their accusers in the Circuit Court, and that taxi drivers should be able to do the same.</p><p>Rideshare services help non-professional drivers use their cars much like taxis, and have been legal in Chicago for several months. Former Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation legalizing the services statewide before leaving office this week.</p><p>Bruno said the pressure of competition against rideshare services could be positive for the taxi industry, if it moves to distinguish itself as a more professional industry. &ldquo;It could be wearing uniforms, it could be training programs, it could be incentives in terms of performance in which pay could increase,&rdquo; said Bruno. &ldquo;I think there are creative things that could be done.&rdquo;</p><p>The study recommends the creation of a task force to explore ways in which the industry could improve its services, as well as establish taxi-driving as a career path to the middle class.</p><p>Taxi drivers should see some relief next month, when an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-moves-taxi-reforms-leave-more-money-cabbies-pockets-110877" target="_blank">ordinance</a> goes into effect that will lower credit card fees, penalties, and leases for most cabs.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a></em></p></p> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 16:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/study-proposes-fairer-rules-cab-industry-111392 How driver's license suspensions unfairly target the poor http://www.wbez.org/news/how-drivers-license-suspensions-unfairly-target-poor-111332 <p><p><em>This is the second of two stories. Read the first story,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cant-pay-your-fines-your-license-could-be-taken-111309">here</a>.</em></p><p>If you get caught drinking and driving in Wisconsin, and it&#39;s your first offense, you lose your license for nine months. For a hit and run, the punishment is suspension for one year.</p><p>But if you don&#39;t pay a ticket for a minor driving offense, such as driving with a broken tail light, you can lose your license for two years.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s an incredible policy,&quot; says John Pawasarat of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. It&#39;s &quot;a policy of punishing people who can&#39;t pay their fines.&quot;</p><p>The practice &ndash; repeated in states across the country &ndash; is mostly impacting the poor and creating a spiral of bad consequences.</p><p>NPR&#39;s recent&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/series/313986316/guilty-and-charged">&quot;Guilty and Charged&quot; investigation</a>&nbsp;found that rising court fines and fees &mdash; reaching hundreds or even thousands of dollars per person &mdash; often hurt poor people the most.</p><p>Pawasarat, who runs the university&#39;s Employment and Training Institute and studies Milwaukee&#39;s poor neighborhoods, says one of the biggest barriers to getting a job is not having a driver&#39;s license.</p><p>&quot;Two out of three African-American men in this neighborhood, of working age, don&#39;t have a driver&#39;s license,&quot; he says while walking down Martin Luther King Avenue in Milwaukee. &quot;And are consequently unable to access the jobs that are beyond the bus lines.&quot;</p><p>But among the typical barriers to employment &mdash; such as having a prison record, or a poor education &mdash; a suspended license is the easiest to solve, says Pawasarat.</p><p>McArthur Edwards, who lives nearby, knows from personal experience.</p><p>&quot;It hinders you because most jobs are not in the inner city nowadays. And they get pushed far back. And the buses don&#39;t go out there. So the inner-city jobs that we have are not able to provide for our families that we have and to provide for ourselves,&quot; he says.</p><p>In 2013, Edwards was stopped by police and ticketed for driving with a broken light over his back license plate. State department of transportation records show that when he didn&#39;t pay the $64 fine, his driver&#39;s license was suspended for two years.</p><p>He kept driving and got more tickets. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 75 percent of Americans who get their licenses suspended, continue driving.</p><p>Edwards, who&#39;s 29, has come to the Center for Driver&#39;s License Recovery and Employability, where lawyers and case workers help people with low income get suspensions lifted.</p><p>His reason for wanting his license is simple: He wants a better job.</p><p>From time to time, Edwards is hired to work in warehouses around the city. But those are temporary jobs, often at around minimum wage.</p><p>That makes it difficult for him to pay both the landlord and the electric bill.</p><p>Edwards, who lived in foster care or state homes from the time he was 2, wants to be a good father to his four children, who are 4- to 11-years old.</p><p>&quot;I want my kids to look up to me. I want my kids to be like, &#39;Me and my father did that,&#39; or, &#39;I need these,&#39; or &#39;I want these,&#39; or &#39;the school said I needed this,&#39;&quot; he says. &quot;And I can&#39;t afford to buy it. Or I can&#39;t provide for my children. I don&#39;t want that to be that way.&quot;</p><p>Recently, Edwards responded to ads for long-distance truck drivers. Two companies promised to train him, but not until he has a valid driver&#39;s license.</p><p>It&#39;s a potential job that he speaks of wistfully. &quot;I like traveling. And trucking is a good way to travel. Just see the sights of America, man. It&#39;s a beautiful country,&quot; he says. &quot;I just want to see everything. I love the road.&quot;</p><p>To lift his suspension, staff at the center helped Edwards reset the original unpaid ticket.</p><p>For six other tickets &mdash; most of them for driving while suspended &mdash; he paid $600 on the $1,800 he owed. He then cleared the rest by doing community service.</p><p>The most common way that people lose their driver&#39;s license in Wisconsin is not for drunk driving or other unsafe driving. It&#39;s for failure to pay the fine on a ticket for a non-moving traffic offense. Those make up 56 percent of all license suspensions in the state, according to statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.</p><p>Nationwide, the numbers are similar: about 40 percent of suspensions are for unpaid traffic tickets, and for things like not paying child support, or getting caught with drugs &mdash; things that have nothing to do with unsafe driving, according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.</p><p>People with money pay off their tickets and are done with the courts. When people don&#39;t pay, a minor ticket can set off a chain of problems.</p><p>Like for Angel Hinton, who also came to the center for help.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/hinton-img_0480-edit_custom-245e81c52238a85d88a7ad54b3619443cde2b637-s400-c85.jpg" style="float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Angel Hinton with her daughter, Cameisha, 8. Hinton's business suffered after her license was suspended. (Joseph Shapiro/NPR)" />Hinton had a small janitorial business, but money was tight. So she challenged a parking ticket she received outside of the suburban office building she cleaned on Sunday mornings.</p><p>But the unpaid ticket meant she couldn&#39;t renew her car registration. She then got more tickets for expired tags. She missed a court date. She says she wasn&#39;t notified. That triggered an arrest warrant. And one day, she was stopped by police, pulled out of her car and handcuffed in front of her young daughter.</p><p>Without a license, she could no longer drive to the places she cleaned.</p><p>&quot;This basically ruined my life,&quot; she says. &quot;I mean, I was to the point that I&#39;m building my business. I&#39;m growing. And now I&#39;m back to depending on public assistance.&quot;</p><p>When Jim Gramling was a judge on Milwaukee&#39;s Municipal Court, he saw the problems that license suspensions created for poor people. He worked with lawyers, court officials and community activists to help start the Center for Driver&#39;s License Recovery and Employability, a public-private partnership between Wisconsin Community Services, a non-profit community agency; Legal Action of Wisconsin, which provides legal services to the poor; Milwaukee Area Technical College and the city&#39;s Municipal Court.</p><p>After retiring from the bench, Gramling immediately started working at the center as a volunteer lawyer.</p><p>&quot;What we see constantly here at the center are drivers who have accumulated a series of tickets that are directly related to their lack of income,&quot; he says.</p><p>Since the program started in 2007, it has worked with about 10,000 clients, helping nearly 3,000 get their license.</p><p>&quot;People should pay their tickets. No doubt about it,&quot; says Gramling. &quot;They should be held accountable for what they&#39;ve done that violated the traffic laws. But at some point, a balance has to be introduced into this. And the balance is, if people don&#39;t pay because they&#39;re low income and can&#39;t budget that expense, what&#39;s an appropriate penalty?&quot;</p><p>Gramling says most judges never ask people if they have the money to pay traffic tickets. So he argues for alternative penalties. For example, to let people pay in small monthly amounts, or arrange for community service instead.</p><p>The retired judge is also lobbying state lawmakers to end the two-year suspension on failure to pay a ticket.</p><p>Municipal Court officials declined to speak about the policy of giving two-year suspensions, but the threat of losing a license does push people who can pay, to pay. Then there&#39;s the issue of fairness: If there&#39;s no punishment for people who can afford to pay, but don&#39;t.</p><p>Still, a new analysis of city records by the non-profit Justice Initiatives Institute, says there&#39;s no evidence that the long suspensions stop people from driving and getting more tickets. Sometimes, people then get arrested and put in jail &mdash; which is expensive for the city. Mostly, the report says, the two-year suspensions just put poor people more in debt.</p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 08:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-drivers-license-suspensions-unfairly-target-poor-111332 Can't pay your fines? Your license could be taken http://www.wbez.org/news/cant-pay-your-fines-your-license-could-be-taken-111309 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/desiree-seats_custom-53edb94a443a5c9d7ba9c3b6e5118097e0f8c447-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Drive drunk, drive recklessly, and the state can suspend your driver&#39;s license. But many police and motor vehicle administrators worry about a recent trend: A large number of suspensions are for reasons that have nothing to do with unsafe driving.</p><p>These reasons include unpaid traffic tickets, falling behind on child support, getting caught with drugs, bouncing checks; or minor juvenile offenses like missing school, using false identification to buy alcohol, or shoplifting.</p><p>Increasingly, people who study driver safety say this makes little sense.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.aamva.org/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&amp;ItemID=3723&amp;libID=3709" target="_blank">A study in 2013</a>&nbsp;from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators raised concerns that police and state and local motor vehicle officials find too much of their time and budget tied up going after people with suspensions for minor lawbreaking that has nothing to do with safe driving.</p><p>&quot;They want to focus on the people who pose a risk to the general population that&#39;s driving on the roadway. And those are usually the people who are suspended for ... things like hit-and-run crashes, DUIs, unsafe speed, reckless driving &mdash; those actions that we as a society consider severe and dangerous on the roadway,&quot; says Robert Eger, who wrote a study for the motor vehicle administrators.</p><p>In Milwaukee, Desiree Seats, 23, knows how a suspended license can be limiting, and how having a valid license can open opportunities: She lost her license before she even got it.</p><p>This summer, Seats went for her first driver&#39;s license and passed the road test. But instead of being given the license, she was told it already was suspended.</p><p>About six years ago, when she was 16, Seats had been caught shoplifting jeans and a shirt at a suburban department store. She went to court and was fined on a juvenile charge, but the fine never was paid. Seats says she didn&#39;t know about the fine and that neither she nor her mother would have had the money back then to pay it.</p><p>She still owed $315, and that kicked in a license suspension for two years from the day she was eligible to receive one.</p><p>Eger, a retired police officer who is now a professor at the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, Calif., found that nationwide about 40 percent of people whose licenses are suspended lose them for reasons other than bad driving.</p><p>It all started with laws passed by Congress in the late 1980s. First, a law took away the driver&#39;s license of men who didn&#39;t pay child support. Then came one for people caught with drugs.</p><p>Next, state lawmakers added hundreds of reasons that had nothing to do with unsafe driving. Eger found that at least 18 states will suspend someone&#39;s driver&#39;s license for failure to pay the fines on nondriving traffic violations. And four states will suspend it for not paying parking tickets. Among the other reasons: school truancy, bouncing a check, not paying college loans, graffiti and littering.</p><p>Eger says that no research shows that suspending a license will make someone likely to change his behavior.</p><p>But Colleen Eubanks of the National Child Support Enforcement Association says just the threat of losing a license makes a difference. &quot;It&#39;s an effective tool for motivating people to pay their child support,&quot; she says. Billions of dollars of child support are collected each year using this tactic.</p><p>&quot;Driving is a privilege, and if you&#39;re not willing to support your children and [you] expect society to do it,&quot; she says, &quot;then you should lose the privilege of driving.&quot;</p><p>But there&#39;s also evidence that when people lose a license for reasons unrelated to safety, they take suspensions less seriously. At least 75 percent of people who have had their licenses revoked just keep driving, according to the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.</p><p>&quot;You don&#39;t need a license to drive; you just need a car,&quot; says Jim Gramling, a former Municipal Court judge in Milwaukee. After Gramling retired from the court, he went to work as a volunteer lawyer at the Center for Driver&#39;s License Recovery and Employability, an organization he helped start. It&#39;s a place where those with low income can get legal help.</p><p>Courts will order arrest warrants when people don&#39;t pay court fines and fees. At the end of his time as a judge, Gramling dropped those arrest warrants for impoverished defendants. But they still had to pay off their fines. Similar ticket amnesties have been tried around the country &mdash; including this month in Ferguson, Mo. Those programs have had limited success.</p><p>In Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union took a different approach and argued in a 2013 lawsuit that the state discriminated against poor people when it took away their driver&#39;s licenses for failure to pay court fines and fees. About 200,000 drivers had their licenses suspended that year for not paying the fines. But a court has largely rejected the argument.</p><p>Gramling says people with money just pay off their fines &mdash; and avoid court. But people with little money often struggle when they get tickets.</p><p>&quot;Often they&#39;re living lives where they can&#39;t afford to leave a job early, or at all, to go to court. They can&#39;t hire a lawyer, can&#39;t afford a lawyer. So they often let the cases go by default and don&#39;t challenge tickets that maybe should be challenged,&quot; he says. &quot;It&#39;s tough.&quot;</p><p>In Milwaukee, Seats went to the Center for Driver&#39;s License Recovery; lawyers and case managers there helped her negotiate paying off her fine in small amounts over several months and get the suspension lifted.</p><p>She had already bought a car &mdash; a used, nine-year-old Hyundai Elantra. With a dependable car and a valid license, she figured she had everything she needed to start making money.</p><p>Seats, the mother of a 4-year-old boy, now works as a personal care assistant, helping a woman with a disability fix meals, bathe and get dressed.</p><p>A few days after getting her license, she also started a second job delivering newspapers, and she has also applied for a job delivering pizza. And the freedom of being able to drive helps her attend a technical college as well, where she&#39;s studying to become a pharmacy assistant.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m very goal-oriented,&quot; she explains as she drives to the house of the woman she helps with chores. &quot;I have a lot of goals that I want to accomplish, in a set amount of time. And that&#39;s what I&#39;m working on now.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/12/29/372691960/cant-pay-your-fines-your-license-could-be-taken" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 10:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cant-pay-your-fines-your-license-could-be-taken-111309