WBEZ | Transportation http://www.wbez.org/news/transportation Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Global Activism: Climate Ride organizes rides and hikes for Earth's sustainability http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-climate-ride-organizes-rides-and-hikes-earths-sustainability <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ga climate ride.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s Thursday and time for our <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em> series. Each Thursday, we hear about people who work to make the world a better place. Today, we&rsquo;ll talk with Caeli Quinn, co-founder of &lsquo;<a href="http://www.climateride.org/">Climate Ride</a>&rsquo;. They organize rides and hikes to benefit sustainability-oriented non-profits. Climate Ride is about to start their first <a href="http://www.climateride.org/events/midwest">Midwest event</a>. It&rsquo;s a 300 Mile ride that starts in Grand Rapids, Michigan and ends at Chicago&rsquo;s Northerly Island on September 9<sup>th</sup> around 4:30pm.</p><p>The work of Climate Ride was suggested by Paul Culhane from <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>.</p></p> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 12:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-climate-ride-organizes-rides-and-hikes-earths-sustainability Quinn vetoes 'Uber Bill,' some cry for override http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-vetoes-uber-bill-some-cry-override-110700 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rideshare.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Supporters of limits to rideshare services in Illinois vowed Monday to push for an override of Governor Pat Quinn&rsquo;s veto of the so-called &ldquo;Uber Bill.&rdquo;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-passes-ride-sharing-rules-110191" target="_blank">bill</a>, which would have affected popular technology platforms such as Uber and Lyft, would have forced rideshare companies to track more closely how many hours each of their drivers spent behind the wheel in the state, and to comply with safety standards similar to those required in the taxi industry. Supporters of the bill blasted Quinn&rsquo;s decision, saying it was motivated out of a concern for votes in the November gubernatorial election, rather than out of concern for public safety.</p><p>&ldquo;Governor Quinn is making the decision solely because of politics,&rdquo; said State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-11). &ldquo;Governor Quinn has decided (he&rsquo;s) not doing well in the polls, and based on his political advisors and lobbyists that he needs the &lsquo;lakefront liberals&rsquo; to come out in big numbers for him, and maybe that&rsquo;s what this is about.&rdquo;</p><p>Sandoval said he will push to have <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&amp;SessionId=85&amp;GA=98&amp;DocTypeId=HB&amp;DocNum=4075&amp;GAID=12&amp;LegID=77989&amp;SpecSess=&amp;Session=" target="_blank">HB 4075/5331</a> on the General Assembly&rsquo;s override calendar in November. The Illinois House passed the measure 80-26 in June, and would require only 71 votes for an override. The Senate passed the measure 46-8, and would require only 36 to override.</p><p>But in his veto statement, Quinn said he objected to the bill&rsquo;s pre-emption of &ldquo;home rule,&rdquo; meaning that it would prohibit local municipalities from creating or enacting their own regulations for rideshare services. &ldquo;A statewide regulatory framework should only be considered when it is clear that it is not possible to address the problem at the local level,&rdquo; he wrote. &ldquo;At this point, there is not yet enough evidence to make a judgment about the effectiveness of local ordinances in dealing with the challenges of ridesharing technologies.&rdquo;</p><p>The bill would have required rideshare companies to closely track how many hours each of their drivers averaged on their platforms. Those who offered rides more than 36 hours every two weeks would have to comply with safety regulations similar to taxi drivers &mdash; namely, obtaining a public chauffeur&rsquo;s license, getting fingerprinted and submitting to a criminal background check. Additionally, the companies would have to provide commercial liability insurance identical to that which is required for taxis, for all its drivers -- regardless of how many hours they spend on the platform.</p><p>Several Chicago taxicab medallion owners joined Sandoval in protesting Quinn&rsquo;s veto, saying they believed Quinn&rsquo;s track record as a champion of consumer rights and safety would have led to a different outcome. But many believe that the issue has become politicized &mdash; even briefly becoming campaign trail grist by Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent Bruce Rauner &mdash; such that the governor had little choice but to veto it. They said they are confident that the General Assembly will override.</p><p>Ehsan Ghoreishi, a Chicago taxi driver of ten years and former medallion owner, said the state sanctioning of rideshare companies will ultimately be bad for labor. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a taxi driver, I lease from big companies,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m sure there&rsquo;s some exploitation, and it&rsquo;s not a clean industry. But the question is: Do I prefer to work with a guy who owns 600 medallions? But I can reach him &mdash; he&rsquo;s a tangible person, I can call his office, I can go make a complaint. Or, do I want to be exploited by a guy that I cannot reach in any tangible fashion?&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, changes that Uber and Lyft made to their fare and revenue structures this summer have alienated some of their most devoted drivers. Uber slashed its fares 15 percent, and started charging $10 each week for use of the data plan on iPhones that it issues to each driver. Chris Taylor, General Manager for Uber Chicago, said the price experiment has resulted in a greater number of people using their platform to get around. In other words, while drivers may earn less per ride, they&rsquo;re getting more rides.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re confident that drivers on average will still have the ability to earn, on average, double minimum wage in Illinois in fares per hour,&rdquo; he said. Additionally, to offset the smaller earnings per ride, Taylor said Uber has negotiated discounts on gas, maintenance services and car washes for its drivers.</p><p>But Dan Burgess, who has driven for both Uber, Lyft, as well as a third competitor, Sidecar, said he and other drivers are definitely not earning double Illinois&rsquo; $8.25 minimum wage. &ldquo;If you take into account our car expenses for fuel and wear and tear, we&rsquo;re probably netting about $10 an hour,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just not a worthwhile experience for us anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, relatively <a href="https://chicago.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1657453&amp;GUID=48EE4E9D-5D88-4001-8753-74FA1D4C47AF" target="_blank">light regulations</a> for the industry are set to take effect Tuesday in the City of Chicago. The rules would require the companies to apply for different classes of licenses, depending on how many hours their drivers, in aggregate, average. Companies whose drivers average fewer than 20 hours per week would be allowed to continue mostly as they already do. Both Uber and Lyft are working to gain this type of license.</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="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 18:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-vetoes-uber-bill-some-cry-override-110700 Meet the CTA's super-friendly conductor http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/meet-ctas-super-friendly-conductor-110466 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/157991456&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false; show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&rsquo;s note: The podcast episode available above includes two stories. The first looks at why Chicago is a transit hub for the Amish. The profile of CTA conductor Michael Powell begins at 7 minutes, 36 seconds.</em></p><p>The idea for Caroline Eichler&rsquo;s Curious City question first came to her in 2011, shortly after she had finished college and first arrived in Chicago. She didn&rsquo;t know anyone except her roommates and co-workers. &ldquo;And this is the first city I&rsquo;ve ever lived in, too,&rdquo; she says. It&rsquo;s little wonder that she felt &mdash; by her own admission &mdash; &ldquo;pretty terrified and overwhelmed.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>One of the first people Caroline came to recognize in the city was the voice of a certain chatty train conductor during her commute on the CTA&rsquo;s Red Line from Rogers Park to the Jackson stop downtown. She remembers the conductor reminding passengers to grab their umbrellas if it was raining, or he&rsquo;d jokingly advise passengers to take their children with them when they left the train. &ldquo;One time he said &lsquo;May the force be with you.&rsquo; That really cracked me up,&rdquo; she says. Since Caroline only knew a handful of people in the city, even the more reserved announcements such as &ldquo;I hope you&rsquo;re having a great day!&rdquo; were really nice, she says.</p><p>All of this interest in a comforting voice led Caroline to send us this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Who is the super-friendly train conductor on the Red Line?</em></p><p>While tracking down an answer, we learned that the man behind the kind words used the daily commute to comfort himself, too.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;I just started talking&rsquo;</span></p><p>The conductor is Michael Powell, who began working for the CTA in 1978. Getting a job with the CTA was &ldquo;like a dream come true,&rdquo; Powell says. He&rsquo;s always loved trains, and he even had toy trains when he was growing up.</p><p>Talking over the train&rsquo;s PA system came naturally to Powell. &ldquo;I just started talking,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s spur of the moment, I really don&rsquo;t rehearse them. If it feels like I can say something silly or something half-serious, I&rsquo;ll say it.&rdquo;</p><p>Powell is not shy about sharing difficulties he had early in life. The oldest of four children, Powell says his mother &ldquo;had a rough time raising four children, not having a college degree or any education formally.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I could never make her happy,&rdquo; Powell remembers. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t like myself because I didn&rsquo;t get any compliments.&rdquo; Eventually Powell went to counseling. &ldquo;I just had to get over my fear or rejection, I think that&rsquo;s everybody&rsquo;s problem,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;When I started getting attention from the train it was like: Hey, I&rsquo;m getting the love or the attention that I didn&rsquo;t have growing up.&rdquo;</p><p>Powell&rsquo;s philosophy about relating to the passengers is straightforward. &ldquo;I just try to make everybody feel good,&rdquo; he says. Knowing people aren&rsquo;t always happy to be on their way to work, he would sometimes give a morning pep talk. &ldquo;Some people feel like they&rsquo;re down in the dumps. They&rsquo;re like &lsquo;Wow-wee, I had to come to work today.&rsquo; And I sometimes say, Yeah, you know, it would be nice to stay home today, but we have to work. What&rsquo;s for dinner tonight? Make sure you have everything with you! Just, you know, look on the bright side of life,&rdquo; he says.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MichaelPowell%20for%20WEB.jpg" title="Michael Powell, a CTA conductor for 36 years, was known by commuters for his cheerful quips. (Photo courtesy Katie Klocksin)" /></p><p>Over the years Powell has made an impact on his passengers, and he&rsquo;s been written about many times. When I first introduce him to Caroline, he presents a large binder full of his press clippings, print-outs of mostly-positive comment threads on articles featuring him, cards passengers had sent him, and comments people sent to the CTA. Caroline says she&rsquo;s impressed with how much Michael&rsquo;s comments resonated with people &mdash; enough that many people actually wrote to the CTA with positive feedback.</p><p>&ldquo;He brings out a good side of Chicago,&rdquo; she says.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">End of an era</span></p><p>Fans of Powell and his conversational style as a train conductor may be disappointed to learn that he retired at the end of 2013. He still spends time with a group of friends he calls &ldquo;train club.&rdquo; They get together once a week for breakfast, and they also run model trains and watch train movies together. Michael also became a grandfather this May. He misses seeing his passengers every day, &ldquo;yet it&rsquo;s nice to be a grandfather. It&rsquo;s nice to spend more time at home,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Caroline asked Powell if he had a fantasy train he&rsquo;d like to drive. &nbsp;&ldquo;Not really,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I feel like I&rsquo;ve done enough driving in my life. Let someone else do the driving.&rdquo;</p><p>As their time together ends, Caroline tells him: &ldquo;The Red Line community of train riders will miss you.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll miss them too,&rdquo; he replies. &ldquo;I had fun.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Caroline%20Re-Touch%20for%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 242px; width: 200px;" title="Caroline Eichler, who asked about the super-friendly Red Line conductor. (Photo courtesy Caroline Eichler)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Caroline Eichler</span></p><p>Caroline Eichler moved to Chicago in 2011, after graduating from Kenyon College. She quickly noticed Michael Powell&rsquo;s distinctive style on the Red Line&rsquo;s train announcements.</p><p>&ldquo;He was one of the first people in city I&rsquo;d recognize,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t even see him, I would just would know he was there from his voice.&rdquo;</p><p>Powell was a topic of conversation among her roommates as well. They would text each other when they caught Powell&rsquo;s train on their morning or evening commutes. &ldquo;I think I&rsquo;m the most excited about it, but we&rsquo;re all in on it together,&rdquo; Caroline says.</p><p>After three years, Caroline is more settled in the city; she&rsquo;s involved in several musical endeavors, including working as the Music Librarian for the <a href="http://cso.org/Institute/CivicOrchestra/Default.aspx" target="_blank">Civic Orchestra of Chicago</a>. She&rsquo;s also a violinist, and she sings with the vocal ensemble <a href="http://www.lacaccina.com/" target="_blank">La Caccina</a>.</p><p><em>A <a href="http://chirpradio.org/podcasts/person-of-interest-michael-powell" target="_blank">version of this story </a>originally aired on ChirpRadio.org. Katie Klocksin is a freelance radio producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 12:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/meet-ctas-super-friendly-conductor-110466 Passing through: Chicago's Union Station as Amish transit hub http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/passing-through-chicagos-union-station-amish-transit-hub-110453 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/157991456&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: In producing this story, producer Katie Klocksin quotes several people of Amish background. In a deviation from most journalistic practice, Klocksin and editor Shawn Allee chose not to publish the sources&rsquo; names out of respect for the Amish culture&#39;s longstanding premium on humility, as well as possible social consequences for participants. The decision was made in consideration of comments on the issue made by Dr. Steven Nolt, Professor of History at Goshen College and author of numerous books on the Amish.</em></p><p>Paul Vaccarello of LaGrange, Illinois, sees Amish people when he passes through downtown Chicago&rsquo;s Union Station &mdash; the nexus of several Amtrak and Metra commuter rail lines.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve just always been curious about where they&rsquo;re going, why they&rsquo;re here, if they&rsquo;re actually coming to Chicago or if this is a stop on their way to somewhere else,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>This led him to ask Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Is Chicago a large transportation hub for Amish travelers?</em></p><p>Reporting an answer provided Paul an opportunity to hear from people that Chicagoans and suburbanites don&rsquo;t ordinarily cross paths with. Members of the religious group seek to maintain a close-knit rural lifestyle and, though there are Amish settlements sprinkled throughout the Midwest, the nearest one lies 90 miles from downtown Chicago. As we approached an answer &mdash; by checking in with experts and Amish travelers themselves &mdash; we couldn&rsquo;t help but feel we were meeting our regional neighbors for the first time.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">A separate pattern of life</span></p><p>Dr. Steven Nolt, Professor of History at Goshen College and author of numerous books on the Amish, reminded us that adherents belong to a Protestant religious community that is &ldquo;sometimes referred to as &lsquo;the old order Amish,&rsquo; which means they have tried to maintain what they consider the old patterns of life.&rdquo; Typically, they limit their use of modern technology and their communities tend to be in rural areas. These &ldquo;old patterns of life,&rdquo; Nolt said, &ldquo;would be things that encourage community and cooperation and collaboration.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt noted, though, that there are few technologies that the Amish consider wholly bad. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s their attempt to try to control technology or engage technology on their own terms,&rdquo; he said. &nbsp;</p><p>Relevant to Paul&rsquo;s question, Amish people generally don&rsquo;t own or drive cars, although some will hire a vehicle and driver for transportation. It&rsquo;s common for the Amish to travel on trains or buses. &ldquo;The problem isn&rsquo;t the <em>thing</em>,&rdquo; Nolt said. &ldquo;The problem is when we own and control something, then, that heightens our sense of individual autonomy.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt described an aspect of Amish life that posed a problem for reporting this story: &ldquo;Amish people, when speaking to members of the media, almost always decline to be identified by name or photographed in ways that would highlight them as an individual. Their concern there is one of humility, of not appearing to present oneself as a spokesperson for the whole group, not wanting to call attention to themselves.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Traveling by train<a name="map"></a></span></p><p>Paul and I made several trips to Union Station and found Amish people each time. Most were happy to talk with us, provided my large microphone was turned off. Most people, as predicted, declined to give their names. Everyone we talked to confirmed our theory: Chicago <em>is</em> a hub for transportation among the Amish. The people we interviewed at Union Station were all waiting to switch trains. One woman put it succinctly: &ldquo;A lot of Amish travel from one state to the other on Amtrak. &hellip;Every train comes into Chicago and leaves Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Our map can clarify this: There, you can see how Amtrak lines cross near or through midwestern Amish communities. Nolt added, too, that more than 60 percent of the Amish live in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania: states with Amtrak lines. So Paul was onto something: Amish people, by avoiding cars, travel by train throughout the Midwest and the country. Many Amtrak trains converge in Chicago, thus Amish regularly wait for trains and transfers at Union Station.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/amish/index.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em><strong>Map: U.S. counties with extant Amish settlements as of 2010, overlaid with unofficial map of Amtrak rail system lines.</strong> Amish population data: <a href="http://www.rcms2010.org/index.php" target="_blank">Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies</a>.&nbsp;Rough Amtrak line map: <a href="https://www.blogger.com/profile/17241478144408980328" target="_blank">Rakshith Krishnappa</a>.</em></span></p><p>Nolt points out that Amish people aren&rsquo;t likely to use the word &ldquo;vacation.&rdquo; Instead, he says, they talk about trips. &ldquo;I think on one level it&rsquo;s because &lsquo;vacation&rsquo; suggests leisure type activity that doesn&rsquo;t fit with their rural way of life,&rdquo; he said, adding, &ldquo;Their worlds are not as neatly divided as many of the rest of ours are between work and leisure, home and work. There&rsquo;s much more fluidity and overlap between the domains of their life.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt says it is common for a long-distance trip to be centered around business travel. There are all-Amish trade shows, for example, which are similar to standard trade shows except they are hosted by a local community and attendees stay with local families. &quot;Most people bring their whole family and it kind of turns into a reunion of visiting,&quot; he said.</p><p>For the most part, though, Paul and I met people traveling to visit family members in other states. We met a large family returning home to Kansas from a wedding in Indiana. An Amish woman from Ohio was traveling with several of her grandchildren to visit her cousin and see the Grand Canyon.</p><p>A few Amish people we met were seeking medical care, including a man from Kentucky. &ldquo;We were in Mexico for medical purposes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t like to see it, but medical expenses in the States anymore are so phenomenal that an ordinary person cannot afford it.&rdquo; He was returning from Tijuana after a successful operation.</p><p>Another medical traveler, an Amish man with a salt-and-pepper beard and a constant grin, cracked jokes with us for a while. After we parted ways with him, though, we ran into him throughout our stay at Union Station. It&rsquo;s not an exaggeration to say he seemed to know every Amish person there that day, which perhaps reveals a benefit of Union Station&rsquo;s being a hub: For the Amish, it provides a space to serendipitously meet far-flung neighbors.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Paul%20Vaccarello%20-%20courtesy%20of%20Paul%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 254px; width: 190px;" title="Paul Vaccarello asked Curious City about the Amish at Union Station. (Photo courtesy Paul Vaccarello)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Our question comes from: Paul Vaccarello</span></p><p>Paul Vaccarello told Curious City he visits Union Station about twice a month, adding that &ldquo;pretty much every time, I see groups of Amish people.&rdquo; While he was curious about whether the Amish travel by train, he also wondered if Chicago was ever the destination for Amish people on the road. &ldquo;It was interesting to hear they sometimes stop in Chicago to sightsee, go to the Sears Tower and John Hancock building,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Paul said he&rsquo;s not someone who would normally talk to strangers in the train station, and striking up a conversation with someone from a clearly different background can feel like crossing a barrier.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s cool to see they&rsquo;re so willing to talk, and that they don&rsquo;t even really see the barrier,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is a freelance radio producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/passing-through-chicagos-union-station-amish-transit-hub-110453 CTA charges kids full fares to get to summer school, job programs http://www.wbez.org/news/cta-charges-kids-full-fares-get-summer-school-job-programs-110450 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMAG2791web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In what appears to be another stumble in the city&rsquo;s transition to the new Ventra fare-collection system, thousands of young Chicagoans are paying more in train and bus fares than they should be this summer.</p><p>Typically, students under age 20 going to summer school or jobs programs would pay reduced CTA fares&mdash;currently $0.75 per ride and $0.15 for a transfer.</p><p>But many have gotten a rude awakening this summer when they&rsquo;ve used their student cards on buses or trains.</p><p>&ldquo;I swiped it, and I had (added) a dollar. Usually a dollar is good for me to get over here, but it said &lsquo;insufficient fares,&rsquo;&quot; said student Cesar Fierro in the hallway of his high school, Noble Street College Prep. Fierro rides on a student Ventra card he purchased at school.</p><p>He&rsquo;s been paying $4.50, every day, to get to and from summer school&mdash;if he has the money.</p><p>&ldquo;Like yesterday I had to walk all the way home,&rdquo; said Fierro. That&rsquo;s a 4.5-mile hike, from Augusta and Milwaukee to Fullerton and Kostner.</p><p>School staff at Noble Street say they&rsquo;ve &ldquo;easily&rdquo; spent 10 hours on the phone over the last two weeks trying to get reduced fares for summer school students&mdash; &ldquo;calling back and forth to Ventra, being sent to CTA, the CTA saying, &lsquo;Go back to Ventra.&rsquo; It seems to be a very confusing time for the companies as well as the schools,&rdquo; said Noble Street administrative assistant Nicole Baily.</p><p>And thousands of youth involved in one of the city&rsquo;s largest summer job programs&mdash;After School Matters&mdash;have also been paying full fares.&nbsp;</p><p>Student Ventra cards, which are available only through schools or by mail from Ventra, offer kids reduced fares Monday through Friday during daytime hours &mdash;but only for the regular school year.</p><p>CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis says that&rsquo;s because reduced fares are for students enrolled in an educational program, not for all youth. &ldquo;If you&#39;re enrolled in the regular fall term, once that term finishes, the entitlement on the Ventra card is turned off automatically,&rdquo; said Lukidis.</p><p>For students to get reduced fares during summer, schools must submit each student&#39;s individual transit card ID number to the CTA (or to one of Ventra&#39;s subcontractors).&nbsp; Lukidis says the transit agency has been working since spring with schools to prepare for the summer session.&nbsp; She says 5,500 Chicago Public Schools students and 9,500 students from charters and private schools are already receiving the reduced fare.</p><p>&ldquo;So we have mechanisms in place for this to work successfully, and it has,&rdquo; says Lukidis. She blamed Noble Street&#39;s problems on a &quot;miscommunication on how to activate and get all of those entitlements processed.&quot;</p><p>A clerk at one of the city&rsquo;s neighborhood high schools says not all summer school students there are getting the reduced-fare rides to school and they&#39;re entitled to them. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had parents call to complain,&rdquo; said the clerk, who didn&rsquo;t have authorization to speak to the media. She said she&rsquo;s unable to sell Ventra cards to summer school students who aren&rsquo;t enrolled at that school during the regular school year.</p><p>And the CTA seems to have been blind-sided by summer programs beyond schools.&nbsp; In the past, many summer programs&mdash;including After School Matters&mdash;purchased and distributed reduced-fare CTA cards to teens. Those cards were valid during the summer months only.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems like a very easy-to-solve problem, but the CTA has not created a student fare card for the summer,&rdquo; says Brian Brady, director of the Mikva Challenge youth organization.</p><p>Brady says nonprofits like his, who run summer programs for youth, are &ldquo;up in arms on this, but not getting anywhere. It seems like Ventra and CTA are much more impenetrable than they were before the Ventra system took over. We&rsquo;re having trouble making any headway.&rdquo;</p><p>Brady says the Mikva Challenge, which pays for students&rsquo; transportation to its summer civics programs, is shelling out $4,000 more in student transit fares than last summer&mdash;and has no choice but to pay full fare for students it believes are entitled to youth fares. Other programs, like After School Matters, have passed the costs on to students.</p><p>Brady says that for students paying their own way to summer programs, full fares are &ldquo;a significant expense for these kids. A lot of them are extremely low-income.&rdquo; He says even if students are traveling to jobs programs, &ldquo;these jobs are often stipend-type jobs.&rdquo;&nbsp; Brady says nearly 20 percent of teens&rsquo; earnings could be going to the CTA.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s in the city&rsquo;s interest to see these kids getting to and from good activities in the summer&mdash;constructive activities&mdash;so to have them get socked at this heavy rate is really frustrating,&rdquo; says Brady.</p><p>Coincidentally, teens involved in a Mikva Challenge youth committee successfully advocated for the city to offer free rides&mdash;rather than reduced fares&mdash; to youth travelling to and from school&mdash;as a way to improve attendance.&nbsp; The city piloted the program in 10 schools last school year.</p><p>CTA says it has been in discussions with directors from After School Matters and plans to give reduced fares to those students &ldquo;soon. &rdquo; But Lukidis could not say how reduced fares would work, when they might begin, or whether students would be reimbursed for overpaying fares. Some After School Matters programs have been up and running for two weeks. Others begin Monday.</p><p>A spokeswoman for After School Matters, which has close ties to the city, declined to comment. The group says 8,000 students are enrolled in summer programs.</p><p>As for other summer programs run by nonprofits or universities, &ldquo;the best thing for programs to do, is reach out to us,&rdquo; said Lukidis, who emphasized the programs must be educational for students to get the reduced fare. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s so many good programs throughout the city. If you feel like you have a program that would qualify, and you&rsquo;re offering something to student-aged kids, contact us, so we can go ahead and review it.&rdquo;</p><p>The CTA&rsquo;s web site <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/travel_information/fares/reduced.aspx#students" target="_blank">indicates </a>parents can also ask for their child&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/fare_information/Summer_2014_Student_Entitlement_Extension6_4_14.pdf" target="_blank">reduced-fare status to be extended</a> if the child is in a school program.</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>. </em></p><p><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 14:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cta-charges-kids-full-fares-get-summer-school-job-programs-110450 Rideshare vs. Taxicabs: The inside story http://www.wbez.org/news/rideshare-vs-taxicabs-inside-story-110296 <p><p>The best taxi drivers get to know hotel doormen.</p><p>&ldquo;How you been, John? Everything good?!&rdquo; shouted Saied Sarvinehbaghi out his window as he pulled to the front of the Hilton cab line on a recent morning. &ldquo;You want me to stay here or back up? Stay here? OK. Airport would be nice, John,&rdquo; Sarvinehbaghi chuckled.</p><p>A ride from the Loop to O&rsquo;Hare could bring in more than $40 for a single fare. Chicago&rsquo;s airports are one of the few places left in the city where taxicabs still rule the road. But elsewhere, the competition for fares is growing fiercer by the day.</p><p>Chicago <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/rideshare-ordinance-passes-1?in=morningshiftwbez/sets/morning-shift-week-of-may-26">recently passed rules</a> to legalize ridesharing services, which let people use their personal cars to take paying passengers around. The debate over ridesharing has mostly centered on how the service differs from traditional taxis. So WBEZ spent a day with a cabbie, and a night with a rideshare driver to find out for ourselves.</p><p><span style="font-size: 21.81818199157715px;">The taxicab driver</span></p><p>Sarvinehbaghi started driving 35 years ago, soon after he came to the U.S. from Iran for college. At the time, he thought he&rsquo;d only be driving cabs for a couple of years. As a passenger climbs into the backseat and directs him to O&rsquo;Hare, Sarvinehbaghi reflects on why he&rsquo;s stayed so long in the industry.</p><p>&ldquo;This job is good to me because it&rsquo;s exciting, because it&rsquo;s not a boring job,&rdquo; Sarvinehbaghi said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very addictive job, actually. You get addicted to this job. If you get addicted, it&rsquo;s hard to let go.&rdquo;</p><p>Sarvinehbaghi is not your typical cabbie &ndash; he owns his medallion, which is a city license for a cab. He&rsquo;s had it for about 15 years.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t buy it,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;We had a great mayor called Harold Washington, and he&rsquo;s the one who started giving medallions out instead of selling them, so I was one of guys who won it (in a lottery).&rdquo;</p><p>Most taxi drivers don&rsquo;t own medallions, and in recent years, they&rsquo;ve gotten harder to buy. At times, medallions have sold for as much as $360 thousand. The majority of cabbies lease their cars, with the medallions attached, for $400 to $700 a week.</p><p>Sarvinehbaghi is glad he doesn&rsquo;t pay a lease, but he said he still has expenses. According to city rules, he has to buy a new car every four years and pay for expensive taxi insurance. Despite all that he says he got by just fine until the road recently became more crowded with rideshare drivers.</p><p><span style="font-size: 21.81818199157715px;">The rideshare driver</span></p><p>At about the same time Saied usually ends his shift on a Saturday evening, Dan Burgess is driving into the city from his home in Downers Grove. Burgess, who introduces himself to passengers as &ldquo;Trivia Dan,&rdquo; has done this most weekends for the past year. He drives for ridesharing services UberX, Lyft and Sidecar.</p><p>&ldquo;I like meeting people,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;I love the city and the pulse of the metropolis, and I enjoy driving people around and getting paid for it and having a good time. And I thought it would be a fun way to expose people to me and my trivia company and ask them trivia questions on the rides.&rdquo;</p><p>Burgess receives ride requests through his smartphone. Almost as soon as his first carload of Lyft passengers &ndash; three young women going out for a dinner in Lakeview &ndash; squeeze into his back seat, he peppers them with trivia questions.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, if you guys want to play trivia, I&rsquo;ve got trivia questions ready&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>As Burgess ferries passengers around the city in his 2005 silver Hyundai hatchback, the same scene repeats itself all night.</p><p>When asked, passengers said they prefer ridesharing to cabs because of the convenience. They use their smartphones to summon cars without ever going outside, and there&rsquo;s no hassle with cash or credit cards &ndash; the apps take care of the payment. When the ladies arrive at their destination, they just hop out.</p><p>&ldquo;Alright, so, I just got a text already saying that was &lsquo;50% Prime Time,&rsquo;&rdquo; Burgess said as the passengers exited. &ldquo;Lyft has a promotion going on tonight, so I got time-and-a-half on that.&rdquo;</p><p>Lyft and Uber frequently raise their rates at times of peak demand, or simply to entice drivers to use their app rather than the competition&rsquo;s. Cabs, by contrast, can&rsquo;t change the meter rate.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ridealongs%202.jpg" style="height: 415px; width: 620px;" title="Dan Burgess, a.k.a. “Trivia Dan,” drives in from the suburbs nearly every weekend to do ridesharing. He uses it as an opportunity to promote his trivia business, and says he shouldn’t be subject to the same rules as cab drivers. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></p><p><span style="font-size: 21.81818199157715px;">Different rules of the road</span></p><p>After roughly six hours with both Burgess and Sarvinehbaghi, it was clear that the essence of what they do is the same: they drive people places for money. So should they follow the same rules? Dan said &lsquo;no.&rsquo;</p><p>&ldquo;This is a casual experience,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I might go a month without giving a ride. Nobody has a cab that sits for a month without being used. So why should I fall under the same strict rules as a real cab when I might only give five or ten hours a week, or sometimes even five or ten hours a month?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s rules and regulation,&rdquo; counters Sarvinehbaghi. &ldquo;It says if you want to transport people in the City of Chicago, you have to be registered, you have to have a medallion, you have to pay the fees and taxes, and have some kind of chauffeurs license, so they know who you are.&rdquo;</p><p>Sarvinehbaghi said to get his chauffeurs license, he had to take a class; pass an English exam, a physical, an eye test, and a background check; and have a clean driving record. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar say they perform background and driving record checks, too. But several <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-02-14/news/ct-rideshare-background-checks-met-20140214_1_background-checks-ride-sharing-drivers">news outlets</a> have <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/Ride-Service-May-Pose-Risk-to-Passengers-256639641.html">reported cases</a> of rideshare drivers with criminal histories.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s about protecting the consumer in Chicago. People&rsquo;s life is in our hand,&rdquo; Sarvinehbaghi said. &ldquo;I used to work night shift on the weekends, you won&rsquo;t believe how many drunk people I take home, they pass out in the back seat. Young girls, older guys with Rolex (watches), girls with short skirt and practically no clothes on, and I take them where they want to go and I call their parents down and take them.&rdquo;</p><p>But Burgess said ridesharing services weed out bad drivers faster than the city does, because the apps require passengers to rate their drivers after each ride.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s actually more safe because of the rating system,&rdquo; argued Burgess. &ldquo;If there&rsquo;s a problem, you can call support and report a driver, saying I was driving erratically or dangerously or I was under the influence or something. Lyft would turn off my account immediately.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size: 21.81818199157715px;">The cost of doing business</span></p><p>The other big difference between Sarvinehbaghi and Burgess involved their expenses. WIth frustration, Sarvinehbaghi pointed out that his 2014 Toyota RAV4 was only four months old. He bought it with a five-year payment plan, but the city will only allow it to be used as a cab for four years. He said that means in the fifth year, he&rsquo;ll have to continue paying for it, but he won&rsquo;t be able to use it as a taxi. In fact, he&rsquo;d have to buy another new car to use as a cab,saddling him with two monthly car payments.</p><p>&ldquo;This car, $33,000, I paid it. I&rsquo;m paying the car payment,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m paying almost $600 a month (for) insurance...stickers, fees, taxes, gas &ndash; you add all this up, it&rsquo;s costing me money to keep this medallion. You know, I work so hard, paying all these fees, and [rideshare drivers] come and do it without paying any fees or anything.&rdquo;</p><p>After expenses, Sarvinehbaghi made roughly $11 an hour during the shift I observed.</p><p>Burgess has it easier. He uses his nine-year old car, which he paid off long ago. Unlike Sarvinehbaghi he is not required to pay for commercial liability insurance. Burgess just needs to cover gas, and pay Uber 15 percent of his earnings.</p><p>During my night shift with Burgess he made about $14 an hour after expenses.</p><p>He acknowledged that rideshare vehicles have been hard on independent medallion owners.</p><p>&ldquo;I really feel bad for some independent cab owner who spent $300,000 on a medallion, yeah, I feel sorry for that guy,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s unfortunate, he made that investment. But it&rsquo;s a new day, and people like getting around this way more than that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, ride sharing&rsquo;s growing popularity is one reason Chicago&rsquo;s city council decided to legalize the service. Illinois may soon <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/rideshare-legislation-passes">follow suit</a> statewide. Sarvinehbaghi said he had planned to pay his sons&rsquo; college tuitions by selling his medallion, but now it&rsquo;s likely to lose much of its value.</p><p>Still, he said if the state allows ridesharing, he may sell his cab and try it, too.</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> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 15:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rideshare-vs-taxicabs-inside-story-110296 Illinois Senate passes ride sharing rules http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-passes-ride-sharing-rules-110191 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/1Lyft (AP Photo - Jeff Chiu).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois senators have passed rules for the new, growing industry of &ldquo;ride sharing&rdquo; services, and they appear to be the strictest statewide regulations in the country so far. The package of regulations are contained in a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-moves-rein-ridesharing-110011">House bill</a> and a trailer amendment bill, the latter of which will have to go back to the House before both arrive on Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s desk for signing. The rules were largely championed by a coalition of Chicago cab companies, who claim their business has suffered as a result of the proliferation of ride sharing activity.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not trying to stop technology, and everyone that uses it,&rdquo; said Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago), sponsor of HB4075 and its amendment trailer bill HB5331. &ldquo;The only thing we want to do is make it safer, regulate it fairly for everyone in the industry.&rdquo;</p><p>The rules would apply most immediately to services UberX, Lyft and Sidecar, which facilitate ride sharing primarily in the City of Chicago. The three California-based companies provide smartphone app technologies that allow people to use their personal vehicles for hire, much like taxis. So far, they have operated illegally, but a groundswell of consumer support and a fear of alienating technology companies has prompted local and state governments to consider ways to bring them into a regulatory framework.</p><p>Under the bills, commercial ride sharing companies would be required to carry primary commercial liability insurance equal to taxis, with a combined single limit per accident of $350,000. More critically, it eliminates <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/state-legislators-probe-rideshare-insurance-109857">concerns raised by several insurance associations in the state</a> over when that insurance policy would apply. Under the rules, the policies would be effective from the moment a ride share driver logs into the app to accept rides, until logging off. Previously, companies disputed whether their insurance policies should apply, or should apply at such a high level, during times that a driver may be logged onto their app, but not yet en route to or conducting a fare.</p><p>All ride share drivers would also have to carry distinctive registration plates and stickers on their vehicles.</p><p>More frequent drivers would be subject to additional rules, similar to taxi drivers. Those who offer ride sharing services more than 36 hours every two weeks, on average, would have to get public chauffeurs&nbsp; licenses, subjecting them to the same criminal background checks and drug testing as taxi drivers. The rules would allow a four-week grace period, during which these drivers may still offer ride shares while an application for a public chauffeur&rsquo;s license is pending.</p><p>Chicago drivers who average at least 36 hours every two weeks would also have to comply with the city&rsquo;s rules for taxis regarding the age of their vehicles. Currently, this means their cars could be no more than four years old, in most cases. These cars would also be subject to government safety inspections.</p><p>Despite fierce rivalry among ride share companies, they were united in their opposition to the Senate legislation.</p><p>&ldquo;The bill will prohibit insured and background-checked Lyft drivers with cars more than four years old, immediately eliminating 70% of Chicago&#39;s Lyft drivers,&rdquo; read an e-mail from Lyft. &ldquo;This will disproportionately affect low income drivers in the Lyft community who have come to rely on ridesharing as an important way to earn extra money to make ends meet.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Today&rsquo;s vote in the senate will hurt consumers and limit transportation options across the state,&rdquo; wrote Uber Midwest Regional Director Andrew MacDonald, in an e-mailed statement. Uber is the company behind UberX, the ride sharing platform.&nbsp; &ldquo;We will continue to work with state and city officials to ensure uberX has a permanent home in Illinois for consumers to benefit from competition and much needed transportation options,&rdquo; he continued.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it regulates too far, and I think it sends a message that innovation will be kneecapped in Illinois if you compete against a powerful monopoly,&rdquo; said Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine), during the debate preceding the floor vote. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s not the kind of message we want to send right now.&rdquo;</p><p>The Senate rules still allow local municipalities authority to regulate fare structures for ride sharing services. In Chicago, aldermen are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-moves-regulate-rideshare-companies-109639">considering an ordinance</a> that gives the city authority to cap so-called &ldquo;surge pricing&rdquo; among some of the ride sharing services. The concept allows them to charge passengers more than the usual amount during times of peak demand.</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> Fri, 16 May 2014 07:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-passes-ride-sharing-rules-110191 Illinois' red light on Sunday car sales http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/illinois-red-light-sunday-car-sales-110136 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/148403096&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Judging by how many transportation-related <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/archive" target="_blank">questions Curious City receives</a>, we denizens of the Chicago region are obsessed with getting around and will ask about any <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-why-ban-pickups-lake-shore-drive-where-can-they-park-104631" target="_blank">stumbling blocks</a> &mdash; legal or otherwise &mdash; that threaten to get in our way.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/illinois-red-light-sunday-car-sales-110136#julischatz">Juli Schatz</a> of South Elgin is just one fan who&rsquo;s stepped forward with a puzzler related to mobility. Here&rsquo;s the gist of what she wants to know: &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>When did the state of Illinois begin its ban on Sunday car sales, and why?</em></p><p>The short answer? Turns out, auto dealers in Illinois have kept their doors closed on Sundays for more than three decades &mdash; from a law passed in 1982, to be specific. The state legislature sided with a group of dealers who argued that having a mandatory day off allowed employees to be with their families and practice their faith, without worrying that their competitors were open and could steal a sale.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s an excerpt of the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=062500050K5-106" target="_blank">law </a>Illinois still follows today:</p><blockquote><p><em><span style="font-size:12px;">(625 ILCS 5/5-106) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 5-106)</span></em></p><p><em><span style="font-size:12px;">Sec. 5-106. No person may keep open, operate, or assist in keeping open or operating any established or additional place of business for the purpose of buying, selling, bartering, exchanging, or leasing for a period of 1 year or more, or offering for sale, barter, exchange, or lease for a period of 1 year or more, any motor vehicle, whether new or used, on the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday; ...</span></em></p></blockquote><p>But this story about Sunday car sales goes back even further than the 1980s; Illinois has had this debate since the 1950s, with similar arguments for and against being deployed each time &mdash; including the issue&rsquo;s resurrection today.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Chapter 1: Prairie State car law, in the shade of blue</span></p><p>The state&rsquo;s Sunday auto sales ban is one of many state-level blue laws, which &mdash; as a category &mdash; prohibit certain secular activities on Sundays. It&#39;s a bent the Prairie State apparently shares with several neighbors: Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri also prohibit selling motor vehicles on Sundays. Wisconsin prohibits a dealer from selling on Sundays, unless the operator holds that the Sabbath occurs between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday.</p><p>Illinois&#39; own ban first made its way through the legislature in 1951. Dealers wanted to allow a day off, but any single dealership couldn&rsquo;t close its doors while competitors stayed open. Legislators agreed to a mandatory day off and passed a bill to make it happen, but the story got complicated as soon as the bill hit Governor Adlai Stevenson&rsquo;s desk.</p><p>Stevenson&rsquo;s Attorney General, Ivan A. Elliott, encouraged the governor to veto the bill, saying it likely violated the Illinois Constitution &ldquo;as an interference with the right of an individual to pursue any trade or occupation which is not injurious to the public or a menace to the safety or welfare of society.&rdquo;</p><p>Stevenson heeded the AG&rsquo;s word, and vetoed Senate Bill 504.</p><p>&ldquo;If such a restriction on Sunday trade is sound for automobiles, why should it not be extended to newspapers, groceries, ice cream cones and other harmless commercial transactions?&rdquo; Stevenson wrote in a veto message. &ldquo;Carried to its logical extreme, any business group with sufficient influence in the legislature can dictate the hours of business of its competitors. And if hours, why not prices?&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A short Chapter 2, and complicated Chapter 3</span></p><p>A nearly identical bill followed a similar path in 1957. House Bill 946 survived both houses, only to be defeated at the hand of Governor William Stratton days after passage.</p><p>The legislature made another attempt in 1961, only this time Governor Otto Kerner signed Senate Bill 597, making it a crime for any person to sell, barter or exchange any new or used motor vehicle on the day &ldquo;commonly called Sunday.&rdquo;</p><p>But some car dealers weren&rsquo;t jazzed about their new schedules. Employees at Courtesy Motor Sales in Chicago had been able to choose any day of the week they wished for their day off, but many of them chose to work on Sundays because they made almost twice as much as they did any other day of the week. Twenty percent of Courtesy&rsquo;s annual sales in 1960 were made on Sundays.</p><p>So Courtesy employees filed an injunction in Cook County Circuit Court that ended up before the Illinois Supreme Court. The salesmen and their lawyers argued the law was unconstitutional, as it singled out one specific group of sellers.</p><p>Attorney Joe Roddy was a senior in law school at the time, working as a law clerk for the State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office. As the State&rsquo;s Attorney was responsible for defending the statute, Roddy helped write the briefs. He also penned an article for the Chicago-Kent Law review about the case.</p><p>&ldquo;It was a huge deal,&rdquo; Roddy recalls. &ldquo;I remember a lot of publicity. Because you know, car dealerships, everybody buys a car &mdash; even in the 60s &mdash; and the car dealers wanted to be open on Sundays. So it attracted a lot of publicity because they didn&rsquo;t single out any other industry at that time.&rdquo;<a name="lawshistory"></a></p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that the law was unconstitutional, and the debate died down for a bit.<a name="timeline"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">TIMELINE: The law&#39;s history</span></strong></span></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" src="http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdFd5Wllad2gzaWZpQnlGTGwxQzZNY0E&amp;font=Bevan-PotanoSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;height=650" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Blue (law) since 1982</span></p><p>In the 1980s, car dealers across the state wrote state lawmakers, arguing that a mandatory day off would protect the livelihood of sellers and would provide needed time for family or faith. A new bill banning sales on Sundays made its way through the legislature, with major support coming from trade organizations that represent car dealerships.</p><p>But the measure also had opponents.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it comes with some amazement that a bill like this would come before us. We have heard time and time again from the business community that they would like less regulation by the state, and less mandates,&rdquo; Senator Don Totten argued on the Senate floor at the time. &ldquo;I think this runs contrary to our system of free enterprise.&rdquo;</p><p>The bill ended up making it way through both houses, leaving Governor Jim Thompson with a tough decision.</p><p>&ldquo;Look, I&rsquo;m not a big fan of blue laws,&rdquo; Thompson now says. &ldquo;I think commerce should be open and free.&rdquo;</p><p>And because of that, Thompson says, he did go back and forth on this one.</p><p>&ldquo;It was not a simple decision,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was more a complex decision, but I guess what impressed me was the unanimity of the opinion [of] the dealer and the employee group. And the notion that if people &mdash; in order to protect their livelihood &mdash; had to work 7 days a week, that was a pretty tough proposition, especially people with families.&rdquo;</p><p>Thompson ended up signing the bill on July 13, 1982, but the law wasn&rsquo;t implemented until April 1984, when the state&rsquo;s Supreme Court ruled the ban was constitutional. The state has enforced a six-day sales week for dealers around Illinois ever since.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Ice cream cones and planned purchases</span></p><p>Fast forward to early 2014. It turns out that our question from Juli Schatz question is timely. Much to the dismay of many Illinois car dealers, Republican State Senator Jim Oberweis introduced a bill at the end of 2013 that would allow all dealers to open their doors on Sundays, should they want to.</p><p>Oberweis made the argument that his plan wouldn&rsquo;t <em>force</em> dealerships to do anything. Having government decide when businesses can and can&rsquo;t be open, he says, amounts to too much regulation.</p><p>&ldquo;I believe it is wrong for government to tell a business when they can be open and when they cannot be open. That&rsquo;s what they do in Russia, not in the United States,&rdquo; Oberweis says. &ldquo;And it becomes even worse when we learn that this is an industry supported effort. They decided they don&rsquo;t want to be open themselves, and then they attempt to use government to prohibit competition on those days. That is just fundamentally wrong in my opinion.&rdquo;</p><p>Oberweis says the bill likely won&rsquo;t go anywhere in 2014, as too few Senate Democrats are on board with repealing the ban.</p><p>Dave Sloan, President of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, says the bill&rsquo;s also likely to fail because both consumers and dealers are happy with the current law. The CATA has been a long-time supporter of the Sunday closing law, and Sloan says he was surprised to see Oberweis&rsquo; bill come up in the first place. In his 20 years at the CATA, including their work running the Chicago Auto Show, he says he&rsquo;s never heard a single complaint from a consumer over not being able to shop on Sundays.</p><p>&ldquo;If the purchase of a car was an impulse buy, like if you were buying an ice cream cone from one of Mr. Oberweis&rsquo; ice cream stores, that might make a difference. But it&rsquo;s a planned purchase,&rdquo; Sloan says. &ldquo;So if you have the opportunity to keep costs lower, and the consumer isn&rsquo;t inconvenienced by that, well, then everyone wins.&rdquo;</p><p>Sloan says a six-day work week helps dealers attract high-caliber employees; he argues it&rsquo;s hard to find full-time salesmen who will commit to working on commission when the dealership is open seven days a week.</p><p>As time goes on, and technology advances, so too do auto sales, according to Pete Sander, president of the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association. He says compared to decades past, many more vehicles are financed during the purchase process. Since banks aren&rsquo;t open on Sundays either, he says, closing a sale becomes difficult, if not impossible. &nbsp;</p><p>And Sander says now that both dealers and manufacturers have websites available 24/7, the average customer only visits a dealership lot an average of one and a half times before purchasing a vehicle. Five years ago, the average customer would visit a sales lot five times.</p><p>&ldquo;By the time they get to the dealer on Saturday, they pretty much know what they want, and whether the dealer has what they want. It&rsquo;s just a matter of negotiating the price of the trade-in, and negotiating the price of the car,&rdquo; Sander says. &ldquo;So it&rsquo;s not like the old going from dealer to dealer to find the right car in the color and model you want, and kicking the tires as we used to do in the old days.<a name="julischatz"></a></p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a much different commercial transaction now.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Juli Schatz</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JuliBW.jpg" style="float: left; height: 205px; width: 150px;" title="Juli Schatz, who asked why Illinois banned Sunday car sales. (Photo courtesy Juli Schatz)" />Our look at Illinois&rsquo; ban on Sunday car sales comes courtesy of South Elgin resident Juli Schatz, who says she can&rsquo;t quite put her finger on when, exactly, this seed of curiosity about Illinois&rsquo; ban on Sunday cars was first planted.</p><p>It likely happened, she says, decades ago when her dad helped her shop for a car. Schatz&rsquo;s dad worked five days a week, so he was only free to kick tires or test-drive on weekends. She thought it was strange that Sunday sales were off the table.</p><p>&ldquo;I asked [my dad] and he had no idea why, and that was long before the Internet or anything,&rdquo; Schatz recalled. &ldquo;We actually asked a couple of car dealers while we were shopping for my new used car, and they had no idea.&rdquo;</p><p>Schatz says she&rsquo;s been curious about it ever since. Years later, she worked in ad sales for several newspapers, including the <em>Naperville Sun</em>, and she had car dealerships as some of her customers.</p><p>&ldquo;Same thing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Nobody really knew. And some of these dealers had been in business for quite a while and they said, &lsquo;You know, it&rsquo;s just always been that way.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ Reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 05 May 2014 17:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/illinois-red-light-sunday-car-sales-110136 New rules of the road possible for Chicago pedicab drivers http://www.wbez.org/news/new-rules-road-possible-chicago-pedicab-drivers-110106 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 8.37.11 AM_0.png" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago pedicabs could soon have to follow new rules of the road, much to the dismay of many drivers. The City Council is set to vote Wednesday on a slew of new rules and regulations for bicycle rickshaws popular around Wrigley Field and downtown. It would be the first time the city sets any regulations on the growing industry.</p><p>Many pedicab drivers say they&rsquo;re for some regulation, but argue that the ordinance put forth by Ald. Tom Tunney (44) goes too far. Tunney&rsquo;s measure is years in the making, and requires pedicab drivers to get $250 annual licenses for their cabs, to buy insurance, post fare schedules, apply for &ldquo;chauffeur&#39;s licenses&rdquo; to drive the pedicab and other changes.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s the ban on driving on the downtown portion of Michigan Avenue and State Street, and rush hour restrictions in the Loop that has caused the most protest from drivers. At a joint City Council hearing Tuesday with the committees on License and Consumer Protection and Transportation and Public Way, many drivers testified that the bans would put a big dent in their finances, as downtown is not only where many of their patrons are, but it&rsquo;s where they want to be dropped off.</p><p>&ldquo;What health risk to pedicabs pose? What causes more traffic congestion - a double parked limousine? A 50 foot bus making a turn? Or a pedicab in a bike lane? Pedicabs should be part of the solution and not banned from downtown,&rdquo; Chicago Rickshaw owner Robert Tipton said.</p><p>Nikola Delic, owner of Nick&rsquo;s Pedicabs, is one of many drivers that argued that the ordinance discriminated against pedicab drivers.</p><p>&ldquo;If the horse carriages and cab drivers can pick up their fares in the downtown district, I don&rsquo;t see why the pedicabs wouldn&rsquo;t be able to do the same thing,&rdquo; Delic said. &ldquo;Because horse carriages are blocking the same amount of traffic as one pedicab [and] they&rsquo;re moving slower.&rdquo;</p><p>Drivers submitted a petition Tuesday with over 500 signatures. It requests that aldermen take the entire street restriction section out of the ordinance.</p><p>Tunney has said that he&rsquo;s open to changing portions of the ordinance, but the street ban is off the table.</p><p>&ldquo;The ordinance, I believe, will help legitimize the industry, increase public safety and improve the flow of traffic on our congested streets,&rdquo; Tunney said at the hearing. &ldquo;There are...many good and safe operators but we&rsquo;ve certainly had a few problems that this ordinance is designed to address.&rdquo;</p><p>Commissioner Luann Hamilton from the Chicago Department of Transportation said the department would support reducing the restrictions, and they aren&rsquo;t concerned by pedicabs riding on those streets.</p><p>Another sticking point for drivers is a rule that would cap at 200 the number of registered pedicabs allowed in the city. Drivers contest that this rule will kill off jobs, and that 200 is an arbitrary number, as there&rsquo;s no official measure for the number of pedicabs driving around the city. The ordinance would allow for the number to be changed by the licensing commissioner.</p><p>The ordinance sailed through the joint committee vote, with only two &quot;no&quot; votes from Ald. Ariel Reboyras and Ald. Brendan Reilly. Penalties for violating the act could range anywhere from $100 to $5,000, depending on the violation or number of infractions.</p><p>Other pieces of the ordinance:</p><ul><li>Drivers would have to get a doctor&#39;s note stating they&rsquo;re capable to operate a pedicab and pass a geography exam before receiving their &ldquo;pedicab chauffeur license&rdquo;</li><li>All drivers must be 18 or older</li><li>Pedicab operators must have a valid automobile driver&rsquo;s license - from Illinois or another state</li><li>Pedicabs aren&rsquo;t allowed on sidewalks</li><li>Pedicabs are only allowed to carry four passengers</li></ul><p>Tunney&rsquo;s ordinance does not set fares for pedicabs, regulate where they are able to park or designate certain places they can hang out and wait for fares.</p><p>If the ordinance passes the full City Council Wednesday, the new rules and regulations would take effect by June.</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-23d1776b-b381-d33a-af9d-cc36336fa4bd"><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 11:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-rules-road-possible-chicago-pedicab-drivers-110106 Secret recording shows Uber's efforts to poach Chicago cabbies http://www.wbez.org/news/secret-recording-shows-ubers-efforts-poach-chicago-cabbies-110072 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP81700915726.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For years, Chicago has struggled to recruit enough taxi drivers for the city. New competition from ridesharing companies is making that even harder. As the city looks to regulate those companies, it also seems to have abandoned its past policy of ensuring a robust corps of cabbies. Now, a secret audio recording reveals a newly aggressive push by the industry to persuade cabbies to become rideshare drivers.</p><p>WBEZ obtained the recording from a cab driver who attended a February information session at Uber offices in Chicago. The session was specifically to recruit taxi drivers to the company&rsquo;s popular ridesharing platform, called uberX.&nbsp; In it, an Uber representative pitches a room full of cabbies on the idea of dropping their cabs.</p><p>&ldquo;As Uber grows &ndash; this is why we&rsquo;re here today, is to teach you guys about the option that I think, quite frankly, is a little bit better for you guys in terms of your life and the cost,&rdquo; he told them.</p><p>UberX drivers get fewer fares than taxi drivers, but the company representative played up the advantages of switching from cab-driving to rideshare-driving. First, cab drivers wouldn&rsquo;t have to pay a weekly lease to use their vehicle anymore, because they&rsquo;d be able to use their personal cars. Taxi leases run anywhere from $400 to $700 a week.</p><p>Second, drivers could cash in on &ldquo;surge pricing&rdquo; &ndash; that&rsquo;s a term Uber uses for times of peak demand. The company hikes its fares during rush hour and when the weather&rsquo;s bad, sometimes charging up to seven times their normal rates. The representative told cab drivers in that session that if they got one taste of surge fares, they&rsquo;d want more.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems difficult to not drive a taxi in rush hour when you guys are taking a fare to the Loop &ndash; but just try uberX,&rdquo; he urged them, &ldquo;and you&rsquo;ll see that it might take a couple minutes longer to get that fare, but that fare will be at an increased rate.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ spoke with several taxi companies that say they are losing drivers to ridesharing. The question is, are fewer taxis good for the city?</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s office wouldn&rsquo;t comment. Oddly, neither would the city&rsquo;s department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which regulates the taxi industry. A spokeswoman said they don&rsquo;t care about driver numbers.</p><p>But they certainly did before. Last year, the department head was very vocal about a shortage of cab drivers.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve seen it dropping down over the past five or six years,&rdquo; said former Commissioner Rosemary Krimbel, at a Taxi Driver Recruitment Fair that the city co-hosted at Olive Harvey College last year. Krimbel said the city was short 2,000 cab drivers. She called that a problem, and said it was the city&rsquo;s job to fix it.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there&rsquo;s a solution,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;And I hope to increase the number of drivers and support them.&rdquo;</p><p>But now the city says it has no role in keeping enough taxis on the road. Some say that&rsquo;s not a wise position for the city to take.</p><p>&ldquo;I definitely think it&rsquo;s very important for the tourism industry to have outstanding taxi service,&rdquo; said Charles Goeldner, a professor emeritus of tourism and marketing at the University of Colorado. Goeldner literally wrote the textbook on tourism, called &ldquo;Tourism: Principles, Practices, Philosophies.&rdquo;</p><p>Goeldner said cities that are serious about tourism actively support their taxi industries. He says taxi drivers are ambassadors for the places where they drive. They offer visitors knowledge and predictability.</p><p>&ldquo;There has to be a trust element,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and the taxi industry has always been regulated and licensed and has to meet certain requirements for cities.&rdquo;</p><p>Uber claims it holds its ridesharing drivers to high safety standards. It also talks a lot about promoting consumer choice in transportation. But if cab drivers heed Uber&rsquo;s call and switch to ridesharing &ndash; making rush hour commutes more expensive than ever &ndash; isn&rsquo;t that bad for consumers?</p><p>&ldquo;The goal is not to surge at rush hour,&rdquo; said Andrew MacDonald, Uber&rsquo;s Midwest Regional Director. &ldquo;But the pitch to drivers is &lsquo;Hey, right now we are undersupplied at rush hour, and so the opportunity is good to be on the Uber system.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>MacDonald said as more people, cabbies or not, sign up to drive for uberX, prices won&rsquo;t surge as much. That might push some cab drivers back into the taxi industry.<br />But for now, it might be harder than ever to get a taxi in the Loop during rush hour.</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> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 17:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/secret-recording-shows-ubers-efforts-poach-chicago-cabbies-110072