WBEZ | Transportation http://www.wbez.org/tags/transportation Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 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' 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 Morning Shift: Is procrastination really a problem? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-14/morning-shift-procrastination-really-problem-110017 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/by L-T-L.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>With tax day looming, we tackle the procrastination problem...or is it a problem? Plus, Malian musical guest Sidi Touré.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-is-procrastination-really-a-problem/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-is-procrastination-really-a-problem.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-is-procrastination-really-a-problem" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Is procrastination really a problem?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 08:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-14/morning-shift-procrastination-really-problem-110017 Chicago to Mexico, by bus http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-mexico-bus-109747 <p><p><em><strong>This story is made for your ears. Please push play above! </strong></em></p><p>Every week, hundreds of people board coach buses in Chicago and travel to Mexico. I used to live in Mexico, and have taken the 2,000-mile trip nearly a dozen times to and from Zamora, Michoacán. On my most recent trip, I brought a tape recorder along, and made this audio travelogue.</p><p><em>Your attention please. Everybody with your tickets on your hand! </em><em>Por favor, todos tengan su boleto en la mano, que ahorita se lo voy a quitar!</em></p><p>The soundtrack of a bus trip to Mexico consists of the driver on the public address system, the 45 other passengers and their snores, cries,the rustle of plastic bags, cell phone conversations, back-to-back movies shown on the six screens suspended from the ceiling, the bus driver&rsquo;s radio, and always, the drone of the bus engine .</p><p>Every time you start one of these trips, you consider the variables. And you hope. Sleek paint jobs and tinted windows mean these buses almost always look better on the outside than they do on the inside. The small amount of legroom can be alarming, and uncomfortable. Other variables: the temperature, the smells.</p><p><em>How lucky are we? </em>I ask our driver.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Oh, beautiful, beautiful! We got Wi-Fi, we got a switch where you can recharge your battery. </em></p><p>The driver tells me his approach to the job: make everybody happy. His immediate strategy involves 80s music on the radio (for him) and back-to-back movies (for us). <em>Lethal Weapon 3 </em>is in progress as we board. It&rsquo;s repeated later in its entirety, for those who boarded late.</p><p>Chicago is connected to a world of small Mexican towns that most people have never heard of. If I want to visit my mother-in-law in provincial Mexico, I can walk to a bus station in my Chicago neighborhood and buy a direct ticket to Zamora, Michoacán (well, they call it a direct ticket, you&rsquo;ll see what that means).</p><p>The ride takes 48 hours, two days and two nights. And, no, there is not a sleeping car.</p><p>Like most people on the bus, my family of five is here for one reason: during peak travel seasons, it&rsquo;s a lot cheaper than a plane.</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/INSIDE.jpg" title="Variables inside the bus: legroom, temperature, smell. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div><p><em>Welcome and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemens. Thank you for choosing El Expreso. I&rsquo;m sorry for the de-late. </em></p><p>The names of the bus lines traveling to Mexico are meant to make you think the trip will fly by. There&rsquo;s El Conejo, the Rabbit. Tornado. We&rsquo;re traveling this time on El Expreso (right.)</p><p>Every two-day bus trip starts with a little welcome speech. And every speech includes some variation on this rule:</p><p><em>El baño. Favor de usar el numero 1 si es posible, porque el numero 2 está un poquito fuerte y no queremos que vaya un olor fuerte en la estancia.&nbsp; </em></p><p>Do NOT use the bus bathroom&mdash;basically, unless you&rsquo;re dying. Absolutely no Number 2.</p><p><em>We do not want strong odors on the bus</em>, the driver says. <em>Hay que tener mucho respeto por las demás gentes. </em></p><p>From the moment you buy your ticket, you&rsquo;re stepping into a different world, a world you do not control, a world where things will not go as planned, small things and big things.</p><p>The 1 pm bus leaves at 2:30 pm. That&rsquo;s not too bad.&nbsp; The Wi-Fi? Actually&hellip; no Wi-Fi.</p><p>Last year, we were stranded for 20 hours in Matamoros. Another time, one of the side windows of the bus just fell out. The driver went back to look for it on I-35&mdash;no luck. So we just kept going, the 100-degree Texas heat blowing through the bus all the way to Dallas.</p><p>These bus companies have been sued over accidents; I try not to think about that when I buy the tickets.</p><p align="center">* * *</p><p><em>Please do take advantage of this stop, because the next stop won&rsquo;t be until Jackson, so it&rsquo;s quite a ways. Go ahead and take advantage of it. </em><em>Aquí 25 minutos. 25 minutes. </em></p><p>If you do this trip a few times, you get to know all the stops: Effingham, Illinois; Matthews, Missouri&mdash;that&rsquo;s where we are right now. The sound of the bus is everywhere. Even when you&rsquo;re not on it, it&rsquo;s idling nearby. We look pale, dazed under the fluorescent gas station lights.&nbsp;</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/MATTHEWS%20TRAVEL.JPG" title="Matthews, Missouri (Credo Duarte)" /></div><p>Next will be Jackson and McComb, Mississippi; Lafayette, Arkansas; Houston, Beeville, and McAllen, Texas. And on the Mexico side: Monterrey, Matehuala, San Luis, Celaya, Zamora.</p><p>We pack the TA Travel Center bathroom. We brush our teeth, line up for the toilet, spray deodorant, change the babies. Little by little you get to know where everyone is from, where everyone&rsquo;s going, places that have sent generations of immigrants to the Chicago area, mostly: Michoacán, Zacatecas, Jalisco. The college student from Beloit is going to Durango.</p><p><em>Yeah, so it&rsquo;s like, another 13 hours after Houston. I don&rsquo;t even know&hellip; I get motion sickness, so I&rsquo;m like half awake, half asleep the whole ride. </em></p><p>She&rsquo;ll come back in a week, do this all again but in reverse.</p><p>The lady from Guanajuato, I feel like I know her life story. (Would this ever happen on a plane?) How her daughter got married at age 16, how she made a deal with God to get her immigration papers...</p><p><em>&hellip;Y agarré a mi niño y me pase a la recámara. No lloraba, pero &iexcl;se imagina todo lo que estaba pasando! Que de una manera y de otra y no había manera de pasarme. &nbsp;Y yo agarré y me hinqué y yo le dije, &lsquo;Señor, tú sabes&rsquo;&mdash;ahora sí como que lo obligué&mdash;&lsquo;tú SABES que yo TENGO que estar con mi esposo. Yo no sé como le vas a hacer, pero tú me vas a llevar.&rsquo;&nbsp;&nbsp; Y al otro día, que me dice la prima, &ldquo;Oye, &iquest;por qué no sacas otra vez tu pasaporte&hellip; </em></p><p>8 hours down, 40 to go.</p><p>The movies stop and the lights get turned off at 11:30 pm. The clatter of the bus over the highway is rhythmic. Snores follow, the click click of video games continues.&nbsp; Low voices talk on phones with girlfriends back in Chicago.</p><p align="center"><strong>* * *</strong></p><p>While the bus companies in Chicago sell you &ldquo;direct&rdquo; tickets to little towns in Mexico, that doesn&rsquo;t mean you&rsquo;re riding the same bus all the way. In Houston, we all get off.</p><p><em>Si se encuentra Marcela Gálvez, puede pasar a la Taquilla Número 2. Marcela, Marcela Gálvez&hellip;</em>(And continuing over the PA system: &iquest;<em>Tú eres Marcela? &iquest;Es tu mamá?</em> )</p><p>And that&rsquo;s when I meet Eliseo Orejel. He&rsquo;s traveling with his wife and three kids. They&rsquo;re from LaGrange, and it just so happens they&rsquo;re also travelling to Zamora.</p><p>Eliseo is surrounded by suitcases.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Here--everything, up to there. Because we&rsquo;re allowed 400 pounds. Two 40-pound bags per (person), and we&rsquo;re five. I&rsquo;m like 345 pounds. But more than half of this is staying over there, so&hellip;.</em></p><p>Eliseo&rsquo;s kids like the bus.</p><p><em>Do you think we&rsquo;re going to have any adventures on this bus trip?</em> I ask. They immediately know what I mean by &ldquo;adventures.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Yes! I think so!</em> They say. They recount past adventures. <em>Like, one time a wheel popped. We could just feel like the bus was getting lower on the back. And it took a long while. And then it popped again.</em></p><p>I can top that! One time I actually <em>drove</em> the bus. Well, it was a passenger van at that point, but still!&nbsp; The driver wanted to make some extra cash by dropping a señora off at her out-of-the-way village, up in some hills. &nbsp;It was rainy season, and we got stuck in the mud. So I drove, the driver and my husband pushed, and our kids watched from the edge of the muddy farm field.</p><p><em>Los que vienen de Chicago! Las personas que vienen de Chicago! Van a ir con Flecha Roja. Aquí a la Ventanilla 3.</em></p><p>Mexico has a great bus system. The buses are modern. They run on time. Most everything is computerized. These international immigrant buses hand out paper tickets. They oversell seats. They never know how many people to expect, or what their final destinations are.</p><p>After an hour or so in Houston, we are issued new handwritten paper tickets. And we&rsquo;re on our way, though for some reason Eliseo, the guy going to the same place we are, is not on our new bus.</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/HANDWRITTEN.jpg" title="" /></div><p><em>Bienvenidos al autobus Flecha Roja...</em></p><p>Our feet are swollen from sitting so long. People doze. Behind me, a señora talks on her cell phone. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Next time I&rsquo;m going by plane,</em> she tells someone.</p><p>The granddaughter traveling with her gets on the phone next, with an older sister. &nbsp;Then there are miles and miles of Vanessa, age 9:&nbsp;</p><p><em>I&rsquo;m so lucky, Lupe&mdash;because you can&rsquo;t touch me. I&rsquo;m all the way over here; you&rsquo;re all the way over there. You can&rsquo;t do nothing. </em></p><p><em>I&rsquo;m bored! </em></p><p><em>Oh, um&hellip; did you find those little ligas to make the bracelet? It&rsquo;s so HOT in here.</em></p><p><em>Lupe, oh! I saw a Marilyn Monroe shirt! It&rsquo;s pretty&hellip;I can&rsquo;t&mdash;I&rsquo;m on the bus! How can I buy it? I&rsquo;m on the bus!</em></p><p>One thing about traveling on these bus lines: Every time we pull into a station, we wonder two things: what will the next bus be like&mdash;are we trading up or down? And when will it leave?</p><p>When we get to McAllen, it&rsquo;s dark already.</p><p><em>Bueno, sí. Buenas noches. Vamos a bajar de esta unidad, se les va a entregar el equipaje, y ésta unidad se va a retirar, y se va a acercar la siguiente unidad, en la que van a abordar&hellip;</em></p><p>Things don&rsquo;t go well. Not everyone fits on the next bus, we&rsquo;re told. Or perhaps it is the luggage that does not fit&mdash;there are conflicting stories. The official says he&rsquo;s only boarding to three cities.</p><p><em>Ahorita se van a subir aquí: Irapuato, Salamanca y Celaya. Tengo otro autobús, no más necesito despachar este primero&hellip; </em></p><p>It does not matter that other destinations, including ours, are practically next door to these three cities, he&rsquo;s only boarding to these three cities. The family from Salvatierra has been told there are no buses there until morning.</p><p><em>&hellip;que para Salvatierra van a salir hasta mañana. &iquest;Cómo lo vamos a hacer?</em></p><p>He promises he has two other buses in the wings, but nobody quite believes him, and nobody wants to sleep in McAllen.</p><p><em>Aquí tengo tres autobuses! Le digo! Los estoy acomodando. </em></p><p>Finally, another bus does show up&mdash;and so does Eliseo Orejel&mdash;the guy with the 345 pounds of luggage.</p><p><em>Nos volvemos a encontrar! What a mess, now it&rsquo;s REALLY messed!</em> he greets us.</p><p>As we get underway, the passengers debate which bus line is the worst.</p><p><em>&iexcl;Ésta es la línea más garra esta que hay! </em></p><p>At this point, we&rsquo;ve been traveling 30 hours. We&rsquo;re 6 hours behind schedule. This is our third bus. &nbsp;And that is the context for what happens next.</p><p align="center">* * *</p><p>The driver gets on the loudspeaker.</p><p><em>OK, aaah. &iquest;Me escuchan? </em></p><p>Can you hear me? The driver asks. We&rsquo;re right on the border now.</p><p><em>OK, &iquest;Me escuchan? </em></p><p><em>&iexcl;Sí! </em>the passengers shout.</p><p><em>OK. Damas y caballeros, ah bueno. Aquí es una revisión fiscal. Aquí vamos a bajar con los oficiales de la fiscal, de aquí de la aduana. Me da pena decirles, me dice el oficial que vamos a bajar todo, todo el equipaje que traigan en las cajuelas, todo lo que traigan aquí arriba del autobús también, vamos a pasar a revisión, allí adentro de la banda. </em></p><p>Ladies and gentlemen, he&rsquo;s says. We&rsquo;ve come to a fiscal checkpoint. I hate to tell you this. But the customs official has let me know that we are going to have to take everything&mdash;everything&mdash;off the bus. Everything we have in the compartments underneath the bus, everything inside the bus. And we&rsquo;re going through customs.</p><p><em>Pero, me hace un comentario. Me dice que si le juntamos una cooperación, evitamos bajar todo nuestro equipaje. Ya es a consideración de ustedes. </em></p><p>However, the bus driver says, the customs official has mentioned something: If we take up a little donation, he says, we can avoid customs completely.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Ya eso, ya es a consideración de ustedes. No sé si ustedes quieren, nos juntamos una cooperación para entregarle al oficial, para que no bajemos todo nuestro equipaje. </em></p><p>This kind of shakedown has happened on every bus trip I&rsquo;ve ever taken to Mexico.</p><p><em>How much already?</em> one passenger shouts.</p><p>The driver suggests a $5 donation per person, which passengers revise to $5 per family. We&rsquo;ve been charged $20 per family before, but if you go higher than that, people without much luggage&mdash;or people without anything that might interest a customs official&mdash;start to grumble.</p><p><em>Ténganlo a la mano y yo lo recojo. Ténganlo a la mano.</em></p><p>Have your money out, the driver says. I&rsquo;ll come by to collect.</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/BRIBE.JPG" title="However, the bus driver says, the customs official has mentioned something: If we take up a little donation, he says, we can avoid customs completely. (Credo Duarte)" /></div><p>Once he&rsquo;s been through the bus, the driver steps out into the cool Reynosa air&mdash;he and another guy in a button-down shirt compare big wads of cash. Inside the bus, the passengers shake their heads and joke.</p><p><em>Welcome to Mexico! &iexcl;Te están dando la bienvenida!</em></p><p>When the driver comes back, we drive right under the checkpoint with the giant red letters that say MÉXICO.</p><p>Incredibly, we change buses two more times after this, including in Monterrey, where a young official tries a trick I have never heard before:</p><p><em>Miren, salidas a Moroleón, Guadalajara, Celaya, Morelia, Cuernavaca, Acámbaro, no hay nada. Está todo lleno aquí en la ciudad de Monterrey. No hay nada hasta para el día 3, 4 de enero&hellip;</em></p><p>He tells us there will be no buses to any destination for 10 days. &nbsp;So when one appears only two hours later and our names are called, it feels like a gift!</p><p><em>Felipe Ortega! Rosa Nuñez! Linda! </em></p><p>Oh, and the LaGrange family going to the same place we are? Not on this bus.</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/WINDOW%20SIGN.jpg" title="(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div><p>As we get further and further into Mexico, the frustration in the bus dissipates. Along with all the delays there are also homemade tortillas at a roadside restaurant. Barbacoa tacos. Soup. The warm sun. And the thought of piñatas and weddings and quinceañera parties, all the family waiting for us.</p><p><em>It&rsquo;s been a pretty good trip</em>, the guy in front of me says.</p><p>The bus official at our very last stop &ndash;51 hours down, 4 to go&mdash;sees it like this:</p><p><em>Lo bueno es que ya va a llegar a su destino. Que tenga buen viaje, y bienvenida a México. </em></p><p>The good thing is you&rsquo;re almost there. Have a very nice trip. Welcome to Mexico.</p><p align="center">* * *</p><p>I was not going to tape on the return trip to Chicago. But I could not help myself when this happened&hellip;</p><p><em>BBBBBBEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. &nbsp;BEEP. </em></p><p>Buses inside Mexico are equipped with annoying, piercing alarms that sound every time the driver goes over the speed limit. These international immigrant buses don&rsquo;t usually have those alarms. But yep, we got one.</p><p><em>BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.</em></p><p>All night long, no one complained.</p><p>I feel that&rsquo;s a very Mexican response, I tell my Mexican husband.</p><p><em>What would be the point of complaining?</em> he asks. <em>The driver can&rsquo;t do anything but go slower. And we don&rsquo;t want to go slower.</em> But he agrees: if this had been a bus full of gringos, they definitely would have complained.</p><p>The bus beeped all the way to northern Mexico. It was still dark, but ahead I could see a long, thin line of lights running left and right across the highway&mdash; the border.</p><p>The thing about taking the bus to Mexico, you actually physically feel the distance between the two places that make up your life. You feel the border&mdash;with its checkpoints and flashing lights and immigration officials with their walkie-talkies.</p><p><em>Hello, Sir. 10-4, 10-4. </em></p><p>On the way back to Chicago, the bus drivers put on classic Mexican movies, heightening nostalgia for the place we were leaving behind, the narrow black highway stretched out like a thread between Mexico and Chicago, the bus moving along it.</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/TORNADO.jpg" title="(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></p> Fri, 21 Feb 2014 08:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-mexico-bus-109747 Morning Shift: To code or not to code http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-20/morning-shift-code-or-not-code-109418 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Code cover Flickr QualityFrog.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Wired editor Brendan Koerner and tech writer Jathan Sadowski debate the merits of teaching computer science in public school. We examine Americans&#39; shifting belief in a higher power. And, Vic Miguel &amp; Friends bring their ukes down to Studio 6.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-to-code-or-not-to-code/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-to-code-or-not-to-code.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-to-code-or-not-to-code" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: To code or not to code" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 08:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-20/morning-shift-code-or-not-code-109418 Youth and the city http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-12/youth-and-city-109289 <p><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP332906622549.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="(AP/Paul Beaty)" /></div></div><div>&ldquo;I forgot how easy it is to be young here,&rdquo; a friend said to me over the holiday weekend. He was in town visiting his mother, and he made the statement in assessment of a night out.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It&rsquo;s true.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In Chicago, it is easy to find quality entertainment, cheap drinks, delicious food, and relatively affordable living and transportation options, especially compared to other cities.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>His comments reminded me of another from last year. A friend visited the city to see whether or not she wanted to move here. In the end, she chose New York. In terms of her career, it made sense. But did Chicago not provide enough of a challenge? Does it matter if Chicago is &ldquo;easy&rdquo; compared to other cities?&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Well, for one, who said that Chicago is easy?&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Earlier this summer, another friend said, &ldquo;Everyone&rsquo;s just dying,&rdquo; when explaining one of his reasons for wanting to move out of the city. Despite the frequent reports of violence in the city, it is easy to forget that the ease and accessibility of the city do not exist for a large segment of the city&rsquo;s population. Many of the amenities and much of the entertairnment people enjoy in the city tends to cater to one specific population.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Despite Chicago&rsquo;s conflicting narrative, many organizations do find the city worthy of praise. Chicago was ranked as the <a href="http://www.youthfulcities.com/#!Chicago/zoom/c5tu/i4awu" target="_blank">6th most &ldquo;youthful&rdquo; city</a> (out of 25 large urban global cities) as part of the 2014 YouthfulCities Index, created as &ldquo;the first index to rank cities from a youth perspective.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>For their index, the top five largest cities were chosen from five regions: Africa, Asia, English-speaking North America, Europe and Latin America. Youth was defined as 15-29 years old, and categories included public space, transportation and affordability and employment and fashion, among others.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Their rankings were based on 10 months of research with more than 75 people, &ldquo;contributing to 16 categories, 80 Global Indicators, and 2000 data points.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>What does all of that mean?&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Well, for many young people, especially those fresh out of college, Chicago provides an ideal environment to thrive. We have many youth-friendly neighborhoods, bars, music venues, cheap restaurants, and affordable housing. But is any of this sustainable?&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>According to YouthfulCities, &ldquo;50 per cent of the world&#39;s population is under 30 years of age and 50 per cent of the world&#39;s population now live in cities.&rdquo; What happens when that population ages? In Chicago, growing out of the &ldquo;youthful&rdquo; phase does not always offer the accessibility and ease that can be found when young.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>According to the Index, Chicago ranks 2nd in public space, sports, and gaming. Our thankful abundance of public parks, beautiful waterfront, and loveable sports teams speaks to this easily. A middle-class lifestyle as a young 20-something is an ideal situation in Chicago.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>However, a middle-class lifestyle while trying to raise young children presents new hurdles. In the Index, Chicago ranked 21st overall in environmental sustainability. And while the Index claimed we were ranked 6th in the &ldquo;Economic Status Sub Index&rdquo; (comprised of indicators such as minimum wage, housing, and student housing), it does not speak to the sustainability and viability of these numbers in the long run.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Thirty-five is not as easy as 25. And with greater adulthood comes greater concerns.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Where are the quality, affordable, and accessible education options for all children? Where are the numerous housing options in safe neighborhoods? Where are the jobs that provide more than just the minimum wage?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>According to the Index, <a href="http://media.wix.com/ugd/3a3a66_f8a747d9e1b244ceade7cdc6a6c90c3f.pdf" target="_blank">Chicago ranks 16th</a> in &ldquo;Civic Participation,&rdquo; a number that is not terrible, but is not worthy of praise. Only one American city &ndash; New York City &ndash; ranks within the Top 10. For Chicago to sustain itself as a city beyond &ldquo;youth&rdquo; it must grow into a place that is livable for all. And it is the people living within it (especially the youth who find it so charming and easy right now) who must take greater steps to secure its future.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Britt Julious&nbsp;blogs about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow her essays for WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/">here</a>&nbsp;and on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></div></p> Tue, 03 Dec 2013 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-12/youth-and-city-109289 Street sweeping: Essential service or revenue scam? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: We&#39;ve updated this story with answers to <a href="#questions">follow-up questions you submitted. </a>Sincere thanks for those. Please keep them coming!</em></p><p>Street-sweepers. It turns out those zamboni-looking vehicles are some of the most complicated machines in Chicago&rsquo;s Streets and Sanitation Department. And coincidentally, they seem to be causing lots of complications for drivers (and boyfriends of drivers) across the city.</p><p>One of those boyfriends in particular is Dan Costalis, a web developer who lives in Chicago&rsquo;s West Lakeview neighborhood. Dan hasn&rsquo;t owned a car in about five years or so, but his girlfriend does, and according to Dan, knowing when and where to move her car to avoid tickets during street-cleaning season totally stresses her out. &nbsp;</p><p>So he turned to Curious City and asked:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>What&rsquo;s the deal with street cleaning? Does it actually do anything?</em></p><p>Dan feels like this whole street-sweeping thing might sorta be a scam; perhaps the work is less about leaves, and more about raking in the dough.</p><p>&ldquo;From what I&rsquo;ve seen, you know, the before and after doesn&rsquo;t look much different,&rdquo; Dan said. &ldquo;And if they&rsquo;re giving out tickets and putting up parking restrictions and these aren&rsquo;t doing anything, you know, what&rsquo;s the point?&rdquo;</p><p>Now, we here at Curious City can&rsquo;t change any minds about whether to feel scammed (or not scammed) by the street sweeping service or the related tickets. But we can certainly lay out the facts (there are a lot of them), how the service works, and what, if anything, it does to keep Chicago running well.</p><p><strong>The how and why of street sweeping</strong></p><p>To understand &ldquo;what the deal is&rdquo; (per Dan&rsquo;s vocabulary), it helps to understand how street sweepers operate, so I headed to the intersection of Erie Street and Milwaukee Avenue on a brisk, fall (or, let&rsquo;s be honest, early winter) morning in November. There to greet me was one of the city&rsquo;s 50 street sweepers. This particular machine was decked out with Blackhawks logos as well as the &ldquo;One Goal&rdquo; motto that celebrated the hockey team&rsquo;s 2013 Stanley Cup win. Our driver: Stan Newsome, a seven-year street sweeping veteran.</p><p>We let our <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmoSemxMLzY" target="_blank">video </a>do the heavy lifting when it comes to how the process works. In it, you can see that Newsome&rsquo;s ride is equipped with multiple brooms that whisk leaves and debris off the street and into a container. There&rsquo;s also a little water-sprayer off the side that helps wash away any additional stuff that&rsquo;s left over. These sweepers take what they collect and dump it into a dumpster before heading to the next section. Multimedia producer Jian Chung Lee caught Newsome&rsquo;s sweeper miss some things on the first pass, but after the second or third runs there was little left but a few broken leaves. As you can see, too, stray parked cars make the work less effective.</p><p>More on that later ...</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo 1_0.JPG" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 247px; width: 185px;" title="The view from the left side interior of a city of Chicago street sweeping machine. For ease of operation, controls include a dial that measures speed in the range between turtle and rabbit. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" />But what about the <em>why </em>of the whole operation?</p><p>Streets and Sanitation Deputy Commissioner Charles Williams offered a short explanation.</p><p>&ldquo;[In] Chicago, we maintain very clean streets with these street sweepers,&rdquo; he said, adding that clean streets translate into cleaner sewers as well &mdash; year round.</p><p>&ldquo;The way the city is built, it&rsquo;s real important to have all the water drain down,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Say, for instance, in the wintertime when you have all the snow plows out and they&rsquo;re melting the snow, if the water has nowhere to drain, all the streets are clogged up with excess slush.&rdquo;</p><p>Gross. And, more than that, potentially dangerous.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re gonna have huge puddles of water. ... That&rsquo;s gonna freeze over and you&rsquo;re gonna have ice.&rdquo;</p><p>And Williams said there&rsquo;s no other option or better machine available than a sweeper. They can run year round, except, of course, during inclement winter weather, though you&rsquo;ll most likely to see them from the spring to late fall. Each sweeper has a price tag of $168,000 and each racks up approximately $40-45 thousand dollars in annual maintenance costs.</p><p>According to Williams, without sweepers, the city would have to resort to a much more expensive option: manual labor.</p><p><strong>The math and the calendar</strong></p><p>So, now that we understand why street sweeping happens in the first place, let&rsquo;s get into Dan&rsquo;s sneaking suspicion that ticket revenue is in the proverbial driver&rsquo;s seat.</p><p>Right now if you leave your car parked in an area that&rsquo;s going to be cleaned, you can practically guarantee your vehicle will be adorned with a bright, orange $50 ticket. Next year, the city could raise the cost to $60.</p><p>If this is a familiar territory for you, dear reader, you are far from alone. According to data from the Department of Revenue, the city has taken in more than $15 million in just street-sweeping ticket revenue every year for the past five years. So far this year, drivers have paid $15,336,802. That&rsquo;s about 17 percent of the total revenue brought in by parking tickets this year. And the sweeping season&rsquo;s not finished; foliage was delayed this year, Williams said, and crews will be sweeping later than usual to grab leaves before the heavy snow comes around.</p><p>According to city spokeswoman Kelley Quinn, every dollar paid from these tickets goes into the city&rsquo;s corporate fund, which means the revenue&rsquo;s not earmarked for anything in particular. So it&rsquo;s not as if Dan&rsquo;s friend pays a street-sweeping parking ticket and it goes directly to the Streets and Sanitation guys and gals: It all goes into one pot.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lauren_chart.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 5px;" title="According to data from the Chicago Department of Revenue, the city has taken in at least 14 million dollars in parking ticket revenue from street-sweeping violations alone each year for the past five years. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" /><a name="Chart"></a>To keep that $15 million figure in perspective, it costs the city about $8.5 million a year for street-sweeping itself.&nbsp;</p><p>Here&rsquo;s one more relevant detail: The timing of street cleaning is another point of drama for some drivers. Williams says every spring, the city meets with ward superintendents to plan out the sweeping calendar. Schedules are <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Sanitation/Map-Street-Sweeping-2013/rjwk-epe7" target="_blank">posted online</a> so residents can &ldquo;plan ahead.&rdquo; Once it&rsquo;s sweeping time, the city will post bright orange signs the day before or the morning of to warn drivers of what&rsquo;s to come.</p><p>To Dan&rsquo;s concerns that ticketing during cleaning might be a revenue grab, the city contends that&rsquo;s not the case.</p><p>&ldquo;If they just pay attention to the signs, they don&rsquo;t get a ticket,&rdquo; Williams said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a revenue thing, we would actually prefer them not to park on the street so that we can do our jobs and keep the streets clean.&rdquo;</p><p>For his part, Dan says all this makes sense, calling the process &ldquo;uncomfortably logical,&rdquo; but he is struck by the raw numbers involved. (&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a lot of money,&rdquo; he said). And he also wonders if maybe the city could work a harder to ensure drivers know when it&rsquo;s time to move their cars. He&rsquo;s had friends say they parked overnight, only to wake to a signs (and tickets) that weren&rsquo;t there the night before.</p><p>&ldquo;I know they&rsquo;ve got a job to do. I know they&rsquo;ve gotta make sure the drains don&rsquo;t clog and they&rsquo;re doing it for the good of the roads and everybody,&rdquo; Dan said. &ldquo;But if you don&rsquo;t have a chance to move your car, they can&rsquo;t do their job, and you get a ticket.&rdquo;</p><p><a name="questions"></a></p><p><strong>Your follow-up questions</strong></p><p>Turns out, Curious Citizen Dan Costalis wasn&rsquo;t the only Chicagoan interested in how the city sweeps its streets. Shortly after we published this story, readers left comments below, hit our Facebook page and tweeted burning questions that we couldn&#39;t ignore. We&rsquo;re happy to report we hit the airwaves about some of these on WBEZ&#39;s Morning Shift program as well as here.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/124519058&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>If it&rsquo;s so important to clean the streets, why wouldn&rsquo;t the offending cars get towed instead of ticketed?</strong></em></p><p>The city says in order to tow a vehicle, it still has to be ticketed first, so there&rsquo;s no avoiding that. Also, according to Molly Poppe, spokeswoman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation, towing vehicles would require additional staff that the department doesn&rsquo;t have.</p><p>Other cities, such as Boston, do tow vehicles for parking during designated street cleaning days. Boston city workers walk around and ticket offending vehicles, just like Chicago does; however, Boston contracts with private tow companies to whisk away any vehicle sporting a ticket.</p><p><em><strong>I noticed there&rsquo;s been a marked decrease in the city&rsquo;s street sweeping ticket collection since 2010, I wonder what explains this drop.</strong></em></p><p>The Department of Revenue wasn&rsquo;t able to come up with an answer at this time. And since there are a number of factors &mdash; and, perhaps, different departments&rsquo; opinions &mdash; that could play played into this, we&rsquo;re not on safe ground to say much more. But, we will keep digging!</p><p><em><strong>I&rsquo;ve been told the city can write a ticket every 15 minutes. That sounds like a revenue scheme to me!</strong></em></p><p>City spokeswoman Kelley Quinn offered to debunk this myth for us. She says motorists should only receive one street cleaning violation per day, per location. If you do get more than one ticket on the same day, in the same location, Quinn says the driver should contest those subsequent violations. Details on challenging parking tickets can be found <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/fin/supp_info/revenue/challenging_tickets.html" target="_blank">here</a>.</p><p><em><strong>If they have to extend the street sweeping schedule into December, how do they let people know?</strong></em></p><p>This actually happened while we were reporting out this story: The foliage came a bit late this year, so all of the leaves hadn&rsquo;t fallen by November 30th, the end of the regular sweeping schedule. Poppe says they&rsquo;ll stick signs up 36-24 hours in advance to let people know.</p><p>Also, it turns out the city is able to sweep in the winter &mdash; weather permitting, of course. Poppe says it&rsquo;s usually to keep the main arterials clean, so there&rsquo;s not much parking involved on those streets. But if there is, or if a residential street needs a sweep, Poppe says the signs will give residents a heads up that sweepers are coming.</p><p><em><strong>Still shaky on the details?</strong></em></p><p>Our listeners and social media followers had a lot of great tips about smartphone apps and websites meant to help ease car owners&rsquo; pain.</p><ul><li><a href="http://sweeparound.us/">http://sweeparound.us/</a> came to us via Twitter. Drivers can punch in their home address and the site uses city data to figure out when the next sweeping date is, what sweep area the house or apartment is in, and can even help set the driver up for alerts.</li><li><a href="http://en.seeclickfix.com/apps">SeeClickFix app </a>was an app we learned about from a commenter. It essentially is your smart phone&rsquo;s way to report neighborhood issues to 311</li></ul><p>Lastly, if you&rsquo;re a Chicago resident, it behooves you to ask your alderman questions. They might have an alert system set up for you. For example, Alderman Tunney office sends emails and text alerts the evening before and the morning of street sweeping operations within the 44th Ward.</p><p><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><div><em>Correction: An earlier text version of this story suggested the Streets and Sanitation annual budget was $8.5 million. The department&#39;s budget for 2014 is $216 million, while the budget for street sweeping activity is $8.5 million.</em></div></p> Thu, 21 Nov 2013 19:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221 Chicago's Divvy bike program expanding, could become nation's largest bike share system http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-divvy-bike-program-expanding-could-become-nations-largest-bike-share-system-109101 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Divvy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s Divvy bike program is expanding, thanks to federal funding which officials say could make it the largest bike-share system in North America. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>There are currently 300 Divvy <a href="http://divvybikes.com/stations">stations </a>up and running around Chicago, with 100 more stations in the works to be installed by next spring. Officials from the Chicago Department of Transportation said Wednesday they&rsquo;ve secured a $3 million federal grant to build 75 additional stations next year, bringing the total to 475 by next year. The grant comes from the US Department of Transportation&rsquo;s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.</p><p>So far, the U.S. DOT has provided $25 million dollars in federal grant funding toward the Divvy bike share program.</p><p>There&rsquo;s been some <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/divvy-blues-bike-share-program-leaves-some-behind-107893">criticism </a>that Divvy stations are concentrated downtown, and don&rsquo;t serve the south or west sides of the city. CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, speaking to alderman at his department&rsquo;s city budget hearing Wednesday, said they&rsquo;ll bring Divvy to Englewood by spring, and with this grant, they&rsquo;ll be able to expand the program farther in all directions.</p><p>&ldquo;Just like when you&rsquo;re building the CTA or a bus network, you have to start in one place, usually the densest area like the Loop where all the CTA rail is,&rdquo; Klein said. &ldquo;But we&rsquo;re gonna grow it out to the entire city overtime.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked by alderman how much revenue Divvy has brought to the city, Klein said he couldn&rsquo;t give an estimate until the bike share program had run for an entire year. But he says CDOT is close to signing an &ldquo;eight-figure&rdquo; sponsorship deal for the bikes by the end of this year. Klein says Divvy won&rsquo;t lose its name or brand in the sponsorship. In New York, the bike-share system is sponsored by Citibank, and is called citibike.</p><p>In other Divvy news, Klein says two suburbs - Oak Park and Evanston - have submitted their own federal grant applications to put bikes in their neighborhoods.</p><p>Wednesday likely marked Klein&rsquo;s last budget hearing in Chicago&rsquo;s City Hall. He said this month that he&rsquo;ll be stepping down from his post by Thanksgiving after serving for two and a half years. Klein&rsquo;s said he&rsquo;s stepping down for family obligations and plans to return to the private sector.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 18:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-divvy-bike-program-expanding-could-become-nations-largest-bike-share-system-109101