WBEZ | CTA http://www.wbez.org/tags/cta Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 Morning Shift: CTA revisions creates debate in Chicago's transportation system http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-06-27/morning-shift-cta-revisions-creates-debate-chicagos <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Zolk.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We talk about the many modes of transit with the head of Chicago&#39;s Department of Transportation. And we look at whether bike lanes should be expanded. Then later, we chat with the director of the new documentary,The Internet&#39;s Own Boy.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-chicago-offers-new-change-in-its-tra/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-chicago-offers-new-change-in-its-tra.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-chicago-offers-new-change-in-its-tra" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: CTA revisions creates debate in Chicago's transportation system " on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 08:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-06-27/morning-shift-cta-revisions-creates-debate-chicagos Morning Shift: The state of diversity on stage and screen http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-30/morning-shift-state-diversity-stage-and-screen-110104 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/White people on stage Flickr Lieven SOETE.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We look at new efforts aimed at bringing diversity into comedy. Plus, Governor Quinn selects new director for DCFS. And, a little reclaimed soul.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-state-of-diversity-on-stage-and/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-state-of-diversity-on-stage-and.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-state-of-diversity-on-stage-and" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The state of diversity on stage and screen" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 08:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-30/morning-shift-state-diversity-stage-and-screen-110104 Morning Shift: The awkward comedy of Craigslist http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-18/morning-shift-awkward-comedy-craigslist-110044 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flickr hurleygurley.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We revisit the struggles of a small Indiana town through the eyes of it&#39;s not-so-great basketball team. Also, turning Craigslist posts into comedy.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-awkward-comedy-of-craigslist/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-awkward-comedy-of-craigslist.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-awkward-comedy-of-craigslist" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The awkward comedy of Craigslist" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-18/morning-shift-awkward-comedy-craigslist-110044 Morning Shift: The soulful sounds of Brazil's Luisa Maita http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-04/morning-shift-soulful-sounds-brazils-luisa-maita <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cover Flickr retorta_net.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We get a preview of the Cubs home opener from our WBEZ sports contributor Cheryl Raye-Stout. Plus, we bring you live music from Brazilian chanteuse Luisa Maita.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-soulful-sounds-of-brazil-s-luisa/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-soulful-sounds-of-brazil-s-luisa.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-soulful-sounds-of-brazil-s-luisa" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The soulful sounds of Brazil's Luisa Maita" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 08:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-04/morning-shift-soulful-sounds-brazils-luisa-maita Leaked video appears to show Blue Line train derailment http://www.wbez.org/news/leaked-video-appears-show-blue-line-train-derailment-109917 <p><p>Footage appearing to show <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/blue-line-train-derails-climbs-escalator-ohare-109909">Monday&#39;s Blue Line derailment</a> at O&#39;Hare International Airport <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elMXt00xyIU">surfaced late Tuesday on YouTube</a>.</p><p>Though the original poster is unkown and the video was taken down, copies have sprung up around the video-sharing website. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, neither the <a href="http://voices.suntimes.com/news/breaking-news/surveillance-video-appears-to-show-blue-line-ohare-derailment/">CTA or the NTSB have commented on the video yet</a>.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 08:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/leaked-video-appears-show-blue-line-train-derailment-109917 Blue Line train derails, climbs escalator at O'Hare http://www.wbez.org/news/blue-line-train-derails-climbs-escalator-ohare-109909 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP661422106797(1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Last updated March 25, 4 p.m.</em></p><p>An emergency track-side braking system activated but failed to stop a Chicago commuter train from jumping the tracks and barreling to the top of an escalator at O&#39;Hare International Airport, a federal investigator said Tuesday.</p><p>The events that led to Monday&#39;s accident, which occurred around 3 a.m. and injured more than 30 passengers, might have begun with the train operator dozing off toward the end of her shift, according the union representing transit workers. But Tuesday&#39;s announcement that a piece of emergency safety equipment might have failed was the first indication the accident could have been caused by human error and mechanical failure.</p><p>National Transportation Safety Board investigator Ted Turpin said a preliminary review showed the train was traveling at the correct speed of 25 mph as it entered the station. Investigators said they have not yet determined whether the operator ever applied the in-cab brake.</p><p>Turpin, who is in charge of the investigation, said an automatic emergency braking system located on the tracks was activated but failed to stop the train as it burst onto the platform.</p><p>&quot;It activated,&quot; Turpin said of the emergency system. &quot;That&#39;s all we know factually. Now, whether it did it in time or not, that&#39;s an analysis that we have to figure out.&quot;</p><p>A team from the NTSB was also exploring how rested the train operator was before starting her shift and whether rules governing overtime had been violated, after a union official suggested she might have dozed off.</p><p>They planned to interview the train operator Tuesday afternoon.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re going to ask probably the operator how they felt ... because we always take into consideration the fatigue factor. It&#39;s one of the things we do investigate,&quot; Turpin said.</p><p>The operator, whom officials have not identified, was off duty for about 17 hours before starting work around 8 p.m. Sunday but had recently put in a lot of overtime, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 President Robert Kelly said Monday.</p><p>&quot;I know she works a lot &mdash; as a lot of our members do,&quot; he said. &quot;They gotta earn a living. ... She was extremely tired.&quot;</p><p>Kelly said the operator took standard drug and alcohol tests after the derailment and that she assured him they were not an issue.</p><p>Asked whether she may have nodded off, Kelly responded: &quot;The indication is there. Yes.&quot;</p><p>Federal investigators hoped to turn the scene over to local officials later Tuesday to begin removing the train from the escalator at the underground Chicago Transit Authority station.</p><p>The train is designed to stop if operators become incapacitated and their hand slips off the spring-loaded controls. Kelly speculated that, upon impact, inertia might have thrown the operator against the hand switch, accelerating it onto the escalator.</p><p>Transit officials refused to discuss what other safety mechanisms are in place around the transit system while the investigation was ongoing.</p><p>Federal safety regulators keep a close watch on longer distance, city-to-city passenger rail and freight operations. But federal safety oversight of transit systems within cities has been weaker, and responsibility for any technology to prevent crashes and control speeds has been left to local authorities.</p><p>There are efforts to grant a safety oversight role to the Federal Transit Administration, which has primarily been a funding agency, said Sean Jeans-Gail, vice president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, a Washington-based advocacy group.</p><p>In the meantime, local transit agencies like Chicago&#39;s make their own choices about how to spend scarce funding, juggling the needs of safely maintaining systems that are a century old in some places with pressure to expand systems to meet demand.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s always going to be a tension, but it&#39;s a tension that becomes more pronounced when there&#39;s not a healthy level of investment in both maintenance and ... capacity expansion,&quot; Jeans-Gail said.</p><p>Investigators have also been scrutinizing the train&#39;s brakes, track signals and other potential factors while reviewing video footage from more than 40 cameras in the station and on the train, Turpin said.</p><p>The station remained closed Tuesday, and CTA buses took passengers to and from O&#39;Hare to the next station on the line. Transport officials have not said when full Blue Line service will resume at O&#39;Hare.</p></p> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 09:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/blue-line-train-derails-climbs-escalator-ohare-109909 Morning Shift: Do increased smoking restrictions mean less smokers? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-18/morning-shift-do-increased-smoking-restrictions-mean <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flickr lanier67.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A proposed bill in the state Senate would fine smokers who light up with kids in the car. But, does a ticket really prevent people from lighting up? We hear from smokers and those looking to curb the addiction.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-do-increased-smoking-restrictions-me/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-do-increased-smoking-restrictions-me.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-do-increased-smoking-restrictions-me" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Do increased smoking restrictions mean less smokers?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 18 Feb 2014 08:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-18/morning-shift-do-increased-smoking-restrictions-mean Morning Shift: Rockford getting a boost from an Esty economy http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-03/morning-shift-rockford-getting-boost-esty-economy <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flickr Charles &amp; Hudson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We take a look at how the online craft marketplace Etsy has teamed up with Rockford, Illinois. Plus, what&#39;s the real deal with e-cigarettes? We talk with smoking cessation expert Dr. Philip McAndrew to clear through some of the confusion.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-rockford-getting-a-boost-from-an-est/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-rockford-getting-a-boost-from-an-est.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-rockford-getting-a-boost-from-an-est" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Rockford getting a boost from an Esty economy" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 03 Feb 2014 08:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-03/morning-shift-rockford-getting-boost-esty-economy Will Chicago scale back its bus rapid transit plan? http://www.wbez.org/news/will-chicago-scale-back-its-bus-rapid-transit-plan-109423 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AndrewsCROPSCALE.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 315px; width: 300px;" title="Dan Andrews of Kennicott Brothers says squeezing Ashland Avenue traffic into one lane and removing most left turns would hamstring the business. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />After wrapping up a public-comment period in an ambitious Chicago bus project, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration faces tough choices about the design.<br /><br />The city can stick to its plans and push for federal funds to build what would be the nation&rsquo;s most advanced &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; line. The project would transform Ashland Avenue, beginning with a 5.4-mile leg that would connect several passenger rail lines before they reach the Loop and, planners say, spur economic development that benefits the entire Chicago region.<br /><br />But there could be significant collateral damage, especially to the trucking operations of companies in an historic industrial corridor along the route.<br /><br />The Chicago Transit Authority says the BRT line, which could eventually lengthen to 16 miles, would cut the average Ashland bus ride time roughly in half. But some companies in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor and a few large retailers nearby say they would struggle too much to make and receive deliveries and keep customers flowing in. The companies are pushing hard for the Emanuel administration to eliminate some of the project&rsquo;s key features for speeding up bus service.<br /><br />Along the route&rsquo;s initial leg, which would stretch from Cortland Avenue to 31st Street, the competing interests are obvious.<br /><br />Just outside Rush University Medical Center, one of four major hospitals in the Illinois Medical District, a half-dozen patients and staffers huddled in the cold one evening this week at a bus stop. They included Larry Coldiron, a Rush computer consultant who lives near Midway International Airport and gets to ride the CTA&rsquo;s Orange Line train for most of his commute. But his trip home starts with the Number 9 bus down Ashland &mdash; the city&rsquo;s most heavily used bus route. He said the 2.5-mile journey between the hospital and train usually takes 45 minutes.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been doing this for 16 and a half years and it just keeps getting worse,&rdquo; Coldiron said.<br /><br />The BRT project would bring big changes. The buses would have a lane to themselves on both sides of a landscaped median. To keep the buses moving through intersections, most opportunities to turn left from Ashland would be eliminated and many traffic signals would favor the buses. Passengers would board from platforms averaging a half mile apart. The CTA is also aiming for pre-paid boarding to eliminate lines in bus doorways. The project&rsquo;s environmental assessment says the BRT buses would move up to 83 percent faster than today&rsquo;s buses.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;d like to see it,&rdquo; Coldiron said.&nbsp;Service that fast could attract some of his coworkers who now drive and pay for parking around the hospital, he said.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s exactly the idea, said Benet Haller, a top planner at the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development. &ldquo;They would have more money to spend on other things &mdash; like food, retail goods and housing.&rdquo;<br /><br />Haller said the BRT line would promote development in the medical district, where employment already totals 29,000, and in industrial areas along the route. He said it would also give a shot in the arm to many restaurants and retailers, especially ones that lack their own parking lots. Haller said the economic impact could extend throughout the Chicago region.<br /><br />&ldquo;All of our expressways are, pretty much, at capacity,&rdquo; Haller said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no real easy possibility to improve any of them. So, if we want to thrive, it&rsquo;s really going to come to reinvestment back in the central part of Chicago because it&rsquo;s the one part of the region in which there&rsquo;s a really robust transit network.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>THE CTA IS GUNNING TO BUILD</strong> the initial leg by 2017. Agency officials say they will apply for Federal Transportation Administration grants to cover an estimated $60 million in costs for detailed design and construction. Later phases would extend the BRT to Irving Park Road and 95th Street and cost another $100 million, the agency says.<br /><br />But there would be other costs, particularly to local businesses whose lifeblood is truck delivery. Those include Kennicott Brothers, an employee-owned flower wholesaler centered at 452 N. Ashland Ave., about a mile north of the medical district.<br /><br />Dan Andrews, a Kennicott manager, says the company runs 13 vans from that location for deliveries to neighborhood florists, grocery stories and companies that help throw events such as weddings and parties. &ldquo;Normally our customers will order in the morning,&rdquo; Andrews said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll load up the van with orders for that day and then send them out.&rdquo;<br /><br />Andrews is worried because the BRT design would leave just one lane on each side of Ashland for cars, trucks and regular buses, slowing down the Kennicott vans. &ldquo;It would probably be like rush hour all day,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />The CTA acknowledges that the Ashland traffic would move slower. A spokeswoman says a peak-hour car trip that now takes 30 minutes would take 36 minutes with BRT in place.<br /><br />Another concern for Andrews is the loss of intersections for turning left off Ashland. &ldquo;With the BRT line, I&rsquo;d have to take three right turns and then I would have to go through a residential area.&rdquo;<br /><br />Andrews has more than deliveries to worry about. Many of Kennicott&rsquo;s customers pick up their flowers. &ldquo;If they can&rsquo;t get to our location, they&rsquo;re going to choose either another vender or they might choose to be delivered to,&rdquo; he said, pointing out expenses associated with deliveries.<br /><br />If Chicago sticks with its BRT plan, Andrews says his company might have to find a location away from Ashland Avenue. &ldquo;It costs you a lot of money to move your company,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Economic-development groups in the Kinzie corridor are speaking up for businesses like Kennicott. &ldquo;These companies need every advantage they can to compete in our city,&rdquo; said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association.<br /><br />&ldquo;Nealey Foods has about 40 trucks every morning,&rdquo; Romanelli said, reeling off names of businesses potentially hamstrung by the BRT project. &ldquo;These companies are critical to our economy.&rdquo;<br /><br />Romanelli says slowing the traffic down and banning the turns would also be unfair to big retailers like Costco, which employs more than 100 people in a new facility at Ashland and 14th Street. He points out that diverting traffic to other congested arteries would not much help much.<br /><br />The Emanuel administration, Romanelli says,&nbsp;ought to scrap the Ashland project and focus on existing buses.&nbsp;Romanelli&nbsp;suggests speeding up service by simply eliminating some stops and using transponders to give buses longer green lights. &ldquo;BRT is not the only solution for Ashland Avenue,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br /><strong>A FEDERALLY REQUIRED 30-DAY PERIOD</strong> for public comment about the environmental assessment ended Friday. Now Mayor Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has to decide whether to make adjustments that might please the plan&rsquo;s business critics but slow the bus service.<br /><br />Randy Blankenhorn, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, describes the clashing interests. &ldquo;Planners always want the 100-percent solution,&rdquo; he said, pointing to the goal of regional economic growth over the long term. &ldquo;And local businesses are worried about the bottom line today and tomorrow.&rdquo;<br /><br />Blankenhorn says the city should help companies find ways to bypass Ashland and maybe even allow a few more left turns across BRT lanes. &ldquo;But you have to protect the integrity of the transportation investment you&rsquo;re making,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />On Ashland, that means a bus system fast enough to attract thousands of new riders.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 16:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/will-chicago-scale-back-its-bus-rapid-transit-plan-109423