WBEZ | transit http://www.wbez.org/tags/transit 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: Gov. Quinn organizes transit task force to take on scandals at agencies http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-22/morning-shift-gov-quinn-organizes-transit-task-force <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Red Line - Flickr- Buddahbless.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>With an eye on improving service and eliminating corruption, Gov. Quinn has organized a transit task force. We discuss what&#39;s ahead for the panel. Also, the history and future of The Purple Hotel.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-49/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-49.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-49" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Gov. Quinn organizes transit task force to take on scandals at agencies" on Storify</a>]</div></noscript></div></p> Thu, 22 Aug 2013 08:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-22/morning-shift-gov-quinn-organizes-transit-task-force Bus rapid transit to ‘maximize potential’ of Ashland Avenue http://www.wbez.org/news/bus-rapid-transit-%E2%80%98maximize-potential%E2%80%99-ashland-avenue-106738 <p><p style=""><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ashland..PNG" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 195px; width: 350px;" title="Each direction would have one parking lane and one traffic lane. (Chicago Transit Authority)" /></p><p>The first phase of a closely watched Chicago bus project would &ldquo;maximize street potential&rdquo; along more than five miles of Ashland Avenue for about $50&nbsp;million, city officials announced Friday.</p><p>The project would establish bus rapid transit (BRT) along that congested artery from 31st Place to Cortland Avenue. The city will study possible extensions stretching as far south as 95th Street and as far north as Irving Park Road, according to a statement from the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Department of Transportation.</p><p>&ldquo;Bus rapid transit is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to expand and modernize our city&rsquo;s transit network for the 21st century,&rdquo; Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in the statement. &ldquo;We will work with our local communities to best determine how to maximize the positive impacts BRT would provide to riders, while boosting local economic development and improving quality of life for all city residents.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-planners-push-boldest-bus-rapid-transit-option-105187">revealed the Ashland route and the project&rsquo;s key design elements</a> in January. The buses would have a lane to themselves on both sides of a landscaped median. Traffic signals at some intersections would favor the buses. Passengers would board from platforms a half-mile apart. Parking would remain on both sides.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/6p1YGHLqDo8" width="560"></iframe></p><p><br />The statement says the design would &ldquo;allow the potential&rdquo; for off-board fare collection, a feature that averts delays from collecting fares in bus doorways. A new CTA video (above) shows that payment taking place at kiosks on station platforms.</p><p>Cars and trucks would have just one lane in each direction&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;a plan that has sparked opposition from some business groups along the route. City officials have responded that the project would slow automobiles and trucks just slightly and speed up bus service more than 80 percent during peak hours.</p><p>Transit experts say banning turns across bus lanes is the key BRT intersection treatment. The video renderings of reconfigured Ashland intersections do not show any left-turn lanes.</p><p>CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis confirmed Friday that the Ashland project will eliminate left turns from the avenue&nbsp;at some intersections. She said her agency is embarking on a study to help determine which ones.</p><p>The elimination of turns is another step that worries the business groups.</p><p>&ldquo;Getting trucks around, where they might turn left into a loading dock now, they&rsquo;ll have to obviously make three [right turns] to be able to do that,&rdquo; said Benjamin Spies, a spokesman for the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, which represents 430 member businesses in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re concerned about what this would do to freight traffic.&rdquo;</p><p>The Emanuel administration was also considering Western Avenue for the BRT line but has put that possibility on the back burner.</p><p>The initial Ashland phase, creating a 5.3-mile leg of the BRT route, would link several CTA and Metra lines. It would also improve transit service to the University of Illinois at Chicago, Malcolm X College, the United Center and a cluster of hospitals within the Illinois Medical District.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the things that all of the hospitals talk to us about is a lack of parking,&rdquo; Warren Ribley, the district&rsquo;s executive director, said at a downtown roundtable promoting the BRT project. &ldquo;They all have parking decks that are full. If you drive along Harrison or Congress on any given day, you can&rsquo;t find a parking spot.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Public transportation is critical to the growth of the medical district,&rdquo; Ribley said. &ldquo;There is going to be growth. That&rsquo;s why this is such an important proposal for us.&rdquo;</p><p>Neighborhoods along the planned initial route include Bucktown, Noble Square, East Village, West Town, University Village and Pilsen. The CTA&rsquo;s No. 9 bus, which runs on Ashland, in 2012 had 10 million boardings, the most of any Chicago route that year, according to the city.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s statement says CHA and CDOT will &ldquo;begin working with local stakeholders on developing a plan&rdquo; for Ashland.</p><p>The project&nbsp;<a href="http://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AluraWM750W7dHhKR25IX1RmTzFwUFJBM1lvbWQwSHc#gid=3">has potential to outshine</a> a bus line in Cleveland, Ohio,&nbsp;that transit experts consider the most advanced BRT system in the United States. The Cleveland line includes 4.3 miles of dedicated bus lanes but also some features that slow down the service. Those include tightly spaced&nbsp;stations &mdash; about four per mile&nbsp;&mdash; and&nbsp;turns across the busway.</p><p>Ashland would not stack up to BRT lines in several other countries. The world&rsquo;s&nbsp;most advanced bus system is TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia. That Andean city segregates&nbsp;65 miles&nbsp;of busways from traffic using physical barriers and grade separations.</p><p>Chicago has studied BRT options in the Ashland and Western corridor using a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Emanuel administration estimates that the project would cost about $10 million per mile. Lukidis, the&nbsp;CTA spokeswoman, said the city would count on further FTA funding for some of the Ashland construction.</p><p>Chicago is planning another BRT project in a 1.1-mile&nbsp;downtown corridor between Union Station and Millennium Park. The project, managed by CDOT, will include a new bus terminal next to the train station. A CDOT spokesman says the city is aiming to finalize the route design this December and finish construction by November 2014. The project&rsquo;s funding includes $24.7 million from the FTA and $7.3 million in Chicago tax increment financing.</p><p>As the city unveiled the Ashland design elements, Emanuel prepared to join former President Bill Clinton at a Friday meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. Emanuel&rsquo;s office described the topic as &ldquo;innovative and cost-effective ways for cities to invest in local projects.&rdquo;</p><div><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> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 19 Apr 2013 08:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/bus-rapid-transit-%E2%80%98maximize-potential%E2%80%99-ashland-avenue-106738 The magic motor bus http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/magic-motor-bus-106165 <p><p>A strange new vehicle appeared on the streets of Chicago for the first time on March 25, 1917. It was called a &ldquo;bus.&rdquo;</p><p>Since 1859 public transit in Chicago had been&ndash;literally&ndash;street railways. The first railcars had been pulled by teams of horses. Then came cable cars, and finally electric streetcars. For moving large numbers of people, streetcars seemed to be the ultimate form of surface transportation.</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/03-25--bus.jpg" title="Chicago's first bus, 1917 (CTA photo)" /></div><p>Meanwhile, the automobile had been invented, and was evolving. Though early gasoline engines were small, they soon became bigger and more powerful. By 1910 full-size gasoline buses were a reality. Since buses weren&rsquo;t tied to rails, they had more flexibility than streetcars.</p><p>The City of Chicago had granted a transit franchise to the Chicago Surface Lines company. But the boulevards and parks were controlled by three separate park district boards. In 1916 the new Chicago Motor Bus Company was awarded a franchise by the Lincolon Park District. Now, on March 25, 1917, their new vehicles were ready to roll.</p><p>Mayor William Hale Thompson and a collection of dignitaries boarded the first bus at Sheridan and Devon. The ceremonial trip moved off over the regular route, down Sheridan to Lincoln Park, through the park and over various streets, until reaching its south terminal at Adams and State. Then, while the invited guests were brought back to the Edgewater Beach Hotel for a luncheon, revenue service began.</p><p>The buses operated from 6 in the morning until 1:30 a.m. Each double-deck vehicle had a two-man crew, with a conductor to collect fares and a &ldquo;chauffeur&rdquo; to drive. Passengers could board at any intersection. Though only 11 buses ran the first day, another 39 were on order.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3-25--1948.jpg" title="Buses on Michigan Avenue, 1948 (CTA photo)" /></div></div></div></div><p>The buses were popular from the start. True, the 10-cent fare was higher than the 7 cents paid on the streetcars. But the ride was usually faster&ndash;and prettier, too.</p><p>During the next few years, the&nbsp;three park&nbsp;districts gave franchises to other companies. As the advantages of buses became more apparent, even Chicago Surface Lines began replacing their streetcars with the rubber-tire vehicles.</p><p>All the different park district bus operators were later combined into the Chicago Motor Coach. That company continued in business until 1952, when it was bought out by the CTA.</p></p> Mon, 25 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/magic-motor-bus-106165 From the archives: LaHood says 'no stopping' high speed rail http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/archives-lahood-says-no-stopping-high-speed-rail-105724 <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/high%20speed%20rail%20quinn%20lahood%20AP%20small.jpg" style="height: 460px; width: 620px;" title="Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, left, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, on a high speed rail test run in October of 2012. (AP/Charles Rex Arbogast, file)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F77461272&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he would <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/transportation-secretary-ray-lahood-leave-administration-105193">leave his post in the Obama administration</a> earlier this week. &quot;I have had a good run,&rdquo; the former Illinois Congressman and Peoria native told the Associated Press. &ldquo;I&#39;m one of these people who believe that you should go out while they&#39;re applauding.&rdquo;</p><p>During his tenure in Washington, LaHood struggled with Congress to pass funding for major infrastructure projects, and eventually compromised with them on a two-year plan, dubbed <a href="http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/">MAP 21</a>, that gave states more flexibility in spending federal dollars. He also brought greater attention to hazards like <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ray-lahood/distracted-driving-a-dead_b_555810.html">distracted driving</a>, and tried to put <a href="http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/03/lahood-policy-statement/">pedestrians and cyclists on equal footing with drivers</a>, earning him accolades from many alternative transportation advocates.</p><p>But one of LaHood&rsquo;s biggest efforts was his promotion of high speed rail. At an urban policy forum held in Chicago in December, LaHood told the audience that &ldquo;every generation does something big for the next generation,&rdquo; and that high speed rail would be our generation&rsquo;s gift to the next.</p><p>In <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/29/ray-lahood-interview-high-speed-rail_n_2576995.html">an exit interview with the <em>Huffington Post</em></a>, LaHood admitted that he felt behind on this quest, but insisted that he and his administration had still &ldquo;come a long way.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;As long as President Obama is in the White House, whoever sits in this chair will have high-speed rail as one of their top priorities,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>You can take a closer listen to LaHood&rsquo;s earlier remarks on high speed rail &ndash; and his insistence at its inevitability &ndash; in the audio above.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range</a></em>&nbsp;<em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from </em><em><a href="https://soundcloud.com/chicago-amplified/a-conversation-with-u-s"><em>Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s</em></a></em><em> vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Ray LaHood spoke at an event presented at the UIC Urban Forum in December of 2012. He was interviewed by Steve Schlickman, Executive Director of the UIC Urban Transportation Center. Click</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="https://soundcloud.com/chicago-amplified/a-conversation-with-u-s">here</a>&nbsp;to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 10:12:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/archives-lahood-says-no-stopping-high-speed-rail-105724 From the archives: LaHood says 'no stopping' high speed rail http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/archives-lahood-says-no-stopping-high-speed-rail-105308 <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/high%20speed%20rail%20quinn%20lahood%20AP%20small.jpg" style="height: 460px; width: 620px;" title="Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, left, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, on a high speed rail test run in October of 2012. (AP/Charles Rex Arbogast, file)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F77461272&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he would <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/transportation-secretary-ray-lahood-leave-administration-105193">leave his post in the Obama administration</a> earlier this week. &quot;I have had a good run,&rdquo; the former Illinois Congressman and Peoria native told the Associated Press. &ldquo;I&#39;m one of these people who believe that you should go out while they&#39;re applauding.&rdquo;</p><p>During his tenure in Washington, LaHood struggled with Congress to pass funding for major infrastructure projects, and eventually compromised with them on a two-year plan, dubbed <a href="http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/">MAP 21</a>, that gave states more flexibility in spending federal dollars. He also brought greater attention to hazards like <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ray-lahood/distracted-driving-a-dead_b_555810.html">distracted driving</a>, and tried to put <a href="http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/03/lahood-policy-statement/">pedestrians and cyclists on equal footing with drivers</a>, earning him accolades from many alternative transportation advocates.</p><p>But one of LaHood&rsquo;s biggest efforts was his promotion of high speed rail. At an urban policy forum held in Chicago in December, LaHood told the audience that &ldquo;every generation does something big for the next generation,&rdquo; and that high speed rail would be our generation&rsquo;s gift to the next.</p><p>In <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/29/ray-lahood-interview-high-speed-rail_n_2576995.html">an exit interview with the <em>Huffington Post</em></a>, LaHood admitted that he felt behind on this quest, but insisted that he and his administration had still &ldquo;come a long way.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;As long as President Obama is in the White House, whoever sits in this chair will have high-speed rail as one of their top priorities,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>You can take a closer listen to LaHood&rsquo;s earlier remarks on high speed rail &ndash; and his insistence at its inevitability &ndash; in the audio above.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range</a></em>&nbsp;<em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from </em><em><a href="https://soundcloud.com/chicago-amplified/a-conversation-with-u-s"><em>Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s</em></a></em><em> vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Ray LaHood spoke at an event presented at the UIC Urban Forum in December of 2012. He was interviewed by Steve Schlickman, Executive Director of the UIC Urban Transportation Center. Click</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="https://soundcloud.com/chicago-amplified/a-conversation-with-u-s">here</a>&nbsp;to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 02 Feb 2013 08:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/archives-lahood-says-no-stopping-high-speed-rail-105308 Chicago planners push boldest bus-rapid-transit option http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-planners-push-boldest-bus-rapid-transit-option-105187 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BRT_option_Western_Ashland_0.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 335px; width: 300px;" title="The BRT design favored by top Chicago staffers would preserve parking on both sides of Ashland Avenue but eliminate a traffic lane on each side. (Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority)" />To create a state-of-the-art bus line, Chicago transit leaders and urban planners have coalesced behind a design that would limit left turns and remove a traffic lane on each side of Ashland Avenue, a busy thoroughfare that connects both upscale and low-income neighborhoods to a cluster of hospitals at the city&rsquo;s center.</p><p>Now the bus-rapid-transit plan must survive political vetting by Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office. Emanuel, a professed BRT supporter, could face a storm of criticism from business owners and motorists who want no part in one of the country&rsquo;s most ambitious bus projects. The mayor&rsquo;s office could order the preservation of all existing Ashland traffic lanes and kill plans to run the buses in lanes along the avenue&rsquo;s center &mdash; a feature vital for trimming travel times.<br /><br />Officials say the design backed by the city&rsquo;s planners would transform at least 4.5 miles of Ashland, stretching from the &ldquo;Ashland&rdquo; station of the Chicago Transit Authority&rsquo;s Orange Line to the &ldquo;Division&rdquo; station of the CTA&rsquo;s Blue Line. That route would extend further north and south when, if ever, the city secured funding. A proposal for BRT along nearby Western Avenue would go on the back burner.<br /><br />The Ashland plan has the backing of planning and policy directors in the CTA, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren&rsquo;t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.</p><p>Some Chicago business owners along the route are already voicing worries about BRT, particularly about eliminating non-bus lanes. &ldquo;The idea of cutting the traffic capacity in half has caused a lot of questions for businesses and property owners,&rdquo; said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association.</p><p>City officials respond that their BRT plan would slow automobiles just slightly and speed up buses dramatically. The city says the new bus service would be up to 80 percent faster than today&rsquo;s service.</p><p>Other questions concern the left turns. Romanelli said business owners are wondering how limiting them &ldquo;would economically impact businesses, truck deliveries, residents moving east-west, coming from shopping.&rdquo;</p><p>City officials say they must remove some left turns to keep the buses moving fast and protect pedestrians.</p><p>Asked whether Emanuel was behind the plan and whether he would stick behind it if business owners revolted, his office had little to say. &ldquo;All of this is still under review,&rdquo; Tom Alexander, a mayoral spokesman, wrote in an email message to WBEZ.</p><p>In November, Romanelli&rsquo;s group helped form the Ashland Avenue-Western Avenue Coalition to give some area businesses a greater voice in the BRT planning. The coalition&rsquo;s other members include the Near West Side Community Development Corporation, the Near West Side Chamber of Commerce, the West Town Chamber of Commerce, and a business group called the West Central Association.</p><p>Last week coalition members met with city officials and area aldermen about the project. The officials said the city had made no final decision on the design.</p><p>The design favored by the Chicago planners resembles the boldest of four BRT alternatives the city presented last fall for the corridor. Each direction of Ashland would have one regular traffic lane and, near the middle of the avenue,&nbsp;a bus-only lane.</p><p>In each direction, the design leaves a parking lane next to the sidewalk, city officials say. There would be no bike lanes.</p><p>Several features would distinguish the project from a new express line along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffery Boulevard that began in November. Ashland&rsquo;s inside lanes would be dedicated to the buses around-the-clock, not just during rush hours. For quick boarding,&nbsp;the route would include station platforms and extra-wide bus doors. Those doors would be on the left side of the buses. Passengers would pay before boarding or the city would find fare-card readers that would be almost as quick.</p><p>Like the Jeffery line, the Ashland route would include traffic lights rigged to favor the buses and station enhancements such as bike racks and electronic bus-tracking signs. Like the Jeffery bus stops, the Ashland stations would be limited to roughly every half mile.</p><p>The Ashland route would include a landscaped median, according to a city staffer familiar with the plan. The CTA said last fall it had decided against narrowing the avenue&rsquo;s sidewalks.</p><p>The CTA&rsquo;s No. 9 bus, which runs on Ashland Avenue, in 2011 had 10 million boardings, the second most of any Chicago route that year, according to a city web page.</p><p>An advantage of building BRT on Ashland instead of Western, city officials say, is closer proximity to the Illinois Medical District, which includes Rush University Medical Center, the University of Illinois Medical Center, the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and Cook County&rsquo;s John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital.</p><p>The city has studied the Ashland and Western options using a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The city has not arranged construction funding.</p><p>A much shorter BRT line is scheduled for construction next year. That route will cross Chicago&rsquo;s Loop and include a new bus terminal at Union Station, a train depot. The project&rsquo;s funding includes $24.6 million from the FTA and $7.3 million in city tax increment financing.</p></p> Mon, 28 Jan 2013 19:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-planners-push-boldest-bus-rapid-transit-option-105187 BRT designs for Western, Ashland avenues start to take shape http://www.wbez.org/news/brt-designs-western-ashland-avenues-start-take-shape-103186 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BRT_option_Western_Ashland.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 357px; width: 320px; " title="Chicago officials say they are considering this design, among others, for bus-rapid-transit routes between Howard and 95th streets. (Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority)" />Chicago officials say they have decided to leave at least one parking lane on both possible routes of the city&rsquo;s most ambitious bus project. The officials say they have also ruled out narrowing sidewalks along those routes.</p><p>The details emerged Tuesday night at the first of three public meetings the Chicago Transit Authority is holding this week to unveil design alternatives for &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; along 21 miles of both Ashland and Western avenues.</p><p>All designs the city says it&rsquo;s considering for the corridor include around-the-clock dedicated lanes for the buses and pre-boarding fare collection. Those features would distinguish the project from an express line the city started building along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffery Boulevard in August. That service, called &ldquo;The Jeffrey Jump,&rdquo; is set to start early next month.</p><p>The Ashland and Western routes would also include traffic lights rigged to favor the buses and station enhancements such as bike racks and electronic bus-tracking signs.</p><p>But CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation officials say they have yet to decide on a range of features that would shave travel times for riders. Those include station platforms and buses equipped with extra-wide doors for quick boarding.</p><p>Other big questions concern whether to put the bus lanes down the middle of the avenues or along the sides, whether each side would have one non-bus travel lane or two, whether to keep parking on both sides, whether to reserve space for a landscaped median, and whether to limit left turns.</p><p>About three-dozen Chicago residents attended Tuesday&rsquo;s session, held in a Humboldt Park church. The meeting included a brief slide show by Scott Kubly, a top CDOT official. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re looking at what happens if we remove a travel lane and we want to hear back from you all [about] how you perceive those impacts,&rdquo; Kubly told them.</p><p>Fernando Benavides, a resident of the nearby Belmont Cragin neighborhood, said the plan to preserve at least one parking lane on each avenue was not enough. &ldquo;Elimination of lanes&nbsp;for cars and parking, my God, that&rsquo;s just going to create a lot of traffic,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Other residents voiced support for any steps to speed up transit service. New city estimates show the Ashland and Western buses averaging as fast as 16-18 miles per hour, almost rivaling CTA Red Line trains, which would average 21 miles per hour if slow zones were repaired. The BRT lines would run between Howard Street on the north and 95th Street on the south.</p><p>The other two meetings are set for Wednesday at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, 6130 S. Wolcott Ave., and Thursday at Lane Tech College Prep High School, 2501 W. Addison St. Both will take place at 5:30 p.m.</p><p>Officials say they will present final decisions on the design alternatives this winter. The city is studying the alternatives using a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Construction would depend on further federal funding.</p></p> Wed, 17 Oct 2012 01:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/brt-designs-western-ashland-avenues-start-take-shape-103186 The five scariest things I learned from Chicago’s pedestrian plan http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2012-09-28/five-scariest-things-i-learned-chicago%E2%80%99s-pedestrian-plan-102736 <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/chicago%20crosswalk%20flickr.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px; " title="Can Chicago make streets safer for pedestrians? (Flickr/Vicki Wolkins)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F61491687&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;color=ffe12b" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Rose Harris was struck by a car and killed Thursday night, near the intersection of 79th Street and St. Lawrence Avenue. <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-woman-hit-by-car-dies-20120928,0,1432638.story?track=rss">According to the <em>Tribune</em></a>, the 59-year-old West Side resident stepped out into the street between two cars; the driver who hit her did not have time to react.&nbsp;</p><p>The stretch of 79th Street where Harris was killed is one of the most deadly in the city &ndash; at least for pedestrians. Chicago has labeled it a &quot;high crash corridor,&quot; respsonsible for a significant portion of the pedestrian deaths we see here every year. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s safer to be a pedestrian in Chicago than to be one in New York, Los Angeles or Dallas. Blame L.A. traffic, maybe, or those Texas super highways if you&rsquo;d like; according to an analysis done by the city, between 2005 and 2009 we averaged fewer crashes between cars and pedestrians than did our large urban peers.</p><p>But as the death of Rose Harris illustrates, that doesn&#39;t mean Chicago is safe for people on foot.</p><p>Thirty-four Chicagoans died in 2009 after being hit by cars. The victims that year included 36-year-old <a href="http://www.marthagonzalezmemorial.com/">Martha Gonzalez</a>, a mother of two who was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street at 18th and Halsted. Gonzalez and the others who died that year came from a total of 3,130 total collisions in which, according to the eerily technical language used in Chicago&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/pedestrian/2011PedestrianCrashAnalysisSummaryReport.pdf">2011 Pedestrian Crash Analysis</a> &ldquo;the pedestrian was the first point of contact for the vehicle.&rdquo; Turns out 2009 wasn&rsquo;t such a bad year, either: Nearly twice as many pedestrians were killed by cars here in 2005.</p><p>These numbers may seem small compared to say, the number of people who die in car crashes on Illinois highways: When I drove home via I-90/94 Wednesday night, the count from the digital sign read &ldquo;721 traffic deaths this year.&rdquo; By the next morning the count had ticked up to 724.</p><p>But Gabe Klein, Commissioner of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation, believes that even one pedestrian death here is too many. &ldquo;These are preventable,&rdquo; he told me earlier this week. &ldquo;They are not accidents.&rdquo;</p><p>Klein is spearheading Chicago&rsquo;s ambitious &ldquo;Vision Zero&rdquo; goal, a ten-year plan to eliminate <em>all </em>traffic fatalities in the city. To this end, earlier this month CDOT released <a href="http://chicagopedestrianplan.org/">the city&rsquo;s first-ever pedestrian plan</a>, a set of proposals aimed at making Chicago streets safer for walking.</p><p>Some of the interventions outlined in the plan are already being put into place: Signs popped up at intersections around this city this summer, reminding drivers that it&rsquo;s state law to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. (Sadly, the plan does not <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-why-don%E2%80%99t-chicago-drivers-stop-crosswalks-100855">call for mimes</a>.) Other ideas in CDOT&rsquo;s plan are more expensive and will take longer to implement: &ldquo;road diets,&rdquo; like the one given to Humboldt Boulevard through Humboldt Park, that shrink wider roads to slow down traffic and often make room for bike lanes. A few ideas suggested in the pedestrian plan &ndash; like straight up banning left- and right-hand turns at all of Chicago&rsquo;s iconic six-corner intersections &ndash; will strike many as audacious and unnecessary.&nbsp;</p><p>While proposals like the one above are certainly eye-catching &ndash; <a href="http://gridchicago.com/2011/building-chicagos-first-pedestrian-scramble/">pedestrian scramble</a>, anyone? &ndash; what really caught my eye was some of the stats that piece apart just what the city is up against here.</p><p><strong>Crashes in the crosswalk</strong></p><p>Let&rsquo;s start with this one:</p><ul><li>&nbsp;&ldquo;78% of all [pedestrian] crashes. . . occurred within 125 feet of the midpoint of an intersection.&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />According to the city, the most common place for a pedestrian to be when a crash occurs is walking in the crosswalk with the signal. So as a pedestrian, <em>you can be doing everything right and still be killed</em>. Frankly I find this disturbing, and apparently I&rsquo;m not alone. &ldquo;It <em>is</em> disturbing,&rdquo; Gabe Klein told me. &ldquo;We think most pedestrians are obeying the law. We think people in cars are not taking seriously their responsibility as drivers of a 3,000 lb. piece of equipment.&rdquo; Klein cited by way of example a woman &ldquo;taken out by a cab&rdquo; while crossing in the crosswalk on Sheridan: &ldquo;He ran over her like she wasn&rsquo;t there.&rdquo;</p><p>Speaking of cabs. . .</p><p><strong>Watch out for taxis&nbsp;</strong></p><ul><li>&ldquo;28% of pedestrian crashes in the central business district involved taxis.&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />Beyond the obvious &ndash; there are more cabs in this part of town as well as a higher concentration of pedestrians &ndash; Klein puts blame squarely on the cabbies themselves. &ldquo;My feeling is that there are some really bad actors on the taxi side that are driving really badly,&rdquo; he said. Klein said he takes cabs often and that he&rsquo;s &ldquo;seen them break the law when I&rsquo;m in the back of the car and had to call it into 311.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Ahead of the curve. . . in hit-and-runs</strong></p><ul><li>&ldquo;40% of fatal pedestrian crashes in Chicago were hit and run. By comparison 20% of fatal pedestrian crashes nation-wide were hit and run.&rdquo;</li></ul><p>I found this stat especially disturbing. I myself was the victim of a hit-and-run crash in 2008 (although I was riding my bike, not walking, at the time) so I know first hand that there are unscrupulous jerks driving around Chicago. But <em>twice as many</em> unscrupulous jerks?</p><p>&ldquo;We meet with the police every two weeks and we talk about this,&rdquo; Klein said. <strong>&ldquo;</strong>A lot happens after dark. I think often we have people drinking and driving &ndash; I think they hit someone and they get scared and they flee.&rdquo;</p><p>Klein also mentioned here how fast people in Chicago drive. Did you know that the speed limit in Chicago is 30 mph unless otherwise stated? You wouldn&rsquo;t know it from, say, driving down Western Avenue. . .</p><p><strong>Wide roads are the deadliest roads&nbsp;</strong></p><ul><li>&ldquo;Although arterial streets account for only 10% of Chicago&rsquo;s street miles, 50% of fatal/serious crashes occurred on them.&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />Because of Chicago&rsquo;s grid, these wider, faster streets &ndash; Western, Fullerton, Cermak etc. &ndash; are unavoidable and apparently deadly. (<em>See: Rose Harris</em>)&nbsp;According to the pedestrian plan, they&rsquo;ll also take the longest and will be the most expensive to fix.&nbsp;</p><p>At least the city knows where to start?</p><p><strong>Your mom tells you to look both ways for a reason</strong></p><p>Finally, there&rsquo;s this:</p><ul><li>&ldquo;15 to 18 year old pedestrians had the highest crash rate.&rdquo;</li><li>&ldquo;Older pedestrians were more likely to be struck in a cross walk than other age groups&hellip;&rdquo;</li></ul><p><br />Because younger people drive less &ndash; as Klein pointed out, &ldquo;Millennials are not buying cars anywhere near the rate&rdquo; of people of his generation &ndash; and older people walk more slowly, <em>Chicago&#39;s most vulnerable citizens are getting hit and killed the most</em>. Kids are mostly likely to be hit during the after-school hours of 3 to 6 p.m. Maybe Rahm&rsquo;s plea for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-signs-speed-camera-bill-chicago-96152">speed camera legislation</a> wasn&rsquo;t just a cynical revenue-generating ploy after all?</p><p>The city has a lot riding on getting this right, beyond even the lives at stake: Urban planners often point to a city&rsquo;s walkability as a key factor in its overall livability. And I for one hope the city does get it right &ndash; for the likes of Rose Harris and Martha Gonzalez, and for those of us already glad we don&rsquo;t live in L.A.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 28 Sep 2012 08:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2012-09-28/five-scariest-things-i-learned-chicago%E2%80%99s-pedestrian-plan-102736 CTA's new Ventra fare payment system to allow customers to pay with debit, credit cards http://www.wbez.org/news/ctas-new-ventra-fare-payment-system-allow-customers-pay-debit-credit-cards-102700 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2012-09-27 at 8.55.13 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Transit Authority announced on Thursday a new fare system for CTA and Pace, using personal bank-issued debit and credit cards.</p><p>The new system, dubbed Ventra, will come in the form of a debit/credit card equipped with a &ldquo;contactless chip.&rdquo; Much like Chicago Cards, the CTA said customers will need only tap their cards to board trains and buses. The system is expected to launch in the summer of 2013.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago will become the first major U.S. city to adopt an open fare system for transit,&rdquo; said CTA President Forrest Claypool.</p><p>Customers will still be able to pay with cash to board buses, and the CTA said that eventually customers will be able to use mobile phones to pay for fares.&nbsp;The CTA and Pace will retain full control of their fare structures and will still offer discounted fares for 30- and 7-day passes, the CTA said in a statement.</p><p>According to the new site <a href="http://www.ventrachicago.com/">ventrachicago.com</a>, there will be four payment options, one of which, will allow customers to use their own bank-issued debit cards to pay for transit.&nbsp; The Ventra Card itself, will function the way the Chicago Card Plus does. The Ventra Tickets will replace the magnetic stripe cards and can be used for a single ride or 1-day Ventra ticket, according to the site.</p><p>&ldquo;We are eager to provide this new convenience to our customers because it modernizes our fare system using the latest technoglogy,&rdquo; said Pace Executive Director T.J. Ross.</p><p>The ventrachicago site said the new debit cards will be issued by MetaBank, a savings bank located in Storm Lake, Iowa. MetaBank is a member of FDIC.</p><p>In 2011, Metabank was slapped by regulators for its iAdvance pre-paid debit card program. The Office of Thrift Supervision, which operates under the Treasury Department, said the company engaged in deceptive practices.</p><p>As part of a settlement, the company agreed to pay $5.2 million in refunds and fines over the program, which allowed customers payday and tax refund loans in the form of prepaid debit cards.</p><p><a href="http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/index.php/2011/07/18/ots-hits-metabank-for-5-2-million-over-iadvance-program">According to the Des Moines <em>Register</em>:</a></p><blockquote><p>&quot;The iAdvance program offered debit cards to customers and gave them the option of paying a fee to draw on the debit card even if they had no money left in their bank account. The fee would have been less than a conventional overdraft charge, and customers had to opt in to the program, but the federal Office of Thrift Supervision said the loans violated unfair or deceptive trade practice laws.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>The CTA said Ventra Cards and fare products will be sold at vending machines in rail stations and will be available at 2,500 retail locations in Chicago and the suburbs.</p><p>It remains to be seen if the new system will be implemented by Metra.<br /><br />The rail service is in the process of meeting a state mandate that CTA, Pace and Metra all use the same fare system.<br /><br />&quot;We&#39;re in the middle of that process right now, what we&#39;re trying to do is identify the system that works best for Metra,&quot; said Michael Gillis, a spokesman for Metra.<br /><br />&quot;There are some significant differences, they have closed systems and flat fare, where we have an open system and fares that are based on distance.&quot;<br /><br />Gillis said Metra has been in the loop on planned Ventra rollout.</p><p>In the announcement, the CTA also said that Cubic Transportation Systems will provide the fare collection equipment as well as maintenance and support when the system is live. Cubic received a $454 million contract in November 2011; Pace joined the contract in July 2012.</p><p>In this partnership, CTA and Pace will pay Cubic a monthly fee plus a fee per &ldquo;tap&rdquo; or fare.</p><p>As the system is rolled out, CTA said there will be simultaneous acceptance of both Chicago Cards and Chicago Card Plus alongside the Ventra system. In the first half of 2014, there will be a full switchover.&nbsp; Before that, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said &quot;There will be a huge informational campaign, and part of the messaging will be to use the remaining balances [on their old cards].&quot;</p><p>He said users without a compatible debit card can purchase the new Ventra Cards for $5, which they will have a $5 opening credit to use on the CTA.</p><p>&quot;In a nutshell, we&#39;re getting out of the banking business,&quot; said Steele.</p><p>&quot;People are paying us to give them media to use on our system. We had all the processes with taking in that payment,&quot; he said.</p><p>&quot;The open-fare system will save us $5 million a year, and we estimate $50 million a year over the 12-year contract,&quot; Steele said.</p><p>Cubic will be tasked with upgrading and maintaining the fare-collection equipment, which the agency said is &ldquo;nearing the end of its useful life.&rdquo;</p><p>The CTA said the new Ventra machines &mdash; as well as touchpads on buses and turnstyles&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;will be installed at rail stations&nbsp;starting in October, but won&#39;t be operational until the pilot tests begin in spring of 2013.</p></p> Thu, 27 Sep 2012 09:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ctas-new-ventra-fare-payment-system-allow-customers-pay-debit-credit-cards-102700