WBEZ | cars http://www.wbez.org/tags/cars Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Are Chicago's shorter yellow lights unsafe, or just unfair? http://www.wbez.org/news/are-chicagos-shorter-yellow-lights-unsafe-or-just-unfair-110955 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s red light cameras are under increased scrutiny, after a <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/redlight/"><em>Chicago Tribune</em> investigation</a> found glitchy cameras may have issued thousands of tickets in error. The report also found many yellow lights are slightly short of the city standard of three seconds.</p><p>WBEZ has been looking into yellow lights too &mdash; and we&rsquo;ve found something else. Many traffic experts say Chicago flouts industry best practices with how it programs its traffic control devices &mdash; and one engineer says it may be &ldquo;entrapping&rdquo; drivers into running red lights.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Should I run? Should I stop?</span></p><p>Our inquiry started with Pavel Gigov, a North Side resident who, incidentally, is not a transportation engineer. Gigov drives a car, and like many of us, he&rsquo;s gotten a red light camera ticket or two. He got one in April at an intersection he normally drove through on his way home from work, and thought something was strange.</p><p>&ldquo;The light turned yellow and my immediate reaction was, OK, let me figure out what to do,&rdquo; Gigov recounted. &ldquo;And before I could actually even put my mind around what the decent thing to do is &mdash; should I run? should I stop? &mdash; it was already red and I was in the middle of the intersection.&rdquo;</p><p>The intersection was at W Peterson Ave. and N California Ave., in Chicago&rsquo;s West Ridge neighborhood. The streets are pretty wide: each has six or seven lanes across, and like many Chicago roads, the speed limit is 30 miles an hour.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" src="https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m16!1m12!1m3!1d209.6174687124326!2d-87.69939310755217!3d41.99043739075356!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!2m1!1scalifornia+ave+peterson+ave!5e1!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1409930061367" style="border:0" width="600"></iframe></p><p><em>Gigov received his red light camera ticket at the intersection of W Peterson Ave. and N California Ave. Like many Chicago intersections, the streets have a speed limit of 30mph.</em></p><p>Gigov said the moment he crossed into the intersection, he saw the flash of the red light camera going off.</p><p>&ldquo;And I knew that there was something that was going to be in the mail pretty soon,&rdquo; he laughed.</p><p>Sure, enough, Gigov got a $100 ticket in the mail. He paid it, but still, he wondered: wasn&rsquo;t that yellow light kind of short?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Is it safe? Is it fair?</span></p><p><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/red-light_cameraenforcement.html">Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation says</a> the city&rsquo;s yellow light intervals &ldquo;fall within the guidelines of the Federal Highway Administration&rsquo;s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and adheres to recommendations by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s half-true.</p><p>First, the true part: <a href="http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/html_index.htm">the MUTCD does, indeed, recommend</a> that yellow lights fall between 3 and 6 seconds. At the intersection where Gigov got his ticket, a frame-by-frame video analysis of the traffic signal showed that the yellow light lasts exactly three seconds &mdash; the minimum recommended under the MUTCD guidelines.</p><p>But three seconds falls short of what the yellow light interval should be, if the city were to follow ITE recommendations as it claims. Gigov said he worries that in flouting best engineering practices, Chicago may put drivers at risk. Particularly at red light camera intersections, where each traffic violation could bring dollars into the city&rsquo;s coffers.</p><p>&ldquo;Are we trading in accidents for revenue?&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Unfortunately in the City of Chicago, that&rsquo;s a legitimate question.&rdquo;</p><p>The city claims it implements a blanket policy on yellow light intervals, regardless of whether there&rsquo;s a red light camera: three seconds when the speed limit is 30mph or lower, and four seconds when it&rsquo;s 35mph or higher. &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s yellow times are more than adequate for a driver traveling the speed limit to react and stop safely,&rdquo; it states on the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/red-light_cameraenforcement.html">CDOT website</a>. The policy bucks a growing trend among transportation agencies nationwide.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea of a constant time is not typical,&rdquo; said James Taylor, a retired traffic engineer in Indiana.</p><p>While there&rsquo;s no federal mandate that requires transportation agencies to follow a method in determining yellow light intervals, Taylor said more places are adopting a <a href="http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_731.pdf">mathematical equation</a> that has been developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.</p><p>&ldquo;It keeps getting more and more widely accepted,&rdquo; said Taylor, &ldquo;as opposed to the system you&rsquo;re talking about where we just say let&rsquo;s just make all of them three (seconds), or three-and-a-half, or something like that.&rdquo;</p><p>A 2012 <a href="http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_731.pdf">survey</a> of more than 200 transportation agencies in the U.S., Canada and Germany, found only 6 percent timed their yellow light intervals the way Chicago does. By contrast, the largest chunk &mdash; almost 40 percent &mdash; used the ITE equation.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Using the ITE formula</span></p><p>The ITE formula for the length of yellow lights factors in the specific conditions of an individual intersection, such as speed limit and the grade of the road. It also uses numerical assumptions based on extensive field studies.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="Y=t+(1.47V/2a+64.4g)" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yellow-light-fomula-1.png" style="height: 64px; width: 200px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Where:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Y = total clearance period (in seconds)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>t = perception-reaction time (usually 1 second)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>V = 85th percentile approach speed (mph)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>a = deceleration rate (ft/sec&sup2;)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>g = percent of grade divided by 100</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The equation assumes a perception-reaction time, <em>t</em>, of one second for the average driver, based on field measurements. In other words, it takes about that long for a typical driver to see that the light has changed to yellow, and to decide what to do.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The fraction shown in the equation calculates how long it should take to decelerate to a stop, based on a typical driver&rsquo;s approach speed (<em>V</em>), a comfortable deceleration rate (<em>a</em>), and the grade of the intersection. Traffic engineers recommend using the 85th percentile of approaching traffic to determine a typical approach speed. If that hasn&rsquo;t, or cannot, be measured, a commonly accepted approximation is to add 7mph to the speed limit. &nbsp;Field studies have also found that a comfortable deceleration rate, <em>a</em>, for drivers is 10 ft/sec&sup2;. In Chicago, the grade of the street, <em>g</em>, is negligible, so we assume it to be zero.</div><p>Plug the numbers in for the intersection where Gigov received his yellow ticket, and it yields a yellow light interval, <em>Y</em>, of 3.7 seconds &mdash; that is, 0.7 seconds longer than it actually lasts. Studies show that could significantly change outcomes at an intersection.</p><p>&ldquo;Increasing the yellow by one second would decrease violations by 50-60 percent, and reduce crashes by 35-40 percent,&rdquo; said Davey Warren, a transportation engineer who spent most of his career with the Federal Highway Administration.</p><p>That agency has been pushing transportation departments nationwide to adopt the kinematic equation. In fact, in 2012 it made a change to the MUTCD that would require agencies to switch to engineering practices to determine yellow light intervals by mid-June of 2017.</p><p>Many traffic engineers were surprised to hear that Chicago does not already use widely-accepted engineering practices to calculate its yellow light intervals.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a general rule with engineers, you should be following the best accepted practice unless they can document valid reasons for not doing so,&rdquo; said Warren.</p><p>WBEZ requested multiple times to interview someone at Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation. The department didn&rsquo;t respond. The department also failed to respond to a request under the Freedom of Information Act for its programming instructions for traffic control devices.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">After the yellow, comes the all-red</span></p><p>But before you worry that the city&rsquo;s putting drivers at risk by skimping on yellow light times, there&rsquo;s a twist. In addition to recommending a mathematically-derived yellow light interval, transportation engineers also recommend something called an <em>all-red interval</em>. That&rsquo;s a brief moment after the yellow light, where the lights are red in <em>all directions</em>. It gives a chance for cars still caught in the intersection to finish crossing before the opposing traffic gets a green.</p><p>The ITE recommendation for the all-red interval has changed over time. However,a 2012 <a href="http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_731.pdf">study</a> by the National Cooperative Highway Research Board proposed the following guideline for the calculation:&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="R=(W+L/1.47V)-1" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yellow-light-fomula-2.png" style="height: 59px; width: 200px;" title="" /></div><p>Where:</p><p><em>R = all-red clearance interval (seconds)</em><br /><em>W = intersection width (ft)</em><br /><em>L = length of vehicle (ft)</em><br /><em>V = 85th percentile approach speed (mph)</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s worth noting that there&rsquo;s some debate over subtracting the number 1 on the right side of this equation. The &nbsp;ITE contemplates both possibilities. The NCHRP study found in field studies that it typically takes one second for drivers to perceive and react to a change to green after the all-red interval. So in its conclusions, it recommends subtracting that reaction time, to keep traffic flow more efficient.</p><p>Across transportation engineering literature, the standard length of a vehicle, <em>L</em>, is 20 feet, and again, the approach speed is approximated by adding 7mph to the speed limit.</p><p>At Gigov&rsquo;s intersection, where the streets were approximately 60 feet wide, the formula above yields an all-red clearance interval of 0.47 seconds. That means a vehicle that was caught in the intersection when the light turned red, would still have about half-a-second to finish its transition before opposing traffic gets a green light.</p><p>It turns out, the actual all-red clearance interval at the intersection of W Peterson Ave and N California Ave alternates between one and two seconds. Both of these are much longer than the formula recommends.</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/yellow-lights-2.png" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>At a typical intersection in Chicago, where speed limits are 30mph, the city sets yellow lights at three seconds, followed by an all-red clearance interval of at least one second. By comparison, best engineering practices recommends a yellow light of 3.7 seconds, followed by an all-red clearance interval of .47 seconds. Experts say that while the total clearance times are close (4 seconds and 4.17 seconds, respectively), the misallocation of time between the yellow and all-red intervals may entrap drivers into more violations.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Data on actual yellow lights from CDOT&rsquo;s website and field measurements at intersection of W Peterson Ave. and N California Ave. Recommended calculations based on the<a href="http://www.ite.org/bookstore/IR-113.pdf"> kinematic equation</a> developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size: 22px;">&lsquo;Entrapping drivers into running red lights&rsquo;</span></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Together, the yellow light and the all-red interval add up to what&rsquo;s called a &ldquo;change period.&rdquo; That &ldquo;change period&rdquo; at the intersection where Gigov got his ticket equals the three-second yellow light, plus one or two seconds for the all-red interval -- a total of four or five seconds. Engineering practices would yield a nearly similar result: a 3.7 second yellow light, followed by 0.47 second all-red interval, totaling 4.17 seconds.</div><p>The difference is, Chicago shortens the yellow portion of the change interval, and lengthens the all-red portion.</p><p>&ldquo;So from a safety standpoint, it&rsquo;s probably OK, but the thing is they&rsquo;re misallocating the times,&rdquo; said Warren, &ldquo;and so they&rsquo;re basically entrapping drivers into running red lights.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, Chicago&rsquo;s yellow light intervals may not be unsafe, but they may be unfair.</p><p>Gigov said if the city wants to win back public trust when it comes to its use of red light cameras, it should use to the most up-to-date engineering guidelines when it programs its traffic control devices.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re the city of Chicago, and your fiduciary duty is to serve residents of the city, and not to increase the revenue in such a borderline shady way,&rdquo; said Gigov.</p><p>Last year, anger over red light camera tickets in Florida prompted a reexamination of yellow lights. It turned out, yellow lights in that state were also timed contrary to engineering formulas. So Florida&rsquo;s Department of Transportation mandated the lights be lengthened.</p><p>Gigov said he hopes Chicago will do the same.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 08:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/are-chicagos-shorter-yellow-lights-unsafe-or-just-unfair-110955 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 On day of his bond, Chicago man's actions lead to 25 more years in prison http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/day-his-bond-chicago-mans-actions-lead-25-more-years-prison-109861 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DSC_9918.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Twelve years ago, gang member Carlos &ldquo;Bear&rdquo; Rocha of Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side was imprisoned for possession of a weapon. On the day of his bond, he and another inmate had a disagreement that turned tragically violent. Bear was sentenced to another 25 years behind bars. It wasn&rsquo;t until Bear&rsquo;s brother suffered a similar fate&mdash;in prison on the day of his own release&mdash;that Bear realized the full consequences of his actions.</p><p><strong>CARLOS:</strong> I broke down because I thought that it was karma for what I had done. I thought that it was punishment for taking some else&rsquo;s life here.</p><p dir="ltr">To find out how Bear is trying to mend his ways and reckon with the past, check out the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer.&nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 12:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/day-his-bond-chicago-mans-actions-lead-25-more-years-prison-109861 Morning Shift: Fear, excitement and uncertainty face the college bound http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-09/morning-shift-fear-excitement-and-uncertainty-face <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Dorm-Flickr- Robert Boscacci.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Are you or one of your kids heading off to college? We discuss some of the trepidation both students and parents face as they make the jump to college co-ed.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-40.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-40" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Fear, excitement and uncertainty face the college bound" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Fri, 09 Aug 2013 08:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-09/morning-shift-fear-excitement-and-uncertainty-face Question answered: Why ban pickups from Lake Shore Drive? Where can they park? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-why-ban-pickups-lake-shore-drive-where-can-they-park-104631 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F73992858&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false&amp;color=0094ff" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Yours truly drives a teeny, tiny 1999 Toyota Corolla. It may not be the most stylish vehicle, but on the plus side it doesn&rsquo;t attract much attention from cops or my Chicago neighbors. That&rsquo;s more than can be said for some of my fellow Chicagoans&rsquo; vehicles, apparently. Take this question from from Bronzeville resident Jef Johnson:</p><p><em>I keep hearing that pickup trucks are not allowed on Lake Shore Drive, though I do see a number of them daily, and that there are parts of the city where pickups are not allowed to park. Is all that true and if so, why?</em></p><p>Intriguing, no? And it&#39;s especially so when you consider that industry sales data show the Ford F-Series pickup trucks topped automotive best-sellers lists for more than two decades. The answer means a lot to Jef, who says he&rsquo;s been driving one type of truck or another since 1987. Being able to throw stuff in the back, he says, made trucks handy for his camping and other outdoorsy activities. And, he hasn&rsquo;t let up; his most recent purchase &mdash; finalized just this October &mdash; was a Dodge RAM.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m also a wedding officiant,&rdquo; Jef tells me, &ldquo;so I&rsquo;m often meeting brides in the evenings and weekends and, since I go visit them, I end up parking in all parts of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>That got him wondering and worrying: Was he going to walk out of a bride&rsquo;s home one of these days to a bright orange ticket on his car?</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m always half expecting to get pulled over on LSD,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>So where, exactly, can Jef and his new Dodge go, and where might they run into trouble?</p><p><strong>Should Jef get the jitters while on the Drive?</strong></p><p>I put Jef&rsquo;s first question &mdash; the one about Lake Shore Drive &mdash; to the city&rsquo;s law department, and the spokesman there sent back an email, replete with relevant portions of the Chicago municipal code. The gist of the <a href="#Ordinance1">largest chunk</a> gets to the idea that commercial activity doesn&rsquo;t belong on city boulevards, and the assumption is that pickup trucks are commercial vehicles.</p><p>Translation: No, pickup trucks can not drive on Lake Shore Drive. It&rsquo;s considered a boulevard, so vehicles with truck license plates designed to &ldquo;carry freight or commercial goods&rdquo; are supposed to stay off. That&rsquo;s the case even when the vehicle&rsquo;s not actually used for such purposes.</p><p>There are notable exceptions, however. If, for example, you drive a Ford F-150 to a Bears game, and you take I-55 to the Soldier Field parking lot, you should be okay. Another exception: If you&rsquo;re a construction worker and you bring lumber to McCormick Place for a convention.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6880_115959901_aee9e318be_o.jpg" style="float: right; height: 197px; width: 300px; margin: 5px;" title="Under most circumstances, pickup trucks are prohibited from being on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive. (Flickr/Flipped Out)" /><strong>But why?</strong></p><p>The rationale behind the rules took some digging and, frankly, is a bit elusive. My City Hall sources had a tough time accounting for how this all came to be and, it seems, they don&rsquo;t get this question very often. One person even called my request &ldquo;WBEZ&rsquo;s latest trivial pursuit question.&rdquo; Perhaps, but we&rsquo;re assuming that Jef isn&rsquo;t the only Chicago truck owner who&rsquo;s anxious about driving the Drive.</p><p>Regardless, the best account I could get is a historical one, and it comes from the top source on Chicago maps: Dennis McClendon, who produced maps for the Encyclopedia of Chicago. And get this: He even drew the original CTA system map.</p><p>Anyway, McClendon says the truck issue likely gets down to a mentality, one which dates back to the late 1800s when Lake Shore drive was first planned.</p><p>&ldquo;It was to be a pleasure drive,&rdquo; McClendon explains. &ldquo;It was not to be a traffic carrying arterial, it was a way to enjoy the park in your carriage or your brougham.&rdquo; (A brougham being a light carriage that was drawn by a single horse.)</p><p>&ldquo;I think it was Thursday afternoons were set aside for fast driving,&rdquo; McClendon says. &ldquo;So the young men who lived on the Gold Coast nearby would bring their fastest trotting horses and their lightweight broughams and race each other.&rdquo;</p><p>By the 1930s, McClendon says, this parkway grew into the Outer Drive and Inner Drive we know today. The idea was to allow more traffic on Lake Shore Drive but this whole concept of a &ldquo;pleasure drive&rdquo; stuck, meaning the proscription against commercial vehicles (pickup trucks included) is really just a holdover, one that&rsquo;s consistent with a bias that kept commercial or &ldquo;working&rdquo; life separate from upper-crust residential life.</p><p>Consider, he says, that fancy apartment buildings once had separate entrances for residents and tradesmen.</p><p>&ldquo;You wouldn&rsquo;t want a scruffy workman carrying his tool box through the front door, just as &lsquo;Miss High Nose&rsquo; was coming out with her poodle,&rdquo; McClendon says.</p><p><strong>Where pickups can&rsquo;t call home</strong></p><p>Jef says he lives in Bronzeville, a South Side neighborhood. As I found out, his ward escapes proscriptions against parking pickups on residential streets. The municipal code is clear on this one, as <a href="#Ordinance2">the relevant section</a>s list exactly which wards pickup trucks can park, so long as the owners work with their alderman to get the proper stickers and permits and their truck is registered properly with the state of Illinois.</p><p>That leaves only two North Side wards where pickups are not welcome to park on residential streets: the 38th and the 39th.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6877_CuriousCityTrucks-5-scr.jpg" style="float: left; height: 183px; width: 275px; margin: 5px;" title="Pickup trucks are easy to find in many of Chicago's residential streets, including this one legally parked in Ward 40. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" />When it comes to the 39th Ward, Alderman Margaret Laurino says she does hear complaints about the policy, but they&rsquo;re mostly from newcomers &mdash; not long-time residents.</p><p>&ldquo;My staff often times has been instructed by me to say, &lsquo;Well you&rsquo;re just going to have to park your pickup truck in your garage or find an off site parking space,&rsquo;&rdquo; Laurino says, adding that this has been the case for the 17 years she&rsquo;s been in office.</p><p>As for a change? Laurino says her staff check in with constituents each year about the policy, and for the most part, resident want their residential streets free of pickup trucks.</p><p><strong>&lsquo;Miss High Nose&rsquo; and her poodle at it again?</strong></p><p>If McClendon&rsquo;s theory about the attitude towards trucks on Lake Shore Drive is right, is it fair to say that maybe some neighborhoods just find pickups unappealing, and they&rsquo;re willing to press aldermen to keep the trucks in check?</p><p>Jef doesn&rsquo;t buy that argument (&ldquo;A pickup can be just as easy to look at as an SUV or a hummer or some really ratty car,&rdquo; he says), and the bias against trucks is getting scrutiny from other sources, too. One source is Mike Brockway, the writer behind the <a href="http://theexpiredmeter.com/">&ldquo;The Expired Meter&rdquo;</a> blog, which helps Chicagoans solve driving, traffic or ticket problems.</p><p>Brockway says maybe it&rsquo;s time for City Hall to consider upgrading the policy on truck parking. Right now, it&rsquo;s mentioned in a section dealing with livery vehicles, busses and RV&rsquo;s, despite the fact that, for many owners, they&rsquo;re neither solely commercial nor entirely personal.</p><p>&ldquo;Am I using a vehicle 51 percent of the time to get groceries for my family and bring my kids to school and bring them to violin lessons? And 49 percent of the time I&rsquo;m using it for business purposes?&rdquo; he asks. &ldquo;I mean, how do you define that?&rdquo;</p><p>Brockway calls the parking provision a &ldquo;dinosaur of a piece of law&rdquo; that can give you headaches. &ldquo;My theory on parking and driving laws,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;is they need to be simple so people can understand them.&rdquo;</p><p>And where do most Chicagoans fall on this issue? Again, it&rsquo;s OK to park in most wards. Residents in the 38th ward had their chance to speak out on the November ballot, and a majority said they would support a law that would allow pickups to park on residential streets.</p><p>But until the municipal code reads crystal clear, Brockway has this advice for pickup drivers, and for Jef: If you&rsquo;re gonna park a pickup, triple-check with the alderman first.</p><blockquote><p><strong><a name="Ordinance1"></a>Regarding Trucks on Lake Shore Drive </strong></p><p>9-72-020&nbsp; Operation of vehicles restricted.</p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It shall be unlawful to operate any vehicle upon any boulevard (a) when such vehicle is used for carrying freight or other goods and merchandise for commercial purposes, (b) when such vehicle is designed primarily for carrying freight or other goods and merchandise, and (c) when such vehicle is used for carrying freight or other goods and merchandise on the outside of the vehicle; provided, however, that vehicles carrying freight or other goods from or to any building or premises abutting any boulevard where it is impossible from the location of the building or the character of the freight or other goods to be received or delivered, to receive or deliver the freight or other goods and merchandise from an alley or a side street or a street other than the boulevard, shall be permitted to enter the boulevard at the cross street nearest the building or premises to receive or deliver the freight or other goods, but shall not proceed further on the boulevard than the nearest cross street. Operators of emergency vehicles and such vehicles excepted by permits issued by the executive director are exempt from provisions of this section. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, it shall not be unlawful to operate any of the vehicles described in clauses (a), (b) and (c) on those portions of Interstate Route 55, and the exit and entrance ramps thereto, which lie between the King Drive Interchange and the north and southbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive and the most easterly lane of northbound Lake Shore Drive and the most westerly lane of southbound Lake Shore Drive and the exit and entrance ramps of Lake Shore Drive which lie between Interstate Route 55 and 31st Street; provided that such vehicles are traveling to or from the McCormick Place complex and its support facilities.</p><p>(Added Coun. J. 7-12-90, p. 18634; Amend Coun. J. 11-28-90, p. 26192; Amend Coun. J. 12-11-91, p. 10832; Amend Coun. J. 11-15-06, p. 93351, &sect; 1)</p><p><strong><a name="Ordinance2"></a>Regarding parking restrictions in Chicago neighborhoods</strong></p><p>9-64-170&nbsp; Parking restrictions &ndash; Special types of vehicles.</p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; (a)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It shall be unlawful to park any truck, tractor, semi-trailer, trailer, recreational vehicle more than 22 feet in length, self contained motor home, bus, taxicab or livery vehicle on any residential street for a longer period than is necessary for the reasonably expeditious loading or unloading of such vehicle, except that a driver of bus may park the bus in a designated bus stand as authorized elsewhere in the traffic code; provided, however that in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 34th, 35th, 36th, 37th, 40th, 41st, 42nd, 43rd, 44th, 45th, 46th, 47th, 48th, 49th and 50th wards this prohibition shall not apply to the owner of a pickup truck or van weighing under 4,500 pounds who has no outstanding parking violations, when such vehicle is parked at the curb adjacent to the owners place of residence and the vehicle bears a valid and current city wheel tax license emblem and a special parking permit issued in accordance with this subsection.&nbsp; In the 7th, 15th, 10th, 23rd, 35th, 46th and 50th wards this prohibition also shall not apply to the owner of a taxicab who has no outstanding parking violations, when such vehicle is not in service, when the vehicle is parked at the curb adjacent to the owner&#39;s place of residence and when the vehicle bears a valid and current city wheel tax license emblem and a special permit issued in accordance with this subsection. The owner shall apply for a permit for such parking from the alderman of the ward in which he or she resides.&nbsp; The Alderman shall evaluate the vehicle for compliance with relevant provisions of the municipal code and shall issue a special parking permit if the vehicle is believed to be compliant.</p></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 01 Jan 2013 11:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-why-ban-pickups-lake-shore-drive-where-can-they-park-104631 United Auto Workers vote 'yes' to Ford contract http://www.wbez.org/story/united-auto-workers-vote-yes-ford-contract-93243 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-18/Ford Gary Malerba 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ford union autoworkers have approved a new four-year contract that's expected to bring 2,000 jobs to the Chicago region.</p><p>At first, it didn't seem like a slam dunk deal. Many workers complained the new contract reinforced an unfair two-tier payment system with part time workers doing the same work as full-timers and getting paid substantially less. The new contract included profit-sharing in lieu of pay raises, and many living in expensive metropolitan areas like Chicago wanted a cost of living pay increase.</p><p>Chicago's union workers were so against the contract that 77 percent of the South Side assembly plant voted against it last week; 70 percent at the Chicago Heights stamping plant did the same.</p><p>But as big 'yes' votes came in over the weekend from major facilities in Michigan and Kansas City, the scales began to tip tellingly in favor of the contract.&nbsp; Workers in Louisville, Ky., approved the agreement Tuesday, according to a post on the Louisville local's Facebook page. That was the last large local to vote, and it ensures the agreement will go into effect.</p><p>A final tally was not immediately available from the UAW Wednesday morning.</p><p>Richard Hurd, Professor of Labor Studies at Cornell University, said he's not surprised at all in the variation between plants on the vote. He said typically in votes for or against a contract, a local union leader holds a lot of sway.&nbsp;</p><p>Regarding the case of the Chicago plants' rejection, he thought it could go deeper.</p><p>"It could be that there are tensions in the facility and the vote reflects things other than the workers particular view towards the terms of the agreement.<strong> </strong>There may be bad relations between the current plant manager and workers, or between supervisors and workers. So workers less happy with situation will be more likely to vote against a contract," Hurd said.</p><p>The UAW represents approximately 41,000 hourly and salaried workers across 27 Ford manufacturing and assembling facilities in the United States. Now that the vote is in, the new four-year contract will begin moving forward. According to a UAW press release, it includes adding 5,750 new UAW jobs.</p><p>"These new UAW jobs mean more than 12,000 new jobs in total with jobs previously announced by Ford," said UAW President Bob King.</p><p>Chicago's two area plants are expected to reap 2,000 new jobs out of the deal by 2015. The agreement also promises $16 billion Ford is investing in new and upgraded vehicles and retooling plants.</p><p>A signing bonus for workers comes in at $6,000 dollars, which according to Hurd, is a big figure in these days of a depressed economy.</p><p>Now that the contract is approved, local unions will continue work on bargaining on behalf of individual plant agreements.</p></p> Wed, 19 Oct 2011 12:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/united-auto-workers-vote-yes-ford-contract-93243 Need a parking space? Look in your hand http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-29/need-parking-space-look-your-hand-91304 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-31/sfpark_app_iphone_v04_vert.png" alt="" /><p><p>It's one of the great frustrations of urban life: the seemingly unending search for a parking space.</p><p>Motorists drive themselves crazy circling the block looking for a place to park while wasting gas and polluting the air.</p><p>But the city of San Francisco has turned to technology for help — it is testing a smartphone app that shows drivers the location of available parking places. The app also tells them how much the space will cost, and prices are adjusted depending on demand.</p><p><a href="http://demetriusmartin.com/home.html">Demetrius Martin</a>, an actor and producer, recalls the stress of looking for work in San Francisco. "I had to learn the city under the duress of making it to an audition on time," he says. "You're probably going to have to park illegally and end up getting a ticket. That will be your fee for the day."</p><p>Martin is in his car, holding an iPhone, and launching a new app offered by the city. It gives a driver real-time information, on a block-by-block basis, about exactly where and when there are parking spaces available.</p><p><strong>Demand-based parking prices</strong></p><p>Red dots show there is extremely low availability, and blocks marked in sky blue or darker blue mean there's higher availability.</p><p>Sensors installed at more than 8,000 parking metered spaces and more than 12,000 spaces in city-owned garages allow the application to update itself every 60 seconds.</p><p>"I like that they have price and availability because that's — in any metro area — that's another challenge you have to consider," he says. "The prices per 20 minutes, let alone per hour are so high that you kind of lose your shirt."</p><p>Under this new system, parking meter prices are adjusted higher in areas with high demand. The idea is that higher prices will discourage drivers and push them to blocks where space is available. For now, rates can be changed only once a month.</p><p>This pricing structure and the parking app are part of a pilot project called <a href="http://sfpark.org/">SFpark</a>, which is funded through a $19.8 million federal grant from the Department of Transportation.</p><p>"One of the most exciting things about this project is that it's going to create an unprecedented data set — bringing together data from parking meters, parking sensors, citations, transit vehicles, sales tax," says Jay Primus, the manager of SF<em>park.</em> "And truly a case where technology is allowing us to be much smarter about how we manage parking."</p><p><strong>Other cities following suit</strong></p><p>So far about 25,000 people have downloaded the parking app. Other cities, including Los Angeles and Fort Worth, have also introduced smartphone parking apps.</p><p>Seattle is experimenting with demand-based parking prices. But San Francisco has the most comprehensive approach, says Donald Shoup, who teaches urban planning at UCLA.</p><p>"San Francisco is by far the most sophisticated and the highest-tech experiment with this, and I think if this works out in San Francisco — with their adjustable prices — that every city on earth with be copying it," he says.</p><p>But before that happens, people will be watching to see how much of a distraction the smartphone app is to drivers who are supposed to keep their eyes on the road. Martin confesses that problem is real.</p><p>"So here we are, I am trying to avoid looking at it but every time you're at a pause or a stop you're looking at this trying to find where the next parking space is," he says. "It's hard to not want to keep looking at it, and with some people it's a challenge, it's an ego challenge, and it's a game, you know."<br> <br> City officials are trying to downplay that risk. They say they always encourage drivers to look at the app before they start driving.</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Mon, 29 Aug 2011 08:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-29/need-parking-space-look-your-hand-91304 Quinn signs new seat belt law http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-signs-new-seat-belt-law-88401 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-27/Quinn Seatbelts podium.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Every car passenger in Illinois will soon have to buckle up. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill today that requires it.&nbsp; Before this seemingly common sense law, backseat passengers 18 years or older weren't required to wear a seatbelt.</p><p>Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White explained why backseat passengers need to be restrained.</p><p>He said, "If by chance they are not buckled up, then of course they could become a human missile for those in the front of the vehicle."&nbsp;</p><p>But the law still exempts riders in buses, emergency vehicles and those in the backseat of taxis. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton sponsored the bill with the late GOP Rep. Mark Beaubien.</p><p>Regarding the taxi exemption, Cullerton said, "A lot of times in taxi cabs, the seatbelts are not maintained properly and it's hard to find them. I know I have trouble myself digging down to try to find them sometimes."&nbsp;Cullerton said he hopes taxis will be added to the bill sometime later on.</p><p>The new law will take effect January 1, 2012.</p><p>Meanwhile just before the seatbelt press conference, a taxi cab crashed into a downtown Chicago building - killing a pedestrian and seriously injuring the driver and backseat passenger.<br> <br> &nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 27 Jun 2011 17:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-signs-new-seat-belt-law-88401 Dear Chicago: Green the fleet http://www.wbez.org/content/dear-chicago-green-fleet <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-March/2011-03-25/IMG_1653.JPG" alt="" /><p><br/><div id="PictoBrowser120123122034">&nbsp;</div><script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser/swfobject.js"></script><script type="text/javascript"> var so = new SWFObject("http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser.swf", "PictoBrowser", "500", "520", "8", "#EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("source", "sets"); so.addVariable("names", "Dear Chicago: Green the Fleet"); so.addVariable("userName", "chicagopublicmedia"); so.addVariable("userId", "33876038@N00"); so.addVariable("ids", "72157628998934719"); so.addVariable("titles", "off"); so.addVariable("displayNotes", "always"); so.addVariable("thumbAutoHide", "off"); so.addVariable("imageSize", "medium"); so.addVariable("vAlign", "top"); so.addVariable("vertOffset", "0"); so.addVariable("colorHexVar", "EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("initialScale", "off"); so.addVariable("bgAlpha", "90"); so.write("PictoBrowser120123122034"); </script><p>Between sanitation trucks, fire engines, and police SUVs, the City of Chicago owns its fair share of motor vehicles - nearly 13,000 in all, according to the Department of Fleet Management. And fueling them up is not cheap: in 2010 the city spent more than $24 million on gasoline and diesel fuel. &nbsp;</p><p>Compare that with only $164,000 spent on alternative fuels and you might have a hard time squaring reality with outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley’s stated desire to improve the city’s environmental record.</p><div>In a 2006 <a href="http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1193833,00.html#ixzz1Gn06K8Ni">Time Magazine article</a> Mayor Daley said the city was “aggressive in terms of the environment,” and his claim bears out in some cases. Daley founded the Department of the Environment in 1992 and is credited with planting thousands of trees and remediating thousands of acres of brownfield sites in the city. He even had a rooftop garden installed on City Hall.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In addition, the city launched its Climate Action Plan in 2008, with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The plan includes improvements to the fleet, but a publicly available progress report suggests most improvements come from changes to the Chicago Transit Authority's bus fleet, not improvements to vehicles under the city's direct control.&nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>This has not been enough to satisfy some, such as scientist Forrest Jehlik, who want the city to address its fleet’s impact on global warming faster and more aggressively. Jehlik, 38, is an environmentalist, but he’s not wed to weepy, low-performance vehicles; in fact, he loves muscle cars and stock car racing, and hopes to buy a classic British chopper motorcycle this summer. But as a research engineer at Argonne National Laboratory he is also pioneering technological advancements that could make all automobiles greener and more fuel efficient. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Here, Jehlik explains why he wants this city to put its money where its mouth is and green its fleet.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Dear Chicago</em> is a project of WBEZ’s <a href="http://chicagopublicmedia.org/partnerships/our-partners">Partnerships Program</a>. Forrest Jehlik was nominated for the series by <a href="http://www.anl.gov/">Argonne National Laboratory</a>.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Dear Chicago, </em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>For a long time now you’ve portrayed yourself as a green city. Let’s make sure those words aren’t just a dream.&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>I love cars. I really, really do. I went to a horror movie when I was 10 or 11 years old and in the movie there was this car, a 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda, and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. It’s a classic Chrysler car, and from that day on I was sold. I went out and read and learned about cars and knew that was my dream car. To me, cars done right aren’t just a utility; they’re pieces of art.</em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>I’m also passionate about trying to reduce our reliance on foreign petroleum, and looking for solutions that are domestically generated, helping support industry in the United States.</em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>I was at General Motors for 5 years. My job was in research and development working on diesel engine systems for the North American marketplace. Our fuel economy targets were really aggressive at that time, and diesel engines are inherently anywhere from 25 to 40 percent more efficient per gallon than a gasoline engine. </em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>Now I work at Argonne National Laboratory on two different projects. The first thing I’m working on is the effect of temperature on fuel consumption in advanced vehicles like hybrids. </em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>Let’s say you have a Toyota Prius or some advanced vehicle that you were driving around the city. If you were to drive the same route every day, driving at the same speed, and for the sake of argument you didn’t turn on the air conditioner or the heater, you would notice a tremendous increase and decrease in your fuel consumption depending on the temperatures outside. I’ve been working on techniques to characterize what the fuel consumption is relative to those ambient conditions and what engineering solutions could be applied to that loss, which could really benefit the consumer with increased fuel economy. </em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>Then, I got involved a little over a year ago with a green racing program. Racing has an enormous volume of fans in this country, whether it’s motorcycle racing, stock car racing, indie racing, or American Le Mans series racing. It’s second only to the NFL [National Football League]. It’s the perfect platform to say, hey, this race car has this whiz-bang gadget or this new advanced technology and your production cars could have this too.</em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>The results have been amazing. Last year we were able to record a 40 percent reduction in petroleum use over a whole American Le Mans race series as well as a 40 percent reduction in well-to-wheels greenhouse gas emissions. It was pretty staggering. </em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>There are a lot of technologies on the horizon that Chicago could look at to diversify their fleet and become much more sustainable environmentally. </em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>The first step is we really need to find out what their driving habits are. Engineers tend to be a lot more rational than we are political. I think the key is doing the research and seeing what makes the most sense for the driving route, driving conditions, seasonal driving distance, loading conditions and so forth. Certain technologies lend themselves better to certain things. It could be anything from electric power vehicles to compressed natural gas for busses. There’s not one silver bullet. There are more like a lot of silver shotgun pellets, and you need to find the right shotgun pellet to address the issue. </em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>The image a city portrays is a global thing, and it can really make the difference between people wanting to invest and become a part of the city or looking elsewhere. So the City of Chicago has touted itself for a long time now as a green city, but what does green mean? Well, in my opinion green means sustainable. The city definitely has the potential to be a world leader in this movement. We can really start down that path where we’re not reliant on just petroleum-based products that will ultimately become too expensive for the world to use.</em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>What I’d like to see the city do, if it really wants to make good on its green image, is take a look at the entire transportation sector to see what the free market could do to reduce their petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions, and truly reflect the image of Chicago as a leader of clean transportation.</em></div></p> Mon, 28 Mar 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/dear-chicago-green-fleet 'Consumer Reports' Sees Ford Gaining On Toyota In Latest Ratings http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-02-28/consumer-reports-sees-ford-gaining-toyota-latest-ratings-83100 <p><p>Cars and trucks made by Ford are getting better and better, according to <em>Consumer Reports</em>. And while Ford is making gains, Toyota has been in a slide, according to the non-profit testing group.</p><p>In its just-released ratings for 2011, the magazine chose Nissan's Altima as its top family sedan, praising its comfort, handling and fuel economy. The Hyundai Elantra was the choice for the best small car, with the Honda Fit taking honors as the best budget car.</p><p>On the CR website, you can see a video that lists the magazine's <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2011/april/cars/top-picks/overview/index.htm?CMP=OTC-NEWS4">top cars for 2011</a>. As the magazine says, "No automaker dominates; the 10 picks come from six manufacturers and eight brands, which reflects the increasing competitiveness within today's auto market."</p><p></p><p>In a Newscast report, Paul Brown quotes <em>Consumer Reports</em> auto testing director David Champion as saying that Ford is improving noticeably.</p><p>"Over the last sort of 5 to 8 years, their reliability has steadily improved, til they're getting close to where Toyota is," Champion says.</p><p>Here's more from Brown's report:</p><p><blockquote></p><p>Champion says Toyota, which has struggled with massive recalls, is still a very good car-maker, but its reliability and quality aren't as good as they were.</p><p>Overall, Toyota now gets a third-place rating — behind Honda and Subaru.</p><p>Champion says most German cars are below average in reliability. He calls the new Volkswagen Jetta disappointing.</p><p></blockquote></p><p>An AP report sheds more light on the rankings:</p><p><blockquote></p><p>Honda Motor Co. had the best overall score of 74 out of 100 points in the Consumer Reports' ranking. Honda was followed by Subaru with 73 points and Toyota Motor Corp. with 71 points. Volvo was fourth with 68 points, followed closely by Ford and Hyundai.</p><p>Chrysler Group LLC had the worst ranking among the car makers with 43 points. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and General Motors were also near the bottom.</p><p></blockquote> Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1298921832?&gn=%27Consumer+Reports%27+Sees+Ford+Gaining+On+Toyota+In+Latest+Ratings&ev=event2&ch=103943429&h1=National+News,Cars,The+Two-Way,Your+Money,Economy,Business,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=134133118&c7=1018&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1018&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110228&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=127602855,126952025,103943429&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-02-28/consumer-reports-sees-ford-gaining-toyota-latest-ratings-83100