WBEZ | CDOT http://www.wbez.org/tags/cdot Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Will Chicago scale back its bus rapid transit plan? http://www.wbez.org/news/will-chicago-scale-back-its-bus-rapid-transit-plan-109423 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AndrewsCROPSCALE.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 315px; width: 300px;" title="Dan Andrews of Kennicott Brothers says squeezing Ashland Avenue traffic into one lane and removing most left turns would hamstring the business. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />After wrapping up a public-comment period in an ambitious Chicago bus project, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration faces tough choices about the design.<br /><br />The city can stick to its plans and push for federal funds to build what would be the nation&rsquo;s most advanced &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; line. The project would transform Ashland Avenue, beginning with a 5.4-mile leg that would connect several passenger rail lines before they reach the Loop and, planners say, spur economic development that benefits the entire Chicago region.<br /><br />But there could be significant collateral damage, especially to the trucking operations of companies in an historic industrial corridor along the route.<br /><br />The Chicago Transit Authority says the BRT line, which could eventually lengthen to 16 miles, would cut the average Ashland bus ride time roughly in half. But some companies in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor and a few large retailers nearby say they would struggle too much to make and receive deliveries and keep customers flowing in. The companies are pushing hard for the Emanuel administration to eliminate some of the project&rsquo;s key features for speeding up bus service.<br /><br />Along the route&rsquo;s initial leg, which would stretch from Cortland Avenue to 31st Street, the competing interests are obvious.<br /><br />Just outside Rush University Medical Center, one of four major hospitals in the Illinois Medical District, a half-dozen patients and staffers huddled in the cold one evening this week at a bus stop. They included Larry Coldiron, a Rush computer consultant who lives near Midway International Airport and gets to ride the CTA&rsquo;s Orange Line train for most of his commute. But his trip home starts with the Number 9 bus down Ashland &mdash; the city&rsquo;s most heavily used bus route. He said the 2.5-mile journey between the hospital and train usually takes 45 minutes.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been doing this for 16 and a half years and it just keeps getting worse,&rdquo; Coldiron said.<br /><br />The BRT project would bring big changes. The buses would have a lane to themselves on both sides of a landscaped median. To keep the buses moving through intersections, most opportunities to turn left from Ashland would be eliminated and many traffic signals would favor the buses. Passengers would board from platforms averaging a half mile apart. The CTA is also aiming for pre-paid boarding to eliminate lines in bus doorways. The project&rsquo;s environmental assessment says the BRT buses would move up to 83 percent faster than today&rsquo;s buses.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;d like to see it,&rdquo; Coldiron said.&nbsp;Service that fast could attract some of his coworkers who now drive and pay for parking around the hospital, he said.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s exactly the idea, said Benet Haller, a top planner at the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development. &ldquo;They would have more money to spend on other things &mdash; like food, retail goods and housing.&rdquo;<br /><br />Haller said the BRT line would promote development in the medical district, where employment already totals 29,000, and in industrial areas along the route. He said it would also give a shot in the arm to many restaurants and retailers, especially ones that lack their own parking lots. Haller said the economic impact could extend throughout the Chicago region.<br /><br />&ldquo;All of our expressways are, pretty much, at capacity,&rdquo; Haller said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no real easy possibility to improve any of them. So, if we want to thrive, it&rsquo;s really going to come to reinvestment back in the central part of Chicago because it&rsquo;s the one part of the region in which there&rsquo;s a really robust transit network.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>THE CTA IS GUNNING TO BUILD</strong> the initial leg by 2017. Agency officials say they will apply for Federal Transportation Administration grants to cover an estimated $60 million in costs for detailed design and construction. Later phases would extend the BRT to Irving Park Road and 95th Street and cost another $100 million, the agency says.<br /><br />But there would be other costs, particularly to local businesses whose lifeblood is truck delivery. Those include Kennicott Brothers, an employee-owned flower wholesaler centered at 452 N. Ashland Ave., about a mile north of the medical district.<br /><br />Dan Andrews, a Kennicott manager, says the company runs 13 vans from that location for deliveries to neighborhood florists, grocery stories and companies that help throw events such as weddings and parties. &ldquo;Normally our customers will order in the morning,&rdquo; Andrews said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll load up the van with orders for that day and then send them out.&rdquo;<br /><br />Andrews is worried because the BRT design would leave just one lane on each side of Ashland for cars, trucks and regular buses, slowing down the Kennicott vans. &ldquo;It would probably be like rush hour all day,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />The CTA acknowledges that the Ashland traffic would move slower. A spokeswoman says a peak-hour car trip that now takes 30 minutes would take 36 minutes with BRT in place.<br /><br />Another concern for Andrews is the loss of intersections for turning left off Ashland. &ldquo;With the BRT line, I&rsquo;d have to take three right turns and then I would have to go through a residential area.&rdquo;<br /><br />Andrews has more than deliveries to worry about. Many of Kennicott&rsquo;s customers pick up their flowers. &ldquo;If they can&rsquo;t get to our location, they&rsquo;re going to choose either another vender or they might choose to be delivered to,&rdquo; he said, pointing out expenses associated with deliveries.<br /><br />If Chicago sticks with its BRT plan, Andrews says his company might have to find a location away from Ashland Avenue. &ldquo;It costs you a lot of money to move your company,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Economic-development groups in the Kinzie corridor are speaking up for businesses like Kennicott. &ldquo;These companies need every advantage they can to compete in our city,&rdquo; said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association.<br /><br />&ldquo;Nealey Foods has about 40 trucks every morning,&rdquo; Romanelli said, reeling off names of businesses potentially hamstrung by the BRT project. &ldquo;These companies are critical to our economy.&rdquo;<br /><br />Romanelli says slowing the traffic down and banning the turns would also be unfair to big retailers like Costco, which employs more than 100 people in a new facility at Ashland and 14th Street. He points out that diverting traffic to other congested arteries would not much help much.<br /><br />The Emanuel administration, Romanelli says,&nbsp;ought to scrap the Ashland project and focus on existing buses.&nbsp;Romanelli&nbsp;suggests speeding up service by simply eliminating some stops and using transponders to give buses longer green lights. &ldquo;BRT is not the only solution for Ashland Avenue,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br /><strong>A FEDERALLY REQUIRED 30-DAY PERIOD</strong> for public comment about the environmental assessment ended Friday. Now Mayor Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has to decide whether to make adjustments that might please the plan&rsquo;s business critics but slow the bus service.<br /><br />Randy Blankenhorn, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, describes the clashing interests. &ldquo;Planners always want the 100-percent solution,&rdquo; he said, pointing to the goal of regional economic growth over the long term. &ldquo;And local businesses are worried about the bottom line today and tomorrow.&rdquo;<br /><br />Blankenhorn says the city should help companies find ways to bypass Ashland and maybe even allow a few more left turns across BRT lanes. &ldquo;But you have to protect the integrity of the transportation investment you&rsquo;re making,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />On Ashland, that means a bus system fast enough to attract thousands of new riders.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 16:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/will-chicago-scale-back-its-bus-rapid-transit-plan-109423 Chicago's Divvy bike program expanding, could become nation's largest bike share system http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-divvy-bike-program-expanding-could-become-nations-largest-bike-share-system-109101 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Divvy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s Divvy bike program is expanding, thanks to federal funding which officials say could make it the largest bike-share system in North America. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>There are currently 300 Divvy <a href="http://divvybikes.com/stations">stations </a>up and running around Chicago, with 100 more stations in the works to be installed by next spring. Officials from the Chicago Department of Transportation said Wednesday they&rsquo;ve secured a $3 million federal grant to build 75 additional stations next year, bringing the total to 475 by next year. The grant comes from the US Department of Transportation&rsquo;s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.</p><p>So far, the U.S. DOT has provided $25 million dollars in federal grant funding toward the Divvy bike share program.</p><p>There&rsquo;s been some <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/divvy-blues-bike-share-program-leaves-some-behind-107893">criticism </a>that Divvy stations are concentrated downtown, and don&rsquo;t serve the south or west sides of the city. CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, speaking to alderman at his department&rsquo;s city budget hearing Wednesday, said they&rsquo;ll bring Divvy to Englewood by spring, and with this grant, they&rsquo;ll be able to expand the program farther in all directions.</p><p>&ldquo;Just like when you&rsquo;re building the CTA or a bus network, you have to start in one place, usually the densest area like the Loop where all the CTA rail is,&rdquo; Klein said. &ldquo;But we&rsquo;re gonna grow it out to the entire city overtime.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked by alderman how much revenue Divvy has brought to the city, Klein said he couldn&rsquo;t give an estimate until the bike share program had run for an entire year. But he says CDOT is close to signing an &ldquo;eight-figure&rdquo; sponsorship deal for the bikes by the end of this year. Klein says Divvy won&rsquo;t lose its name or brand in the sponsorship. In New York, the bike-share system is sponsored by Citibank, and is called citibike.</p><p>In other Divvy news, Klein says two suburbs - Oak Park and Evanston - have submitted their own federal grant applications to put bikes in their neighborhoods.</p><p>Wednesday likely marked Klein&rsquo;s last budget hearing in Chicago&rsquo;s City Hall. He said this month that he&rsquo;ll be stepping down from his post by Thanksgiving after serving for two and a half years. Klein&rsquo;s said he&rsquo;s stepping down for family obligations and plans to return to the private sector.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 18:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-divvy-bike-program-expanding-could-become-nations-largest-bike-share-system-109101 Final phase of Ventra rollout suspended, developer apologizes http://www.wbez.org/news/final-phase-ventra-rollout-suspended-developer-apologizes-109094 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Ventra.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago commuters will be able to hold on to those old Chicago Cards and magnetic strip cards for a little while longer. Chicago Transit Authority officials announced the the final phase of the new <a href="http://ventrachicago.com/">Ventra </a>system&rsquo;s rollout will be suspended until a few of its problems are fixed. Chicago Cards and Chicago Card Plus were supposed to be phased out by November 15.</p><p dir="ltr">CTA President Forrest Claypool also said the agency won&rsquo;t pay the developer, Cubic Transportation Systems, any of the $454 million, 12-year contract, until the company meets three criterion: customer service wait times must be five minutes or less, processing times for the tap-and-go function of a Ventra card must be under two and a half seconds--99 percent of the time--and all readers and vending machines must be operational 99 percent of the time.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The bottom line is that too many of our customers are confused and frustrated and that&rsquo;s our fault,&rdquo; Claypool told members of the City Club at a luncheon Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">Cubic&rsquo;s head of North American operations, Richard Wunderle, was on hand to answer some questions as well.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This transition period wasn&rsquo;t our shining light, and for that I want to apologize to the riders of CTA,&rdquo; said Wunderle. &ldquo;It wasn&rsquo;t our best effort but it will get better, so I apologize for that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Cubic isn&rsquo;t new to the public transit game: They&rsquo;ve got 400 fare-collection projects in operation across the world, including systems in Sydney, London and Washington, D.C. But the Ventra system marks the first time the company&rsquo;s tackled an open-fare, contactless card system; and officials say it&rsquo;s the first of its kind in North America.</p><p dir="ltr">Wunderle said Cubic engineers are already at work on a number of fixes to get things up to speed.</p><p dir="ltr">One issue that&rsquo;s drawn many complaints from CTA riders is being charged for multiple taps of their Ventra card at the turnstile. Officials say customers would tap their card, and after not immediately seeing a green &ldquo;Go&rdquo; signal, they&rsquo;d tap multiple times or move to a different lane. As of Tuesday, Cubic said they added a new &ldquo;processing&rdquo; screen to show riders the system is working before it lets them through. Engineers will also be upgrading the Ventra software over the weekend to try and bring processing times down on card readers to two-and-a-half seconds or less. CTA officials said that&rsquo;s happening 95 percent of the time--but the other 5 percent of the time, processing times varied from three to 10 seconds, sometimes more.</p><p dir="ltr">Claypool said the issue that&rsquo;s upset him the most is the long wait times for callers trying to reach a customer service agent, calling it a &ldquo;self-inflicted wound.&rdquo; The CTA chief said on one day last month, the center was overwhelmed with 20,000 calls. Some customers couldn&rsquo;t get through to an agent at all, while others waited, and waited - in some cases, for more than 30 minutes. Cubic has hired more customer service agents since then, and plans to expand further.</p><p dir="ltr">No timeline has been set for when the Ventra rollout will continue. Wunderle said he can&rsquo;t really give a &ldquo;best guess&rdquo; how long it will take the company to address the CTA&rsquo;s three benchmarks, only estimating &ldquo;weeks&rdquo; when pressed by a reporter.</p><p dir="ltr">Other interesting Ventra facts:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">The entire Ventra contract lasts 12 years: The two years allotted for engineering the system are almost up. The next 10 years of the contract will be for the service.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Cubic paid $92 million up front toward the transition: installing card readers, vending machines, call center operations, etc.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">CTA lawyers will be looking into how many fares they&rsquo;ve missed because of bus drivers waving people through when there seemed to be problems with the Ventra card</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">50 percent of CTA riders are now using Ventra cards</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Card readers will now display a &ldquo;low balance&rdquo; screen that lets customers know their Ventra card balance is under $10</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr"><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 13:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/final-phase-ventra-rollout-suspended-developer-apologizes-109094 Bridges that span the river and the decades http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/bridges-span-river-and-decades-108903 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/topper%20bridge%20house%20mindfrieze%20flickr.jpg" title="The Kinzie Street rail bridge and deteriorated bridgehouse. (Flickr/Mindfrieze)" /><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F114901925&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>If you&rsquo;re admiring great architecture in the Loop, chances are you&rsquo;re looking at skyscrapers. But if you crane your neck a bit less, you might notice an often overlooked catalogue of Chicago&rsquo;s architectural movements. It&rsquo;s the parade of bridgehouses along the Chicago River. Art Deco, Beaux-Arts, Modernism &mdash; all the major architectural styles that typify the city are on display in the bridgehouses that line the river.</p><p>It can be enough to drive one to distraction, as it once did for Jim Brady.</p><p>&ldquo;I almost had an accident one time when I thought I saw a light in one of them,&rdquo; Brady says. &ldquo;I had to put my eyes back on Wacker Drive. So I never answered my question of if there&rsquo;s any life up there.&rdquo;</p><p>Brady, a journalist turned telecommunications specialist who lives in River Forest, tried to rectify this when he asked Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;Who stays in guard houses along Chicago bridges, and what do they do all day?&rdquo;</em></p><p>As we found out, the quick answer to Jim Brady&rsquo;s question is: Most of the time, nobody! But these beautiful structures still serve a function. Stories about the downtown river bridges and the workers who once tended them solidify the claim that Chicago&rsquo;s relationship with its river is every bit as notable as the one it has with Lake Michigan.</p><p><strong>Bridges to innovation</strong></p><p>Chicago has the most movable bridges<a href="http://www.landmarks.org/ten_most_2013_chicago_bascule_bridges.htm" target="_blank"> of any city in the world</a>. There are 37 in total, including 18 along the river&rsquo;s main branch downtown. Most are of a style called Bascule, from the French word for teeter-totter &mdash;&nbsp;drawbridges that lift up instead of swinging to the side.</p><p>Like a lot of its most impressive feats of architecture and engineering, the city&rsquo;s record-setting collection of drawbridges has its origin in a very practical concern.</p><p>&ldquo;We had all these big boats coming through and a pretty narrow river, so you couldn&rsquo;t really build those big bridge spans that would clear those large boats,&rdquo; says Ozana Balan-King, a <a href="http://www.chicagoriver.org/" target="_blank">Friends of the Chicago River</a> employee who helps run the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bridgehousemuseum.org/home/" target="_blank">&nbsp;McCormick Bridgehouse &amp; Chicago River Museum</a>.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jim Brady and bridge museum lady.jpg" style="height: 231px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Our question asker Jim Brady with Ozana Balan-King, who helps run the McCormick Bridgehouse &amp; Chicago River Museum. (Flickr/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>She adds that since our bridges needed to move out of the way quickly, &ldquo;A lot of the movable bridge innovation in the world has really taken place here in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Now, a bridge for two seasons</strong></p><p>In 1920, the modern Michigan Avenue bridge&rsquo;s first year of operation, it opened 3,377 times. Back then bridgehouses were staffed around the clock and opened on demand. But the law began to favor landlubbers over boat traffic on the Chicago River, especially as commercial shipping shifted south to the Calumet Harbor.</p><p>Now bridges open only two times per week during a few months of the year:<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/bridge/news/2013/apr/spring_bridge_liftsmarksstartoftheboatingseason.html" target="_blank"> Between April and June</a>, bridges open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings to let sailboats into Lake Michigan. On the same days<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/bridge/news/2013/sep/fall_bridge_liftschedule.html" target="_blank"> from late September until mid-November</a>, they open again so sailboats can return to the Chicago River system before winter.</p><p>That system has been in place since 1994. Since they&rsquo;re no longer staffed 24 hours a day, bridgehouses are usually unoccupied, though the 18th Street bridge is still staffed around the clock.</p><p>During bridge lifts, seven crews from the Chicago Department of Transportation work to open and close 27 city-owned bridges. Crews leapfrog one another to keep the process moving, but it can take up to five hours. They start between 9 and 10 a.m. to avoid the worst of the morning and afternoon rush hours.</p><p>Boat owners can talk to their boatyards about signing up for a bridge lift. To find out when lifts are scheduled, CDOT spokesman Peter Scales says to<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/bridge/news/2013/sep/fall_bridge_liftschedule.html" target="_blank"> look out for press releases</a>. James Phillips, who runs the website<a href="http://www.chicagoloopbridges.com/" target="_blank"> ChicagoLoopBridges.com</a>, also<a href="https://twitter.com/chicagobridges" target="_blank"> tweets the dates of confirmed bridge lifts</a>.</p><p><strong>The grinding gears of bridge duty</strong></p><p>Back when bridgehouses were staffed, bridge tending often meant more than just making sure boat traffic ran smoothly.</p><p>&ldquo;There was always something burning in this area here,&rdquo; said Bruce Lampson, 67, a former bridgetender. &ldquo;I had two telephones: one directly to City Hall, and one to &mdash; in those days &mdash; the Illinois Bell Telephone Company.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/WEB lampson-at-z-1 by Virginia Lampson_Bruce mom.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Bruce Lampson operating the former Z-1 bridge. His mom came to visit and snapped a few shots. (Courtesy Virginia Lampson)" /></p><p>From 1961 until he was drafted by the Army in 1965, Lampson ran the Z-1 bridge that used to carry railroad tracks northeast across the river just north of Kinzie Street. He grew up in the area and had learned to operate the bridge by watching people work the control panel when he was a child. Instead of going to high school, Lampson lied about his age and got the job when he was just 14 years old.</p><p>&ldquo;I was very tall for my age,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;They never asked any questions. They just asked, &lsquo;Can you operate a bridge?&rsquo; &rdquo;</p><p>He worked from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for six days at a time, earning two days off and $65 &mdash; not much less than his mother made working as a secretary in City Hall. In addition to opening the bridge, he sometimes had to direct street traffic with red flags when extreme heat or cold would jam the gates that kept motorists from driving into the river at the neighboring Kinzie Street bridge. But, he says, sometimes they did so anyway. He says he was once at his post on the east bank of the river when a man committed suicide.</p><p>&ldquo;I watched a man jump off the [Kinzie Street] bridge, go down, pop back up almost back up to the bridge, go back into the water and that&rsquo;s it. I never saw him. He just floated away under the water,&rdquo; Lampson says. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve seen cows, horses, livestock floating down. I&rsquo;ve seen pieces of boats floating down. Anything that floated would float past you like that.&rdquo;</p><p>Z-1 was a bob-tail swing bridge that spun sideways instead of lifting up like a bascule bridge. It no longer exists, but the Z-2 bridge on North Avenue has a similar design.</p><p>In the summer of 2013, Chicago Tribune reporters Hal Dardick and John Byrne <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-07-06/news/ct-met-dick-mell-interview-20130706_1_alderman-70-jobs-popsicle">interviewed departing Alderman Richard Mell</a>, who says he &quot;put four kids through college as bridge tenders&rdquo;:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;I would get them on the second shift, from 3 to 11, where they could do their homework. Or 11 to 7, where they&#39;d sleep, and they were getting electrician&#39;s pay, and it was great. I helped.&rdquo;</em><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/z-1-bridge%20by%20Virginia%20Lampson%20web.jpg" style="height: 251px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="A look at the former Z-1 bridge. (Courtesy of Virginia Lampson)" /></p><p>Boat traffic on the Chicago River has dried up a bit since then, and the crew that operates the city&rsquo;s movable bridges has followed suit. Darryl Rouse, CDOT&rsquo;s Assistant Commissioner and Superintendent of Bridges, said his staff is down from hundreds of employees during the 1970s to just 51 today. The days of sleeping or doing homework on the job, he says, are long gone &mdash; the crew is too small, Rouse says, to give bridge tenders any time to slack off.</p><p>If our question asker, Jim Brady, wants a glimpse of the way things used to be, he can drop by five bridges in the Calumet system that are staffed 24 hours a day. Milwaukee also<a href="http://milwaukeeriverkeeper.org/content/milwaukee-bridge-overview"> still has several staffed bridgehouses</a>, although many of that city&rsquo;s bridges are operated automatically or by remote.</p><p>But maybe the bridgehouses themselves are enough, as Jim Brady and I learn when we tour the Bridgehouse Museum.</p><p>Brady leans out the window over Michigan Avenue. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a part of Chicago that Chicago can just walk right by if you&rsquo;re late for your 10 a.m. appointment,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot going on that we just don&rsquo;t see.&rdquo;<a name="bridgevideo"></a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/a6r_Wee7BxA" width="420"></iframe><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/mJhnaTKEPOU" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for Curious City. Follow him at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 11 Oct 2013 13:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/bridges-span-river-and-decades-108903 My date with Divvy http://www.wbez.org/news/my-date-divvy-107903 <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/divvy%20launch%20day%20bike%20photo.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="The author’s first Divvy bike, checked out from the station at Lake and Clinton. Chicago’s new bikeshare program launched on Friday. (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" /></div><p>Blackhawks fans way outnumbered bicyclists in Chicago&rsquo;s Loop today. But that didn&rsquo;t stop excited riders from checking out the launch of <a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/document/d/1D5KNpywpMjuhDLwwNQWFTI7T0pG_cXdOXBb6rFyLF8Y/edit#null">Divvy, the city&rsquo;s new bikeshare program</a>.</p><p>I wanted to test out the new system as any other commuter might. So I started my commute on Metra to the Ogilvie Transportation Center. My plan from there was to rent a Divvy bike from one of three kiosks within a block of the train station and ride it to my office at Navy Pier.</p><p>At the corner of Clinton and Washington I found a Divvy station with room for 28 bikes. There were 19 there, and nine empty spots &ndash; enough to make room for anyone returning bikes here.</p><p>There were also three very friendly bike minions there &ndash; two bicycle ambassadors from the Active Transportation Alliance and one Divvy employee.</p><p>Over the course of a few hours I saw at least a dozen people renting Divvy bikes. A few, like North Sider Katie Heupel, had already purchased a $75 annual membership. She checked out her bike with a quick swipe of her new key fob.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m so excited!&rdquo; Heupel exclaimed with a wide grin. She normally takes Metra into downtown from the Ravenswood stop before making her way to her office by the Thompson Center.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s too far to walk on a normal day,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But there&rsquo;s another [Divvy] stop right by my office, so I&rsquo;m thrilled.&rdquo;</p><p>But most people I saw Friday morning purchased $7 day passes, saying they intended to try out the system first before they committed to a membership.</p><p>Korey Campbell, for example, said he had never commuted by bike before. Normally he takes the train in from Schaumburg, then walks about 25 minutes to his office in River North. This would be faster for him, he said, and cheaper.</p><p>&ldquo;I get a Link-Up pass with my Metra ticket, which lets me ride the bus or subway,&rdquo; Campbell explained. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s $55 a month. This is $75 a year.&rdquo;</p><p>None of the cyclists I saw checking out Divvy bikes seemed to encounter any serious technical hurdles.</p><p>My own ride though, was not so smooth.</p><p>First I encountered problems with the checkout kiosk. The machine had behaved beautifully for the people who had checked out bikes before me. But when I got to the end of the checkout process, I wasn&rsquo;t given an access code that day-pass users need to unlock the bikes. When I tried to request the access code again, it did not offer one. Instead, the Divvy employee suggested I go through the checkout process again.</p><p>I did, but it didn&rsquo;t work that time either.</p><p>I called the customer service number advertised on the kiosk, in part to see how they might try to resolve this problem. I waited on hold for about five minutes before I gave up. Instead, I tried to checkout with a different credit card, thinking that might help.</p><p>But no dice -- and no bike. Instead, just an error message on the screen: &ldquo;We are sorry, but we cannot process your request at this time.&rdquo;</p><p>Luckily there was another Divvy station just two blocks away, at Clinton and Lake. I walked down Clinton, away from the Blackhawks parade, and asked the attendant there if his kiosk was working.</p><p>Yes, he said, it was.</p><p>And he was right. I went through the checkout process again, only this time, I was rewarded with an access code, and then a bike.</p><p>The bike itself took some getting used to. I found it heavy and slow compared to the bikes I normally ride. It was sort of like riding a pedicab or a cargo bike -- very steady and upright -- but with a squirrely front end. For me, the ride required some patience. I knew I would not be able to zip over to my destination at my normal speed. I just hoped I would make it there under the 30-minute limit.</p><p>I rode east on the buffered bike lane on Kinzie over to Dearborn, then jogged over to Illinois. As I approached Lake Shore Drive, I came to the Divvy station at the corner of Illinois and McClurg. I asked the volunteer stationed there if this was the closest station to Navy Pier. He said no, because there was a station actually on the pier.</p><p>I had left work at 9 p.m. the night before (thanks, deadlines!) and hadn&rsquo;t seen a station there yet. But I decided to head down there anyway, to see if Divvy had installed it overnight.</p><p>They hadn&rsquo;t.</p><p>So I circled back back to Illinois and McClurg, but by now I was worried about the time. My ride had been slow enough that I wasn&#39;t sure I would make it to my destination in under 30 minutes. And unfortunately, there was no way for me to tell during the return process.</p><p>So I popped my bike back into a holster and checked the time on my phone. Based on the time stamp on the tweet I had sent as I left Lake and Clinton, my trip had taken 32 minutes.</p><p>I was about to say something to the attendant, when he came over and noticed that my bike wasn&rsquo;t properly secured back in the dock. &ldquo;The green light didn&rsquo;t go on,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>I hadn&rsquo;t noticed. But he was able to pull the bike right out again. It was clearly not secured.</p><p>&ldquo;You have to really jam it in there,&rdquo; he advised.</p><p>I tried, first at that dock and then at adjacent one. But the green light wouldn&rsquo;t go on, no matter how hard I forced the bike back in.</p><p>I tried another dock, and then another, as the volunteer got increasingly nervous and worried. I felt bad for him.</p><p>&ldquo;There might be a problem with power at the station,&rdquo; he said, pointing out that some of the docks had no lights on at all.</p><p>He stepped aside to call his supervisor, while I kept jamming the front wheel of the bike into a holster.&nbsp;</p><p>The volunteer asked for my name, and promised to make sure that I wouldn&rsquo;t be charged for the overtime.</p><p>&ldquo;Can you go to another station?&rdquo; he asked.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;d really prefer not to,&rdquo; I told him. The next closest station to Navy Pier was at Grand and Fairbanks. It was two blocks further from my destination, which was already about a 20 minute walk away.</p><p>Neither of us seemed sure of what to do. I tried to get the bike in one more time. And finally, after about a dozen attempts, I got it secured.</p><p>This issue with the docking station was by far the most serious problem I encountered. Had the volunteer not been there to point out the problem, I would have walked away thinking the bike was secure. Someone else could have then taken bike, which would still technically be linked to my credit card. If anything happened to the bike then, I&rsquo;d be the one the hook for $1,200. And that person would technically be riding for free.</p><p>None of these problems, though, seem to be unique. Here&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/nyregion/two-weeks-in-riders-and-errors-for-bike-share-effort.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">the <em>New York Times&rsquo;</em> account</a> of some of the technical glitches Citi Bike members encountered in the first few weeks of that bike share:</p><blockquote><p>Many docking stations have proved temperamental, refusing to accept bikes or process credit card information. Others have at times shut down altogether. On some occasions, passers-by have been able to pull a bike from a station without paying, probably because the last user was unable to lock it back in place. Some riders have grown weary of testing individual bike docks in search of one that works, pedaling off to another station before the system eventually allowed them to end their trip. And when these riders have called to complain, they have been put on hold for 45 minutes or more.</p></blockquote><p>Coincidence? Both Divvy and Citi Bike are run by the Portland-based company Alta Bicycle Share, and use equipment manufactured by the Montreal-based Public Bike Share Company.</p><p>New York&rsquo;s technical glitches, including station outages, have improved, according to <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/blogs/transportation-nation/2013/jun/18/citi-bike-fail-rate-drops-sharply/">a data analysis</a> by WNYC&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/section/transportationnation/">Transportation Nation</a> blog.</p><p>&ldquo;We&#39;re a month into the program now and the glitches have gone from onerous to occasional,&rdquo;&nbsp; Transportation Nation&rsquo;s Alex Goldmark told me in an email. &ldquo;NYC Bike Share still hasn&#39;t said what the causes were, but we know that software problems delayed the whole program launch almost a year.&rdquo;</p><p>Before New York, the software that powers Citi Bike kiosks <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/blogs/transportation-nation/2013/jun/11/problems-what-problems-ny-officials-bat-citi-bike-complaints-away-adjustment-period/">had only been used in Chattanooga</a>, which has a system of 31 stations and 300 bikes.</p><p>In an email, Divvy spokesman Elliot Greenberger said that &quot;the vast majority of riders&#39; first-day experiences with Divvy have been positive. We did have some minor technical issues with a few stations as they first went online, and we have technicians on site addressing them.&quot;</p><p>I hope so. Even though there&rsquo;s no Divvy station at Navy Pier yet, I&rsquo;d like for there to be.</p><p>I have an unlimited number of 30-minute rides left on my day pass.</p><p><em>Robin Amer is a reporter/producer on WBEZ&rsquo;s digital team. Follow her on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/rsamer">@rsamer</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Fri, 28 Jun 2013 15:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/my-date-divvy-107903 Divvy blues: Bike-share program leaves some behind http://www.wbez.org/news/divvy-blues-bike-share-program-leaves-some-behind-107893 <p><p>Chicago on Friday morning launched a new component of its storied transit system. <a href="http://divvybikes.com/" target="_blank">Divvy</a>, the city&rsquo;s first bike-share program, kicked off with 65 solar-powered docking stations. The plan is to add hundreds more by next spring. With a fleet of 700 powder-blue bikes, the system will be one of the largest bike-sharing operations in the world.</p><p>But most of the stations will stand within a couple miles of the lakefront, clustered mainly in the Loop and densely populated neighborhoods along transit lines. This in a city that has a checkered history of providing low-income residents equal access to public infrastructure. It begs the question: Who gets to share the benefits of Chicago&rsquo;s new bike share?</p><h2 class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bikes_1.jpg" style="height: 200px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Divvy’s first fleet of bikes, set up at the station at Daley Plaza. (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" /><strong>Bike share basics</strong></h2><p>The Divvy bikes themselves are heavy-duty commuter bikes with fenders, chain guards, built-in-lights and a small front basket, big enough for a purse or briefcase &mdash; but not a load of groceries. The bikes are painted the same sky blue as the stripes on the Chicago flag.</p><p>Users will be able to pick up a bike at any of 400 docking stations the city plans to install by next spring. After a ride, users will be able to return the bike to any other station.</p><p>Divvy&rsquo;s startup financing include $22 million in federal funds and $5.5 million in local funds.</p><p>The day-to-day operations will be up to Portland-based <a href="http://www.altabicycleshare.com/" target="_blank">Alta Bicycle Share</a>, which also runs bike-share programs in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein once consulted for Alta and received criticism when Chicago chose the company for the city&rsquo;s program. Klein said he recused himself from the selection process.</p><h2><strong>Who is Divvy for?</strong></h2><p>Divvy&rsquo;s Web site describes the program&rsquo;s participants as &ldquo;everyone 16 years and older with a credit or debit card.&rdquo;</p><p>But that doesn&rsquo;t take into account the proximity of stations or some residents&rsquo; limited access to bank cards (more on that below). Divvy is designed for short trips under 30 minutes. After that, <a href="http://divvybikes.com/pricing" target="_blank">late fees kick in</a>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bikes_2.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="Divvy’s first station appears at the corner of Dearborn and Washington streets in the Loop. Stations will be clustered in high density areas, leaving parts of the city unserved. (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" />Planners say that the system was primarily designed to address what they call the &ldquo;last two miles&rdquo; problem of commuting. Namely, how to get people to work or home after they&rsquo;ve stepped off the train or bus. Divvy is not optimized for recreational riding or long treks across town.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">The stations are concentrated in high-density parts of town &mdash; in and near the Loop and along some major transit lines. The further from the city&rsquo;s center, the fewer stations there are.</div><p>This program stems partly from the city&rsquo;s desire to spur economic development. Mayor Rahm Emanuel often touts the connection between building better bike infrastructure and attracting high tech companies to Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s part of my effort to recruit entrepreneurs and start-up businesses because a lot of those employees like to bike to work,&rdquo; he <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/16810704-418/mayor-defends-protected-bike-lanes-along-dearborn.html" target="_blank">told the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em> </a>last December. &ldquo;It is not an accident that, where we put our first protected bike lane is also where we have the most concentration of digital companies and digital employees. Every time you speak to entrepreneurs and people in the start-up economy and high-tech industry, one of the key things they talk about in recruiting workers is, can they have more bike lanes.&rdquo;</p><h2 class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BIKE_1_Bell.JPG" style="float: right; height: 450px; width: 300px;" title="Cynthia Bell of the Active Transportation Alliance says the city could do a lot for West Side cycling apart from bike sharing. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /><strong>Few stations on West Side, far South Side</strong></h2><p>But this strategy, putting the first stations where the demand is already highest, means that from the outset, some of Chicago&rsquo;s poorest neighborhoods have been left behind.</p><p>There are no stations south of 63rd Street or west of Central Park Avenue. Altogether, black West Side neighborhoods like North Lawndale, East and West Garfield Park, Austin, and West Humboldt Park will have just two of the 400 planned bike-sharing stations.</p><p>The Chicago Department of Transportation said that one-third of its planned bike-sharing stations will be in census tracts below the city&rsquo;s median income. That proportion is higher than comparable systems in either Boston or Washington, D.C.</p><p>The city set up <a href="http://share.chicagobikes.org/" target="_blank">a Web portal for suggestions</a> about where to put the stations. The city received about 1,000 suggestions and another 10,000 &ldquo;likes&rdquo; on those suggestions. But suggested station locations for the West Side were few and far in between.</p><p>The city also held five community-input meetings last fall. Three were downtown, one was at a library in Roscoe Village, and just one was in a neighborhood with a high minority population. That was in Bronzeville, which is getting a handful of stations.</p><p>&ldquo;The location of the public meetings is in large part driven by our initial service area,&rdquo; says Scott Kubly, Chicago&rsquo;s deputy transportation commissioner. Kubly says CDOT has applied for additional grants that would be used to build stations beyond the 400 already planned. If and when that money comes through, Kubly said Divvy would go through a another public planning process to site those new stations.</p><p>But some West Side residents aren&rsquo;t content to wait.</p><p>Tiffany Childress Price lives in North Lawndale and teaches high school there. She bikes to work, as does her husband, who takes Ogden everyday to get to his job as a barber in River North.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s easy for the city to say, &lsquo;A community like North Lawndale is not interested in biking.&rsquo; It doesn&rsquo;t surprise me,&rdquo; Childress Prices said. &ldquo;Neighborhoods like this are often overlooked and, when asked why, it&rsquo;s that we&rsquo;re just not interested.&rdquo;</p><p>But Childress Price says people like her and her husband prove otherwise. The problem isn&rsquo;t a lack of interest but, rather, a lack of education and infrastructure, she said.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to take city attention, maybe city investment &mdash; time and resources into education,&rdquo; she said.</p><h2 class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BIKE_2_Hawkins%20%281%29.JPG" style="float: left; height: 450px; width: 300px;" title="As Chicago’s West Side awaits more Divvy stations, resident Eboni Hawkins says the city ought to encourage bike-related businesses, from repair shops to bike-driven food carts. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></h2><h2><strong>More Black and Latino cyclists on the road</strong></h2><p>As it turns out, though, the number of black and Latino cyclists has increased dramatically in recent years. In May, <a href="http://www.sierraclub.org/" target="_blank">the Sierra Club</a> and the <a href="http://www.bikeleague.org/" target="_blank">League of American Bicyclists</a> released <a href="http://www.bikeleague.org/content/report-new-majority-pedaling-toward-equity" target="_blank">a study</a> that showed rates of minority ridership up all over the country.</p><p>Planners often measure cycling by the number of trips made by bike. While non-white riders still account for only 23 percent of trips made by bike, according to the Sierra Club study, between 2001 and 2009, the number of trips African Americans made by bike increased by 100 percent. Those made by Latinos increased by 50 percent.</p><p>In addition, 60 percent of people of color surveyed said &ldquo;more bike facilities&rdquo; would encourage them to ride, and there&rsquo;s a lot at stake. According to the study, crash fatality rates are 30 percent higher for African Americans and 23 percent higher for Hispanics than they are for white riders.</p><p>&ldquo;For too long, many of these diverse populations have been overlooked by traditional organizations and transportation planners,&rdquo; the study authors write. &ldquo;In too many instances, people of color have been largely left out of transportation decision making processes that have dramatically impacted their neighborhoods.&rdquo;</p><p>CDOT, meanwhile, has asked the city to be patient when it comes to expanding Divvy into more minority neighborhoods.</p><p>Gabe Klein, Chicago&rsquo;s transportation commissioner, acknowledged the dearth of stations on Chicago&rsquo;s black West Side and far South Side, but emphasized the need to concentrate stations in areas with more commerce and residents.</p><p>&ldquo;People ask you a lot, &lsquo;How do you make sure you have access for everybody?&rsquo; It&rsquo;s always a challenge, because they are nodal systems,&rdquo; Klein said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t really put a station out by Midway Airport and not have [another station] two blocks away or doesn&rsquo;t work as a network.&rdquo;</p><p>Klein compared the nascent bike-share program to the early years of the &ldquo;L&rdquo; system before it radiated miles out from the city center.</p><p>&ldquo;Imagine when CTA started 100 years ago,&rdquo; Klein said, describing a system with few stations but plans for growth. &ldquo;Now look at the CTA. It&rsquo;s ubiquitous, it&rsquo;s everywhere.&rdquo;</p><p>Whether the CTA is truly &ldquo;everywhere&rdquo; is a matter of debate, but for now CDOT is holding off on the placement of 20 stations until after next spring. Officials want to assess unanticipated demand, and make some data-driven decisions about where to expand.</p><p>&ldquo;It could very well be there,&rdquo; Klein said, pointing to the West Side on a city map. &ldquo;And 20 stations is a lot of stations.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><h2><strong>Access to biking harder for the poor and unbanked</strong></h2><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bikes3.jpg" style="height: 451px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="A prospective Divvy member tries out one of the new bikes. Some black Chicagoans want more more stations on the South and West sides. (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" />Even if the city expanded Divvy&rsquo;s bike stations and led a huge public-education campaign, there are still other potential barriers to entry.</div><p>First, there&rsquo;s the cost of membership.</p><p>CDOT officials claim the program&rsquo;s membership cost as a success. &ldquo;This will be the lowest cost form of transit available &mdash; probably less expensive than walking,&rdquo; Klein said. &ldquo;If you walked everywhere you&rsquo;d probably have to buy a couple pairs of shoes per year.&rdquo;</p><p>And while $75 a year is far cheaper than the cost of an annual CTA pass, the up-front cost could be prohibitive for some low-income users. The bike-share system in Washington, D.C., offers an $84 annual membership that can be paid for in monthly installments of $7.</p><p><a href="http://www.thehubway.com/" target="_blank">Boston&rsquo;s Hubway bikeshare</a>, meanwhile, offers steeply discounted $5 annual memberships to anyone on public assistance living within 400 percent of the poverty line. They&rsquo;ve funded this through the <a href="http://www.bphc.org/Pages/Home.aspx" target="_blank">Boston Public Health Commission</a>. So far, the Hubway has sold 650 such discounted memberships in a system of 14,000 members.</p><p>Boston&rsquo;s bike share grew out of multiple initiatives from the mayor&rsquo;s office &mdash; one focused on health and obesity, another focused on the environment and sustainability and another on economic development.</p><p>&ldquo;In many ways, biking is really at the nexus of all three of those,&rdquo; said Nicole Freedman, director of bicycle programs for Boston. She said that subsidized memberships were &ldquo;a very targeted effort to reach residents that tend to have more health and obesity issues.&rdquo;</p><p>While CDOT officials said they were excited about the public-health benefits of cycling, Chicago won&rsquo;t be offering either discounted memberships or the option of a monthly payment program to low-income residents here.&nbsp;</p><p>Equally complicated is the issue of liability.</p><p>With a few exceptions, in Chicago, you will need a credit or debit card to join Divvy or to rent a bike for the day. The system won&rsquo;t accept cash. This is about protecting the bikes, CDOT says. If you lose or steal one, Divvy will charge you $1,200 to replace it.</p><p>If you don&rsquo;t have a bank account or credit card, if you&rsquo;re living paycheck-to-paycheck or stuffing your savings under your mattress, you&rsquo;re what experts call &ldquo;unbanked.&rdquo; And if you&rsquo;re unbanked, you can&rsquo;t be charged for a replacement bike as easily.</p><p>Chris Holben, program manager of <a href="http://www.capitalbikeshare.com/" target="_blank">Capital Bikeshare</a> in Washington, D.C., said his program had faced that issue. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll be tabling at an event,&rdquo; Holben said, &ldquo;and people will say to us, &lsquo;I don&rsquo;t have a credit card but I really want to join.&rsquo; &rdquo;</p><p>Sometimes, the hurdles to bike sharing go far beyond banking. &ldquo;Perhaps these people don&rsquo;t have access to the Internet or, if they do, they have to go to the library. Or the banks, there are a number of locations, but maybe not where they live,&rdquo; Holben said. &ldquo;If they&rsquo;re unbanked already they&rsquo;re already struggling to have access to some of the things that would make it easier.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Divvy%20map%202.jpg" style="float: left; height: 338px; width: 300px;" title="A map of Divvy’s proposed stations. The initial crop of stations won’t extend past 63rd Street on the South Side, or past Central Park Avenue on the West Side. (Courtesy of Divvy)" />So what are the unbanked to do?&nbsp;</p><p>Divvy and CDOT are planning a unique approach, one that takes banking out of the equation. They plan to partner with community groups including churches and job-training programs.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The community-based organizations [will set] up the rules that work for their members, in terms of how many hours or time they&rsquo;ll allow members, or how they want to handle the rules around usage,&rdquo; Kubly said.</p><p>Then, the $1,200 liability will be shared between the community organization, the city and Divvy &mdash; not the user.</p><p>&ldquo;And, hopefully, when you get all those things pulled together,&rdquo; Kubly said, &ldquo;it actually takes the banking question out of it for those folks, and lets anybody have access.&rdquo;</p><p>But the city isn&rsquo;t specifying a date when it will launch the community partnership program.</p><h2><strong>Beyond bike sharing: Thinking in terms of infrastructure</strong></h2><p>Cynthia Bell, a lifelong West Sider who works for the Active Transportation Alliance, says the city could do more to encourage low-income biking, with or without Divvy.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of our people now are going to Walmart or Target, buying those bikes, which are low quality,&rdquo; Bell said. &ldquo;They break down within five months and, before you know it, people haven&rsquo;t been on their bike all summer just because of a flat. A flat kept them from riding their bike the whole summer.&rdquo;<br /><br />Bell says the city could do more to help set up bike-repair shops and safe places to park.</p><p>Tiffany Childress Price, a North Lawndale teacher and avid biker, says the reasons for bringing bike-sharing to low-income neighborhoods go beyond economic development and convenience.</p><p>&ldquo;We have the highest childhood obesity rates in the city so it seems like we&rsquo;d want to promote biking&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Chicago has made progress in laying down more bike lanes on the West Side. When it comes to the bike-share system, though, officials say most low-income neighborhoods will have to wait.</p><p><em>Robin Amer is a reporter/producer on WBEZ&rsquo;s digital team. Follow her on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/rsamer" target="_blank">@rsamer</a>.</em></p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 28 Jun 2013 07:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/divvy-blues-bike-share-program-leaves-some-behind-107893 Chicago bike share launch delayed http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-bike-share-launch-delayed-107654 <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/divvy%20flickr%20zolk.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="One of Divvy’s powder blue bikes. The launch of Chicago’s new bike share program is being delayed. (Flickr/Kevin Zolkiewicz)" /></div><p dir="ltr">The launch of Chicago&rsquo;s new bike share program is being delayed by two weeks.</p><p><a href="http://divvybikes.com/">Divvy </a>was supposed to open for business Friday, capping off <a href="http://bikecommuterchallenge.org/">Bike to Work Week</a>. But <a href="http://divvybikes.tumblr.com/post/5688369/an-update-on-divvy-launch">a statement</a> posted on the program&rsquo;s Tumblr site on Tuesday afternoon said the launch was being pushed back &ldquo;to ensure we have the necessary time to test stations and ensure the system is fully functioning.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Beyond the testing, Scott Kubly, Managing Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, said his agency wasn&rsquo;t done building the 75 bike docking stations originally scheduled to come online with the launch.</p><p>A fastener used to connect bike holsters to the rest of the docking station arrived from a supplier only a few days ago.</p><p dir="ltr">Kubly called the components &ldquo;minor but important,&rdquo; and said that working without the parts in hand would have meant the majority of bike stations wouldn&rsquo;t be finished in time.</p><p>&ldquo;It would have been well below our goal of 50 [stations],&rdquo; Kubly said. &ldquo;It would have been in the teens at best.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">CDOT contracted with Portland, Oregon-based Public Bike Share Company to build Divvy&rsquo;s infrastructure. PBSC works with a variety of subcontractors to manufacture its parts.</p><p>Kubly said his team will use the extra time to finish building the docking stations, and to test out each of the 950 bikes they hope to have available for the launch. Ultimately Divvy plans to have <a href="http://divvybikes.com/stations">300 stations</a> with 3,000 bikes by the end of the summer, and an additional 100 stations and 1,000 bikes by next spring. Divvy is being launched in part with $22 million in federal funding.</p><p dir="ltr">Officials in Chicago have been closely monitoring the launch of another bike share program, New York&rsquo;s <a href="http://citibikenyc.com/">Citi Bike</a>, since it launched two weeks ago. According to the program&rsquo;s <a href="https://citibikenyc.com/blog">blog</a>, more than 36,000 people have signed up for annual memberships so far, and over 173,000 trips have been made. But the program has been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/nyregion/two-weeks-in-riders-and-errors-for-bike-share-effort.html?pagewanted=all">beset by technical glitches</a>, and some have complained that New York launched its bike share too hastily.</p><p>Both Chicago and New York are partnering with Montreal-based <a href="http://www.altabicycleshare.com/">Alta</a> to run their bike share programs.</p><p dir="ltr">So far 1,200 Chicagoans have signed up for Divvy annual memberships, which run $75 to $125. Users can purchase a daily pass for $7. Because the program was designed to help users make very short trips, and to address what some planners call the &ldquo;last two miles&rdquo; problem of commuting, trips are limited to 30 minutes. After that a usage fee kicks in.</p><p>Despite the delayed launch, CDOT officials are going ahead with <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/bike_chicago4.html">a rally at Daley Plaza</a> Friday to open Divvy&rsquo;s first station.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I signed up for a membership,&rdquo; Kubly said. &ldquo;And it&rsquo;s not just because I&rsquo;m managing the program.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Robin Amer is a producer on WBEZ&rsquo;s digital team. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/rsamer">@rsamer</a>.</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 12 Jun 2013 06:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-bike-share-launch-delayed-107654 Repair work caused commuting delays from Lake Shore Drive to Michigan Avenue http://www.wbez.org/news/repair-work-caused-commuting-delays-lake-shore-drive-michigan-avenue-107532 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/construction1_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Commuters were in for a surprise Tuesday morning as crews began work on 923 N. Michigan Avenue &ndash; the intersection before traffic enters and exits Lake Shore Drive &ndash; causing a bottleneck and consequent delays.</p><p>The work was the result of an emergency sewer repair for the intersection of Walton Street and Michigan Ave., according to a city permit.</p><p><a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Transportation/Michigan-Ave-construction/w78k-fsbp">The right-of-way permit</a> filed with the Chicago Department of Transportation, the work required the closure of a northbound left turn lane and one southbound through lane on Michigan Ave., and a westbound left turn lane and one through lane on Walton St., according to the permit&#39;s description.</p><p>The construction appeared to have an effect on commuters exiting Lake Shore Drive, but was especially acute for CTA&rsquo;s express buses that exit the Drive from the North Side. Some of those routes include the #146, #147 and the #151 to name a few.</p><p>One commuter, Megan Abel, took to Twitter Tuesday morning with a post:</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Who came up with the brilliant idea of starting construction at the peak of rush hour right at lake shore drive and michigan ave?</p>&mdash; Megan Abel (@legothatmego) <a href="https://twitter.com/legothatmego/status/341914231123357696">June 4, 2013</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>There were no commute warnings issued by Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Department of Transportation.</p><p>Spokespersons for the CTA and CDOT said they were looking into the construction, but were not able to reply back readily.</p><p>Also unavailable was a timetable for the construction. But according to the city&rsquo;s data portal site, the permit for the work was extended just yesterday to 6/21/13, with work hours being Monday - Friday only between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.</p></p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 15:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/repair-work-caused-commuting-delays-lake-shore-drive-michigan-avenue-107532 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 Wells Street Bridge construction then and now http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/wells-street-bridge-construction-then-and-now-106017 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/then and now thumbnail.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/March/WellsBridge/WSB1973.html" width="610"></iframe></p><div class="”caption”"><span style="font-size:12px;"><em>Then: A Brown Line train rumbles over the Wells Street bridge in 1973, with the Merchandise Mart visible in the background. Now: The southern section of the bridge, now removed, rests on a floating barge. The northern section of the bridge will be replaced in April. (Collection of John R. Schmidt; WBEZ/Robin Amer)</em></span><br />&nbsp;</div><p>Harried Brown Line commuters returned to their normal routine today, as &ldquo;L&rdquo; service resumed between the Merchandise Mart and the Loop. Service was suspended last week, giving the city time to replace half of the aging Wells Street Bridge, which carries the Brown Line across the Chicago River. Still, it&rsquo;s a bit early to breathe a sigh of relief. In April the city will shut down the bridge again, in order to replace its northern half.</p><p>That lull should give you time to digest this incredible fact: The last time the city replaced the bridge in 1922, &ldquo;L&rdquo; service was suspended for just three days.</p><p>Backing up, the hulking burgundy section of bridge that workers shipped away on a barge this past week was not, in fact, the original Wells Street Bridge. That bridge &ndash; a floating one &ndash; was destroyed in a flood in 1849. Its replacement, a hand-operate wooden truss bridge, was incinerated by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.</p><p>Wells Street got its first steel bridge the following year. It was a swing bridge, which was then replaced by a steam-powered swing bridge in 1888, which was then converted to run on electricity about a decade later. A second deck was added in 1896, giving the Wells Street Bridge its special burden: even today it&rsquo;s just one of two bridges that carries elevated trains across the Chicago River.</p><p>This built history is laid out in <a href="http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pnp/habshaer/il/il0600/il0617/data/il0617data.pdf">a 1999 engineering survey</a> conducted by preservationists at the National Park Service &ndash; who probably had no idea what commuting headaches they were foreshadowing when they wrote the following: &ldquo;Because traffic on the elevated lines could not be diverted without great expense, replacement of double-decked bridges presented the engineers with the difficult task of maintaining elevated service during construction.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/March/WellsBridge/WSB1928v2.html" width="610"></iframe></p><div class="”caption”"><span style="font-size:12px;"><em>Then: A train moves south across the Wells Street Bridge in 1928. It passes the clocktower of the Reid Murdoch Building, the 21-story Mather Tower, and the pagoda of the London Guarantee Building. Now: Pedestrians walk past the newly-installed southern half of the bridge. The Reid Murdoch clock tower, the tower of the River Hotel and Club Quarters at 75 E. Wacker Drive and the pagoda atop the Crain&rsquo;s Communications building at 360 N. Michigan Ave. are still visible in the background. (Collection of John R. Schmidt; WBEZ/Robin Amer)</em></span><br />&nbsp;</div><p>Sound familiar, Brown Line folks? The citizens of 1909 Chicago felt your pain: City engineers were faced with just such a task when the U.S. Department of War ordered Chicago to replace its swing bridges with ones that made river navigation easier that same year.</p><p>The city began with the bridge over Lake Street, and handed the reigns to Thomas G. Pihlfeldt.<br />The Norwegian-born engineer &ldquo;admitted that the problem of replacing the bridge initially had him stumped,&rdquo; according to the authors of the 1999 report. And here&rsquo;s why: &ldquo;In a twelve hour period, between seven in the morning and seven at night, 3,180 motorized vehicles, 1,000 elevated trains, 850 horse teams, and 7,000 pedestrians passed over the bridge.&rdquo;</p><p>Those numbers sound quaint now, but the solution Pihlfeldt came up with is impressive even by today&rsquo;s standards:</p><blockquote><p><em>Essentially, they left the existing swing bridge in place as long as possible, and built the new bascule around it, in a fully vertical, elevated position. In this manner, elevated service was maintained across the old swing bridge and through the raised trusses of the new bridge under construction. As the replacement project neared completion, the old swing was cut away, and the leaves of the new bridge were lowered to the closed position so work could begin on the decking. Construction of the upper decking and elevated rails suspended rail service for only one week, and the project was hailed as a great success.</em></p></blockquote><p>When plans began in 1916 to replace the Wells Street Bridge, &ldquo;Pihlfeldt merely reapplied the formula that had worked so well at Lake Street.&rdquo;</p><p>Of course, no one counted on World War I interrupting the city&rsquo;s construction plans &ndash; and draining its coffers. It was another five years before the city could afford to tackle Wells Street.</p><p>When the city finally did move to replace the bridge in December of 1921, it did so under what the engineering study authors called a &ldquo;tightly controlled construction process&rdquo;:</p><blockquote><p><em>At 7:00 p.m. Friday evening, the work crew closed the old bridge, and began to remove the elevated rails. Floodlights lit the construction site as darkness approached, and the flooring of the new bridge moved toward completion. Nearly round-the-clock work succeeded in cutting away the central portion of the swing bridge, installing new rails, removing approaches and adding new approaches in time to resume elevated service for the Monday morning rush hour.</em></p></blockquote><p>Catch that? Elevated train service was interrupted for just three days (although pedestrians, cars and other vehicles weren&rsquo;t allowed back on the bridge until February).</p><p style="text-align: center;"><object height="338" width="601"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632980393156%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632980393156%2F&amp;set_id=72157632980393156&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632980393156%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632980393156%2F&amp;set_id=72157632980393156&amp;jump_to=" height="338" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="601"></embed></object></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13.63636302947998px; line-height: 21.988636016845703px; text-align: center;">While playing the slideshow, push &quot;X&quot; for full screen. &quot;Show info&quot; displays captions.</em></p><p>Dan Burke, the Chicago Department of Transportation&rsquo;s Deputy Commissioner and Chief Engineer, said he and his colleagues were very impressed by the last renovation of the Wells Street Bridge.</p><p>&ldquo;What they did was ingenious. It was fantastic how they were able to build the new larger structure around the old one,&rdquo; Burke said. &ldquo;It set the bar pretty high.&rdquo;</p><p>Unfortunately, conditions near the river were quite different in 2013, making it impossible to take the same approach. &ldquo;The original swing bridge wasn&#39;t landlocked,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You didn&rsquo;t have buildings abutting all four corners.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We found by taking a piece off, floating it away and installing the next piece, we were able to get it to a fairly tight closure window,&rdquo; Burke said.</p><p>In the 1940s, city engineers calculated the lifespan of a moveable Chicago bridge at about 40 or 50 years. The Wells Street Bridge was in service for nearly twice that, and it&rsquo;s hardly the only bridge that will need attention.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of those structures are going on 80, 90, 100 years old,&rdquo; Burke said. &ldquo;We currently have 40 movable bridges. . . to keep up with that pace you&rsquo;re trying to do at least one a year.&rdquo;</p><p>Luckily most of Chicago&rsquo;s other bridges will be less complicated to renovate. Because they don&rsquo;t carry &ldquo;L&rdquo; cars they can be shut down for longer periods of time. And because they&rsquo;re historic structures they&rsquo;ll likely be cared for in a more piecemeal way; Burke and his team can repair individual components rather than replace all the supporting trusses at once. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re iconic structures, and they&rsquo;re still very serviceable,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;In all likelihood we&rsquo;ll maintain them in perpetuity.&rdquo;</p><p>Next up, Burke has his eye on the bridges that cross LaSalle and Van Buren Streets. Here&rsquo;s wishing him and his team speedy construction.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 11 Mar 2013 17:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/wells-street-bridge-construction-then-and-now-106017