CDOT Commissioner On The Hot Seat At Budget Hearings

CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein

Normally, it’s all appreciation, praise and pleasantries.

Sure, the alderman toss in a few questions and complaints, but the crowd was a bit tougher on Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein at Friday’s City Council budget hearings.

After lunch, Klein gave the requisite opening remarks reviewing his department’s accomplishments in the past year and then previewing what CDOT hopes to accomplish in 2013.

“This year has been a highly productive one for CDOT,” Klein said Friday. “By the end of the year, we will have rebuilt or resurfaced more than 257 miles of streets and alleys, including parts of North Lake Shore Drive, almost double, the 137 miles completed in 2011.”

By year’s end, Klein says CDOT will have resurfaced more than 233 miles of roadway, repaired over 140 blocks of sidewalks, installed/replaced/repaired over36,000 traffic or street signs, painted in excess of 3,700 street markings, installed 200 blocks of residential street lighting and completed the Wacker Drive construction project.

Klein also touted his department’s commitment to pedestrian safety and biking through the release of the Chicago Pedestrian Plan and the installation of 30 miles of protected bicycle lanes.

Klein then outlined his goals for 2013, which appear to be as busy and ambitious as this year.

Perhaps the biggest project will be the rebuilding of the Wells Street Bridge which crosses over the Chicago River. Because the bridge carries motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic as well as CTA trains, it will surely be a logistical challenge.

A bridge over the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal on Kedzie will also see a major renovation.

CDOT also plans the start of removing two major roadway overpasses next year. While actual construction begins on the removal of the Ashland Avenue viaduct over Pershing Road on the Southside, the Western Avenue viaduct over Belmont Ave. on the Northside will begin its design phase.

Once his speech was over, City Council members got a chance to take aim at Klein and question him on a myriad of subjects.

While many of the alderman queried Klein about mundane issues only of interest to a particular ward, some council members touched off discussions which were enlightening and informative.

Bicyclists Gone Wild

Several aldermen complained about the behavior of bike riders who ride recklessly, blow through stop signs and traffic lights, and generally hold contempt for the Rules of the Road.

“I have to obey traffic signals,” said 30th Ward Alderman Ariel Reboyras. “What happens with guys who run through stop signs and stop lights? What can we do about this”

Klein says that 3000 warnings and tickets have been issued by police to bike riders so far this year. In addition CDOT plans to launch a biking education program in the spring.

Despite Klein reporting of 3000 warnings/tickets to bikers, 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack, an ardent bicyclist himself, feels there needs to be more enforcement of bike riders.

“I would like to see more enforcement efforts,” said Waguespack. “I want to look at the issue of ticketing cyclists. Many bikers are putting pedestrians, drivers and other cyclists in danger. I think heavier enforcement is something we have to look at more seriously.”

Speed Cameras Coming Soon

Not surprisingly, the issue of automated speed camera enforcement came up several times during questioning.

“I do not support speed cameras in the ward,” said 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell who asked Klein to talk to her before any speed cam was installed in her ward.

Waguespack also asked for more info on the status of the speed camera program. According to Klein, the original field of nine vendors bidding for the contract have been reduced to seven. Redflex Traffic Systems’ bid was denied after ethical lapses were reported by the Chicago Tribune earlier this week, but Klein did not name the other firm which has been eliminated.

Klein says the vetting of the bids is ongoing with the hope of narrowing the field to two vendors to participate in pilot testing in the late fall. The winning vendor would be announced in January with the hope of having the first of 30 speed cameras installed and issuing violations for 2013 installed by April.

Minority Hiring Issues

Perhaps the most heated issue of the hearings was Minority and Women owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) issues. Alderman with primarily African-American constituents hammered Klein over and over regarding CDOT contracts awarded to African-Americans as well as the number of black workers employed by contractors.

Klein tried to explain that under his short tenure of less than two years, CDOT has been improving its percentages of MWBE contractors. But there are contracts currently in place, but signed under the Daley administration, which are still in force and can’t be rebid until these contracts expire, which account for the lower than optimal percentages of minority contracts.

Many alderman did not seem to understand this and continued to berate, challenge and question him on the issue.

20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochrane was angry and highly confrontational on the issue of minority hiring by CDOT contractors.

“If they (contractors) can’t hire Afro-Americans I don’t want them in my ward-period!”, said Cochrane with a raised voice.

“We will do everything within our legal rights to make this right,” Klein firmly replied.

21 Responses to CDOT Commissioner On The Hot Seat At Budget Hearings

  1. Pete says:

    I see nobody had the balls to call out Willie Cochrane for being a racist fuck. Imagine a white alderman saying the same thing about hiring only whites in his ward.

  2. Mike says:

    All the aldermen hoot and holler, like they care but its all business as usual. It’s a dog and pony show. Pete, I do agree.

  3. Drew says:

    Half the people in Fat Willies ward can’t pass the drug test requirement.
    20% don’t have the Educational minimum requirements.

    The Rest have jobs and don’t want a pay cut.

  4. Jeff says:

    Gabe Klein’s view is the marxist approach to transportation. Instead of allowing commuters to choose the mode of transport that suits their needs, Mr. Klein wants the corrupt city government to make those choices for you. In his view, tax-paying motorists are capitalist fat cats that should be forced to give up their cars and either:

    1. walk (through Chicago’s crime-ridden streets);

    2. bike (in one Chicago’s poorly designed bike lanes); or

    3. ride on CTA with the muggers and gang bangers.

    He is, in short, a dangerous person who needs to be stopped.

  5. Drew says:

    Jeff…you just described everyone that has a City Hall Office.

  6. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Jeff,

    I’m not sure “Marxist” is the right term. I would say statist, dictatorial, or perhaps soft tyrannical.

    I agree with you that Mayor Emanuel and Klein seem to believe they know better than the rest of us.

    I get the impression they want to force us into taking public transportation and bikes by making it harder and harder on drivers every darn year.

    Then again Jeff, maybe “Marxist” does actually accurately describe what they want to do.

  7. Jeff says:

    The scary thing is that Emanuel and Klein are making major transit choices for a city of 3 million people, when they can’t even figure out how to break even on a glorified picnic:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-taste-could-lose-money-for-foreseeable-future-20121022,0,3692394.story

  8. David says:

    Jeff says:

    1. walk (through Chicago’s crime-ridden streets);

    2. bike (in one Chicago’s poorly designed bike lanes); or

    3. ride on CTA with the muggers and gang bangers.

    My comment:
    If you think that Chicago has “crime-ridden streets” and that the public transit system is filled with muggers and gang bangers and that you are only “safe” in your little metal box, perhaps you should MOVE AWAY. Large parts of the City of Chicago are very very safe and have very very little street crime. Most of the CTA, particularly many of the bus routes, are very very safe with very little crime. Living in a City, with people in much closer proximity, means that you will have more interactions and perhaps negative interactions with your fellow citizens. If you don’t like it, move.

    With respect to Cars, I don’t know if you have noticed, but it is sheer hell right now driving (at least on the North Side) with the street repairs and the like. We need to encourage people to STOP DRIVING as much not only because it is better for the planet and the drivers, but also because our roads are already at capacity. And you would think that the most ardent advocates of driving would support this as fewer cars means that they can drive faster. Reduce (or scare off) riders from the CTA and other methods of commuting and the gridlock will only become worse.

  9. Jeff says:

    David:

    If the CTA is a completely crime free experience, then what is it exactly that the Guardian Angels have been doing, while riding CTA trains and patrolling high crime stations and bus stops. I don’t think they are just there to show off their snazzy uniforms and berets.

    And is the CTA installing all those new video cameras so that people can record their own “Call Me Maybe” video. Are the Chicago police only stepping up CTA train patrols in order to race each other to the doughnut shop?

    Not to mention the rash of cell phone thefts and beatings that have occurred on the CTA, including the death of a woman who was pushed down the stairs at the Fullerton el stop by a cell phone thief. If it’s all the same to you, I would rather not have my life ended by a “CPS honor student” looking to make some quick cash.

    The Wilson el stop in my neighborhood, is one of the most crime plagued of all on the CTA. While I do ride the CTA in the daytime, I choose to drive at night, rather than play Russian roulette with my personal safety. I certainly don’t need Gabe Klein to make that decision for me.

  10. Jeff says:

    David:

    A recent Tribune article noted the rising crime rate on the CTA in the last few years:

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-06-23/news/ct-met-cta-crime-20120623_1_cta-ridership-cta-related-cta-rail-system

    Money quotes:

    “Thefts, the No. 1 reported crime on buses and trains, rose 42 percent from 2009 through 2011, with almost 2,000 incidents reported by CTA passengers last year, according to a Tribune analysis of Chicago Police Department statistics posted on the city’s public data portal.”

    “Robberies of CTA passengers soared by 69 percent from 2009 through 2011, from almost 500 reported in 2009 to more than 800 last year. Robberies, which involve force or intimidation, are the second-most-common crime on the CTA rail system and rank third on buses, behind batteries.”

    “Meanwhile, despite many riders’ belief that there is safety in numbers, most crimes on or near CTA property actually occur during the evening rush period when most commuters are riding the system, according to crime and ridership data.”

  11. David says:

    As also noted in the article, the total crimes were about 5800 out of 532 million rides and the greatest “percentage” occurred between 11 pm and 2 am. That’s a 0.001% chance of being robbed on the CTA. When you have a small (relative) number of crimes a small increase in crime in turn creates a large percentage increase. Again, if you are too afraid of such a mild risk, MOVE. Without the CTA the traffic in the City would result in total and complete gridlock. If you like cars, you should support MORE mass transit, not less as mass transit makes it much easier for those that elect to drive because the streets are less crowded. Building up irrational fears may help to support a right wing political agenda, but it doesn’t actually work toward real solutions.s

  12. David says:

    I will also add that just because the CTA has a few “problem spots”, such as Wilson, does not detract from the fact that the system, as a whole, is very very safe. Citing to outliers (such as Wilson) doesn’t actually prove anything.

    Its easy to lie with statistics and the tribune loves to do so when it wants to write the “scare the people with outrageous claims” stories to drive its right wing editorial policy and paper sales.

  13. Jeff says:

    David:

    I hardly think being held up at gunpoint, or jumped by 15 kids on a CTA platform is the kind of “mild risk” I’m willing to take. I choose to drive and avoid high crime locations/high crime hours of the day. I see no reason why Gabe Klein and Rahm Emanuel should be in charge of my personal safety.

    In addition, I have no intention of “moving.” I choose to stay in Chicago (despite all its problems) while making choices to limit risk. If you choose not to do so, that is entirely your affair, and once again, that choice is yours, not City Hall’s to make.

    While I cited the Wilson el stop as my own personal example, there are quite a few others in the city that have similar problems. Nothing in the crime data I have seen indicates that this is only a problem at handfull of el stops in a few select neighborhoods. Note also that the tragic death of the woman who was pushed down a stairwell by a phone thief occurred at the Fullerton stop, in the heart of Lincoln Park.

    Lastly, if you have some basis for claiming that the Tribune is part of a right wing campaign to scare people off public transit/drive up sales, I would love to see that proof.

  14. david says:

    Citing individual examples of crime does not prove that the system is overall dangerous. Its a “mild risk” because the probabilities of being a “victim” are small. A driver on the road can be killed by something falling off of a truck. And NO ONE is making you ride the El or Walk or otherwise acting as if they are in charge of your personal safety. You can drive, you can take a cab or sit behind 6 locks holding a rifle on your lap. What they are doing is making sure that the actual societal costs of your choices are taken into account.

    Individual incidents prove nothing. Yes, it is tragic that the woman died at Fullerton after falling/being pushed down a stairwell. Its a single incident. It doesn’t prove that the Fullerton El Stop is dangerous. (And if anything, it made the Fullerton El Stop safer by increasing public scrutiny of the station). Winetka had a very tragic case of a deranged spree killer a few years ago. That doesn’t make Winetka inherently dangerous.

    As for the Tribune, read its statement of its editorial policy. It is an editorial conservative paper. It has a grand total of one time in its history endorsed a democrat for President. Once. Its a right wing paper and it runs “scare” stories to drum up sales (not to scare them off of public transportation, but rather to “scare” readers into reading these stories so that they can “protect” themselves with facts. Like Kass and his assine proposals about Bicycles. Never actually intended to do anything other than sell papers.

  15. Jeff says:

    David:

    Individual examples of crime do not show danger, but the statistics showing crime on the increase over the last several years do show such an increasing danger from crime on public transit.

    Note that the statistics used in the Chicago Tribune article were supplied by Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Transit Authority, and City Hall (through its own public website). So, in order to believe your theory (that the Chicago Tribune uses phony statistics to lie about transit safety, because it a right wing paper that runs scare stories to drum up sales) you would have to believe that Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Transit Authority, and City Hall were part of that secret right wing conspiracy, by supplying those phony statistics for the Tribune’s article. I’m not entirely clear just how that could have played out.

  16. Pete says:

    OK, David. Take the Green Line to Englewood at 10 PM, buy some malt liquor at one of the corner stores, and then ride back to the loop. Let us know how this turns out for you.

    Statistically, you only have a 0.001% chance of anything bad happening. Care to take my challenge?

  17. Mike says:

    Liberals will always love the world…until something bad actually happens to them. Are you safe at the Fullerton red line stop? Probably. Are all el stops as safe as the Fullerton red line stop? I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

    Moreover, the main point of the article was that some of Klein’s actions are anti-motorist. Personally, I’d love to walk to work, but that’s not practical and would take 3 hours. I can understand exploring other alternatives than driving but our streets weren’t made for all this. Cars, trucks, buses, and bikes. Sorry, but it’s the truth. They can draw pretty lines all over the place but there’s simply not enough room.

  18. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Mike, Jeff, David,

    I am enjoying reading your discussion on all these issues.

    In my crappy opinion, I think all of you are circling around the truth. Obviously there’s crime everywhere, including the CTA, but is it so terrible that I wouldn’t ride the CTA? I guess that’s a moot point considering how little I utilize public transportation.

    I guess my point is, I’m not sure your disagreements are actually that far apart and is more of a difference of semantics.

    Either way, thanks for all the great input. I REALLY appreciate it.

    Just my pathetic 2 cents.

  19. Jeff says:

    Geek:

    You are once again, the voice of reason. As I indicated in my earlier posts, I do take the CTA during hours and at locations I am comfortable with (I used to take it every day when I commuted from Lakeview to the Loop years ago). But when I choose to drive instead of taking a late night bus or el ride in/through a sketchy area, I don’t need Nanny Klein throwing up roadblock after roadblock to punish me for that choice.

  20. DoR Employee says:

    Thank God.

    Now we just need to get 25 Aldermen fired…lose Rahm…and Vote Capt
    M Plate Mayor.

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