Monthly Archives: May 2013

City Debuts New All-Way Pedestrian Crosswalk In Loop

CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein leads a group of pedestrians diagonally across the intersection of State and Jackson Friday morning.

Pedestrians were intrigued by a new crosswalk configuration installed Friday at State and Jackson streets that allows walkers to cross in any direction, even diagonally, while all traffic is stopped.

“I’m interested to see how it works,” said Karl Johnson, who was walking Downtown Friday morning. “I hear they use this in Japan. Once we get used to it, it should be cool.”

This pilot program is expected to continue for “at least a few months,” according to city spokesman Bill McCaffrey.

“This new all-way crossing will improve the pedestrian environment and vehicular timing at this very busy downtown intersection,” said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klien. “Chicagoans and visitors will be able to cross on foot more quickly and safely while vehicular traffic is stopped.”

This intersection was chosen due to the large number of pedestrians that use it. It’s right near DePaul university’s downtown campus, the John Marshall Law School as well as many CTA stops. The city says 41,600 pedestrians cross the intersection every day versus 20,500 cars or trucks.

Read more at DNA Info Chicago.

New Parking Meter Deal Could Net $360M for Private Operator Say Aldermen

Aldermen Scott Waguespack (from l), Brendan Reilly, Ameya Pawar and Bob Fioretti are four of the nine members of the City Council's Chicago Progressive Reform Coalition. Photo credit Ted Cox/DNA Info

A revised parking meter deal could result in a $360 million windfall for the private company operating the meters, several aldermen say.

The draft report by the City Council’s nine-member Chicago Progressive Reform Coalition claims that contrary to estimates from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, the deal could wind up resulting in as much as $9 million a year in extra revenue for Chicago Parking Meters, the private company that runs the meters.

The City Council Finance Committee will continue to debate the measure Friday.

This would result in additional revenue of as much as $360 million for Chicago Parking Meters over the remaining 71 years of the agreement privatizing the city’s meters than what is being touted by the mayor’s office. Even the report’s most conservative estimates find the company would make millions of dollars more than the city projects.

The bulk of that money could come from a provision extending parking meter hours in River North by three hours and in other areas by one hour. That comes in exchange for providing free parking on Sundays, although drivers would still have to pay meters in an area bordered by North Avenue, Halsted Street, Roosevelt Road and the lakefront.

Read more at DNA Info Chicago.

Notes On Parking Meter Lease Remix Committee Hearings

City of Chicago CFO Lois Scott and Corporation Counsel Steve Patton testify before the City Council Finance Committee this past week.

There’s already been two days worth of tense and contentious hearings at City Hall with more scheduled for this Friday.

Last week Friday and this Tuesday, city council members sat through all day hearings in the Finance Committee listening to testimony on Mayor Emanuel’s renegotiated parking meter lease went Friday at City Hall.

Corporation Counsel Steve Patton and the city’s Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott were at the eye of the storm of intense and often heated scrutiny of aldermen both days.

Both days, Scott and Patton gave a rundown of the details of the meter lease remix which has two main components. First, the city’s team of negotiators got Chicago Parking Meters, LLC to agree to millions of dollars of discounts on the  many of the outstanding bills for street closures and other events which impacted the value of the meter system as well as moving forward, agreed to accept the city’s determination of the True Up events.

The second part is allowing free parking on Sunday at metered parking spots in the neighborhoods outside the Central Business District but then extending hours of enforcement one hour Monday through Saturdays from the now 9 PM to a proposed 10 PM.  In addition, meter hours in the River North entertainment district would be extended all the way until midnight.

Once their overview was finished on both days, aldermen aimed their barrage of questions and ire at Scott and Patton.

Here’s some notes, thoughts and stories from the hearings.

Tribune Columnist Happy About Red Light Camera Ticket

Tribune Columnist Steve Chapman. Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Tribune opinion columnist Steve Chapman received his first red light camera ticket recently.

Shockingly, he’s not upset.

Even more oddly, his $100 experience has actually sold him on using red light cameras as a traffic enforcement tool.

Chapman, somewhat of a libertarian in his political views, is a consistently contrarian voice in his columns and perhaps this may his most unique position yet.

In his piece, while originally doubting the veracity of the ticket, he watches himself online making a right turn on red without coming to a complete stop and realizes he screwed up.

While many people would still be angry, knowing that studies show crashes rarely happen when someone does what Chapman did making a right turn on red, he feels there’s one distinct advantage to RLCs–no cops.

Chapman makes the case that if a police officer stopped him for the infraction it would not only be expensive (like the RLC ticket) but he would have to endure 15 minutes or more of having to go through the ticketing process.

Essentially, he rationalizes his acceptance of a red light camera ticket by saying it is more convenient than getting ticketed by CPD.

Here’s Chapman’s full piece, “Red light cameras: My experience.”

Oh, and hear is a recent WGN Radio interview Chapman did on the subject of red light cameras.

Why Are Chicago Gas Prices So High? WBEZ Has Answers

WBEZ Radio reporter Michael Puente asks and answers the question, “Why are gas prices so high in Chicago?” with a video report.

It serves as a decent overview to that very frustrating question, which is essentially high gas taxes and the EPA mandate forcing area gas stations to sell the more expensive and allegedly lower polluting “summer blend” of gasoline.

Puente goes even more in-depth with his written report, “Why does Chicago still have such high gas prices?

Bike The Drive Event Closes Lake Shore Drive Sunday Morning

Don’t plan on taking a drive along Lake Michigan early Sunday morning.

That’s because you won’t be able to due to the Bike the Drive event.

Produced by the Active Transportation Alliance, Bike the Drive will close LSD to motor vehicle traffic between 5 AM and 10:30 AM Sunday, May 26th between Bryn Mawr and 57th Street.

The event is to allow thousands of bicycle riders  to ride the 15 mile route sans cars.

Bike the Drive is an annual event sponsored by MB Financial.

Chicago Tribune Report Says Meter Deal Remix Benefits Company

Friday’s front page story in the Chicago Tribune states Chicago Parking Meters, LLC will continue to dramatically benefit from Mayor Emanuel’s proposed changes to the city’s infamous 2008 parking meter lease deal.

The Tribune spills a lot of black ink looking at city numbers and making unsubstantiated projections.

In general, the Tribune breaks no new ground or comes to any conclusions which were already pretty much of the foregone kind.

The story tries to leave readers with the impression that it’s a huge surprise that Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, (the company which controls the parking meter system for the next 71 years and looks to make billions of dollars in the process) will continue to receive additional revenue for street closures and other events which impact meter revenue.

Memorial Day Travelers Face High Gas Prices, Heavy Traffic

Chicago drivers hitting the road for Memorial Day weekend should expect the usual traffic challenges — but high gas prices might keep more people at home.

Typically, Friday traffic at the start of a three day weekend is brutal and AAA said Chicago traffic should be no worse than last year. The motorist organization predicts 1.6 million people in Illinois will be on the road this weekend.

“AAA is forecasting Memorial Day travel to experience a slight dip as economic improvements from last year are not strong enough to spur an increase in travelers,” said AAA Regional President Brad Roeber. “Economic growth in the first quarter was strong, but the impact of the sequester is now beginning to be felt, which has reduced economic growth expectations.”

Higher gas prices may also reduce traffic this year. Locally, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $4.40 per gallon, about 12 cents a gallon higher than last year. Fuel prices statewide are on average $4.06 per gallon, up from $3.87 in 2012.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will also be doing its part to minimize congestion and delays by suspending all road construction starting at 3 p.m. Friday through Monday at midnight.

Read more at DNA Info Chicago.

License Plate Sales Show Blackhawks Are City’s Most Popular Team

Which Chicago sports team is the city’s most popular?

It’s one of those questions that been the topic of heated, late night, often beer fueled debates at local watering holes across the city for decades.

That question has been unanswerable until now, and the answer comes from a most unlikely source–the Illinois Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State is the state agency responsible for registering motor vehicles in the state and issuing them license plates. Back October, 2010, the SOS began selling specialty license plates customized with the logos of local professional sports teams, kicking off the series with the Blackhawks after the team had won the Stanley Cup earlier that year.

But now, almost three years later, Secretary of State sales figures indicate the Blackhawks are far and away the state’s most popular team selling 8,693 team plates to rabid Hawks fans since 2010.

2013 Chicago City Sticker Sales Start Early

Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza listens to a question about city sticker sales on Wednesday.

City Clerk Susana Mendoza announced an early start to sales for Chicago’s annual city vehicle sticker Wednesday at City Hall.

“We are now open for business!” said Mendoza. “We are starting about two weeks before the traditional June 1 kickoff date.”

Mendoza said that 1.3 million city sticker renewal notices had already been mailed, the online sales website was live and ready to take orders and drivers who wanted to purchase their stickers in person could do so at any sales location.

However, this will be the last year for the long-lived tradition as Mendoza’s office will transition to a year-round model, which begins in June 2014.

“This will be the last year you will buy a city sticker on a June to June basis,” she said. “Two years into my term we are changing to a year-round system and I say good riddance.”City Clerk Susana Mendoza announced an early start to sales for Chicago’s annual city vehicle sticker Wednesday at City Hall.

Read more at: DNA Info Chicago.