Monthly Archives: July 2013

IDOT, CDOT Hold Public Meetings To ‘Redefine’ Lake Shore Drive

Cars back up at rush hour at the Belmont Avenue exit on northbound Lake Shore Drive. Photo credit: NorthLakeShoreDrive.org

North Lake Shore Drive is ready for a major overhaul according to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT).

The two agencies have announced a series of three public meetings to get input from citizens, drivers and anyone who interacts with Lake Shore Drive on how they currently use the roadway or ideas they have for improving it.

IDOT and CDOT have begun a study to improve LSD and areas adjacent to the drive on the seven miles between Grand Avenue and Hollywood Avenue. According to the newly launched North Lake Shore Drive-Redefine the Drive website, “The project will evaluate the condition of the 22 bridges and tunnels along the Outer Drive as well as the operation of the Inner Drive.”

Red Light Roundup: Highland Park, River Forest & More

Here’s a short roundup of automated camera enforcement tidbits, including red light camera and speed camera enforcement from around the Chicagoland area.

Highland Park Puts Redflex On Month To Month Contract

Redflex is still facing fallout from their recent controversy with the City of Chicago. The company lost it’s largest contract when revelations of an alleged bribery scandal were revealed by the Chicago Tribune several months ago.

But other cities are now taking a careful look at Redflex and its practices.

North suburban Highland Park had a contract with Redflex which expired. Now Redflex is on a month to month extension of the contract while the town weighs all it’s options according to Pioneer Press.

Here’s the full story, “Highland Park extends red-light camera contract month to month.”

River Forest Working On Installing 2nd Red Light Camera

Ticket Ninja Helps Drivers Avoid Parking Ticket Late Fees, Boot

One of the approximately 2 million parking tickets issued every year in Chicago.

Milwaukee resident Nick Gartmann wants to save Chicago drivers from one of the worst things about parking tickets — late fees.

Gartmann is the creator of Ticket Ninja, a service which tracks a subscribing driver’s parking tickets and pays them automatically on time, so late fees don’t pile up.

The 24-year old software programmer launched Ticket Ninja in his hometown in June, partially to help his own pocketbook.

Like many drivers, Gartmann would forget to pay his tickets on time, then get slapped with a late fee. He decided to write a computer script which would check the city of Milwaukee’s website daily for parking ticket dates, then automatically pay them on their due date.

“I had a tendency to get parking tickets and forget to pay them,” Gartmann said sheepishly. “The company grew out of my problem.”

Read more at DNA Info Chicago.

Trib’s Problem Solver Helps With City Sticker Confusion

An elderly lady owns a Honda Civic.

When she went to City Hall to renew the city sticker for her vehicle, when she got home she noticed the sticker had the correct license plate and VIN, but the wrong year and model of car. It was listed as a 2013 Honda del Sol according to the Chicago Tribune–a car which has been out of production for 7 years.

The lady called the City Clerk’s Office to try to resolve the problem, as she feared parking ticket punishment for the mismatch, but couldn’t get a call back after leaving multiple voice mails.

So she contacted Jon Yates, the Problem Solver columnist at the Chicago Tribune.

Support For Plug In Electric Vehicles Still High Says Study

The market for electric vehicles is still strong, according to a recent study by the Electrification Coalition.

“The research shows that consumers love their electric vehicles and that EVs are well on their way to establishing a meaningful position in the overall automobile market,” said Robbie Diamond, President and CEO of the Electrification Coalition. “Electric vehicles are the key to reducing America’s dangerous dependence on oil, and their strong early sales and earned consumer satisfaction bode well for improving our nation’s energy security in the years ahead. However, we continue to believe that public policy, including greater funding for research and development, should play a stronger role in supporting this vital technology.”

To be fair, acceptance of plug-in, all-electric cars has been slow. Vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, Smart Car Electric and others are expensive.

CDOT Debuts Video Explaining Chicago’s Speed Camera Program

In advance of the impending start of Chicago’s speed camera enforcement program, the Chicago Department of Transportation has posted a video giving people the lowdown on how the speed cam program will operate.

The video, produced in conjunction with American Traffic Solutions, the city’s new speed camera vendor, is part of a 90-day public awareness campaign ahead of camera installations.

The first cameras will begin being installed in August, will be operational for 30 days in late August through late September issuing warnings in the mail for any incidents of speeding. Tickets will begin to be issued in late September.

A total of 50 camera locations within 1/8 of a mile from schools or parks are planned to be active by the end of 2013.

Trib’s Zorn Finds Signs With Faux Parking Restrictions Frustrating

Signs like this are posted at Chicago Parking District parking lots around the city.

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn went looking for parking in a Chicago Park District parking lot along the lake, and came across a sign silently watching over an empty space.

The sign, which alleges the space is reserved for low emission or fuel efficient vehicles, is posted at park district parking lots around the city.

Zorn was frustrated by his inability to park in the space as he feared a parking ticket, and ended up doing a bit of research.

As we wrote several years ago, the signs are for show. If one was bold enough to to park a 1979 Lincoln Continental which hasn’t passed its emissions test in a decade into the spot, no ticket could be issued. That’s because there’s nothing in the municipal code to back up enforcement of the sign.

Companies Win, South Suburban Towns Lose In Red Light Camera Revenue Game

According to the Southtown Star newspaper, many south suburban towns are becoming disenchanted with red light cameras.

In a very comprehensive piece, the Star reports in some municipalities, as promised revenues from red light camera tickets have fallen off or never materialized in the first place, RLC contracts are not being renewed and cameras are coming down in some places.

In some cases, red light camera companies like Redflex, Redspeed Illinois and Gatso, are raking in six figures revenues while their client municipalities make disproportionately less.

Often RLC companies are guaranteed a certain amount of “maintenance” fees or video transmission fees per month which in rare cases towns have months and years where they never see a penny of revenue.

However, there are also cases where some south suburban towns rake in some big bucks.

Another revelation is that many towns are seeing crashes being reduced where RLCs are installed.

The main take away from the piece however, is that in the end, it’s the companies that seem to be walking away with the lion’s share of the revenue generated at red light camera intersections.

Read the Southtown Star’s full, and very comprehensive investigation, “Where the red-light green is going in the Southland.”

Sun-Times Reveals Super Secret Underground VIP Roadway

Think you’ve heard it all?

Well, no you haven’t as Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg reveals in a recent piece about a 2.5 mile, two-lane underground roadway between McCormick Place and downtown Chicago only available to certain VIP politicians and buses of conventioneers patronizing the city. Due to the minimal traffic, these lucky folks can travel from end to end in about eight minutes while the rest of the world is stuck in traffic above ground taking 20-30 minutes to cover the same distance.

The roadway was constructed in 2002 for $43 million and follows the old Illinois Central right of way. The “Magic Road” as Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle calls it or as Mayor Emanuel has named it, the “Bat Cave” can only be accessed by a security key card.

Illinois Tollway Announces New Smart Phone App

The Illinois Tollway unveiled Monday a new mobile application for I-PASS users to access their account info using the browser on their smartphone.

“More than 81 percent of our customers manage their I-PASS accounts online, so we’ve made enhancing access to our website one of our top priorities,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur via press release. “Now, our customers can easily check on their I-PASS balance and update their account information with a few taps on their mobile device.”

This new mobile option is not a downloadable app, but rather an optimized mobile website that allows users running a mobile web browser to use it on any smartphone platform including Android, iPhone and Blackberry.

After accessing the main site, users need to click on the Mobile I-PASS Management icon and log in from there.