Today’s Headlines

  • Union Leader Says Free Rides Costing CTA Thousands, CTA Says He’s Wrong (CBS, NBC)
  • “Punkin’ Donuts,” Steps from Train, to be Swapped for Development With 116 Spaces (Transitized)
  • Residents Kvetch About Losing 56 Wrigley Parking Spots. They’re Gaining 493 More. (DNA)
  • Osterman Successfully Fights to Keep Red Light Cam at North End of LSD (DNA)
  • Driver Charged With DUI In T-Bone Crash That Injured 2 in Lincoln Park (Tribune)
  • A Not-Particularly-Useful Guide to Avoiding Dooring on a Bike (DNA)
  • Trucker Gets His Rig Stuck Under the ‘L’, Blames Taxi Drivers (Sun-Times)
  • Beautiful New 95th Street Station Will Be an Asset for the South Side (CBJ)
  • We Did An Exit Interview With Gabe Klein, Now It’s Chicago Magazine’s Turn
  • Cubs Want to Replace Proposed Skyway With Advertising Arch (Tribune)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Interesting article about the Ventra situation elsewhere.

  • Anne A

    I was crossing Wabash at Washington at lunchtime yesterday and was rather puzzled at the lack of traffic until I looked down the street and saw the huge truck blocking the intersection. Oops! I think this is the 3rd time in as many months that I’ve seen a big rig stuck under the Loop El structure at some point along Wabash.

  • BlueFairlane

    Some weeks back in a BRT article, somebody said that truckers would be told to avoid Ashland by their GPS systems. That trucker stuck under the el illustrates why I have little confidence in that argument. You’d think any reasonable GPS system would list the height of the el tracks–which has been a constant far longer than GPS systems have existed–and would tell the truckers not to go that way. That’s either not the case, or the truckers don’t listen. Either way, the technological expectation doesn’t work out.

  • Chicagio

    I once met a trucker and were talking about semis getting stuck under overpasses and he explained is that you have to be a totally idiot to get stuck. There are standard trucking maps that clearly identify what the heights are (in addition to the signs near most overpasses). Unless the information is wrong or you just don’t look at the map (or GPS nowadays, i suppose) there is no reason why a trucker should have any problems finding good routes.

  • duppie

    If you ignore Mark Konkol’s blustery writing style, it is actually a decent article.

    Yes, drivers should pay more attention, we need better education, and we should build infrastructure that helps reduce potential of doorings. But bicyclists have a duty to themselves to stay safe. And that means paying attention to your surroundings, staying out of the door zone, riding at an situation appropriate speed, and to find alternative routes if the current route is just too dangerous.

  • I agree but as I wrote on that article, personally, I try to avoid this. But it can be stressful. I’m not saying riding a bike should have 0 stress, but when you’re already trying to watch yourself against moving traffic, the conditions of the bike lane, and pedestrians walking about, having to look in the windows of all the cars intently is another thing. I already look at the rear lights, and for activity in the car… but some of these cars are huge SUVs, with dark windows (and now, foggy windows from the cold). Last night this was a problem and I was slow rolling on a Divvy bike!

    I still think it’s got to be mostly on the driver to look out the window first. Actually LOOK to make sure nobody is coming. And then don’t open the door if they are. Too often people will look at me coming (as in we lock eyes), then open the door anyway. I don’t mind going outside the bike lane, but it’s different if there’s a lot of traffic coming. If there’s bike traffic behind me too, it could cause a mess.

  • whetstone

    It’s an ok start if you can ignore the condescension (I have trouble doing so). Taking more care when you see brake lights, flashers—or notice movement in the driver’s seat—is perfectly good advice, and getting to know what streets are inherently safer (and what speeds are appropriate for those streets) is also good advice.

    But I agree with Shaun; it’s really not a failsafe, and trying to pay too much attention to not getting doored is its own risk.

  • Alex_H

    Nice “Punkin’ Donuts” reference, John. My parents called it that when we lived nearby in the ’80s. :)

  • WestLooper

    The article lumps Ventra in with privatization projects (e.g. the parking meters), but is that really right? No matter what CTA was going to need to use a vendor for the technology, how is there really a privatization element to it?

  • Anne A

    It used to be run by a public entity = CTA. Now it’s run by a private entity = Cubic/Ventra.

  • what_eva

    Exactly. Cubic was the equipment/technology vendor for Chicago Card as well, but day-to-day operations were run by CTA.

  • Chicagio

    “I still think it’s got to be mostly on the driver to look out the window first. ”
    I agree but i think it’s, more than that. It’s the law that places the responsibility entirely on the driver. If you’re opening your door into oncoming traffic (bike or car), you need to yield. I realize that the article was written to advise bikers on how to protect yourself despite reckless drivers but, expecting bikers to be responsible for this just shows how ingrained the lawless behavior of drivers is.

  • WestLooper

    Still seems like a different thing, more of an out-sourcing than a privatization.

  • what_eva

    That’s true. It’s not like the city hired someone to completely run the CTA

  • CL

    The red light camera at Hollywood and Sheridan isn’t a big deal because usually there is so much traffic that it’s easy to stop on yellow, since you’re only going 5 mph.

    However, I’ve noticed pedestrians behaving badly at that intersection despite the heavy traffic. Someone is typically walking between the cars, panhandling, and I also see people jaywalk through traffic there — including vulnerable seniors. The worst case was when I was slowly crawling toward the light in rush hour traffic, and a man in a wheelchair suddenly decided to cut through the mostly stopped traffic — I was just starting to move again when he appeared in front of me out of nowhere (the height of the wheelchair meant he wasn’t visible when he was between the cars next to me). I slammed the break, but it was scary how close I came to hitting a disabled senior citizen — my heart was pounding for a while. And he was followed by a friend in a wheelchair doing the exact same thing.

    I doubt the red light camera makes a difference when it comes to jaywalkers, but regardless, everyone really needs to watch for pedestrians at that intersection — the rush hour traffic jams make pedestrians feel like it’s safe to jaywalk or panhandle through stopped traffic, but tragedies can happen if they miscalculate and traffic starts moving again.

  • Outsourcing is privatization, that’s how it (supposedly) works: taking the perceived risks and the workload out of the original organization and making them Another Company’s Problem. Which is fine if the other company honestly can do a better job for cheaper …

  • At an OpenGov Hack Night earlier this year, an attendee brought up the idea of creating an app that would collect and distribute bridge and viaduct heights. He was a trucker once and said that there are some dashboard GPS devices available with this data, but they’re very costly. He suggested crowd-sourcing the heights from hundreds of truckers to populate a database that would be sold/passed on to GPS software makers.

    The OpenStreetMap database is already prepped for this data.

  • I’m glad the pedestrian bridge over Clark Street just north of Addison was cut, but the advertising arch looks awful.

    Historic neighborhood identifiers that actually are gateways (like the arches at the stockyards) are an appropriate feature, but a bunch of metal tubes to say, “Kraft Mac and Cheese – you know you love it” is unwelcome.

  • Ryan Wallace

    The only reason I have convinced myself that I am OK with the advertising arch is that it is a temporary item. Temporary in the sense that if it is completely hideous, and there is significant public disgust, it can be removed pretty easily.

  • WestLooper

    I suppose by that logic Divvy is privatized in that ALTA was hired to run it?

  • BlueFairlane

    Well, that’s the trick with any technological solution, isn’t it? On one hand, you have humans inputting the information. On the other hand, you have humans deciding whether or not to use it. There is no reason why a trucker should have any problems, but that doesn’t stop them from having problems.

  • Divvy’s not privatized, it’s a fully private company (that receives a serious taxpayer subsidy, in that the city foots the bill for all new station installation). It is not in any way a public utility, it’s a private company that the city has decided to encourage strongly.

  • You’re a little off here Elliott. Here’s the story, per an Alta Bicycle Share spokesman:

    Divvy is the branded name of the Chicago bike-share program which is operated by Alta Bicycle Share. We are a private company that holds the prime contract with CDOT to operate Divvy.

    CDOT owns the equipment out on the street (bikes, stations, solar panels, etc.) and ABS’s team runs the day-to-day business that includes station cleanliness, rebalancing, bike maintenance, customer care, membership fulfillment, and marketing. We also are responsible for installation of all new stations.

    Per our agreement, Divvy is set up to operate profitably and to be self-sustaining, and ABS and CDOT will eventually split profits 50/50 after an introductory period.

  • Fred

    Equipment/technology manufacturers and operators are different. With the Chicago Card/Plus, the equipment/technology was purchased from Cubic and the CTA operated it. With Ventra, the equipment was purchased from Cubic and Cubic is also operating it. With Divvy, CDOT purchased the equipment from BIXI and Alta is operating it. At any time either the equipment or the operator could change without affecting the other. Well, not at ANY time… but you get my point.

  • Like I said: they’re a private company, not a utility. By my lights, anyway. They’re a company providing, privately, a service to the public, not a pre-existing longstanding government service sold to a private company.

    But in both cases, it is private/privatized: the profit does not go to the government.

  • Divvy is not a company, it’s simply the name of the system, which is owned by the city and operated by ABS, the contractor. After an introductory period, half of the profit will go to the government.

  • Chicagio

    But should truckers (or anyone else, for that matter) who are too stupid to know where to drive be in the discussion with BRT?

  • BlueFairlane

    No. We should just assume that all systems will function exactly as planned, that all users will use these systems exactly as intended, and take no steps to ameliorate potential problems. Because that’s the engineer creed.

  • Chicagio

    Our how about we just plan for 99.9% of users that aren’t complete morons and will easily adapt and let those who get their truck stuck under an EL track fend for themselves?

  • BlueFairlane

    Because something like an idiot stuck under an overpass never affects anybody else around them. So lets just assume everybody will figure out some unexpected thing like a five-mile stretch with no left turns and tight right turns, and if they don’t, no matter. Everybody will just go around them.

    Of course, there was similar resistance when I suggested an overcomplicated technological system like Ventra might double charge people as the EZ-pass often does, and I was sure proven a worry wort there.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Maybe at one time they were very costly, but no longer. They’re for sale at every truck stop, and relatively cheap. Just for example, Garmin has a line of truck-specific GPS devices; the top of the line model is just $399. Among other things, it keeps the driver off routes with insufficient vertical clearance. (For comparison sake, a new tractor/trailer will set you back well over $100,000. So, you’re adding < 0.4% to the cost of a new truck to install a top of the line GPS.) Moreover, GPS manufacturers already utilize crowd-sourcing to improve their databases. Another crowd-sourcing effort seems redundant.

  • Jim Mitchell

    In fairness, the Ventra screw-ups are happening hundreds or thousands of times every day, while a truck gets stuck under the L tracks at most once or twice a year. Trucks getting “stuck” by the Ashland BRT might happen a few times a year, too. But that doesn’t justify throwing out the baby with the bathwater. (That said, I remain concerned that the Ashland BRT will not be the overwhelming success its planners hope to see, but the potential for wayward left-turning semi drivers is not the cause of my concern.)

  • “Pedestrians Behaving Badly” – sounds like a segment you’d see on the 10 o’clock news. Maybe Walter Jacobson can get on that!

    How does the crosswalk signal work here? Does it have a “beg button”? Is the signal change frequent enough such that pedestrians don’t have to wait too long for a walk signal?

  • Yeah, I didn’t think this was a problem.

    For those that don’t have the truck-specific GPS and pay attention to the height signs you see when approaching bridges/viaducts, are the signs sufficient? Are they missing, are they correct?

    I have a few photos of truckers taking chances at the Bloomingdale Trail at approximately 1800 N Milwaukee Avenue. One trucker decided to stop before trying their luck but didn’t have any opportunity to turn around.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/9734030520/

  • CL

    I don’t know if there is a button because I never walk around that intersection, but the signal seems to change frequently. I think the biggest problem is just that it gets so jammed with traffic that pedestrians think it’s safe to walk around the stopped cars. And it’s possible that the official crosswalks don’t feel much safer because drivers often get stuck so that they block the crosswalk, and they can be aggressive about trying to turn when there’s no space — everyone’s sort of fighting to get through the intersection, because sometimes no room opens up for the duration of the green light.

  • Fred

    “Pedestrians Behaving Badly” should be a user-submitted blog in the same vein as “Damn You Auto Correct” or “People of Walmart”!

  • This may be a good opportunity to adjust the traffic signal so there’s a green for Hollywood lasting 30 seconds every 30 seconds (at least during rush hour). So that a pedestrian doesn’t have to wait more than 30 seconds to get the walk signal.

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