Today’s Headlines

  • CTA Orders Cubic to Immediately Address Ventra Problems (Tribune, NBC)
  • Aldermen Beale and Fioretti Call for Hearing on Ventra Snafus (Sun-Times, CBS)
  • Shocking Sun-Times Exposé: Loop BRT Will Require Relocating Water Mains
  • Active Trans Launches a Petition Against Dowell’s Proposed Bike Tax
  • A Non-Cyclist Who Loves Bikes Skewers the Licensing Proposal (Gapers Block)
  • Bigger Railroad Bridge Built at Site Where Derailment Killed a Couple (Tribune)
  • Teardown of Ashland/Pershing Overpass Began Yesterday (DNA)
  • Driver Held on $30K Bail After Lincoln Park DUI Crash (DNA)
  • Residents Upset About Broken Automated Street-Cleaning Parking Signs (DNA)
  • Art Student Makes Guitar Picks Out of Non-Recyclable Chicago Cards (RedEye)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Anne A

    I *love* the comment where the guy is asking for right turn arrows for cars – for pedestrians to be kept waiting longer. My response:

    The biggest problem with auto traffic in the Loop is the number of people who insist on driving into the Loop. Turning traffic creates conflicts. Having the
    right turn arrow from State onto Washington did NOT work. Having right
    turn arrows at more intersections will NOT work.

    Pedestrians, bikes and transit SHOULD have priority in the Loop.

  • Mishellie

    Haha and the “Oh man… Rahm must really hate cars” … oy.

  • Anonymous

    The nerve of someone driving a car…legally…for work related purposes…on a road.

  • What story was this? Are there other right-turn arrows in the Loop? I believe there are but I can’t think of any right now.

  • Hurray for the Ashland/Pershing overpass teardown. Even though that area has mostly industrial land uses, there are a lot of homes that overlook it.

  • There’s nothing wrong with making a necessary car trip to the Loop. The problem is that too many people choose to drive to the Loop who have more sensible options for getting there. Congestion pricing, which has been successfully implemented in cities like London, would help solve this problem.

  • Joseph Musco

    I wouldn’t be so flippant about relocating the water mains in the Loop.

    It’s going to add “6 to 10 weeks” of winter construction to the project. Reading the Sun-Times tea leaves: Gabe Klein, not seeing water pipes as an entrepreneurial innovation, didn’t mention moving them in his sales pitch for Central Loop BRT to the Mayor. Claypool, being a local pol, saw immediately that 2 extra months of Loop construction would be unpopular with the wealthy people who work in the Loop and finance the Emanuel campaign. And just as night follows day, this would therefore be unpopular with the Mayor himself! So Claypool, always more of a CYA guy than a CTA guy, clammed up. The Water Management guys, not wanting to take the heat for Klein’s inattention to detail, leaked the story. They don’t want to look stupid here. If there is one thing that water guys know, it’s that there are pipes under the street. Now “City Hall sources” confirm the Water Management version 2 days after Klein announces his resignation? I’m sure it’s all a coincidence!

  • hello


    I work near Daley Plaza. The number of people driving up to the Plaza, dropping someone off and then circling for 30 minutes while the dropped off person gets some paperwork done in the city offices is insane. Congestion pricing to get into the Loop would solve much of that problem and people would think more about their other options.

    It would be easy enough to implement if the river was used as a preliminary border…although I would argue that it should include points North also.

  • Anonymous

    There is one on Monroe @ Clinton.

    Ok, technically that is not in the Loop, but it is a pedestrian-heavy intersection.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoy Klein “demanding” to know who the leaker (from the water dept.! ha!) was. He’s leaving town, and so has ZERO juice; no one will even dignify that demand with a no comment.

    Also, from the article:

    “The center platform gets the buses away from curbside so they’re not stuck with taxicabs pulling over or trucks making deliveries.”

    Unless the final plan is a plan I haven’t seen, the ‘center platform’ merely effectively bumps out the curbside–still leaving a marked (and in some fashion monitored) ‘exclusive’ bus lane that will be used by cabs and delivery trucks from time to time.

    As always, I ask “what’s the story with parking” on Washington and Madison? Keeping all that currently exists as permissive outside (way too short) “rush hours”? Ooh, fustercluck!

  • Shlabotnik

    As someone who has been to other big cities in the U.S. and abroad (and I guess many on this message board can probably say the same), I have to say that congestion in the loop isn’t really all that bad for being the political and economic center of a 9 million person metro area.

    Unlike some places that have really bad central city congestion: New York, London being the prime examples, the worst congestion in the Chicago area is on expressways. If there is some kind of pricing initiative, then rather than cordon pricing in the loop, I think it would make more sense to have a regional pricing initiative for the expressways.

  • Anonymous

    Fair point. The highways are where traffic truly comes to a standstill.

    We should expand them to get those cars moving! ;)

  • Anonymous

    We have congestion pricing. Parking in the loop is expensive as hell. Traffic to/from the burbs is outrageously awful. Gas is super expensive. Bad weather can adversely affect your commute. John, the incentives are already in place to take other forms of transportation. Some people cant. Other people simply dont want to and that’s their own choice.

  • Roland Solinski

    This is my biggest problem with those who argue for things like BRT and streetcars based on their low costs. Re-allocating street space with anything other than paint is gonna get expensive, because streets have key utility lines running above and below, and periodic utility work should not disrupt key transit service.

    The same goes for barrier-protected bike lanes, curb extensions, and any other street modifications that require new concrete.

  • Anonymous

    “The number of people driving up to the Plaza, dropping someone off and then circling for 30 minutes while the dropped off person gets some paperwork done in the city offices is insane.”

    What’s the sensible alternative to driving if you live in Pullman? Or Austin? Or is their time less valuable for some reason.

    Also, any congestion charge WILL affect the amounts due from the city under the Parking Meter Agreement (see 7.8(f) and elsewhere). I suspect that there is a similar issue with the Grant Park garage sales. Also, as soon as the Loop garages reduce usage rates, there would be a substantial drop in parking tax revenue. So, any contemplation of congestion pricing cannot reasonably contemplate the scheme being a revenue generator (not that anyone here has, but it should be mentioned).

  • Shlabotnik

    wow, I never knew that hypothetical congestion charges made their way into the parking meter lease. Interesting.

  • hello

    Green Line goes straight to Austin – Metra Electric goes to Pullman.

    I see your point though, but you should throw in some examples that are not majority African-American to get a little more credibility.

    How about Dunning or Clearing?

    Good note on the Parking Meter Agreement, I wonder how that would shake out with any future congestion pricing…

  • Anonymous

    “The same goes for barrier-protected bike lanes … that require new concrete.”

    Well, one can pour on a ‘curb’ (provided one is mindful of flowage) to establish a protected bike lane without doing much more than milling the asphalt, and that wouldn’t create the sort of impediment to utility access that the level boarding platforms will.

    The curb extensions are a bit more complicated, because they inevitably interrupt the edge flow of storm water. But they also done *require* moving water mains, etc, any more than putting in the concrete bus-pads does–it just makes maintenance slightly more expensive, rather than requiring rebuilding a bona fide structure.

    But avoiding the potential for future disruption *is* the meat behind doing this. And I think the most embarrassing thing is the total absence of inter-agency communication that this implies.

  • Anna Schibrowsky

    I didn’t know this was about to happen and marked it as a problem area on that last IDOT bike survey. The flyover separated the Archer-35th shopping center from other retail businesses south of 42nd. There’s still a gap around the Swap-O-Rama, but hopefully that will fill in.

  • hello

    “Parking in the loop is expensive as hell.”

    That’s why the people circle while their passenger gets some paperwork done at Daley Plaza.

    I remember seeing a statistic somewhere that told how much of traffic was actually people looking for parking in a certain city. I’d be interested to see that breakdown around Daley Plaza.

    Also, the fact that the incentive is to drive through the downtown expressways and avoid the outer loops (tolled) is kind of perverse.

  • Anonymous

    “you should throw in some examples that are not majority African-American to get a little more credibility.”

    Why? What difference does that make? How is it “less credible” if it’s an issue for black Chicagoans?

    Guess I should have specified *northern* Austin. But sure, in the interests of making things nicer for those of us who are downtown regularly, everyone else should modify their behavior, and wait around for non-rush-hour schedule transit.

  • Anonymous

    It’s basically any change the city makes that reduces usage (tickets have to have a minimum value, too, even tho the city keeps all the ticket revenue–must be 10x the hourly charge, iirc).

    And a congestion charge would definitely reduce the usage of metered (and garage) spots within the congestion zone.

  • hello

    I edited that out because I didn’t think it added to the conversation, but I’ll outline my thoughts as to why it came to MY mind in the first place.

    By listing 2 majority African-American neighborhoods and not listing any other transit depressed/deprived areas (with other “minority-majorities”), you marginalized the plight of all people (Whites, Poles, Hispanics, Asians, etc.) who lack transit options.

    But again, I think it was unnecessary (mainly because it would illicit a response like the one you had), that’s why I edited it out – I guess you read it before I snipped it though.


  • On Washington, the center platform is really centered: there’s a bus lane on the left side and a bike lane on the right side (between the center platform and the existing curb).

    On Madison, it’s more of a curb extension.

    The Loop should have 10% of the curbside parking (Monday through Friday) as it does now – there’re plenty of parking options off-street.

  • Anonymous

    Well that’s one of the unintended consequences of having justifiably high parking rates.

  • Anonymous

    “you marginalized the plight of all people (Whites, Poles, Hispanics, Asians, etc.) who lack transit options.”

    Please. Pointing out one set of issues *in a comment thread* isn’t marginalizing anyone. And Pullman and Austin are simply the first 2 edge-of-the-city hoods that came to my mind.

    I do like how you distinguish between whites and Poles, tho. Nice touch.

  • As a city, we have the right to disincentivize behavior that has a negative impact on how well the city works. Steps such as a moratorium on downtown parking garages, which has been done before in Chicago but lifted under Richard M. Daley, are perfectly reasonable tactics for discouraging unnecessary car trips to the Loop and encouraging sensible alternatives.

  • Jim Mitchell

    There is another right-turn arrow from Madison (west-bound) onto Franklin (north-bound); it actually works pretty well in my experience, as the pedestrian Walk light is still quite lengthy after maybe a 5-10 second arrow for turning cars.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. Linky to current renderings?

    BUT, if I understand what you are saying correctly about Washington, in what possible way would that *physically* (as opposed to chance of ticketing) decrease the likelihood of a cab pulling over into the bus lane? Person gets in/out of the cab on the ground-level portion of the platform–seems inevitable, especially in the rain/winter, with fewer cyclists to dodge.

    In short: how does the inclusion of a bike lane make the ‘curb’ next to the bus lane meaningfully different from a ‘normal’ curb?

    Totally agree about the parking, but nothing we can do in our (likely) lifetimes.

  • hello

    I should add Blacks and Ghanaians then, right? Sorry, it slipped my mind.

    Now I remember why I usually avoid posting online, you can never get anything right…both ways. I’m usually nit-picking someone else, then they nit-pick me. It’s really an exercise in futility.

    Oh well, back to read only mode for a while.

  • Anonymous

    “I should add Blacks and Ghanaians then, right? Sorry, it slipped my mind.”

    You seem to have a *really* big chip about something.

  • hello

    Mmmm, my favorite…

  • Anonymous

    So, re: Ventra & multiple billing…can anyone explain this quote from the Trib today?

    “But he [top Cubic official, Richard Wunderle] said Ventra customers have a good product and they will permanently face some inconveniences, including the need to remove Ventra cards from wallets to avoid being double-charged by having a fare deducted from a contactless credit or debit card in the wallet.”

    I’ve seen this mentioned before, but if a non-Ventra card can be billed….um, why does anyone with a contactless card need a Ventra card in the first place? Wouldn’t that mean you could just tap *any* credit/debit card of a type and just have money taken? Doesn’t that undermine the reason for a special card in the first place?

  • Jim Mitchell

    Yes; they at least used to advertise that as a feature, not a bug. I don’t have a contactless credit card, but I am sure I’d use it for transit if I could, to avoid carrying – and inevitably losing at some point – a separate Ventra card, which is what I have to do now. Basically, I wish they’d go back to tokens!

  • BlueFairlane

    As a side note, it’s kind of fun to go back now and read just how thrilled this site was with Ventra just a few months ago. ;-)

  • BlueFairlane
  • I meant that there was not a unanimous endorsement of Ventra from the writers of this website. My posts on the subject focused on the potential equity issues. At any rate, Steven couldn’t have predicted that Cubic was going to mess up the launch. I’m endorsing the city’s bus rapid transit plan, but if the contractors hired to build the bus stations happen to do shoddy work, that won’t mean there was something inherently wrong with the BRT plan.

  • Anne A

    While they may be legally entitled to drive, many are doing a lot of illegal and dangerous things while doing it – running red lights, failing to yield to peds who have the right of way in crosswalks, distracted driving, drunk driving, etc. Therein lies a BIG piece of the problem.

  • Anonymous

    Ok, so the problem isn’t cars, it’s bad drivers. Different conversation altogether.

  • Anonymous

    “At any rate, Steven couldn’t have predicted that Cubic was going to mess up the launch.”

    Well, he *could* have, but it’s not reasonable to get on his case for betting on “will work smoothly”; the odds were just too juicy–I saw “Ventra rollout goes smoothly” offered at 100-1, and who wouldn’t want to lay $20 on that?

  • Anonymous


    We, as a city, have given away most of our power to control parking related matters in the whole of the city through the sales of the city garages and the meters. Any change in the muni code that affects downtown auto traffic risks an increase in amounts due to the owners of formerly-city-controlled parking.

    Even in the absence of having bargained away much of that power, calling the power to “disincentivize behavior” a right is fairly controversial.

  • I’m still thrilled with Ventra – it should be a great program once the double billing stops and everyone who had CC/P and reduced fare cards have theirs activated. I’m not thrilled with the many poor experiences people have reported, nor my own (which is due to a disused email account and email being the basis for all username/password resetting tasks).

  • Anonymous

    Steven, why are you thrilled? I understand that the CTA had to do something because the CC/P chip is no longer produced or whatever, but I don’t really get how Ventra is an improvement. The $5 thing is hugely irritating and I will be embarrassed to explain it to visitors.

  • As a former tech support weenie married to a networks geek, I started getting very worried about Ventra rolling out well when the first-date-you-could-use-one continually moved backwards (due to hardware delays) without simultaneously moving backwards the last-date-you-could-use-one. As originally conceived, letting the CCP users get their cards first and start using them would act as a sort of hard beta — a good variety of fairly heavy users who are as a whole already tech-savvy and loyal to the system, who can communicate well and have an incentive to.

    Instead the first people to get them were random college students (some of whom were new to Chicago entirely), and CCP users were some of the LAST to get to ‘play’. Plus it was a big huge bolus of EVERYONE AT ONCE, with a tight tight deadline looming beyond which we were told nothing but the new system would work.

    As Healthcare.Gov can also testify, this is not a really functional way to do a new software/technology rollout …

  • Ventra uses an “open fare” system that allows various media to be used to pay fares (soon to include certain NFC-enabled smartphones). The CTA is doing now what it should have done when it introduced CC/P: get everyone to use it.

    And it saves them $5 million each year.

  • Anonymous

    As someone who has made a career out of working on large scale system integration projects, I find it the answers from the Cubic manager almost insulting (“we can’t really make a guess when the issue will be fixed”).

    This is 2013. There is whole profession (“PMO” or “Program Management Office”) developed in the last 15 years or so that manages these large and risky programs. Cubic does not seem to employ any of these professionals.

  • Having been on the inside in a software company rolling out look-and-feel and functionality changes with drastic financial consequences for our users if anything at ALL went wrong, I find myself continually feeling insulted by Cubic’s entire attitude towards it. They handled it as if they were (I know nothing about the company) a 20-person little shop putting out something on the order of a new iPhone game that would be cool and maybe get a lot of users, but isn’t actually critical that it work.

    That is not the scale of the project involved, but it is all the attention-to-detail and level of commitment and organization we GOT out of them. When it needs to work, you get a tester pool. A BIG tester pool. A DIVERSE tester pool. And you have at LEAST 30 days of soft-open/beta/tester-only use before you roll it out to everyone in creation!!

    They got kind fo screwed by the hardware delay (which is what I understand pushed back their date to start mailing out cards to CCP users). But the response to that isn’t “Ok, nevermind, cut the test period, go live right away”!!!!?!??!

  • Roland Solinski

    That depends on how the curb is designed. I find myself wondering if CDOT could simply use a modular system for the median platforms, so that they could be removed for utility work. The platforms don’t need significant foundations, and the shelters can be designed for light weight. It might save a lot of money and speed up the rollout of the BRT.

  • cjlane

    “I find myself wondering if CDOT could simply use a modular system”

    Could, as in possible from an engineering standpoint, is *likely*.

    Could, as in compatible with building code* and applicable road design* requirements, *highly* unlikely.

    *NOTE: both highly influenced by union member participation in drafting, vetting and approving the codes. A *big* (but not only) reason why flush-free urinals and PEX-water supply and PVC underground drains (as just three examples) are not permissible in Chicago–preservation of union-wage jobs.