Waguespack Sends a Fear Mongering Email About BRT to Constituents

32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack

As I’ve written many times on this website, 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack has done some good things for the city, and he’s a likeable person. So it’s painful to see him take an increasingly reactionary stance against the CTA’s plan to create a more efficient and equitable Ashland Avenue by building a bus rapid transit system.

I worried I’d gone a tad too far when I recently argued Waguespack should have his progressive card revoked for comparing the project, which will create fast, reliable transit for tens of thousands of Chicagoans, to the disastrous parking meter privatization deal. However, an extremely slanted email the alderman sent to constituents today, implying that they should contact the CTA to speak out against the plan, confirmed that he has officially jumped the shark when it comes to transportation issues. Read the entire text of the message here.

“Ashland will be permanently reduced to one lane north and south bound,” the bulletin reads. “While several meetings have been held by the CTA, concerns by many businesses and residents in our area included the lack of official notification given to businesses or property owners along Ashland, financial costs, and the impacts to communities adjacent to Ashland.”

The message has an alarmist undertone to it. “If you have concerns about the closure, please be aware that TODAY December 20, 2013 – is the LAST DAY of public comments on the assessment undertaken by the CTA before final engineering of the street happens,” it states.

For media reports on the BRT issue, the bulletin only directs constituents to articles from Our Urban Times, which has featured consistently negative coverage, and the Expired Meter, a driver advocacy blog. The ward email includes an excerpt from the latter blog, a reference to my post about Waguespack’s wrongheaded parking meter deal comments. “Greenfield spanks the alderman for having the audacity to even question the Ashland BRT, for giving the issue thoughtful and rational consideration and for daring to listen to the fears of his constituents,” wrote pseudonymous blogger Mike Brockaway.

Waguespack’s email (forwarded by Bike Walk Lincoln Park’s Michelle Stenzel) mentions the travel lane reduction three times within a few lines.

Despite being a pro-car blog, the Expired Meter is often a useful news source, but Brockaway is off-base here. I’d be the first to acknowledge that healthy skepticism of the mayor’s office has been Waguespack’s strong suit in the past. But while Waguespack’s analysis of the parking meter contract helped people better understand what was at stake, with BRT he’s obscuring the issue and putting out misleading info, downplaying the benefits and exaggerating the risks. This latest fear mongering email is the icing on the cake.

Aldermen should listen to concerns from constituents that the BRT project will create traffic problems, but Waguespack is not being “thoughtful and rational” in his response. He’s feeding people’s fears, when we know from experience that reconfiguring city streets to prioritize transit won’t unleash traffic chaos.

It’s baffling why Waguespack, who has been a voice of reason on many other issues facing Chicago, is taking such a negative position on a project that has the potential to have a hugely positive impact on his ward and the city. Frankly, it’s a sad thing to witness.

  • cjlane

    Only got the speed cameras (*and* the red light cameras) by using a BS justification about ‘safety’.

    NOTE: I *support* *wholly* the use of red light and speed cameras. *AND* I’ve gotten and paid a couple of red light tickets, so it’s not that I’m a non-driver or a driving angel. But the “safety” explanation was about 75% BS.

  • So if we’re in agreement that the red light and speed cameras discourage dangerous driving and increase safety, does it really matter whether the politicians’ motive for installing them was safety or revenue? Personally, I don’t care, as long as the end result is the same.

  • cjlane

    “so you would have stretch the Western route 3/4 mile to pick up the Brownline”

    The brownline connection–and several others–are not exactly ‘direct’ connections–they’re certainly walkable, but each less convenient than the comparable Western connection.

    3 of the Ashland L station connections are with consecutive stops (18th, polk, ashland) on the Pink line. Not exactly the most useful set of connections.

    Western would trade the southside Green Line connection for the Northside Brown, but would connect to 4 Metra lines at two stops.

  • cjlane

    You haven’t noticed–if you say “things will be worse for car traffic”, someone here *always* throws out the “carmageddon” canard.

    Also, there is a difference b/t the 2-lane Damen and Halsted and the single directional lane of John’s Ashland–there are no ‘ticket cameras’ mailing tickets for crossing the median line on Damen and Halsted.

  • cjlane

    Why not? Why NOT make making Ashland a reasonable bike route part of the BRT plan?

  • The BRT project is all about reconfiguring the right-of-way for a more efficient way to move large numbers of people. Bike lanes would be great, but with 70 feet of right-of-way, there’s not enough room for wider sidewalks, two parking lanes, two mixed-traffic lanes, two bus lanes, the median *and* bike lanes. That’s not a big loss, since Ashland is currently a terrible bike route. The slower post-BRT car traffic will make things safer for the few cyclists who do find themselves on Ashland.

  • cjlane

    Good lawd, you’re giving CDOT (and the *crap* signal technology they work with) *way* too much credit. I doubt they could set up that ‘trap’ properly even if they were trying and gave a (legit) consultant a 8-figure contract.

    The failing in Chicago was not applying for *any* of the ISTEA or ISTEA II signal modernization funds. Signal system should have been extensively modernized in the 80s/90s, but I suspect that some combo of (1) doing so would have cost a bunch of union electricians their city jobs and/or (2) nobody knew nobody who owned a signal modernization company, so nobody had nobody to call to give the contract to, made it politically unpalatable to do.

    As to this: “CDOT can’t even install lights that actuate based on whether or not cars are present”

    It’s not “can’t”, it’s *WON’T*. And, no, I don’t have a decent explanation. As of the late 90s, CDOT seemed unfamiliar with the concept of left turn signals that were actuated by a present vehicle, rather than simply on a regular cycle–and they *still* seem unclear on the concept.

  • cjlane

    Waguespack handled it incorrectly in the focus of the email–he *absolutely* should have been move even-handed about noting the end of the comment period. The email even could have emphasized the point that was emphasized (lane reduction for cars) without being so ham-handed about it.

    It *really* is right there with a lot of advocacy groups’ ‘scaremail’–“Congress is about to approve death panels coming into your homes, taking your guns and executing your unborn child with *your* gun–call your congressman today!!!!!”–when there was NO NEED to approach it that way. Just like there is no reason for the “anti-car slurpers” to respond to every dissent here in the same OTT fashion.

  • cjlane

    “Roads are for people, not just those with personal automobiles. It’s called equal protection and it’s a constitutional right protected by the 14th amendment.”

    Um, no. No, it’s not a “constitutional right” and it’s not amenable to an “equal protection” claim.

    If anything, it’d be a fundamental right claim–an assertion that there is a fundamental human right to fast, efficient transportation. Which is pretty silly, now that I type it out, even in a fantasy world where Ginsburg and Sotomayor are the right wingers on the Court.

  • cjlane

    It was sarcasm, John. I’d say that not more than 70% of the time that I ride the El is it within 10% of the ‘expected’ travel time, ignoring any transfers. I just think that acting like the El runs ‘on time’ (in a Metra-like fashion) is kinda silly.

  • cjlane

    Right, BUT it affects the handicapping of whether or not the Legislature would permit BRT/HOV lane camera enforcement. I think it is unlikely, for the reason that the red and speed cameras were only passed bc everyone said “safety safety safety” and “faster buses” doesn’t have the same sales pitch.

  • cjlane

    “That’s not a big loss, since Ashland is currently a terrible bike route.”

    Y’all keep saying the same damn thing. It’s not a response, it’s a syllogism.

    “there’s not enough room for wider sidewalks, two parking lanes, two mixed-traffic lanes, two bus lanes, the median *and* bike lanes.”

    Okay, get rid of the parking lanes!! Problem solved.

  • SP_Disqus

    Attempting to change 2 car lanes and 2 parking lanes is politically much more difficult than just changing 2 car lanes. As a biker and a mass transit user, turning Ashland into a much more effective mass transit route is a much higher priority since Damen is 4 blocks away and is already a very good biking street.

  • I’d be fine with turning one of the parking lanes into a two-way, curb-protected bike, but that would be a pretty heavy lift politically. The lack of curbside parking would also make things a bit less safe for pedestrians. But that’s an interesting suggestion you had.

  • Fred

    Why not get rid of the median? Use that space to put in bike lanes that become mixing zones where the BRT stations are and the median space is needed? It’s certainly not as good as a full barrier protected bike lane, but it at least would provide some accommodations for bikes. Is a lane-wide median really needed for the entire route?

  • Interesting idea, but that sounds pretty unsafe and inefficient. Cyclists would have to detour into the bus lane to get around the stations, watching out for high-speed bus traffic, and bus drivers would have to yield to the cyclists, which would slow down the buses.

  • Fred

    Sorry, I was unclear. I meant for the bike lanes to be in their normal place on the right between parking and general travel lanes (or between parking and curb). The bike lanes would then merge into the right-turn lane where there are BRT stations. They would be just like normal bike lanes everywhere else, its just that the space would come from the medians.

  • cjlane

    “Attempting to change 2 car lanes and 2 parking lanes is politically much more difficult than just changing 2 car lanes.”

    Yeah, so do a half-assed kludge for political expediency, and call it ‘gold standard’.

    Which is my whole f’ing complaint.

  • SP_Disqus

    It seems to me that very little about their proposal was made with “political expediency” in mind considering the status quo of transportation in this city and the amount of flak they’re receiving, but maybe I need to dream bigger. Regardless, I’ll be happy biking on Damen, Ravenswood, Paulina, Southport, Racine, Halsted and the Lake Front Trail until a world where every street is bike friendly is realized.


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