Chicago Sun-Times

June 2007 Archives

The Regional Transportation Authority is asking the CTA and Pace to consider giving active-duty military personnel a break on fares. Metra already allows soldiers in uniform to ride trains for half the regular fare.

The timing of the RTA's request isn't great, considering both the CTA and Pace are threatening drastic fare hikes and service cuts if they don't get additional funding from Springfield.

But both agencies said the discount program is something they'll consider once the current budget impasse is resolved. If it gets resolved, the way Governor Blagojevich and the legislature are going.


One scary plane ride

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Today I had a story about a United Airlines flight from Phoenix that diverted from O'Hare to Midway this week after part of the right engine backfired.

Passengers on the plane said they heard what sounded like an explosion and saw a burst of flames. The plane landed safely at Midway.


The CTA has reached a five-year agreement with its unions governing wages, health-care and pension reforms, putting the heat on the Illinois General Assembly to act to avert threatened fare hikes and service cuts.

They say misery loves company, and few things make people more miserable than not being able to get where they need to go. Or having to take public transportation under less than desirable circumstances.

So how about sharing your all-time worst travel experiences in Chicago?

It could be the flight from hell, or the CTA ride that just couldn't end fast enough.

Chicago's getting it's first colored bike lanes. The green pavement markings are supposed to highlight areas where bike and car traffic merge, in an attempt to prevent collisions between the two.

The lanes are going in at nine locations near busy intersections. The last of them should be installed by next month.

Yesterday was an awful day to fly United. A computer glitch disabled the airline's dispatch system for two hours, creating a domino effect of delays after the problem was fixed.

Were you or anyone you know affected?

Hoping to give motorists some spiritual guidance on the road, the Vatican came out with its Ten Commandments of driving.

Check them out here.

Think the Pope missed any?

My column today notes that the 12 board members who run Pace suburban bus service rarely ride it.

This got me thinking about the ridership habits of the state lawmakers who hold the fate of Chicago's mass transit system in their hands.

Metra and Pace came out with their contingency plans, in case they don't get the funding they need from Springfield. Read more about it here.

Back in April, I asked if you thought the City of Chicago should consider congestion pricing to cut down on traffic in the city, similar to a proposal in New York. Well, now Ald. Ed Burke is backing the idea.

Today, Burke floated the idea of charging motorists a fee to drive into the city; the money would go to the CTA.

Think it'll work? London did it four years ago, resulting in a 20 percent decrease in traffic from 2003.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed an $8 congestion fee for driving into Manhattan. What would you be willing to pay to go to the Loop?

More than 100 people showed up this morning for the last of four public meetings on the CTA's contingency plan to balance its budget.

The CTA board was supposed to vote on the proposed service cuts and fare increases right afterward. But the vote was postponed because CTA President Ron Huberman and board Chair Carole Brown were called to meet with the governor and state legislative leaders in Springfield.

No word yet on what's going to come out of that meeting, but the hope is that it will be good news for the CTA.

Governor Blagojevich has said that he won't approve a budget that doesn't include at least $100 million for the CTA, which has a $97.5 million deficit for 2007. But he also said that he won't support a sales tax increase in the collar counties, which is the funding mechanism the Regional Transportation Authority is pushing.

CTA riders, meanwhile, expressed outrage at the proposed service cuts and fare increases the CTA has said it will resort to in September without additional state funding. Yet, many also acknowledged that the public hearing was an exercise in futility, since the real answer to the problem is "in Springfield...not in this room," as one rider put it.

Travel tales

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I'm probably going to regret asking this, but what's the strangest/grossest/funniest thing you've seen while riding public transportation?

I always like reading the CTA Tattler blog for its humorous posts on odd happenings in transit and would love to hear some of your stories, too.

As always, CTA riders aren't the only ones invited to play along. I'm sure you Metra and Pace riders have seen some weird things, too.


It takes a sense of humor to drive in Chicago, what with the soul-killing traffic jams and the broad range of stupidity/rudeness other drivers exhibit on the road.

That said, "How to Drive Like a Moron" offers some sage advice on the proper ways to conduct yourself in any traffic situation.

Stuff like:
"Feel free to give other drivers the middle finger at will. If they do it back, wait until you get to the next red light, get out of your car and beat the living crap out of them."

And, taking a page from the Britney Spears school of driving:
"Whenever possible, children should sit on your lap."

There's a lot more where that came from on the site, if you're looking for a laugh.

Are there any bad driving behaviors you'd add to the list?

Southbound Red Line trains operating through the Loop will be rerouted to the elevated tracks because of planned construction related to the Block 37 project.

Trains will be rerouted at 9 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. Friday morning. It'll happen again at 9 p.m. Thursday until 5 a.m. Friday.

Southbound trains will be rerouted a third time at 11 p.m. Friday until 1 a.m. Monday.

You should allow extra travel times, the CTA says.

Read more about it here.

In case you missed our extremely short story in the paper today, Pace is moving ahead with plans to build a new headquarters, right next to its current home in Arlington Heights.

The timing may seem off, given the possibility that Pace might have to consider fare hikes or service cuts to balance its budget. But Pace officials say the move is necessary, because Pace's current building is well past its prime and would cost more money than it's worth to fix.


The plot thickens

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For months now, the RTA, CTA, Metra and Pace have been talking about how they've ditched their inter-agency squabbling to present a united front to Springfield in an attempt to score more state funding.

That's all very kumbaya, but every now and then, you get the sense that coordination between these agencies still isn't what it should be.

Take the RTA's proposed funding plan, for example.

Tonight will be the first of four public hearings on the CTA's proposed Doomsday plan, which involves cutting 63 bus routes, the Yellow Line and the Purple Line Express if the CTA does not receive additional state funding to balance its budget.

Shannon Fortune isn't just one of the men and women who fill the CTA's subway tunnels with music every day. He's also a rising star who just advanced to the second round of an international music competition called the Emergenza Acoustic Hero Tour.

The winner gets to go to Germany to play at the Taubertal Open Air Festival in August.

Two weeks ago, Shannon won Chicago's acoustic guitar competition and will now head to New York, where he'll compete in the American finals. After that, he could be on his way to Deutschland and international acclaim.

Not too shabby for a low-key guy who sometimes plays the subways in a frayed Bears cap and doesn't expect to get discovered by the music industry R. Kelly-style anytime soon.

Technically, it's illegal to bike on the city's sidewalks. But many bicycle riders ignore this rule--no surprise, given the measly $25 fine and slack enforcement by police.

Enter North Side alderman Mary Ann Smith (48th), who just renewed a controversial ordinance that hits bikers who ride on the sidewalks along Sheridan Road with a hefty $250 fine. Bikes may also be temporarily disabled with the equivalent of a wheel-locking Denver boot. Read more about it in my column.

So, what do you think?

Is the ordinance unfair to bikers, or is it necessary to protect elderly pedestrians who live along Sheridan Road.



About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2007 is the previous archive.

July 2007 is the next archive.

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