Chicago Sun-Times

July 2009 Archives

The Blue Line will be shut down between the Clark/Lake and Western/Milwaukee stations from 10 p.m. Friday, July 31 until 4 a.m. Monday, August 3 for track work.

Bus shuttles will operate as a substitute for rail service making stops at Western/Milwaukee, Damen, Division, Chicago, Grand and Clark/Lake. CTA customers are advised to allow extra travel time. Both the Western/Milwaukee and Clark/Lake stations are accessible to customers with disabilities.

Great news for Illinois Masonic patients and employees -- the CTA's Brown Line Wellington station will reopen to customers and resume rail service Thursday, July 30 following a 16-month closure for construction as part of the line's capacity expansion project. It was the last Brown Line station still closed for renovation.

A new stationhouse was built in the same location as the previous stationhouse at 945 W. Wellington Avenue and a new auxiliary exit has been built just north of the station on Nelson Street, according to the CTA.

With the addition of two elevators, the Wellington station now is accessible to customers with disabilities. With this station, 89 of CTA's 144 rail stations are accessible, the CTA said.

The platforms at Wellington were reconfigured to accommodate eight-car trains which allow more customers to board. The CTA boasts other conveniences, including accessible turnstiles, brighter lighting, new signs - including Braille signs - and a bike rack.

Wellington is the sixteenth of 18 stations included in the Brown Line capacity expansion project to be completed. To date, work also has been completed at Kimball, Kedzie, Rockwell, Francisco, Western, Sedgwick, Montrose, Addison, Southport, Armitage, Diversey, Chicago, Damen, Irving Park and Paulina. Work is still going on at Fullerton and Belmont, but those busy stations have remained open.

Prior to the start of construction, the average weekday ridership at the Wellington station was 2,700. Average weekday ridership on the Brown Line is more than 80,000.

Here's some welcome news -- service on the CTA Blue Line will NOT be disrupted for construction this weekend. Hope you won't miss the shuttle buses. Enjoy the ride.

Work will resume on the Dearborn Subway tracks next weekend.

This story in Slate's online magazine makes the case for why you shouldn't talk on a cell phone while driving, even using a hands-free device, and gives some practical tips on how to break the habit.

If my cell phone rings while I'm driving, I make my daughters answer it and take messages. Or I let it go to voicemail -- no phone call is worth an accident. Here's what I wrote about the cell phone issue back on February 16

Time to hang it up; Stiffer fine probably won't help much -- social shame might

By Mary Wisniewski

Starting this Saturday, the fine for getting caught talking on a
cell phone without a hands-free device will go up to $100, from
So that means everyone will be able to drive around the city
without once getting cut off by some yahoo on a cell phone, right?

Probably not.

Everyone knows the cell phone ban, first implemented in 2005, is
widely ignored. You see bus drivers doing it, cabbies doing it, and
moms with vans full of kids doing it. Between July 2005 and April
2008, Chicago Police issued 40,303 tickets for violating the ban --
a bigger number than one might expect, but still a far cry from the
number of actual violators.

That doesn't mean the ban doesn't make any sense. Research on the
dangers of cell phone use while driving keeps getting stronger --
it's as bad for your driving skills as being drunk. Drivers talking
on cell phones are four times more likely to crash than someone not
talking on a phone.

The National Safety Council last month called for banning all cell
phone use while driving -- going further than Chicago by asking
states to ban even hands-free driving. National Highway Safety
Administration data show that 80 percent of accidents are caused by
driver inattention, and according to the NSC, cell phone use is the
No. 1 culprit.

The Safety Council contends there's no difference in the level of
distraction while talking on a hands-free device and talking on a
headset while driving. That's because what's causing the
distraction isn't the act of holding a phone -- it's being in a
conversation with someone who's not present.

Knowing how dangerous it is to drive with a cell phone, we as a
community can do one of two things. We can keep increasing cell
phone fines and hope people get scared into compliance. Or we can
take responsibility for ourselves, and hang up.

Here's a confession: I used to talk on the cell phone a lot while
driving, both hands-free and hands-full. It kept me from feeling
bored in traffic, it saved time, and I knew my chances of getting
stopped for it were about equal to my chances of getting ticketed
for jaywalking on State Street.

Last month, I decided enough was enough, and stopped. I looked at
it this way -- I've done 956 really stupid things in my life. But
I've never driven drunk because I was afraid I'd hit a kid. Since
talking on a cell phone can be as bad as driving drunk, that meant
I had to hang up the phone. So I did.

It hasn't always been easy, and I admit I've cheated a few times
while stuck in traffic on the expressway. But I don't talk on the
phone in city traffic anymore. If someone rings my phone, I let it
go to message, and then pull over to the side of the road and call

Laws alone aren't going to stop cell phone use while driving. There
has to be something else -- a sense of social shame. There has to
be a tipping point -- to go from thinking it's OK to drive while on
the phone to thinking it's akin to breaking wind in public.

Think of how many people smoked in the 1970s -- one of my jobs as a
kid was to empty and clean out the household ashtrays. My kids have
never even seen an ashtray. It's not because cigarettes are illegal
-- they're banned from many indoor places, but they're still legal
outside and in people's homes. Most people don't smoke anymore
because enough of them got the message that it's insanely bad for
your health, and social mores evolved to make it seem silly instead
of cool. That's what's going to have to happen with cell phones and

But some people have to be in the vanguard -- like the people who
refused to smoke in the 1940s and risked looking like health nuts
who only drank milk and ate raw vegetables. Some people have to
decide to be cranks about it, and refuse to answer the phone unless
the car is pulled over. Some people have to decide they're not
going to talk to friends on the phone if they know their friends
are driving. Driving is complicated. You're driving a two-ton
weapon made of chrome and steel. Isn't that an important enough job
-- without needing to have a long-distance heart-to-heart?

Remember the old hymn that goes "Let there be peace on earth, and
let it begin with me"? Well, let there be no cell phones while
driving, and let it begin with me. It won't cure all the ills on
the road -- but it will help. Who's with me?

Today's question was: What band was named for a product made in Lansing, Michigan? The correct answer is REO Speedwagon, named for a type of truck. Luanne Paglia had the right answer. Sorry if I've drudged up any painful prom memories, and if you now can't get "Time for Me to Fly" out of your head.

Here's some roadwork announcements for this weekend, provided by the Illinois Tollway:

Tri-State Tollway (I-294/I-94/I-80)
7/17 - 7/19/09
Median work is scheduled overnight between Stearns School Road and Half Day Road.
Overnight closures are scheduled between Lake Cook Road and Dempster Street for median work.
Utility work is scheduled overnight between Franklin Street and Mannheim Road.
Off-system closures are scheduled on 147th Street, Kedzie Avenue, 135th Street, 131st Street, 115th Street, Midlothian Turnpike, Crawford Avenue, Southwest Highway, Harlem Avenue, and 95th Street for overhead bridge work.
Off-peak closures are scheduled on Central Road under I-294 for bridge work.
Off-peak closures are scheduled on Ballard Road under I-294 for bridge work.
Bridge work is scheduled during off-peak hours between 75th Street and LaGrange Road.

Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88)
7/20 - 7/24/09
Off-peak closures are scheduled on 22nd Street under I-88 for bridge work.

Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90)
Bridge work is scheduled during off-peak hours at the IL Route 25 Bridge.

Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355)
7/17 - 7/19/09
Pavement striping work is scheduled overnight between Ogden Avenue and Butterfield Road.
Overnight closures are scheduled between IL Route 53 and Army Trail Road for pavement striping work.
7/18 - 7/19/09
Off-peak closures are scheduled between Butterfield Road and Army Trail Road for pavement striping work.

Check out Channel 11 - WTTW tonight at 7 p.m. to hear me talk about sexual harassment on the CTA, vehicle boots, the Burr Oak cemetery scandal and other current issues along with my Sun-Times colleague Carol Marin, CBS-2 political reporter Mike Flannery, sports reporter George Ofman and CLTV show host Garrard McClendon.

CTA Blue Line service will be down again this weekend between the Western/Milwaukee and Washington stations for track work.
Bus shuttles will substitute for rail service between the stations from 10 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Monday.
Riders heading to O'Hare are encouraged to exit at Jackson to board shuttle buses, and riders heading southbound are encouraged to exit shuttle buses at Jackson to continue their trips.
As always, riders should allow extra time.

The CTA has alerted about 3,500 customers who use Chicago Card Plus that online expiration dates listed for their accounts were wrong and that the cards may expire this week.
Because of a programming error, some cards are due to expire earlier than CTA records said they would. The error, which affected about 1.1 percent of all 329,645 Plus cards, has now been corrected online, according to the CTA.
Customers whose cards register as "expired" when they board the bus or pass through a train turnstile should contact the CTA for a replacement.
Meanwhile, any customer with a Chicago Card Plus that reads expired will be allowed to ride the system. Customers can find the correct expiration date by visiting, asking at most rail stations, calling 1-888-YOUR-CTA or visiting the sales center at 567 W. Lake St.

Evanston engineer and journalist Christopher Steiner's new book imagines life when gas is $20 per gallon -- and his take his optimistic. He foresees cleaner air, more local produce and more local jobs. See the article here.

What do you think? Will weaning ourselves from cheap oil be better for us, or too painful to contemplate?

This weekend, the CTA Blue Line rail service will be temporarily suspended from 10 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday from Washington to Western/Milwaukee stations, to allow for track work. This is one stop further than the usual Blue Line track work, which for the last several weekends (with the exceptions of the busy Taste weekend) had suspended service from Western to Clark/Lake.

The Monroe and Washington stations will be open, but the CTA is urging south/west bound passengers to take the shuttle bus to Jackson if they want to continue on the train. The CTA wants northbound passengers going to O'Hare to switch to shuttle buses at Jackson. Presumably there will be announcements on trains and buses making all of this clear.

My husband has been urging us to have a "date night" -- he even clipped an article about the Obamas' date nights and left it out for me to read. He's right -- we needed one. So Thursday, we tried something simple -- just going to a showing of "Star Trek" at the Logan neighborhood theater while the big kids watched the little kid. We'd be only spending $4 a ticket and we'd get a little time alone on a weeknight -- sounds easy, right?

This turned out to be more complicated than we thought. Logan Square is a little too far for us to walk, and we had only limited time, so we didn't want to take the bus. So we drove -- figuring we'd park at a Milwaukee Avenue meter or in the neighborhood. There were plenty of meters -- mostly open even on this busy stretch of Milwaukee. But it's $1 an hour now to park, and we didn't have enough quarters for the two hour movie -- we were short by one. Feeling silly, we headed into the residential neighborhood, and found zoned parking on every street. We found one empty space in an unzoned area, and made it in time. There was a parking lot nearby, but it charges, and it annoyed our cheap Chicago souls to think of going to a lot to park for a $4 neighborhood movie.

So, for want of a quarter, the movie was almost lost. Certainly, there is one advantage to drivers to having these higher meter rates -- you can find a meter now. But you have to wonder what all those empty meter spaces mean for local businesses.

Just for fun on the 4th of July weekend -- check out this site showing sleeping public transit riders around the world. I've never slept on the CTA -- too cautious. Metra, yes.

Anyone who's lived in Chicago for more than a year should know that you don't drive to the July 3 Grant Park fireworks. Just don't. You'll live longer.

But for those who haven't caught on, the CTA is encouraging going to Grant Park or Navy Pier for the fireworks displays on Friday evening, July 3 and Saturday evening, July 4, to take public transportation. Metra is running more trains on Friday to accommodate suburban visitors.

Here is the relevant part of the CTA's press release:

"Longer trains will operate into the Loop until late every night, and extra buses will be available toward the close of each evening's activities.

To speed travel and reduce lines, customers are encouraged to buy farecards in advance with sufficient value or to add enough value to their existing farecards (either the Chicago Card or magnetic strip Transit Card) for their return trips later in the day.

Bus customers who use CTA fare media pay $2.00 to ride. For rail customers or customers who pay cash on the bus, the fare is $2.25. Customers who use magnetic strip cards or other CTA fare media may transfer for a 25 cent fee. Transfers are not available for customers paying fares in cash.


Rail Service - July 3rd Fireworks Event
· Bicycles are not allowed on trains Friday, July 3 or Saturday, July 4.

· Also, as a courtesy to other customers, strollers must be folded on CTA buses and trains.

· Additional CTA personnel will be on duty at Loop rail stations to help customers and to provide travel information.

Blue Line
Longer trains and more frequent service between O'Hare and Forest Park.

Pink Line
More frequent service and extended service hours from the Loop to 54th/Cermak until approximately 1:30 a.m.

Red Line
Longer trains and more frequent service between 95th/Dan Ryan and Howard.

Green Line
More frequent service and extended service until approximately 1:30 a.m. from the Loop to Harlem, East 63rd/Cottage Grove and Ashland/63rd."

For those taking a bus, customers leaving the Loop can board northbound buses along LaSalle, southbound buses along Clark and westbound buses along Madison.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

June 2009 is the previous archive.

August 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.