Chicago Sun-Times

August 2009 Archives

Slow Zone Blue(s)

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Construction work on the Blue Line continues this weekend. Rail service will be suspended from Clark/Lake to Western/Milwaukee starting at 10 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Monday. Shuttle buses will substitute for rail service. As always, customers are advised to allow extra travel time.

Anyone avoiding the Blue Line on weekends because of this? A couple of times this summer when I wanted to go downtown on a Sunday I used my car, because I didn't want to deal with the shuttle bus shuffle. Or else I just decided not to go.

Here's another reason to love Amsterdam. No, not THAT reason. Or THAT one. I'm talking about bike parking. According to an article by traffic expert Tom Vanderbilt in Slate magazine this week, in the Netherlands, where an estimated 27 percent of daily trips are made on bicycle...

"Outside of, or underneath, Dutch railway stations in the major cities sit vast bicycle parking structures. In fact, parking is so readily available that many riders keep a bike at their origin and destination stations. The three-story parking-garage-style facility outside Amsterdam's Central Station holds some 9,000 bikes, while Groningen has a massive, covered and guarded facility that holds 4,500 bikes. And yet even these structures do not seem to meet demand."

Would you more readily bike to work if you had a secure, indoor place to keep your bike?

Today's Ride Trivia Quiz question was: Chicago-area commuters were told they might be able to stop doing this as early as 1976. They're still doing it. What is it?

Memories run long in Chicago -- many people knew this one. The first with the correct answer was Oscar Anderson of Chicago, who knew that we were supposed to stop paying tolls as early as 1976. The tollways were supposed to become freeways when construction was paid for. But the state kept building more tollways, which needed more money, and so the tolling went on.

Last week's question was: What novel centered on a financial scam involving the construction of a U.S./Mexico railroad? The answer is "The Way We Live Now," by Anthony Trollope. The novel's central scandal is reminiscent of both Enron and Bernie Madoff, so though published in 1875, the book really is the way we live now.

Nobody got the answer, though there were good guesses. Several people guessed "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand, which also involved railroad construction, but that was more of a scheme than a scam.

I heard from a bus driver this morning who's angry over the CTA's new policy of firing drivers caught using cell phones. The driver who called said the radio system on the bus is frequently broken down, so drivers are left with no alternative but to call the Control Center or 911 using a personal cell phone in case of emergency. The driver said other drivers are saying that if the radio doesn't work, they plan to just sit there in their disabled bus waiting until the supervisor comes to find them.

"I'm not going to walk looking for a pay phone," the driver said. "I'm going to wait for the supervisor to come find me. The radios don't always work.... We're out here like sitting ducks."

The bus driver's complaint echoes remarks made by Darrell Jefferson, head of the CTA bus drivers union, who said that since the transit agency is going to ban personal cell phone use, it should also make sure the CTA's bus communication equipment works properly.

"Based on what our [members] tell us, the system is down more than it's working," Jefferson said.

What novel centers around a financial scam involving the construction of a U.S./Mexico railroad? Give the title and the author. The first person with the right answer gets a Sun-Times t-shirt. Please provide full name and a way to reach you.

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