CategoryIllinois

Should Cook County become a state?

“A state Republican legislator has introduced a bill to the Illinois General Assembly to separate the Chicago’s county from the state–effectively making the midwestern city the 51st state in the union” via Yahoo! News.

I’m just thinking aloud here:

  • We could fix our own transit funding issues. We wouldn’t have to compete with transit funding for downstate agencies (at the state level, competition at the federal level would still exist).
  • We’d be a very small state, 5.3 million.
  • Metra would be tough to deal with, unless it came under CTA control first! Har har.
  • I think this could make the State of Chicago a larger economic powerhouse without the meddling of so many different legislators.

What else would be different if Chicago (and Cook county) was its own state?

“These liberal policies are an insult to the traditional values of downstate families,” Mitchell told the Decatur Tribune. “When I talk to constituents, one of the biggest things I hear is ‘Chicago should be its own state . . . .Our voters’ voices were drowned out by Chicago.”

That’s kind of funny. Like Chicagoans are a bunch of abortion-having, dolphin-saving, vegan, bisexual couples.

Collecting the wrong information doesn’t help us plan well

The Illinois Traffic Crash Report (see scan below) has a field in the upper left titled “PEDV” which means “Pedalcyclist or pedestrian visibility.”

The possible entries for this field are the following codes*:

  1. No contrasting clothing
  2. Contrasting clothing
  3. Reflective material
  4. Other light source used

For my crash report, the police officer noted “1 – No contrasting clothing.” I don’t remember what I was wearing that night, so I can’t dispute that. I didn’t have lighting required by state law. I don’t know if the police officer would mark “4 – Other light source used” if I did. I’m not aware of what kind of guidance the report or data dictionary offers the police officer filling out the report; how is “contrasting clothing” defined?

Wearing contrasting clothing is not required by law. Using a headlight while bicycling at “nighttime” is. The light will be more effective than any kind of clothing in increasing the visibility of the bicyclist.

The crash report should note the bicyclist’s compliance with state law, not whether or not their clothing choice may have been a contributing factor in the crash (which the presence of this code on the report implies). I took the photo below last night when I was wearing a black jacket and gray jeans. It doesn’t appear very contrasting – but I was in compliant with state and city laws about lighting at night.

My clothes may blend into the night, by my blinking light surely doesn’t.

Collecting information on lighting law compliance could help cities and police better plan education and enforcement initiatives. It can give us information on crashes that we wouldn’t otherwise have, like how many crashes involved cyclists who didn’t have the required lights. Or where a lot of crashes occur even though a high percentage of cyclists involved there had sufficient lighting.

Illinois cyclists had a big win with the inclusion of doorings in state-provided crash reports. I think the next change should be to record information on compliance with lighting laws. If you need a good light, try this one from Planet Bike.

*This information comes from the “2004-present person codes” data dictionary from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Illinois will finally begin tracking dooring bike crashes

Governor Quinn made a rule change today requiring Illinois police departments to record dooring-type bicycle crashes on the SR-1050 motorist crash reporting form, according to Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune. The announcement will be made tomorrow.

Apparently, Gov. Quinn read the Chicago Tribune’s article on March 21st about how the Illinois Department of Transportation could not and would not collect information on dooring crashes. I first wrote about this data deficiency on March 11.

For now, responding police officers will have to write DOORING next to the bicyclist’s name on the crash reporting form (the Chicago Police method was to write DOORING on a second piece of paper and record this data internally – IDOT would not accept the second page). The Tribune article explains that IDOT already ordered a bunch of new forms and won’t make a new order until 2013 at which time the form will have a checkbox making this process much simpler.

I would like to thank Governor Quinn, writer Jon Hilkevitch, Amanda Woodall, the Active Transportation Alliance, and all who contacted IDOT asking for their reporting standards to be changed to record dooring crashes. This means that next year you’ll see bike crash maps with a ton more dots – those of doorings, unless we continue educating ourselves, family and friends about riding AWAY from the door zone.

Why collecting this data is important

From the article:

[Active Transportation] Alliance officials said dooring accidents are common, basing the conclusion on reports from bicyclists. But without a standardized statewide reporting system, there has been no way to accurately quantify the problem or pinpoint locations where such accidents frequently occur and where modifications to street layouts would help, alliance officials said.

“We hope to use the data to obtain funding for education safety so drivers as well as bicyclists know what the risks are and what the factors are to create safer roadways,” said Dan Persky, director of education at the alliance.

Ride out of the door zone. Illustration by Gary Kavanagh.

Why the Chicago bike crash map doesn’t show doorings

The data on the Chicago bike crash map comes from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) after reports are made to the Chicago Police Department, but it’s missing certain types of crashes. IDOT currently will not collect data about doorings.

Some Chicago cyclists created this sticker to alert drivers and their passengers to the dangers of the door. “Someone opened a door and killed my friend.” This is version 1 of the sticker; see version 2. Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.

Here’s a summary of the process:

1. Police officers make the reports

Chicago police officers collect information on dooring (outlawed by MCC 9-80-035) because of a recent agreement with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) – the importance of reporting doorings became a bigger priority after someone died after being doored on LaSalle Street in 2008.

When there is a dooring, Chicago police officers use an “Additional Units Form” in addition to SR-1050 (standard reporting form for Illinois motor vehicle crashes) and write “dooring” where the IDOT barcode would be on the Additional Units Form.

2. How the Chicago Police Department records it

When the Chicago Police Records Office sees that there’s no barcode they know they can’t send it to IDOT, but they see “dooring” and scan it for their own records (so they can provide it to crash parties later) and then email that number to the CDOT Bicycle Program. (There was a general order put out by CPD on this procedure and, yes, they actually send them– at least some of them.)

The CPD also knows that doorings, according to IDOT, are not a “reportable” crash. In addition to doorings, IDOT doesn’t consider the following as “reportable” crashes:

  • Any crash in which the first point of impact does not involve a moving motor vehicle.
  • Any non-injury crash which causes less than $1500 in property damage, unless one or more of the drivers was uninsured.

3. CDOT and Chicago Police Department connect

CDOT can then connect to the Police Departments records system, download a scan of the crash report, reads it and enters specifics into a tracking spreadsheet.

This is how dooring data is collected in Chicago because IDOT will throw away reports or attachments without barcodes. This should change. This process affects ALL cities in the State of Illinois but as far as I’m aware, only Chicago records doorings. It’s unfortunate that local agencies are forced to bear this additional task and provide special training for thousands of officers outside of statewide practices because IDOT doesn’t acknowledge the importance of this issue and revise its reporting policy.

Below is the SR-1050 form and you can see the IDOT barcode with the case number below it. The bike and pedestrian crash data I have from IDOT includes those case numbers.

Read more about doorings on Grid Chicago.

High-speed rail in Illinois, February 2011 edition

View a map of the places described in this article.

A friend of mine traveled by Amtrak’s Lincoln Service from Chicago to St. Louis in January 2011. He reported, “It’s extremely smooth north of Alton and south of Lincoln. You can barely even hear or feel that you’re on a train.” Track replacement as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus and high-speed rail plan is complete between Alton and Lincoln, Illinois.

Photo shows a Union Pacific work train next to new track in Carlinville, Illinois. Photo by Tim Carman, taken in November 2010.

The next track replacement phase will take place between Lincoln and Dwight, scheduled to be completed in Fall 2011. A December 2010 press release from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) explains the next steps for the first state to begin construction on high-speed rail grants provided by American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA):

  1. Installation of new, enhanced grade crossing warning protection
  2. New cars and locomotives
  3. Station upgrades

Like all press releases, this one also seems to ooze idealistic endeavors by adding that the “public can expect to enjoy its first taste of 110 mile-per-hour train service when a 20-mile segment between Dwight and Pontiac is completed in 2012.” But this project has a high likelihood of being completed as described.

Read more posts on high-speed rail in Steven can plan.

Who wants to give up high-speed rail

UPDATED: 11/16/10 and 11/19/10 to include new reports from Journal-Sentinel about Walker’s campaign contributions and to reorder the timeline (now in chronological order) and news about North Carolina.

The Governors-elect of Wisconsin (Scott Walker) and Ohio (John Kasich) made it clear during their campaigns that they would put an end to current or upcoming high-speed rail construction paid for mostly by competitive grants from the Department of Transportation.

Illinois was the first state to start high-speed rail construction using federal stimulus money. Photo taken just outside of Springfield, right before IDOT announced the first phase of track construction (from Alton to Springfield) is complete and phase two should have begun yesterday, Monday (from Springfield to Lincoln).

Because of their stance, and because Secretary Ray LaHood has made it clear that Wisconsin’s $810 million and Ohio’s $400 can only be used for high-speed rail, the news changes daily. Here’s the latest in the chronology that’s happened in the past two weeks:

LaHood is laying on the pressure that high-speed rail will happen, but perhaps not in Wisconsin, if Walker has his way.

*3C stands for Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus.

Two Amtrak trains waiting to depart Chicago Union Station (CUS) in May 2010. Photo by Eric Pancer.

I voted – I hope you did, too

Photo by Eric Pancer.

I’m locking my bike at the elementary school to a bench. A guy on the other side of “the line” (marked by blue cones) asks me if he can give me a sample ballot.

“No, thanks, got my own!”

I used the Chicago Tribune’s “ballot maker” website to print a list of the people I wanted to vote for. That included these three Metropolitan Water Reclamation District candidates. I also voted for other candidates who have shown their support for things I want, like high-speed rail (a currently occurring reality in Illinois) and public transit. I voted for people like Pat Quinn and Dan Lipinski to further support these efforts to make Illinois more economically competitive as well as develop more sustainably and most important of all, get people where they’re going on environmentally-friendly transportation modes.

Why did you vote? What message did you send?

Chicago and Illinois construction updates, October 2010 edition

This post will be updated as I receive more information and shoot more photos. Please contribute your own updates and news.

  • High-speed rail in Illinois – Yes, America is building some “high-speed” rail (for the second time). The first leg of track replacement is from Springfield to Alton (across the Mississippi River from St. Louis). I am really interested in renting a car and driving down here to see it for myself.
  • 31st Street harbor/marina – Originally introduced on my blog in July and again in August. The Chicago Park District is developing a full marina, including a boat ramp and restaurant.
  • Sustainable streetscape in Pilsen – A water feature and bioswale was recently installed at Benito Juarez Community Academy on Cermak Road. I’ve been told it’s especially fantastic during the rain, as the water is collected from the roof, pours down a spout into a small creek.
  • 35th Street Metra station – Originally introduced on my blog in July. The line will help my roommate get to his old neighborhood faster. Oh, it will improve access to the White Sox stadium, hopefully helping to reduce idling and congestion on the Dan Ryan expressway and our neighborhood roads that get backed up during baseball games.

31st Street Beach and harbor construction.

Do you have construction updates for your city or state?

High-speed rail under construction in Illinois

UPDATE: The City of Carlinville Facebook page provides consistent and timely updates on the railroad crossing closures while the Union Pacific track is upgraded. The City posted photos, too.

If you weren’t specifically seeking out information on high-speed rail (HSR) construction, and you weren’t searching for “track renewal train” and other obscure keywords, you wouldn’t actually know about the status of HSR.

But that’s why you follow my blog – I’ll keep you updated.

Right now, crews are working 10 hour days, working 10 days on, and 5 days off* in Carlinville, Plainview (photo), and Alton, Illinois, to remove existing track and wooden ties and replacing them with concrete ties and continuously welded rail (CWR).

The proof is in the videos, taken only four days ago in Carlinville (map) on October 1, 2010. Watch more videos from PSQLead.

The Harsco Track Technologies Track Renewal Train 909 (TRT-909) does the following:

  • Picks up and carries out of the way old rail
  • Removes old wooden ties with a robot arm
  • Digs up ballast
  • Places new concrete ties
  • Drops in new rail and heats it so it can be “continuously welded”
  • Clamps new rail to new ties

What the beast looks like from afar. Photo of Union Pacific’s TRT-909 in Aldine, Texas, by Matthew Holman.

Thankfully Illinois doesn’t have a growing anti-rail political force like Ohio, California, Florida, or Wisconsin. All of these states have Republican candidates running for governor who say they will stop the train in its tracks. Read more about this unfortunate situation in The New York Times.

*This information comes from a secondary source. I hope to get in touch with someone who knows more about the work.

Chicagoland transit projects

UPDATE: A Tribune story from today about suburban transit is sizzling: “A majority of Chicago-area residents think improving bus and train service is so important to the region that repairing and expanding expressways and toll roads should take a back seat…” Continue reading.

I listed several transit projects happening or about to happen (17 of ’em) in the Chicago city limits, but Ted Villaire writes in the Active Transportation Alliance’s current newsletter about some suburban transit projects underway.

The station in downtown Geneva, Illinois, will see longer platforms and better delineation of waiting areas and crossing paths. Additionally, the operating railroad (Union Pacific), Metra, and the City of Geneva are working to expand the parking options – it’s about time that Geneva works on a bike plan. There are thousands of residents with a couple miles of the station and the station is near two major multi-use trails.

  • Skoke – New Yellow Line CTA station at Oakton Street.
  • Winnetka – Refurbished Metra UP-North station.
  • West suburbs – Track and station upgrades at many UP-West cities.

The UP-West line will receive an exciting, new and visible safety upgrade: Another Train Warning System. This product serves to alert those travelers who seem to distrust the accuracy of warning bells and gates by explicitly announcing the presence of an incoming train. The device visually and audibly alerts passengers of the existence of another train in the platform and station area.

All Metra enhancements should be done by 2011.

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