Archive for the ‘city of chicago’ Category

Dancing (and a whole lot more) in the street!

July 29, 2009

Have some free time this Saturday, August 1st? (August already? Where did the summer go?!) The Active Transportation Alliance, formally the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, is holding a free, 8-mile “Open Streets” event stretching from Logan Square to Little Village.

The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and feature a variety of activities, including music, art activities, children’s games, workout classes and much more. Even better: It’s a free event and there’s no registration, so you can join in at any point along the route! For more info, you can also call them at (312) 377-5727.

Check out this interesting video on the Open Streets initiative:

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Mayor Daley nabs #5 spot on Grist’s "15 Green-Leaning Mayors"

May 6, 2009


Grist recently released their list of “15 Green-Leaning Mayors”, and Chicago’s very own, Richard M. Daley, nabbed the fifth spot. They cite Daley’s green-roof program (the most extensive in the country), sustainable redevelopment & landscaping projects, and his emphasis on renewable energy as his strong points. The article also mentioned Chicago’s bid for the 2016 summer Olympics, stating that it “hinges on the event being the greenest Olympics in history.”

The four mayors that topped Daley are: Michael Bloomberg (New York City), Greg Nickels (Seattle), Gavin Newsom (San Francisco), and Ed Malloy (Fairfield, Indiana). While the list is hardly complete, it does give a good indication of the vast geographical diversity in local climate leadership today.

What do you think? Did Mayor Daley deserve the #5 spot?

Show me the money, Jerry Maguire!

February 27, 2009

The federal economic stimulus package is like a fat, bloody guy who tips over in his canoe in the Amazon: It’s been swarmed over by every Tom, Dick & Harry org, biz, and state or local government with even the most remote justification for taking a nip out of the thrashing cash cow.

Thing is, of course, that creates a whole lotta bottlenecking, impatience and speculation about who’ll get a piece of the pie.

The CTA’s newest young-gun honcho and agency manager jack-of-all-trades, Richard Rodriguez—who’s facing a daunting budget deficit and service-upgrade challenges even as his boss makes a mad dash for the 2016 Olympics—must be crossing his fingers so hard for a stimulus windfall that his knuckles are turning purple. He may get help from Springfield if the freebie rides for seniors that Gov. Nim-Rod proffered during his bread-and-circus reign get yanked.

Even the mayor of Obama’s home town can’t read the tea leaves. His wish list covers about as much ground as the President’s in this video of a press conference recitation earlier this week that’s posted on Mayor Daley’s brand-new YouTube channel. (That’s right: City Hall has finally taken a cue from the Obama internet-savvy playbook, minus slick web-design bells and whistles and an overarching effort to create government transparency.)

Give us this day our Daley bread.

We wish Rodriguez well. Seriously. We look forward to working with him and the CTA on promoting the new Chicago Card Plus/I-GO Card program. And we hope there’s a piece of mutton left over from the stimulus gorging for our non-profit car-sharing agenda and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, I-GO’s parent org. We’re both part of a better green tomorrow that includes an expanded, synergistic public transportation system.

Because it’s gonna take a whole lotta green to go green, folks. But it’s the right thing to do.

Morgan Stanley leans on Chicago parking meters

February 12, 2009

When few Chicago residents were paying attention, back on Dec. 4 City Council aldermen voted 40 to 5 in favor of a deal that gives Morgan Stanley a 75-year lease on Chicago parking meter revenue. Get ready for a shock: Rate hikes go into effect, appropriately enough, on Friday the 13th and will be phased in at more than 36,000 meters in the next few weeks.

Yes, that Morgan Stanley. The same Wall Street investment banking firm getting hauled in front of Rep. Barney Frank & Co. along with other Wall Street titans blamed for the subprime mortgage and credit clusterf*&k that led to the bank bailout that led to extra bonuses for Gotham’s greediest.

The Trib reported the news in a straightforward way, but didn’t cite Morgan Stanley by name, instead referring to our new Parking Czar as “a new private operator.”

A blogger in the Huffington Post got it right.

The Loop gets hit first on Friday.

From the Trib piece:

The increases are part of a 75-year lease that city leaders recently approved with a new private operator. Under the agreement, the city receives an up-front payment of $1.15 billion from the company that will now collect payments from the meters.

The lease allows the private operator to raise rates in the coming years. The timetable for the initial increases:

*Loop: $3.50 an hour starting Friday.
*Near North, Near West and Near South: $2 an hour starting Saturday.
*Lincoln Park: $1 an hour Feb. 18-19.
*North Side: $1 an hour Feb. 20-28.
*West Side: $1 an hour March 1-2.
*South Side: $1 an hour March 5-9.

The $1-an-hour charges will mean a quadrupling of the cost to park at two-thirds of the meters in the city, where the current rate of 25 cents an hour has not changed in decades.

Although the meters have generated almost $20 million a year in net income for the city, Daley has hailed the privatization payout and similar leases of public assets as innovative thinking that will allow the city to continue to invest in vital public works projects today.

In the statement announcing the implementation of the rate hikes, Daley chief of staff Paul Volpe said the lease “is another part of the mayor’s ongoing commitment to protect taxpayers from a tax increase.”

Someone ID’d as “Chicago Bred” responded with this comment on the Trib website:

Now is the time to utilize and expand carsharing-IGO comes to mind. It’s scary to think about 75 years of more money to a private company for an upfront payout which is probably already spent.

And the comments get a lot more incendiary than that:

How obscene is it that Morgan Stanley now rakes in our inflated meter rates? This is one of the banks that gouged and took advantage of homebuyers that led to the financial crisis and then received big bucks from the bailout. How did this agreement ever come together in the first place? I haven’t seen much scrutiny of the details of this. And now while we’re digging deep into our pockets just to pick up some milk at the corner store, it’s those small struggling business people (who will never receive a govt. bailout) who will suffer from the loss of business. Patrick Fitzgerald, are looking at this one?

Sold the streets/parking meters to a private company with less three days notice to the alderman to review it for 1.1 billion. I’m not a math wiz but amortization should bring that to well over 6 billion dollars for the new owners.

What’s interesting is that I went to city hall the day that Daley was announcing his proposal for budget cuts and he said that one way to save money was to stop going through contractors and private companies for certain city services, like security. It doesn’t make sense to lease something for 75 years to someone else when the city can pocket the money. Who knows with inflation if the deal will even be worth it in 75 years?

As a resident of the loop, these meter hikes affect me directly. Up until now, the meters around my building did not need to be fed on evenings, Sundays, and holidays. Friends and family loved to visit me because they could find parking on these off-hours. This, of course, is no longer the case. Time for me to move to a different neighborhood.

Why Chicago needed to sell the streets (75 year lease to me spells “sold”) to get extra money is beyond me. Seems like they should have been able to find a way to increase the rates themselves. What drove Chicago to SELLING and handing over control and how did the council win the vote on this?!?!?

Are we seriously supposed to scrounge around for change to feed the meter on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving??? Have they no decency?

Guys, the best way to describe the privatization is that we’re taking a mortgage on our parking meters. Daily knows he can make more money for the city in the long run by raising rates and keeping the control in the city’s hands. But he also knows that he has a huge ($20million) budget shortfall this year and he can’t keep the machine running without taking out a loan! He’s brining the extra money forward with the privatization.

Wow.

First the ubiquitous cameras recording our license plates, now this. Who do our streets belong to anyway? Apparently, not the citizens of Chicago.

Car sharing can be part of the solution. But while I-GO does maintain reserved parking spaces that its members don’t pay for, we (and Zipcar, for that matter, too) can’t do anything about our hijacked and pawned-off parking meters.

Better start stocking up on those quarters. Although I’m feeling more drawn and quartered right now.

Tracking the CTA

February 4, 2009

The sweeping changes underway at the CTA are fueling water-cooler conversation for working stiffs and sustainable-transportation experts alike.

The latter category includes Maria Choca Urban, one of our colleagues at the Center for Neighborhood Technology (I-GO‘s parent org, an urban-sustainability-focused “think and do tank”), who, on Monday’s Eight Forty-Eight program on Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ), gave an insightful assessment of the CTA that comes from firsthand experience. Maria was formerly General Manager for Policy and Strategic Solutions at CTA, and now serves as Program Manager for Transportation and Community Development at CNT.

Listen to the streaming audio file here.

RedEye‘s “Going Public” columnist Kyra Kyles was the other guest commentator on the show, and both women offered a balanced, informed POV on the the agency many Chicagoans have had a love-hate relationship with for decades.

Of course, Daley’s favorite young-gun troubleshooter—ascendent, studly Everyman Ron Huberman, who’s apparently on track to head every major city agency before declaring himself a senatorial or gubernatorial candidate (not too far-fetched, right?)—was the main topic. Maria offered praise for Huberman’s efforts in his too-brief stint at CTA, including better accountability standards in the massive bureaucracy (did you know CTA has 11,000 employees?! and that’s after a recent layoff), making better use of collected data, and the CTA’s oft-beleaguered customer relations.

But she and Kyles both agreed that the new Chicago Public Schools chief (hey, he’s an ex-cop and transit guy—maybe he can get the kids to class on time and bust more troublemakers) wasn’t in charge long enough to see his initiatives truly evolve and pay off.

When a listener called in to ask why Chicago can’t have city agency bosses with experience specific to the orgs they head, Maria said that she and her fellow transit-minded think-tankers at CNT would definitely like to see a experienced transportation professional take the reins at CTA.

Is Dorval Carter, the interim prez, the right dude for the gig?

Carter’s a lawyer who moved up from Executive Vice President for Operations Support, and he’s been responsible for directing the planning and operations functions for multiple departments including Human Resources, Purchasing, Public Affairs, Government and Community Relations and Finance. Prior to joining the CTA in 2000, Carter spent 10 years at the Federal Transit Administration where he was Assistant Chief Counsel for Legislation and Regulation and managed the office responsible for preparing and directing the federal legislative and regulatory agenda for the FTA.

I just ripped that info straight from the CTA press release.

Trying to remain objective here. Because we here at I-GO have high hopes for the CTA’s ongoing transformation. We just partnered with CTA to create a brand-new joint smart card—the Chicago Card Plus/I-GO Card—that gives you access to trains, buses and I-GO’s citywide fleet of car-sharing vehicles. The idea is to make public transit more expansive and green. We’re fans of any form of sustainable transit that decreases congestion on the roads and CO2 in our skies.

Any opinions out there on how the CTA and I-GO might further perpetuate this agenda? We’d love to hear from you. Just click on the Comments link below and give us your two cents.