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honte Dec 21, 2008 10:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3986625)
^ All due respect, Honte, the impression I have gotten reading your prior posts is that you mostly drive to get around the city (please correct me if I'm wrong), so of course a higher parking tax would negatively affect you. But as our most ardent preservationist, surely you recognize that it is the accommodation of the automobile that has led to perhaps the greatest destruction of historic buildings in most American cities, Chicago included--and it continues to this day.

Even Blair Kamin is an ardent preservationist, but I wonder if he uses transit? I imagine the downtown garage/lot he parks in must have replaced a century-old treasure.

Change starts from the bottom up.

Yes, I do drive more often than I ride public transit, and I am one of the people who would fit into some of Mr. D's categories about driving vs. transit. I can tell you, due to the nature of my work, certain physical ailments, and the way transit is set up in this city, it is absolutely unworkable for me. You will also note that the South Side is hardly set up any longer to support transit-oriented living. Last, I'm not ashamed to say that I attempt to make use of every neighborhood in the city, and the majority of the places I love or have found in Chicago are simply not readily accessible via transit, particularly if you try to visit more than one destination in a day.

I have tried to use mass transit as a primary form of transportation, and the equation simply never works. Even if only one of the above points applied to me, it just wouldn't be feasible.

I'm also in the income bracket where I would never be able to pay for parking on a regular basis downtown. In fact, even today I never pay for parking unless I'm carpooling with four people or more. But I can certainly see how the prices are near the tipping point and there will be spill-over - some of this will spill into transit, which would be good, and some of this will spill into people who simply give up on the city.

The other thing I can tell you, I interface with contractors and other working class types most every day, and I meet people at least once per week who talk about leaving Chicago due to the high prices of daily living. I just met another one yesterday. You might laugh this off, telling me that they are suburban-minded or not fit for city life, but these are real issues that have real impact. It's far too important, complex, and dynamic to just make some demands based on theoretical ideals and ignore the true dynamics of the situation. I'll grant that these are usually not the people who are paying to park downtown, but some of the downtown people surely feel similarly.

The preservation issue is a loaded question, and it's more complex than you make it. But I try to deal with the situation at hand, and the fact at this point in time is that much damage has been done - but aside from strip-malls, I don't see a lot of development happening that strictly caters to automobiles. Most of what's been going on are developments that have a parking component, but I believe most of these would have happened in either case.

the urban politician Dec 21, 2008 10:56 PM

^ I appreciate your argument, Honte, and I want to start off by saying that I was not intending to be smart-alec-ish at all in that post. My point was mostly a conceptual one, not a personal attack.

To the rest of your argument, let me hit you with this:

You talk about people who can't afford to live in the city and are considering leaving. It's unfortunate that such a thing is happening, but that clearly is due to a complicated range of factors besides Daley's proposed rush hour parking tax. So I'll leave it at that.

Regarding your point about personally travelling to all neighborhoods of the city, that's a separate issue. It has to be emphasized that this is an increased tax on parking within a certain part of downtown during certain hours of the day Monday through Friday. This should not affect Hyde Park, Kenwood, the west side, Lincoln Park, Uptown, yada yada yada. There will be no increase in the cost of parking in these neighborhoods at any time from this particular proposal.

The areas that are affected by this tax, ie Chicago's loop and near north side, are some of the most well-served by transit in the North American continent. We all know this--a huge plethora of trains and buses extending perhaps 80 miles out from the core serve this small area. I can see almost NO reason, whether one is a suburbanite or whether he or she lives in the city, one cannot get to Chicago's downtown during rush hour fairly easily without a car. Even if one is poor but still works downtown, how should this affect them? In fact, if this plan is implemented in earnest and such monies indeed are used to fund the CTA, regular transit riders should actually see an improvement in their service.

The only exception is the point Mr. D made--people who work at several sites per day. They either have to suck it up or some provisions perhaps can be made for them (ie exemptions, although I'm not sure how this can be implemented).

I'd like to close by saying this: I believe that increasing the cost of parking in the core will indirectly preserve existing real estate (to this day, NW University is still clearing historic buildings for parking--so it's not a 1970's problem), increase the value of land, and increase the pressure for development of housing/park-n-ride facilities near transit stops outside of the core. Finally, lets observe this--if you look at the most successful, well-preserved cities of the modern western world, pretty much all of them have an economic arrangement that somehow discourages driving. I'd like to see a major western city in which excellent historic preservation and cheap parking go hand-in-hand.

honte Dec 21, 2008 11:14 PM

^ Yeah, I was mixing the issues a bit by first responding to why I drive at all (which obviously is not something I am proud of), and then trying to relate it back a bit to what you're discussing on the downtown parking. Sorry if that was a touch confusing.

The general point I'm trying to make is that all of these headaches, taxes, etc, make life more complicated for everyone. I see a lot of increasing headache but not a lot of attempts to make life better, so it seems... which is a shallow argument in some regard, disregarding increasing costs of running the city and what-have-you, I'll admit. But that's how most people see it.

My job does require quite often that I go downtown and into the surrounding city on the same day. It's a pain in the butt, driving and then parking, taking the el downtown, etc, then having to go back to your car only to sit in traffic - but it's a complexity I'll accept as one of the myriad difficulties of living in a great city. The problem is, most people I know would never put that much effort into it and would very grudgingly just put up, and that is the root of the problem. Are these people lazy, uncreative, even greedy? Probably yes. But unfortunately we need them to keep the city healthy; there are just too many to ignore. It makes me sad to run into people all the time who are literally dreaming of being somewhere else.

____

On the preservation issue, I think you're mixing the two a touch too much. The preservation of older, dense areas of older cities obviously leads to decreased parking and higher costs because they were not built to include parking and preservation generally results in increased values and land costs, driving up development pressure on vacant land etc. It's a pretty simple equation. But would preservation of many communities in western states or newer communities have the same effect? Probably not.

Would increasing the cost of parking preserve anything in downtown Chicago? I highly, highly doubt that. It could theoretically reduce the number of stories of buildings being built and reduce the parking podium effect, but I don't think it's going to stop any developer from eventually replacing his building. As I said, I haven't seen much of anything in the core area recently torn down solely for parking. I can think of maybe three or four examples over the last several years, and I think those buildings would, unfortunately, have come down for some other reason if not for parking.

the urban politician Dec 22, 2008 4:26 AM

Wikipedia has a neat little article about congestion pricing here, which I found interesting:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congestion_pricing

A great thing for the city to do would be to completely exempt the parking tax for all Hybrid vehicles and motorcycles/scooters

ardecila Dec 22, 2008 5:32 AM

double post :(

ardecila Dec 22, 2008 5:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ch.G, Ch.G (Post 3986354)
This is absurd. Mr Downtown predicates his entire argument on the difficulty of commuting to the Loop by rail. But there's a Metra stop in nearly every suburb! Am I missing something? What's stopping people from parking at the nearest suburban train station and "really flying" to their office downtown?

And frankly I'm not even sure what to make of this:



"Dangerous neighborhoods"? In the Loop? (And presumably you'd still have to leave your car at some point?)

"Odd hours"? The train schedule is pretty accommodating.

"Carrying packages and purchases"? Wait... seriously?

Yes, yes, and yes. I won't start with the problems of CTA, since I ride it infrequently and I have an outsiders' perspective at best (I am from the Chicago suburbs but go to school in New Orleans).

However, I will say that Metra isn't the model of convenience you make it out to be. The system of rail lines is adequate, but capacity is really starting to be strained on certain lines.

The nature of commuter rail places a cap on the total number of riders -
1) since it serves suburban locations, riders usually have to drive to the station and park there
2) since conductors and boarding/exiting passengers need to move through the aisles, riders need to be in a seat.

Because of limited quantity of parking spaces at the stations and seats on the train, this basically makes Metra into a kind of lottery. Whoever is able to get to the station early in the morning and happens to live in a far-flung suburb can use Metra (if you live closer in, the train is already full when it gets to you) . If, for whatever reason, you can't get to the station early, and/or you live in a closer suburb, you're out of a parking space or a seat. Staying in your car and driving downtown, then, offers a appealing alternative. Many people have agreed to pay $25 for parking to avoid the stress of waiting in a Metra parking lot for a space to open up, or standing in an aisle all the way downtown. If you raise that price of parking, then these people are liable to simply give up on downtown and find a job somewhere in the suburbs.

The "dangerous neighborhoods" point is valid, although it applies more to city dwellers using the CTA. Getting in your car, safely stored in your alley garage, and driving downtown seems a lot safer than walking a distance through this dangerous area to a train or bus stop and waiting for that train/bus to come, then dealing with the dangers that present themselves once you're on the train or bus. Many people who live in dangerous neighborhoods can't afford to park downtown and so they will take CTA anyway, but if any of them could afford this price, then they would drive.

Again, the Metra schedule at off-peak times is inconvenient and the hassles of parking at off-peak times are terrible.

As for packages and purchases - have you ever returned on Metra from a shopping trip with lots of bags and boxes? You set the parcels down on the seat beside you, but as the train fills up, the conductor orders you to carry all that stuff in your lap to make way for another passenger to sit next to you. Or even worse, on CTA, where somebody could easily swipe one of your bags while you were looking the other way? Throwing the stuff in your trunk and driving starts to look appealing.

I realize that I sound like a typical suburbanite here, but think about this rationally. When transit offers so many drawbacks and very few advantages besides price, why would I choose transit? (In fact, transit isn't even cost-effective for people traveling in groups.) The only reason I would choose it is either out of a sense of environmental responsibility or out of sheer habit. Refusing to add capacity to the transit system while making driving more expensive only makes downtown itself less attractive, and increases the attractiveness of places where driving is unfettered, i.e. the suburbs.

ChicagoChicago Dec 22, 2008 5:56 AM

4 track service is now in effect on the brown line. Belmont opened both SB lines this weekend. :o

Mr Downtown Dec 22, 2008 6:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ch.G, Ch.G (Post 3986354)
What's stopping people from parking at the nearest suburban train station and "really flying" to their office downtown?

100,000 different reasons for 100,000 different people. There is no parking currently available at most Metra stations, especially after 8 am. Waiting outside or walking in bad weather is not easy for some people. The walk home from the train station or bus stop is dangerous in some neighborhoods and suburbs. Some people work odd hours, or fear having to go pick up a sick child during the day when there's very limited (or no) Metra service. For many people, driving offers a significant time savings that they value highly. Parents often have to pick up children or run errands or buy groceries on the way to or from the office. People go from work to night classes or second jobs.

In a free, affluent society, it's not generally a successful approach to tell grownups that they're evil for making choices that are rational to them. When your objective is to attract people to a particular place, loudly announcing that they will be punished for coming in a certain way or at certain times of day is a very curious market strategy.

sammyg Dec 22, 2008 4:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Downtown (Post 3987452)
When your objective is to attract people to a particular place, loudly announcing that they will be punished for coming in a certain way or at certain times of day is a very curious market strategy.

While I agree that many people take cars out of necessity, there are a lot of problems caused by having too many cars downtown.

The problem the city's trying to address is congestion, which is partially caused by too many people trying to get down, so I don't think that they really need to attract people to the loop. The strategy is to take the people who are already coming downtown, and to try and convince them to cause less stress on the system. There is enough demand where even if some of those people choose not to come downtown, it won't have much impact, and they can be replaced by people who want to come downtown but don't because of the current situation.

VivaLFuego Dec 22, 2008 4:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Downtown (Post 3987452)
In a free, affluent society, it's not generally a successful approach to tell grownups that they're evil for making choices that are rational to them. When your objective is to attract people to a particular place, loudly announcing that they will be punished for coming in a certain way or at certain times of day is a very curious market strategy.

Peak period pricing/surcharges have nothing to do with social engineering and everything to do with attempting to price peak period travel at marginal cost, rather than at the lower average cost - without variable pricing in transportation, congestion exists because each marginal person filling up the roadway is paying only the average cost in terms of time and money, rather than the marginal cost. To put it very simply, a congestion surcharge seeks to rectify this by pricing at an average marginal cost rather than an average total cost.

In short, there's nothing wrong with 100,000 people driving for 100,000 different reasons - but they should be prepared to pay the full cost of their decision.

Rilestone75 Dec 22, 2008 6:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sammyg (Post 3987807)
While I agree that many people take cars out of necessity, there are a lot of problems caused by having too many cars downtown.

The problem the city's trying to address is congestion, which is partially caused by too many people trying to get down, so I don't think that they really need to attract people to the loop. The strategy is to take the people who are already coming downtown, and to try and convince them to cause less stress on the system. There is enough demand where even if some of those people choose not to come downtown, it won't have much impact, and they can be replaced by people who want to come downtown but don't because of the current situation.

Before any taxes/charges are made to incoming drivers, the city really ought to address the lamest venture to date. The Traffic Management Authority. The idea is great - put traffic people out on the streets to manage (in real time) the ebb and flow of daily traffice patterns, rather than depend on the street lights. The reality is that they gave these jobs to any moron who signed up and now we have people in bright green/yellow coats, standing on the sidewalk, talking on their cell phones, doing just about every other thing possible than their JOB!

I walk from the Red Line every day to Wells street and have seen maybe one of these people doing their job, once. It should piss everyone off that our taxes go to pay for these things. So rather than charge people extra to drive, why don't we look at the system in place now and make a few changes so that it works the way it was intended.

pip Dec 22, 2008 6:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rilestone75 (Post 3988085)
Before any taxes/charges are made to incoming drivers, the city really ought to address the lamest venture to date. The Traffic Management Authority. The idea is great - put traffic people out on the streets to manage (in real time) the ebb and flow of daily traffice patterns, rather than depend on the street lights. The reality is that they gave these jobs to any moron who signed up and now we have people in bright green/yellow coats, standing on the sidewalk, talking on their cell phones, doing just about every other thing possible than their JOB!

I walk from the Red Line every day to Wells street and have seen maybe one of these people doing their job, once. It should piss everyone off that our taxes go to pay for these things. So rather than charge people extra to drive, why don't we look at the system in place now and make a few changes so that it works the way it was intended.

really? I work in downtown and never see that. Maybe they are on break - they allowed that?

Rilestone75 Dec 22, 2008 7:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pip (Post 3988108)
really? I work in downtown and never see that. Maybe they are on break - they allowed that?

Just to clarify, "never see" what exactly? My experience is that they are standing on the side of the intersection, maybe they are using the hand wand/light thing, but mostly they are not really doing much to help the situation. I feel like they should be out in the middle of the intersection, using their whistles, directing traffic and taking charge of the intersection. Something more similar to the way Cops handle it.

pip Dec 22, 2008 7:07 PM

ummm the part I highlighted lol

honte Dec 22, 2008 7:10 PM

I see an incredible amount of incompetence in the TMA workers... and laziness. In their defense, they are usually in the middle of the intersection, but that's only half the battle.

Most of the time, I stop at the light or stop sign anyway, just because they are motioning so carelessly, it's almost impossible to know what they're directing you to do. Other times, they are joking with one another, or so completely disorganized that you get mixed signals. Then when you are confused about whom to obey, they just yell at you and make themselves feel powerful. It's pretty bad.

HowardL Dec 22, 2008 7:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rilestone75 (Post 3988085)
I walk from the Red Line every day to Wells street and have seen maybe one of these people doing their job, once.

Wow, come with me down Michigan Ave every morning; they are insane about doing their jobs. It makes sense, but it's still confusing sometimes.

It does have a drawback. You come up to an intersection, your crosswalk signal is 'Go' and just about the time you get around the thick crowd of slow walking out of towners and get ready to cross, you get a bloody earful from Susie yellow jacket because she decided to clear the turning lane of traffic.

On paper, it sounds great. Rely on human judgment to handle the situation, but it's like screaming 'Good dog' to a puppy while you simultaneously beat his ass with a rolled up Trib.

I'm not complaining really. It just took some time to catch on to watch Susie first before the crosswalk guy.

Rilestone75 Dec 22, 2008 8:02 PM

^ if you ever hit an out of towner crossing the cross walk, at least you can blame the TMA and the inability to manage traffic. lol

Taft Dec 22, 2008 8:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HowardL (Post 3988164)
Wow, come with me down Michigan Ave every morning; they are insane about doing their jobs. It makes sense, but it's still confusing sometimes.

It does have a drawback. You come up to an intersection, your crosswalk signal is 'Go' and just about the time you get around the thick crowd of slow walking out of towners and get ready to cross, you get a bloody earful from Susie yellow jacket because she decided to clear the turning lane of traffic.

On paper, it sounds great. Rely on human judgment to handle the situation, but it's like screaming 'Good dog' to a puppy while you simultaneously beat his ass with a rolled up Trib.

I'm not complaining really. It just took some time to catch on to watch Susie first before the crosswalk guy.

I agree: they tend to cause more confusion than they prevent. They can be of great use when they are working *with* the signals (telling people to get back on the curb when they don't have the walk signal, instructing cars trying to turn when and where to go, etc.). But often (as honte already said) they are a mess.

One thought I had is that they could control the lights at their intersection. Let's say they had a device that could shorten or lengthen a light in a given direction and the corresponding walk signal. Not total control, mind you, but enough so that if, say, a lot of cars were backed up trying to turn, they could lengthen the light and shorten the walk signal. Something tells me that operating such a device would be a nightmare in practice, though. Especially with the quality of employees the TMA seems to hire...

Taft

Rilestone75 Dec 22, 2008 9:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Taft (Post 3988381)
I agree: they tend to cause more confusion than they prevent. They can be of great use when they are working *with* the signals (telling people to get back on the curb when they don't have the walk signal, instructing cars trying to turn when and where to go, etc.). But often (as honte already said) they are a mess.

One thought I had is that they could control the lights at their intersection. Let's say they had a device that could shorten or lengthen a light in a given direction and the corresponding walk signal. Not total control, mind you, but enough so that if, say, a lot of cars were backed up trying to turn, they could lengthen the light and shorten the walk signal. Something tells me that operating such a device would be a nightmare in practice, though. Especially with the quality of employees the TMA seems to hire...

Taft

Taft, great idea. The lengthening of turning lane lights would really help. But as you said I think the TMA employees need to master the whistle and lighted wand before they tackle remote controls... :D :D

VivaLFuego Dec 22, 2008 9:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Taft (Post 3988381)
One thought I had is that they could control the lights at their intersection. Let's say they had a device that could shorten or lengthen a light in a given direction and the corresponding walk signal.

They do this sometimes (control the signals manually). Whenever I've encountered it, it made traffic much, much worse.

Rather than TMA staff, I'd rather the city spend some of the infrastructure dough to:
1) put in left turn signals at many of the incredible multitude of intersections where there are currently none, and thus approximately 1-2 cars can turn left in each light cycle,
2) install loops in the roadway to perform the task you suggest (tweaking signal timing in real time depending on traffic volume).

Chicago's dearth of both of these is fairly striking when compared to most other cities' traffic control systems. They make a huge difference - when Houston's intelligent traffic systems broke down after the hurricane, much of the city was in gridlock during peak times, whereas otherwise traffic generally flows smoothly. (Not that I wish Chicago to be Houston, I'm just using the anecdote to point out that intelligent signalization should receive more attention in this town, particularly out in the neighborhoods).


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