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home : columns : columns April 26, 2017

3/8/2017 5:02:00 PM
The Traffic Guy hears ...
Dubai's taxi droneSubmitted photo
Dubai's taxi drone
Submitted photo

… that there will be some new police vehicles on the street – five new, aptly named, perhaps, Ford Interceptor SUVs. There will be one for the administration division, one for School Resources, and three for the Patrol Operations. These will replace some vehicles that have been assessed as being in “poor” or “very poor” condition.

… that, to keep these vehicles moving for about six months, the City will be purchasing $450,000 of fuel from Gas Depot Oil Company of Morton Grove. That company won the bid from the Northwest Municipal Conference – at least through July – to supply all the types of fuel Evanston and other NMC vehicles require. Present fuel prices are $1.73/gallon for 87 octane gasoline and $2.00/gallon for bio-diesel.

… that those fuel prices compare favorably to what most are paying at the pump these days. GasBuddy reports that average retail gasoline prices in Chicago rose 3.9 cents per gallon in late February, according to its daily survey of 1,437 gas outlets in Chicago. Drivers in other cities were paying more, GasBuddy reports: The national average increased 0.5 cents per gallon, to $2.28 per gallon.

… that, with spring winding (short “i” optional in that word) its way into Evanston, cleanups and repairs are beginning. Residents had a chance to learn that street cleaning began last week. TG hopes that most learned of the early dates from other sources than a ticket on the car window. This month, Continental Energy Solutions of Oakbrook is installing two solar panels at the Ecology Center “as a renewable energy demonstration project at the facility,” the City says. The panels are a gift from I-Go Alternative Transportation for Chicagoland. And along the lakefront, the fog houses will undergo roof replacement, window and door restoration, tuck-pointing and other miscellaneous repairs. The general contractor for this project is Garland/DBS, Inc. of Cleveland, and the project could be completed in May. Both projects are funded through the General Obligation Funds for Capital Improvement Projects.

… that hauling away is also on the City’s mind. G & L Contractors of Skokie will be hauling away debris – broken concrete, miscellaneous rocks and stones and the like – for the next year.

… that another housekeeping item – or, more accurately, an underlying item for many City projects – is materials testing, for which the City has contracted with Interra of Bolingbrook. Materials testing is needed in the design and planning stages of such projects as water main improvements, street resurfacing, and parking lot paving.

… that the City is asking folks who live within two blocks (north or south) of Central between Ashland and Hartrey to take an online survey about their parking needs.

… that, speaking of parking, the City is again leasing spaces in the Maple Avenue garage to the U.S. Postal Service. Perhaps those who keep getting stuck on the second and third floors of the garage have not seen the many mail trucks lined up on the lowest deck. Under the current lease, the Postal Service will lease 77 spaces, with total lease payments of $187,440 through October of 2018.

… that the RTA has projected its 10-year capital needs to reach $37.7 billion, according to the RTA’s 2016 Capital Asset Condition Assessment (2016 Report). That includes $19.4 billion of deferred investment or backlog and an additional $18.3 billion that is needed over the next decade for normal capital reinvestment. “These costs include maintaining aging infrastructure, upgrading trains and buses, repairing/replacing bridges, replacing tracks, rehabbing stations and making other improvements needed to achieve a State of Good Repair, a condition in which assets are operating at their full performance level,” according to the RTA. TG hopes they can find the money.

… that, speaking of the skies, earthsky.org reports, “March 2017 presents the grand finale of Venus, the sky’s brightest planet, as the evening ‘star.’ Day by day, Venus sets sooner in the west after sunset. On the opposite side of the sky, Jupiter, the second-brightest planet, is rising sooner each evening. By the month’s end, Venus will have dropped out of the evening sky totally, and Jupiter will be shining from dusk until dawn,” surely another sign of spring.

… that some spring flowers are already in bloom. Is this early?
Jennie Atkins, Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring (WARM) program manager at the Illinois State Water Survey, a division of PRI, reports that statewide temperatures at depths of 4 inches under bare soil have averaged 36.3 degrees so far this winter, 2.5 degrees above the long-term average, but 0.4 degrees lower than last winter. Soils have been steadily warming since early February, so more flowers and weeds may appear shortly.

… that the City will apply for funding for its Main Street Corridor improvement project, on Main between Hinman and Maple. “This section of Main Street is in the heart of the Main Street business district, and it has deteriorated significantly,” the City says, noting the many patches in the road and “severe distress” of the pavement, the “heaving” of the paver sidewalks, and the need for ADA-accessible ramps at most crosswalks, the need for safer access to the CTA and Metra stations, and the need for a new traffic light at Sherman and Main. To offset at least some of the cost, the City will apply for nearly half a million dollars in “Invest in Cook” funds, a program of the Cook County Department of Highways & Transportation. This is just the planning and design stage; construction would not begin until 2019.  

… that speaking of the Main/Chicago area, this letter about “zombie bikes” came from a reader:

TG: In many places in Chicago and Evanston, I see bicycles which were locked securely to bike racks a long time and a lot of weather ago and not removed. Some are missing parts such that they can’t be ridden. Others just have badly corroded metal. There is one such bike at the south end of the bike rack outside the Main Street L station. Some friends of mine live nearby, so I’ve had a chance to observe it when I use that station. It’s been there for months, if
not years. Its metal parts are corroded.
I call these “zombie bikes.” If there were surveillance video, we might have seen who locked these bikes up, apparently never to return. What happened to them? Were they kidnapped or deprived of their lives? Is this any way to get rid of an unwanted bike?
Does anybody in or out of government know the backstory about these bikes and their last riders? Does Evanston have a policy about possible removal from a rack of a bike which appears to have been abandoned? This might include posting an online photo of it, now in the bike pound, asking readers, “Is this your bicycle?” – Jean Smiling Coyote

From TG: TG forwarded your question to the City and received this response from James Maiworm, Bureau Chief of Infrastructure Maintenance: “Thanks for reaching out to us and the excellent question. Yes, the City does police for abandoned bicycles. Typically we rely on our 311 process to discover where the bicycles are located, but during the spring of each year we will make a sweep targeting Downtown, other business districts and general City Right-of-Way for any bicycles that appear to be abandoned. We define abandoned bikes as those that are rusted, missing wheels or other parts and generally in a state of disrepair.
“Our process is to tag a bicycle with a note requesting that it be relocated to private property within 48 hours or we will consider it abandoned. Once we have determined the bicycle is abandoned we will then relocate it to our Service Center Warehouse and hold it for a period of 90 days. Our hope is to always reunite the bicycle with its owner.
“An important note is that we only remove bikes that are located on City property. We do not remove bicycles from private property or property owned by other transportation agencies.
“Regarding the bicycle in question at the Main Street L Station, we will take a look and see if the location is on property that the City manages and if so tag it and begin the process.”

The Traffic Guy thinks …
… … that Dubai’s taxi drone, or as its Roads and Transit Authority calls it, the “autonomous aerial vehicle” (AAV), may be on the cutting edge of traffic. The multi-rotor AAV will reportedly be able to carry a single passenger weighing up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and a small suitcase and be able to travel up to 50 kilometers (31 miles). The passenger will climb in, input a destination, buckle up and enjoy the ride. Airspace magazine, one of the Smithsonian publications, writes: “While the Dubai passenger drone would prove a first – assuming it works, and holds to that ambitious schedule – others will be close on its heels. Rideshare company Uber, for one, has said it would like a fleet of its own. Israel’s Urban Aeronnautics has been testing its Cormorant for urban taxi and ambulance services. Even if the Dubai drone doesn’t take off this summer, the world is sure to see this concept become real eventually, considering the technical advancements made possible by research by DARPA and others.” Will they have to file flight plans? Will there be AAV traffic controllers?
              
Happy spring, everyone.






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