CN June 20, 2013

If you’re a Metra rider and you think service quality has been declining , you’re not wrong. That’s the view of the Tribune’s transportation writer Jon Hilkevitch, who sat down with us for a one-on-one interview this week – and for a kind of State of Transportation Report.

The CTA appears to have got it right in their approach to the Red Line reconstruction, he says. One month into the project and the network of shuttles, alternate routes and boosted Green Line service seems to be working pretty well, he reports. He notes that so many of the fears that south-side riders would be mistreated during the massive reconstruction project haven’t come to pass.

The CTA also appears to have backed off on many of the onerous debit-card fees associated with  its new Ventra fare card.  The cards should roll out in the next couple of months. The new cards, made necessary because the technology in the older Chicago Plus cards is wearing out, also have a voluntary feature that allows riders to also use Ventra as a debit card, purchasing goods and services and having access to some ATMs. But some fees are so high that many feared Ventra would victimize lower-income users. CTA, Hilkevitch says, has reduced or removed many of those fees. Still, he says, most CTA riders will not opt for the debit service, and will use their Ventra cards simply as replacements for their existing Chicago Cards. But the Ventra itself may not be necessary  for most Chicagoans, he says, since the new system will also allow riders to simply swipe their existing credit cards to get on a train or bus.

We also talk about bike lanes and bike riders. The new lanes on Dearborn have special signals just for bikers. The good news? 80% of bikers actually stop at their red signals. The bad news? Even here, in this special environment, 20% of bike riders simply ignore the signals and blow through the intersection. Can you imagine of 20% of cars ignored red lights, Hilkevitch asks?

And then there’s O’Hare’s newest runway, scheduled to open in October. (It’s the one that paved over the site of a former cemetery). The new runway may finally address some of O’Hare’s chronic on-time performance problems, he says, but it will also introduce a whole new problem. Air traffic over Chicago’s northwest side communities will in many cases double, and jets will be flying overhead far later into the night than before. It’s going to come as a big shock to many residents, he says, who haven’t been paying too much attention to the massive O’Hare Modernization program.

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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