The local alderman's office sent me an update this afternoon on Metra's and the Union Pacific Railroad's stupefying 9-year mission to construct a single station platform that thousands of commuters per day would like to start using:
I spoke to the foreman this week who, unfortunately, informed me of further delays on this project. The project is still awaiting a delivery of tiles from the manufacturer who, due to one person catching Covid recently, has informed them that the tiles won't be ready until the end of the year. This is on par which many of the delays on this project, which have been due to supply chain issues.
This pushes final completion of the project closer to March of next year. We are in communication with Metra to see if they might be able to reopen a portion of the station to commuters before that date, as most of it is complete by now.
Yes, of course: the tiles. It took me a moment to realize that the foreman meant the tiles that will cover the walls of the stairwells and ramps from the street to the platform, which I expect will reduce maintenance costs. All things equal, tiles are probably easier to clean than concrete.
Looking across Lawrence Avenue at the yet-to-open platform, though, I would say it just needs guardrails so people don't fall onto the street below.
But when I'm standing on the "temporary" 10-year-old platform across the street in a snowstorm some Monday morning this winter, I'll comfort myself knowing I'm doing it for the tiles.
CNBC released a 35-minute documentary earlier this month that fairly discusses the value of cities relative to suburbs and exurbs:
A lot of this is old hat to people who follow Strong Towns or other urbanist sources. It's a good backgrounder for people though.
In related news, California just passed legislation mandating an end to local parking requirements within walking distance of transit stations. It's a start.
I've had two parallel tasks today, one of them involving feeding 72 people on Saturday. The other one involved finishing a major feature for work. Both seem successful right now but need testing with real users.
Meanwhile, outside my little world:
- The XPOTUS seems to have backed himself into a corner by lying about "declassifying" things psychically, after the Special Master that he asked for called bullshit. Greg Sargent has thoughts.
- Pro Publica reported on Colorado's halfway-house system that sends more people back to prison than it rehabilitates.
- The Navy has begun its court-martial of Seaman Recruit Ryan Mays, accused of lighting the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard in 2020.
Finally, Ian Bogost (and I) laments the disappearance of the manual transmission.
Chicago's heavy-rail commuter district, Metra, started cancelling train service that would extend past the midnight-Friday start time of the planned nationwide rail strike. Well, taking the El to work instead of Metra adds about 9 minutes to my commute, so I'll have to deal with that on Friday, I suppose. Except that commuter rail shutdowns don't even start to illustrate how bad this strike could turn out for the US economy:
[A strike] would cause immediate problems for manufacturers, says Lee Sanders with the American Bakers Association. This is nationwide. And a broad range of manufacturers who get parts, packaging and raw material delivered by rail would be effected.
"If we don't get the ingredients that we need to our plants, we won't be able to make the products that we need to get our wholesome products to the consumers," Sanders says.
So, empty shelves are a possibility. Farmers are worried too about shipping grain. Dangerous chemicals have already stopped moving. Especially valuable goods are next, and passengers are getting stranded too.
Don't forget about coal, either. About 22% of US electricity comes from coal-fired plants, including 30% of Illinois' power. (As it turns out, Illinois has a higher proportion of nuclear power—about 54% of output—than any other state, which gives us a bit more reliability.)
I have a lot of sympathy for the engineers and conductors, whose schedules seem even less predictable than even fast-food workers. I hope the railroads agree to better scheduling and time-off provisions before Friday, or we're going to have a major economic disruption while we already have high inflation. Not a good combination.
My commute to work Friday might get a little longer, as Metra has announced that 9 out of its 11 lines (including mine) would likely not operate if railroad engineers and conductors go on strike Friday. Amtrak has already started cancelling trains so they won't get stranded mid-route should the strike happen.
In other news:
- Cook County tax bills won't come out until late autumn, according to the County President, meaning no one knows how much cash they have to escrow when they sell real estate.
- The Post has an interactive map showing everywhere in the US that hit a record high temperature this summer.
- US Rep. Marjorie Taylor "Still Smarter than Lauren Boebert" Greene (R-GA) has come up with a climate-change theory so dumb it actually seems smart.
- US Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), another intellectual giant of the 117th Congress, proposed a Federal abortion ban, demonstrating a keen command of how most people in the United States view the issue.
- Robert Wright explores "why we're so clueless about Putin."
- Block Club Chicago explains why my neighborhood and a few others experienced massive geysers coming out of storm drains during Sunday's flooding rains.
Finally, right-wing lawyer Kenneth Starr died at age 76. No reaction yet from Monica Lewinsky.
Just a few before I take a brick to my laptop for taking a damned half-hour to reformat a JSON file:
Oh, good. My laptop has finished parsing the file. (In fairness it's 400,000 lines of JSON, but still, that's only 22 megabytes uncompressed.) I will now continue with my coding.
Every time I commute to work from the Ravenswood Metra station, I get annoyed. Metra has yet to finish the inbound platform after almost 10 years of delays. So I emailed the alderman to ask why, and CC:d Block Club Chicago, the local news outlet. Reporter Alex Hernandez called me the next morning, and ran this story today:
The Ravenswood Metra station overhaul that began more than a decade ago is hitting yet another bump.
The $30 million project to renovate 11 bridges along Metra’s Union Pacific North line was announced in 2010. Construction of the western side of the Ravenswood station, 4800 N. Ravenswood Ave., was completed in 2015 — but the rest of the project is ongoing.
Previous delays to the project were caused in part by a polar vortex in 2014 and cuts in funding to Metra in 2010. The work was fully funded in 2020, and officials planned to begin the final phase of the eastern portion of the station in the spring.
But now it’s supply chain issues that are delaying work, Metra spokesperson Meg Reile said.
“It’s still up in the air because of supply chain issues,” Reile said. “That’s what’s holding up the end of this project.”
Reile did not provide specifics about what items crews are waiting for, but she said the goal is to complete the eastern side of the Ravenswood station by the end of the year.
Good to know. My conversations with Hernandez Wednesday and yesterday were enlightening to both of us. And today, I actually saw someone in a hard hat and vest working on the platform, though I have no idea what he was doing.
Will the platform open by year's end? Will the Cubs lose 95 games this season? Will any former presidents get indicted this fall? No one can yet know the answer to any of those questions.
When I visited Hailstorm Brewing in March 2021, I chose not to walk along the sidewalk-free 80th Avenue and instead, after Froggering across the aforementioned stroad, I went through one of the most depressing subdivisions I've ever seen.
I had to repeat that stretch in order to visit Soundgrowler Brewing last Friday. And since Banging Gavel Brews is just over 3 km away (directly, anyway), I decided to walk from one to the other. The walk did not go as planned:
Most of that trip, until well past the 4 km marker, went through treeless, car-centric subdivisions with parks no one would ever want to play in and houses so ugly they would make even Kate Wagner cry. But the truly enraging bit happened around the 1.6 km mark, as you can see here:
My goal, supported by Google Maps and even satellite photos of the area, was to walk straight up Timber Drive to Harlem, without crossing the tracks. But you can see how that didn't work. At the point where I had to turn around and traipse through the (treeless, ugly) parking lot on my way to schlepping through the (treeless, ugly) circular subdivision, the local authorities had put up a roadblock and "no trespassing" signs. I have no idea why. Maybe even Tinley Park has parts so unconscionably ugly they can't bear to show them to anyone? Seems likely.
I took some photos along the way but I'll spare you.
It's possible that I have a particular sensitivity to this right now because I just finished Jeff Speck's Walkable City, a successor to his 2009 book Suburban Nation. I strongly recommend both books to anyone concerned about the environmental and mental destruction that our car-centric culture has wrought.
If Cassie could (a) speak English and (b) understand the concept of "future" she would be quivering with anticipation about going to Ribfest tonight after school. Since she can't anticipate it, I'll do double-duty and drool on her behalf. It helps that the weather today looks perfect: sunny, not too hot, with a strong chance of delicious pork ribs.
Meanwhile, I have a few things to read on my commute that I didn't get to yesterday:
Finally, as I ride on the UP-N commuter line in an hour or so, I can imagine what it will be like when the train gets a battery-powered locomotive in a few years.
At least I don't have an opera rehearsal tonight. That means I might, just might, have some time to read these once I finish preparing for a 7am meeting tomorrow:
Finally, the old Morton Salt plant on Chicago's Near North Side opened last night as a new music venue called "The Salt Shed." It even got a new coat of paint.