These new parking meters, which take credit cards, are part of the City’s redesign of its somewhat unfriendly parking image.

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… that the City may approve a traffic light for Sheridan Road near Garrett Theological Seminary. While this may not eliminate jaywalking (and what a pleasure it is), it may corral some students into the crosswalks and thus improve safety there. The Daily Northwestern reported that Northwestern “began talks about the light with the City in 2005” – a long time to wait for a green light.

… that a four-way stop sign will be coming soon to Forest and Greenleaf.

… that the City will continue for the next ten years to lease its parking lots in the 700 block of Main, “allowing continued use of City Parking Lot 15 in the Main/Sherman business area.”

… that, speaking of parking, the City is looking to revamp its parking image. Seems the message finally got through that people get very angry about parking messes and parking tickets. As readers may know, there are a few meters in the downtown and college-bar area (along Sherman Avenues) that take credit cards and allow parking for more than two hours at a time after a certain time. The “certain time,” according to signs on the meters now is 5 p.m., but it may be changed to 6 p.m. – so people can pay only once and stay all evening. Also, the City’s Parking and Transportation Committee is looking at a few other possibilities – one is to encourage residents to shop in Evanston and another to get long-term parkers into garages. P&T folks will investigate the possibility of offering an extra vehicle sticker or even a transponder (at an additional cost) to residents, to allow hassle-free parking for two hours at a time. And an incentive for long-term parkers to use the garages: a room with a view, that is an opportunity to park monthly (at a reduced rate) on the top of the Sherman Avenue Garage. Of course, the cars would be exposed to the elements, but then, think of what a treat it would be – not just for the parker, who would get a breathtaking glimpse of the lake twice a day, but also for the car, which wouldn’t have to be stuck with the sight of dark walls and the smell of exhaust fumes all day.

… that the old Barnes & Noble property on the northeast corner of Church and Sherman is going to be leased. Readers may recall that the out-of-state owner, a branch of CBRE, had been holding out for years to lease the place to one tenant only. Now that the owner appears to be amenable to having the space shared, a frozen-custard place and an internet provider are hoping to move in.

… that the long-awaited fire engine – purchased with a contribution from Northwestern University – has been ordered. It’s a Pierce Arrow-XT Fire Engine (pumper).

… that the City recently received about $800,000 from the State of Illinois’ Transportation Enhancement Program for improving the streetscape along the west side of Chicago Avenue between South Boulevard and Main Street. As planned, the project will consist of sidewalks, street lights, benches, planters, parkways with street trees and such traffic-calming improvements as narrower travel lanes and curb extensions. The City says a prototype of the project was completed in 2004, along the east side of Chicago between South and Keeney. A second part of the project, completed in 2006, is at the northwest corner of Chicago and Main. A section along the east side of Chicago between Lee and Greenleaf is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2011. According to the City, “The funding through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program will complete the section of Chicago Avenue that does not have substantial private ownership. The reason for the limited private ownership in this section is that the Chicago Transit Authority is the majority property-owner on the west side of the street between Main Street and South Boulevard. Unlike [with] the other three sections, the City of Evanston will be unable to leverage private dollars to complete this section.” Paul Schneider, the City’s director of transportation, says the streetscape improvements will “increase public safety along the corridor by upgrading five bus stops along Chicago Avenue, enhancing pedestrian crosswalks by both installing signals and stripped crosswalks, and by widening sidewalks.”
… that, speaking of enhancing the beauty of the town, the “Stop the Boxes” folks were able to persuade AT&T and the City to place discreetly the latest set of VRADs (video-ready access devices), rather than making the eyesores as public as before. Here are the latest locations: in the AT&T easement on CTA lot east of 909 Foster; in the alley behind 1617 Chicago; in the alley behind 1712 Sherman; in the AT&T easement between 1510 Church and 1633 Florence; in the alley behind 1711 Darrow Avenue; in the alley behind 719 Main and the City parking lot; in the alley behind 1019 Hull Terrace; and on the parkway on Brummel across 200 Ridge, by CTA. The City also receives $1,500 per VRAD for landscaping.

… that the Ecology Center is looking for birds of a feather (literally and metaphorically) – residents who have not flown south who can join in the Great Backyard Bird Count of creatures that keep us company over the winter. Interested parties can drop in 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Feb. 12-16 at the EC, 2024 McCormick, for a brief training on what to look for and how to record information. This is a joint project of Cornell University and the Audubon Society.

… that Chiaravalle Montessori School is seeking major variances to the City’s Zoning Ordinance for a proposed 10,000-square-foot building expansion.

… that plans are being made for an Evanston Day in Springfield on April 20. The hope is that lots of folks will travel to the state capitol to make themselves visible to our legislators and let them know that Evanston matters.

… that, in a budget discussion about the price of tokens for the dog beach, one alderman said, “I’m always amused that it costs more for my dog to go swimming than it does for me.”

The Traffic Guy thinks …

… that the CTA retaining walls on the west side of Chicago between Washington and South would be a good place for some classy murals.

… that increasing fines for speeders in school zones, as the Council did last week, is a good safety move. The new fines – now a minimum of $500 (plus $50 to the school district), up from $150 – take effect on Feb. 26. The goal of this ordinance, according to Fourth Ward Alderman Donald Wilson, who proposed it, is “not to collect more money, but rather to raise awareness and get drivers to slow down and improve their attention when driving in Evanston.” Coming soon, as most readers know, is a ban on using cell phones while driving. While TG wholeheartedly endorses traffic safety, TG is not certain that cell phones are the culprit – a distractible driver, if not texting or talking on a cell phone, is probably one who is talking to him- or herself, singing along to an I-pod or jamming button after button on the radio.
… or, rather, wonders, whether anyone has figured out how much gasoline is used by folks trying to parallel park. TG likes the long, unmarked strips in Chicago but wonders whether, in the end, angle parking is the better alternative.

… that, despite the fact that as the RT goes to press election results are not in, it’s the classy candidates that will have their signs off the parkways by tomorrow.