… that City crews have been working all night to clear the streets. While the City says the primary routes are clear, about a third of the residential streets are still inches, if not feet, deep in snow. Check out the RT homepage for periodic updates on this record-breaking storm.
… that the City will use a company in Skokie to maintain the automobiles in the Evanston fleet. Council has approved a one-year contract extension to Sigler’s Auto Body in Skokie “to provide products, services and repairs for both emergency and non-emergency vehicles.” For certain emergency vehicles, the contract went to Havey of Lake Forest for “installation, removal and repair of law enforcement and emergency fire response vehicles and equipment.”

 … that the former Kendall College site will be subdivided into 19 lots for single-family homes. The developers also plan an alley – excavated and dedicated to the City of Evanston.  A question arose at the Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee as to whether these would be “green” alleys like the trial one on Dobson. The initial cost may be somewhat greater for a green alley, City folks say, because the excavation has to be a bit deeper.  A “green” alley has tracks for tires running down the center; the rest is impervious surface, so storm water can drain back into the ground.

Speaking of alleys, TG hears that there may be some confusion about traffic laws pertaining to them – whether and when one can use them as thoroughfares. TG found listings for 54 one-way alleys in the City code. Through traffic is specifically prohibited on the “east-west alley north of Brummel between Hartrey and Richmond avenue[s].” However, says Sgt. Thomas Moore of the Evanston Police Department, other alleys are marked as not being thoroughfares. Alleys around some schools are forbidden to through traffic, for example. In the case of alley-driving, Sgt. Moore advises obeying posted signs. Some alleys have speed bumps; these are designed to keep vehicle speeds at 15-20 miles per hour, he said. Drivers should slow down, lest a pet or a person, hidden by a trash or recycing bin, wander unseen into the alley, he added.

… that the driver of the van that crashed into the South Branch Library was not protesting but had lost consciousness. No one was in the library so the harm was apparently confined to the driver, the van and the window. Paramedics treated the driver and transported him to Evanston Hospital.

… that City Council has authorized the spending of just slightly more than $1 million in motor fuel taxes to pay for street resurfacing in 2011. At least we’re not issuing bonds for this and are keeping down our GO debt.

… that the City has gained a bit of additional revenue from the taxes on NU home football games. The City says that NU reports a “significant increase in attendance to its home football games, five games at Ryan Field in 2010.  Attendance increased approximately 47% from 2009, amounting to an average attendance at Ryan Field per game of 35,527 fans, compared to 24,190 fans per game last season.”  Last year the City received nearly $430,000 in revenues from taxes on tickets to athletic events. Since NU decided to play the Illinois game at Wrigley Field, a lot more ticket sales were generated but a lot of businesses did not receive anticipated revenue from game-day festivities, so the City decided to push “Evanston Day” at NU. Alderman Jane Grover’s Seventh Ward newsletter says, “Attendance at the annual Evanston Day football game jumped from 19,000 in 2009 to 30,000 in 2010, following our City-wide “Paint it Purple” activities.  Of course, four consecutive years of winning football seasons for the Wildcats may have something to do with increased game attendance as well.” Stay tuned.

… that, according to a press release from Northwestern, some European cities are using parking regulations – including “rational” parking fees – to improve air, traffic and quality of life in their downtowns. NU reportsthat, according to ‘Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation,’ published Jan. 19  by Michael Kodransky and Gabrielle Hermann of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy:
    • “Parking is increasingly linked to public transport. Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich and Strasbourg limit how much parking is allowed in new developments based on how far it is to walk to a bus, tram or metro stop. Zurich has made significant investments in new tram and bus lines while making parking more expensive and less convenient. As a result, between 2000 and 2005, the share of public transit use went up by 7%, while the share of cars in traffic declined by 6%. Here are some of their other points:

  • “European cities are ahead of the rest of the world in charging rational prices for on-street parking. In Paris, the on-street parking supply has been reduced by more than 9% since 2003, and of the remaining stock, 95% is paid parking. The result, along with other transport infrastructure improvements, has been a 13% decrease in driving.”
  • Parking reforms are becoming more popular than charging for congestion.

• Revenue gathered from parking tariffs is being invested to support other mobility needs.

The 10 cities featured are Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Munich, Paris, Stockholm, Strasbourg and Zurich.

TG particularly likes the part about “rational” charges for parking and using the parking revenues to support things like greater bicycle use (even public-bike programs) and reduced-price transit rides for those with disabilities.

… that NU reports a team led by Malcolm MacIver of the McCormick School of Engineering has created a
“robotic ghost knifefish … a robotic fish that can move from swimming forward and backward to swimming vertically almost instantaneously by using a sophisticated, ribbon-like fin.” It was created, according to NU, “after observing and creating computer simulations of the black ghost knifefish.” Among its prospective uses are performing underwater recovery operations and monitoring, long-term, what’s going on with coral reefs. “It’s interesting because you’re getting force coming off the animal in a completely unexpected direction that allows it to do acrobatics that, given its lifestyle of hunting and maneuvering among tree roots, makes a huge amount of sense,” Prof. MacIver said. TG wonders if robotic knifefish could offer a solution to the Asian carp problem: Fit them with an electric-eel kind of fin and have ‘em track down those carp (if they’re there, of course).
From our readers: TG: This is a copy of correspondence with the Evanston Police Department about excessive engine idling by police cars. [To the Police Department:] On Jan. 18 at approximately  6:40 p.m., I was at ETHS picking my son up from after-school sports and noticed an officer park his squad car on the sidewalk at the back of the school where athletes exit and enter the building by the bike cage and leave his car running. Upon returning to ETHS at 8:10 p.m., I noticed the car had not moved, but was still idling. Meaning, the car had been idling for at least 90 minutes. I could see a reason for leaving a car for a minute or two with it running for an officer, but 90 minutes is unacceptable. With budgets tight throughout the city, keeping a squad car idling for such a long period of time is out of line. Further, cars are easily turned off and re-started (unlike larger trucks which might take a bit more), so in practical matters, there is no justification for this. I’m certain with the GPS tracking you have on the squad cars and other monitoring equipment, you can see that the vehicle did not move. For all I know, the squad car remained there for another 30 minutes after I left, hence idling for two hours. Multiplying this over the entire fleet of cars operated by the police department is a lot of wasted fuel. Clearly, there needs to be some incentive in place for police personnel to better monitor their use of fuel – something the rest of us do on a day to day basis. And I might assume the police personnel also watch when using their own private vehicles.

– Regards, Brian Gratch

Commander J. Pickett of the Evanston Police Department issued a report of the incident saying that the police whose vehicle was left idling was assigned to supplement the off-duty police officers at an ETHS basketball game in light of recent problems during past games. The officer said he left his vehicle idling due to the freezing temperatures and freezing rain. He said he did not want his vehicle to become covered in ice which would have delayed his response to an emergency call if the need arose.  At one point the officer was dispatched to a domestic disturbance call and was able to respond to the call and return to ETHS without any problems, said Cmdr. Pickett.  The officer’s sergeant concluded no further action should be taken against the officer. Chief Eddington said the officer was made aware of the need to conserve resources.

The Traffic Guy thinks …

… that regardless of whether the official Ground Hog saw its shadow this morning, spring will soon be in the air.
… that those VRADs keep getting more and more special. When the 311 call center for City services goes into effect on 3/1/11, customers of AT&T U-verse will not be able to use that number.