Button, button who’s got the button?RoundTable photo

… that, with school starting, the City has launched #WalkEvanston Back-to-School Crosswalk Safety Campaign. Part of the campaign is to refresh residents on how crosswalk push-buttons work and to encourage them to report malfunctioning or out-of-order push-buttons to the City. The information can be tweeted to @evanston311 using
#WalkEvanston, or submitted to 311 via the mobile app or calling or 847-448-4311.
The City maintains 102 intersections with traffic signals, about 60% of which have crosswalk buttons. About a third of these have an automated “beep” that responds after the button has been pushed. Intersections along Sheridan from Chicago to Central and along Dempster from Dodge to Fowler have crosswalk buttons that send out a continuous beeping sound so that vision-impaired pedestrians can locate the button; these also provide audible notice when it is safe to cross.
In intersections with crosswalks where there are no buttons, pedestrians have to wait for the “Walk” signs that occur in the regular traffic cycles. The City advises residents to begin crossing only on the “Walk” signals, and not to begin when the “Don’t Walk” is flashing or steady. And of course, walkers should always be alert for vehicles turning on red and for bicyclists who do not heed stop signs or traffic signals. Some traffic signals also have the countdown numbers, so pedestrians will know how many seconds they have to get across the street. TG also hears that a certain carmaker plans to create a similar countdown device for its automobiles, so drivers will know how long they have left to complete their texting.

… that, speaking of getting students safely to school, City Council recently authorized the City Manager to execute “an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for federal participation in construction of the Safe Routes to School project.” This will allow the feds to pay the lion’s share – 80% of the cost of construction ($110,000 in all – for the installation of 20 radar speed feedback solar signs at various school crossing locations on major streets in the City. The City will pay only $22,000 for the signs, which will show automobile drivers their current speed and hopefully influence them to comply with posted speed limits. City staff says these signs will calm the traffic near the locations where the school children walk.

… that crews have torn down the wind turbine at the Ecology Center. ’Course, it hasn’t worked for decades, but the little house was an ad-hoc shelter in inclement weather and the platform a nice resting place.

… that part of Elmwood south of Davis will be closed through the end of the year while Novak Construction sets up the framework for the building at 1571 Maple. Residents of One Evanston will have access to and from their condo building from Elmwood. Drivers and walkers should use Maple.

… that the City is launching a Bicycle Signage Pilot Program to promote the use of hand signals by bicyclists and to educate all road users on the signals’ meanings. The City says, “The signs are intended to clearly communicate the proper hand signals for ‘left turn’, ‘right turn’, and ‘stop.’ Under the pilot, two signs will be installed at Chicago/Clark; Hinman/Main; Foster/Sherman; and Greenleaf/Dodge. The City also says “staff collected pre-installation data at each intersection measuring the use of hand signals by bicyclists. Staff will return to the sites later this fall to collect post-installation data to gauge the signs’ effectiveness.” The pilot was developed with a team of NU students participating in the University’s Design for America (DFA) program. TG laments that no hand signal is proposed to communicate that a bicyclist is going to blow through a stop sign or stop light.

… that the underground parking garage at the Main Library will be closed Aug, 29 – Oct. 5 for plumbing and drainage repairs and mechanical improvements.

… that A Lamp Concrete Contractors received the City’s contract for the 2016 Parking Lot Improvement Project at a cost of $991,458.00. Improvements will be made to the James Park West Parking Lot; Parking Lot #32 (800 Block of Hinman); Police Headquarters Parking Lot; Mason Park Basketball Court; and Davis Street On-Street Parking. The work at all the parking lots and the basketball court is scheduled to begin in early September 2016 and be completed in early November 2016. The work on Davis Street is anticipated to take place in April 2017.

… that the City retained Stanley Consultants, Inc., to provide engineering design services for the Main Street Corridor Improvement Project between the west City limits and Dodge Avenue. The City is budgeting $75,000 for work in FY 2016, and $171,000 in FY 2017 for this. Some of the issues the project is intended to address are 1) the entry to the Main Street Commons shopping plaza at McDaniel; 2) substandard sidewalks with gaps in between on the south side of the street between Dodge and the shopping plaza; and 3) extensive traffic backup going east on Main at Dodge. Phase I will cover Main from the west City Limits to Pitner, and Phase II will cover Main Street from Pitner to Dodge “in future years.” Seems like folks have been waiting a long time already.

… that Everyday Cycles and Motion, 941 Chicago Ave., plans to establish a bike corral, taking over one metered parking space from August through November this year and April to November for the next five years. City staff estimates the lost parking revenues at $400 for eight months but will not charge Everyday Cycles under the arrangement.

… that the new sidewalk cafés have been approved for Dave’s New Kitchen, 815 Noyes;  Leonidas Chocolate Café, 1907 Central, and Soulwich, 1634 Orrington.  

… that the City has granted Northwestern University a 25-year easement that will allow Northwestern to install Tallmadge light fixtures on both the east and west sides of Chicago between Clark and Sheridan, and on the west side of Sheridan between Chicago and Lincoln. NU will pay the City a one-time easement fee of $303,686.64, and will pay for the installation and maintenance of the lights.

… that City Council fixed a quirk in how a wheel tax discount is applied. The current full year rate for the City Wheel Tax is $75. Seniors with a valid Evanston benefit card and disabled residents are eligible for a 50% discount. On July 1, the rate of the wheel tax for all residents is reduced to $37.50. However, the senior and disabled discount did not apply to this reduced rate. City Council amended the code to make the 50% discount for seniors and persons with a disability apply to reduced fee that kicks in after July 1.

… that, while last week’s storm did little damage in Evanston, traffic signals on several main arteries in Skokie were reduced to the flashing red lights, backing up traffic for a prolonged rush hour.

… that City Council approved another five-year lease with The Main/Chicago Newsstand, 860 Chicago Ave., which has operated at that location since 2000. The annual rent for the 1,694-square-foot space is $7,645.04 (to be increased based on the CPI), with City Newstand responsible for all utilities, maintenance, repairs, and renovation costs. City staff recommended below-market rates, “given the unique nature of its business and the current print industry business climate.”

… that this seagull – or one or more like it – is a regular sentinel above the canal by the Ecology Center. A bird atop a light post looks east in the morning and west toward the setting sun many evenings.

… that the City is entering into a five-year lease with Enterprise Leasing of Chicago, LLC at 1810 Maple Ave., with an option to extend for an additional five years. The rent for the first year is $36,414 and it goes up each year. Enterprise may also lease 15 parking spaces in the Maple Avenue Parking Garage for $90 per space per month during the first five years. Enterprise has operated at the same location since 2006.   

… that a coalition of business, labor and construction groups, called Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding, launched a statewide public education campaign for a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot that will protect Illinois’ investment in its transportation infrastructure. The Illinois House and Senate approved a joint resolution in May that calls for Illinois to put transportation funding in a lockbox.
A study by the advocacy group Transportation for Illinois Coalition, whose members are driving this ballot initiative campaign, found more than $6.8 billion in funds ear-
marked for transportation were swept out of the state’s Road Fund and used for non-transportation spending over more than a dozen years – including more than $500 million in transportation dollars just last year.
The constitutional amendment will appear as the first question Illinois voters see when they go to the polls this fall and is the only constitutional amendment approved by the Legislature this spring. It needs 60 percent of voters approving the question, or more than a majority of those voting in the election, to become part of the Illinois Constitution and prevent lawmakers from shifting these funds again. One wonders why the legislature needs to pass a constitutional amendment to prevent itself from diverting the funds.

… that average retail gasoline prices in Chicago averaged $2.32 per gallon on Aug. 14, which was $1.07.5 cents less than the same day on year ago and 13.8 cents per gallon lower than a month ago, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey “Overall, gasoline and diesel prices remain very low considering we’re nearing the conclusion of the summer driving season,” said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst. “Barring a disruption to fuel supply as we enter the peak of hurricane season, gas prices nationally will spend more time below $2 per gallon this autumn and winter than they did last year.”

The Traffic Guy thinks …
… that, as this column began, so it ends: With school starting, everyone should be careful about eager or heedless students walking or biking to school.