Traffic.

Being relatively new to Chicago and a person that doesn’t have a commute in this fine city, I’m rather proud of the fact that I can easily decipher a radio traffic report. There’s a key to understanding the contents of these rapid fire dialogs and I’ll do my best to explain what I’ve figured out in the 18+ months of us living in Chicago.

First of all, one must remember that it’s rare for Chicagoans to use the route numbers for the expressways in the city. While technically the main Interstate through Chicago is a duplex of Interstates 90 and 94, it’s actually known as “The Dan Ryan” and “The Kennedy” (if you’re taking I-90 towards O’Hare), the two names being the names of the expressways that I-90 and 94 traverse.

Secondly, my observations are based on traffic reports on Chicago’s All-News Station, WBBM 105.9 FM. Here’s how they report traffic “on the eights”:

  1. They’ll start with specific pain points/areas of congestion and this can be anywhere in the area. For example if it’s taking 90 minutes to get form point A to point B, usually due to gapers gaping at an accident on the Dan Ryan or something, they’ll mention that first.
  2. They’ll then start with “the Edens” (Interstate 94 north of the split from Interstate 90 between the Loop and O’Hare), measuring the time inbound and outbound from Lake-Cook. “Lake-Cook” refers to the road of the same name along the northern county line separating Cook County from Lake County. “The Junction” or “Montrose” refers to the junction of the Edens at the Kennedy (I-94 at I-90). Free flowing traffic generally takes 19 minutes to get from the Junction/Montrose to/from Lake-Cook.
  3. Next they’ll talk about “the Kennedy”, indicating how long it takes to get to/from downtown to the Junction/Montrose, and then the time it takes to get to/from that point to O’Hare. Then they’ll usually give total time to/from O’Hare to downtown. Locals and Express. I’m usually happy if it’s 20 minutes to Montrose from downtown; I’m really happy if it’s 5 minutes from the O’Hare Extension to Montrose.
  4. “The Eisenhower” (sometimes called “The Ike”) refers to Interstate 290, which comes from the north west into “The Jane Byrne”, which is where the Ike, the Kennedy, the Dan Ryan, and Congress Parkway meet near downtown. Traffic is usually measured to “Route 53” which is in the northwest Suburbs. They also measure to “The Reagan (I-88)” and “Route 390”, which is the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway, which doesn’t go to either, but wavers in between. You’ll also hear time to/from the post office or “Old Post Office”, this means downtown.
  5. Next comes the Stevenson, which is Interstate 55 eventually taking you to St. Louis. They’ll tell you how long it takes to get to “Route 355” and the best I ever hear is an hour. That’s the spur out on the southwest suburbs.
  6. Next we have the Bishop Ford, which is Route 394, hanging south of 80/94.
  7. Then we have the aforementioned Dan Ryan coming into the downtown area from the south. Key points here are Roosevelt, Cermak, 95th, and 130th.
  8. Next they’ll mention “the Drive”, “Lake Shore Drive”, or once in a while “LSD”, which refers to Lake Shore Drive running north-south along the lakefront. Typical choke points are the lights at Chicago, which is not referring to the city, but the avenue.
  9. After Lake Shore Drive they’ll talk about the tollways. The biggest is “Tri-State”, which is generally Interstate 294 that runs from the Edens Extension at I-94 near Lake-Cook to 80/94 on the south side of Chicagoland. Typical landmarks include O’Hare, Bensenville Bridge, which is a big bridge over some railroad tracks and “355”. There’s also chatter about the Jane Addams and what is now “the former Des Plaines Oasis”, which refers to what an east coast person would know as a service area on the Jane Addams tollway (Interstate 90). We’ll also hear about “the Reagan” which is Interstate 88, which will take you towards Iowa.
  10. Now we’ll get what I consider a little bit of filler, probably because we live on the North Side, but they’ll talk about the Skyway (runs from the Dan Ryan to the Indiana Line), “80/94”, which is the duplex of Interstates 80 and 94 taking you east to west (or vice-versa) to/from Indiana. I-65 in western Indiana will go honorable mention, as well as I-94 (taking you to Detroit) and the Indiana Toll Road, which takes you to the east coast.

As I was putting together this blog entry, I found a great guide to traffic reports here. They feature more landmarks and distances, so you’ll know if “36 minutes to Jane Byrne” is good or bad. All I know, when I’m driving back from the airport, I’m looking for “5 min to Montrose” (on the Kennedy) or “19 min to Kennedy” (on the Edens).

Happy Motoring!

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Snapshots.

I find living in the third largest city of the United States to be inspiring. I love taking little snapshots of where we are.

Decision.

Chicago elected Lori Lightfoot as our next mayor. Mayor-Elect Lightfoot is the first African-American woman elected as mayor for The Second City. She just also happens to be the first openly gay person to serve as mayor for a major city in the United States.

This is what forward motion looks like. I’m hoping Chicago sets an example for the rest of the country.

Exploring.

I’ve renewed my interest in taking photos while I’m out exploring the city, heck, when I’m out exploring life. I could go into a spiel how about easy this is to do with my iDevices, but my gentle readers already know how much of an Apple fanboy I am at heart, even when the company does things that confuses me. That’s a separate blog entry.

I found the modification to this stop sign to be interesting. It’s the first time I’ve seen an attempt to replicate the color and lettering of a stop sign for this particular social awareness application. I’m sure this exists all over the world; it’s the first time I’ve seen such a thing.

My little journey around the city is taking me to places I’ve only seen from afar. After exploring The Loop, I hopped on the Blue Line toward O’Hare and jumped off at the Irving Park stop, which is about 25 blocks from where we live. For those that don’t know how the Chicago street grid works, that’s just over three miles from our condo, though I traveled nearly seven miles to get here, since the L resembles a hub-and-spoke system.

The vibe in this part of the city is a little bit less frenetic than what I encounter around the Loop, or even when compared to our neighborhood of Northcenter. Even though I know there’s plenty of city to the west of us, it always feels like I’ve crossed into the suburbs when I get west of the Kennedy Expressway in this part of town. There’s more car dealers and shopping plaza type property out here. There’s nothing wrong with that.

This is where the Blue Line was built into the median of the Kennedy. This makes for interesting geometry in the design of the stations. I found this stairwell particularly narrow.

Apparently it fills up with water when it rains. And the roar of the expressway when you’re waiting for the train does not lend itself to a meditative experience.

There’s so much to explore out here and with my husband working for the Cubs this baseball season, I feel like I’m going to have time to do more of it than I did last year.

I’m looking forward to the experience.

Waiting for Clearance.

I’m out exploring while Earl is at work today. The Blue Line is down to one track today which is delaying O’Hare Bound trains. The people watching remains fascinating, especially the mix of locals and tourists on an O’Hare Bound train. I’m enjoying the adventure.

Cold.

It is -15ºF with a wind chill of -37ºF during my lunch hour here in Chicago. The wind is out of the west at 15 MPH and there is zero cloud cover. I don’t need a fancy hashtag or scary sounding names like “Polar Vortex” (though I did enjoy one of those at a fast food place a couple of years ago) to relay the information that it’s cold outside. It’s very cold outside. As beautiful as the sky looks, I’m going to refrain from going for a walk today simply because it would not be enjoyable.

I like to enjoy my walks.

The CTA Brown Line is passing by our building with scheduled regularity. Folks at the CTA are working hard to keep Chicago moving. Their Twitter feed shows they’re addressing issues as they arise. CNN likes showing images of train tracks being set on fire to unfreeze frozen switches. Fire gets the attention when you’re browsing a website. It creates more web clicks.

The news outlets have been telling us about these bitterly cold temperatures for a week, so I’m sure most reasonable folks were prepared. Earl made sure we had what we needed in the cupboards and fridge. He’s good like that.

It’s cold out. It’s very cold out. But the sunshine still brings warmth and tomorrow is another day.

Don’t be hysterical. Just keep calm and carry on.

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L.

Image from Chicago Magazine

This month, Chicago Magazine published an article entitled “What CTA Workers Know.” The online interactive version is quite interesting.

I love riding the ‘L’ and the buses. The CTA is one of the reasons I am so in love with the City of Chicago. I am fascinated as to how well the infrastructure works. When departing near the front of a train I always wish the “motor-person” a good day. I always smile to the bus operator. They’re working hard and many take them for granted.

This particular quote from the article makes me smile.

Despite the bad things that you see, if you

just look at all the

people moving and

actually living, it

brings joy to your

soul. You’re seeing life.

Transit.

One of the things I love about living in a large city is the availability of public transit. Earl and I live well within reach of one of the CTA “L” lines, specifically the Brown Line. We can be downtown in less than a half hour. We can be at Jamie and Chris’ house in Albany Park in less than 20 minutes. However, it does take us over an hour to get to O’Hare by train, as we have to go to the Loop, transfer to the Blue Line, and then ride all the way out to O’Hare. That part hasn’t ever really made sense to me.

When we decided to move to Chicago I declared it was my intention to use public transit or walk as much as possible. I’d take the train, take a bus, or enjoy the walk anywhere my feet would take me. If the train doesn’t go where we want to go, I always suggest Lyft before driving. I like to save the driving for places outside of the city, like when I go to Chicago Executive Airport to fly or something.

Everyone else in the family is more apt to drive.

It’s not that I don’t like driving; I love driving, even in the city. It’s just that it seems so un-city like to drive everywhere, especially to places where public transit is a very valid option. I’d rather deal with a drunk on the train than city in traffic on the Kennedy for an hour just to go three miles.

I think public transit is the wave of the future. Making a city realistically easy to navigate via train, bus, or as a pedestrian seems to be the way to go. And this is coming from a guy who’s dreamed of designing roads all his life.