New Metra tool helps riders avoid crowded trains

https://ift.tt/2ZmTGsg

As residents return to work, Metra announced this week it is testing a ridership dashboard meant to provide information to riders about how crowded trains have been on each line.

The information will help riders who have the flexibility to travel at different times to make “data-driven decisions” to select less crowded trains amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

“We hope this tool will help riders plan their travel according to their personal needs, as well as to encourage riders to shift to less congested trains, when possible,” Metra CEO and executive director Jim Derwinski said in the release.

The dashboard indicates the average number of riders per train car over a five-day period. It’s being released as a test starting with weekday trains only and provides a view of the current schedule for each line.

Each train will be highlighted in one of four different colors to indicate how crowded it was the prior week.

• Low ridership will be highlighted in green. It indicates an average of fewer than 50 riders a car on the train. Riders can expect to find a seat at least one row from other riders.

• Some ridership will be highlighted in yellow. It indicates an average of 50 to 70 riders a car on the train. Riders can expect to find a seat and not have another rider sitting next to them.

• Moderate ridership will be highlighted in orange. It indicates an average of 70 to 100 riders a car on the train. Riders may have to stand to avoid sitting next to another rider. When a train reaches this ridership threshold, Metra will add cars to the train or trains to the schedule if possible to create more opportunity for physical distancing.

• High ridership will be highlighted in red. It indicates more than 100 riders a car on the train. Limited space will be available, and riders may need to stand near other riders.

The dashboard occasionally will include trains highlighted in gray. This color will be used when schedule changes occur and Metra is collecting data for new trains, or there are anomalies in the data for a particular train.

It takes a week to collect data for trains that are new to a schedule.

Metra runs three lines that travel through several Will County communities including the Heritage Corridor line, the Rock Island District line and the Southwest Service line.

If riders have any suggestions or other feedback about this tool, they are encouraged to email Metra at dashboard@metrarr.com.

The dashboard can be found at www.metrarail.com/dashboard.

via | MySuburbanLife.com

July 13, 2020 at 10:00AM

New Metra tool provides information on how crowded trains are

https://ift.tt/2C2NbSE

As residents return to work, Metra announced this week it is testing a ridership dashboard meant to provide information to riders about how crowded trains have been on each line.

The information will help riders who have the flexibility to travel at different times to make "data-driven decisions" to select less crowded trains amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

"We hope this tool will help riders plan their travel according to their personal needs, as well as to encourage riders to shift to less congested trains, when possible,” Metra CEO/executive director Jim Derwinski said in the release.

The dashboard indicates the average number of riders per train car over a five-day period. It’s being released as a test starting with weekday trains only and provides a view of the current schedule for each line.

Each train will be highlighted in one of four different colors to indicate how crowded it was the prior week.

• Low ridership will be highlighted in green. It indicates an average of less than 50 riders a car on the train. Riders can expect to find a seat at least one row from other riders.

• Some ridership will be highlighted in yellow. It indicates an average of 50 to 70 riders a car on the train. Riders can expect to find a seat and not have another rider sitting next to them.

• Moderate ridership will be highlighted in orange. It indicates an average of 70 to 100 riders a car on the train. Riders may have to stand to avoid sitting next to another rider. When a train reaches this ridership threshold, Metra will add cars to the train or trains to the schedule if possible to create more opportunity for physical distancing.

• High ridership will be highlighted in red. It indicates more than 100 riders a car on the train. Limited space will be available, and riders may need to stand near other riders.

The dashboard occasionally will include trains highlighted in gray. This color will be used when schedule changes occur and Metra is collecting data for new trains, or there are anomalies in the data for a particular train.

It takes a week to collect data for trains that are new to a schedule.

Metra runs three lines that travel through several Will County communities including the Heritage Corridor line, the Rock Island District line and the Southwest Service line.

If riders have any suggestions or other feedback about this tool, they are encouraged to email Metra at dashboard@metrarr.com.

The dashboard can be found at www.metrarail.com/dashboard.

via | The Herald-News

July 12, 2020 at 12:05PM

Highway mowing operations underway

https://ift.tt/2Wcvsiv

The Illinois Department of Transportation is reminding the public that seasonal mowing operations have resumed throughout the state. Motorists should be prepared to slow down, put down the devices, avoid distractions and proceed with caution when encountering mowing equipment and personnel.

In recent years, IDOT has revised its mowing practices to help create and maintain habitat for pollinators, including the monarch butterfly, the official state insect of Illinois since 1975 and at risk of being declared endangered. Pollinators play a vital role in the Illinois ecosystem and agricultural economy by aiding in reproduction of flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Last year, IDOT began following the Illinois Monarch Project Mowing Guidelines for Pollinators, establishing the most extensive mowing period from July 1 to Aug. 15. Currently, in addition to roadsides, standard maintenance mowing is taking place as needed around culverts, ditches, traffic control devices and other IDOT structures.

By timing when mowing takes place and reducing the amount of land being mowed, IDOT is encouraging the growth of critical plant species, such as milkweed, the only food source for monarch caterpillars.

To view a short video about IDOT’s mowing schedules and its work with pollinators, click here or visit IDOT’s YouTube channel.

For its efforts, IDOT has won national honors from several organizations, including Pheasants Forever and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign.

Follow AdVantage on Facebook and Twitter

via AdVantage

July 12, 2020 at 07:44AM

Voice of the Reader: Fully fund Amtrak

https://ift.tt/3fkBrJL

This is an open letter to Southern Illinois’ federal delegation:

Amtrak recently indicated that many of their long-distance routes across the nation may be scaled back to tri-weekly service due to a lack of funding and ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic. On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, we ask that you fully fund Amtrak Passenger Rail Service to prevent these and any future cuts to this critical service.

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of American’s lives. While we acknowledge the reality of recently decreased ridership, please understand that ridership decreased while our government asked that we stay home and limit travel to bend the curve of COVID-19. The reduction in ridership also correlates with Universities across the country, sending their students home to complete their courses online. As the country starts to re-open its doors, the need to move within the country will increase. The City of New Orleans route that extends from Chicago to New Orleans currently stops at multiple points along the I-57 Corridor. This corridor is critical for recreational, educational, and business travel; however, it is vital for the spread of innovation and business.

Amtrak is essential as Carbondale is home to Southern Illinois University, one of four of Illinois’ state universities sitting along The City of New Orleans route. Students, faculty, and staff can move easily across the state, especially on the crucial Carbondale to Chicago route. Whether headed home for a long weekend or stopping at any city along the route for tourism activities, these individuals bring necessary economic activity across Illinois.

via The Southern

July 11, 2020 at 08:56PM

Coronavirus has made riding a bike fun again, Decatur shop workers say

https://ift.tt/3gRLGpk

“I’ve never seen a situation like this where there is such a shortage,” he said. “The cycling industry right now is going crazy. It’s a good thing.”



Bike shops around the country are seeing a dramatic rise in bike sales and servicing, causing a bittersweet reaction from bike shops.




JEFF SMUDDE, HERALD & REVIEW



When he’s not working on bikes, Daniels likes to ride them.

Although he is still able to take part in one of his favorite activities, COVID-19 is preventing Daniels from spending time with his favorite local riding groups. Social distancing rules make normal weekend trips with 10 to 15 cyclists difficult.

“Because of the breathing, the sweat and the close proximity to other cyclists,” he said.

Group rides now consist of Daniels and his 14-year-old and 11-year-old daughters. Even though he has connections at the Spin City Cycle, he is not able to update the children’s bikes.

“My oldest is riding a bike that’s a little too small for her, because I couldn’t get her a bike,” he said.

Although the season has been frustrating at times, bicycle shop owners try to look on the bright side.

“This will encourage people to remember how much fun riding a bike can be,” he said. “You can get a good workout and feel like you’re 13 years old all over again.”


Looking back at 10 Decatur-area restaurants of the past 🍽️

via Herald-Review.com

July 11, 2020 at 09:13AM

Yednock holds to commitment

https://ift.tt/3gPjaEq

As a licensed professional engineer in Illinois, I believe in holding public officials, servants, engineers and those responsible for protecting the citizens of Illinois to the highest standards.

When public officials make commitments and hold to that commitment to serve our communities, we should hold up those actions and shine a bright light on them to be a role model to our citizens.

State Rep. Lance Yednock committed to the people of Illinois and his district that he would put politics as usual aside and work across the aisle to do what is right for our communities. He kept his word, helping bring together Republicans and Democrats to give our local and state economy an essential shot in the arm.

The infrastructure improvement bill that Rep. Yednock supported is critical to make the case for businesses to stay, grow, prosper and attract new businesses to exist right here in the Illinois Valley. As an employee of a local manufacturer, Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc. in Mendota, access to transportation and infrastructure to get our products from point A to point B, in a safe, efficient, accessible manner is vital to our operations.

As a state and a region, we are able to compete with surrounding states and succeed when we have increased, available, modernized capacity through high quality roads, bridges and other transportation options to get our goods throughout the country as quickly and efficiently as possible. Repairing and improving our transportation network enhances our ability to move stormwater management products we manufacture in LaSalle County to our customers throughout the country.

Last year, we were running full throttle to keep up with customer demand and opportunity. Despite the significant challenges put forth in both health and economics resulting from COVID-19, we’ve been fortunate to be able operate and serve our communities as safely as possible. We need a quality logistics and transportation network more so than ever.

Thanks to the vision of our policymakers, like Rep. Lance Yednock, companies like the one I work for in Mendota are able to plan for the future in Illinois with more optimism than we’ve had in a long time.

Rep. Yednock decided to hold to his commitment and to do what is right ahead of what would have been easy. Local businesses will be well-equipped to deliver their goods, motorists will benefit from smoother, safer roads and we all will benefit from new jobs and opportunities. That is certainly a good return on our investment.

Bryan Miko, professional engineer for Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc.

via Daily, local and breaking news for Bureau County, Illinois | Bureau County Republican

July 10, 2020 at 04:18PM

Connect Transit awarded CARES Act grant

https://ift.tt/3iN46Js

NORMAL (WEEK) — Connect Transit is getting over $900,000, thanks to the CARES Act.

Congressmen Darin LaHood (IL-18) and Rodney Davis (IL-13) made the announcement today that the Twin-Cities transit company was awarded a $931,939 CARES Act grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula fund.

According to a release from Congressman LaHood, the company will use the funds for wages, cleaning and disinfecting, personal protection equipment, and other eligible expenses for fixed-route and ADA paratransit service.

“COVID-19 has impacted public transportation systems across Illinois, including Connect Transit, causing significant disruption in service and budgets," said Rep. LaHood. "Congress and the federal government took important steps to provide relief to mass transit districts and local governments during this pandemic in the CARES Act."

"It’s important that residents have access to safe public transportation during this challenging time, and I am pleased to join Congressman Rodney Davis to announce this critical relief funding for Connect Transit."

Rep. Davis said the much-needed funding ensures vital local services like transit continue safely and uninterrupted.

“This grant will allow Connect Transit to do just that," he said. "As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I will continue to advocate for transit funding for Bloomington-Normal and central Illinois at-large.”

via WEEK

July 10, 2020 at 04:18PM

Greising: These Two Wings Can Help Chicago’s Cargo Biz Take Flight

https://ift.tt/3epmm8x

The near-dormant talk of a Peotone airport got jolted back to life late last month when Amazon announced plans to build a couple of new sorting facilities in south suburban Matteson and Markham.

The Amazon news got local politicians like U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, and state Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Harvey, resuscitating Peotone airport talk. Gov. J.B. Pritzker reminded those present at the Amazon announcement that he had included a $205 million Interstate 57 interchange—for the benefit of a future Peotone airport—into his $45 billion infrastructure plan.

But there already is an air-cargo success story in the area, at the Chicago Rockford International Airport. And the economics of the matter say this is a binary choice. If Peotone gets built, the Rockford airport’s growth likely screeches to a halt. If Rockford continues to grow, the argument for Peotone weakens over time.

Rockford has such an incumbency advantage that common sense indicates this shouldn’t be a contest. Last year, Rockford ranked as North America’s 20th-largest cargo airport, with nearly 330,000 metric tons of landed cargo.

Amazon Air, which launched Rockford operations in 2016, has seen the airport expand from three parking positions that can handle Amazon Air cargo jets to eight such parking positions now. Last year, the airport more than doubled Amazon’s warehouse space, to nearly 200,000 square feet.

There are plans for more growth, too. One project would expand parking capacity to handle 10 Boeing 747-8 jumbo jets; another would add space for an additional 12 widebodies.

Then there is Peotone—the pipe dream that just won’t be snuffed out.

The airport concept’s biggest advantage is Peotone’s proximity to around 10 Amazon fulfillment centers in northern Illinois, many of them in an area running from Tinley Park up to St. Charles. The new Matteson and Markham sites strengthen the argument.

But let’s face it: Peotone is not even on the drawing boards, much less built. Only about half the land is secured, and eminent domain challenges are working their way through the courts. Environmental permitting isn’t finished. An idea 25 years in the making has many more years to go before Peotone would be ready for first flight.

Amazon, the very definition of a nimble e-commerce giant, can’t and will not wait that long. Besides, both Amazon and UPS are having their needs ably met by Rockford, thank you very much.

Peotone boosters make an equity argument. They correctly note that public investment in the southern suburbs falls far short of what has been spent in Chicago’s northern suburbs. Will County, home to Peotone, is long overdue.

But Winnebago County has its hardships, too. The home of the Rockford airport had a 15.7 percent poverty rate in 2017, nearly double Will County’s 7.4 percent poverty rate, according to Data USA.

Black and Latino residents make up 41 percent of those living in poverty in Rockford’s Winnebago County. In Peotone’s Will County, they represent 39 percent of those living in poverty.

Add it up, and both areas have deep needs for equity-focused investment. If anything, poverty overall around Rockford runs far deeper than it does in the county that loops up from Peotone past Joliet. Disproportionate numbers of Black and Latino residents in both counties face economic misery; both need help.

The economics say Illinois should double down on Rockford, which already is a success story. But the south suburbs should not be shortchanged, either. The $205 million earmarked for that I-57 interchange could more profitably be spent to accelerate the burgeoning road-and-rail intermodal boom covering a broad swath from the southern neighborhoods of Chicago on down to Joliet.

In the end, we wind up with the same argument applied to the two very different places: Quit the squabbling and go with what’s working—in Rockford and in the road-transport hub around Peotone.

The two-pronged approach is the most equitable, and economically sensible, course to take.

via Better Government Association

July 10, 2020 at 04:10PM

Editorial | A perpetual tax increase

https://ift.tt/38Hg1nA

With gas prices jumping up and down, tax increases can be hard to spot.

Much has changed in Illinois since July 1, 2019.

That’s when state legislators doubled the gas tax, raising it from 19 cents to 38 cents per gallon and, in the process, producing a gusher of new revenue, an estimated $1.24 billion.

Since that August date, the architect of the gas tax increase — Chicago state Sen. Martin Sandoval — has resigned from the legislature, pleaded guilty to a series of corruption-related charges and agreed to testify for the government against his many partners in crime.

Illinois also has endured the coronavirus pandemic and consequent economic lockdown, which has reduced driving and caused gas tax revenues not to increase as much as expected.

Finally, there has been all the drama — protests, rioting, looting — stemming from the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

That’s a whirlwind of activity involving news of public corruption, public health and public discord.

One thing, however, remained the same.

Just as the state’s gas tax went up July 1, 2019, so, too, did it go up on July 1, 2020. It will increase again on July 1, 2021.

What’s up with that?

When legislators doubled the gas tax in 2019, they also called for annual increases in the gas tax that are tied to the consumer price index.

Because inflation has been minimal over the past year, the state’s gas tax jumped slightly — from 38 cents a gallon to 38.7 cents a gallon.

Legislators supportive of the move characterize these annual increases as necessary to ensure steady increases in revenue needed to finance road construction and maintenance.

But there’s far more to it than that. There always is when it comes to Illinois’ politicians.

In voting once to arrange annual increases, legislators have excused themselves from any long-term responsibility and accountability for raising taxes.

They’ve immunized themselves from political blow-back because, with each passing year, more and more of them can tell their constituents that they didn’t vote to raise their taxes because the increases are automatic.

That doesn’t mean much these days because inflation is minima, making the gas tax hike minimal. But if inflation takes off and the state’s gas taxes jump dramatically, our cunning legislators will have a valuable tool to fend off constituent complaints.

via The News-Gazette

July 10, 2020 at 02:09PM