Sunday, February 3, 2008
NIMBY's Corner: Anonymous NIMBY Protests METRA Landscaping
posted by richard gill
Reacting to Metra's tree-cutting on the railroad right-of-way between 57th and 59th Streets (not in anyone's back yard), some Not-In-Our-Back-Yards residents of Harper Avenue whose back yards face the tracks, became angry because the railroad was clearing trees that were Not In The Residents' Back Yards.
As reported in the Jan. 30, 2008 Hyde Park Herald, one Harper Avenue resident anonymously said, "Looking at this makes me want to scream, cry, get sick or something." Well, Anonymous Person, have you ever seen a train wreck, with dead and injured people? There's something that will really make you scream, cry, get sick or something. The objective of tree and brush clearance is to prevent this.
Metra's Joseph E. Riley told the Herald that the trees, which were on Metra property, posed a potential hazard to trains and the thousands of commuters who ride them. Trees too close to the tracks can foul the contact arms and overhead wires that provide power for the trains, obstruct the engineers' view of track and signals, break windows, and get caught in the trains' running gear. Root systems can distort the track alignment. Autumn leaves under the wheels can cause trains to literally slide past station platforms.
Heavy weeds and brush also pose hazards; good railroads--and I count Metra among them--spend great amounts of money to control vegetation. (The alert commuter will note signs along the tracks instructing maintenance crews not to use weed spray too close to homes, uh, back yards.)
So, once again, some residents of Hyde Park have exhibited their total inability, or refusal, to see beyond their own eyeballs. "What's that," they seem to say, "You mean our personal sensibilities should take a back seat to public safety?"
This sorry episode is not the first of its kind. Recall a few years back, when Hyde Parkers helped to delay the construction of a median barrier on Lake Shore Drive, south of 57th Street. A number of head-on crossover collisions prompted the City to propose the barrier. People went ballistic, because it meant widening the roadway a couple of feet. The project was delayed. It got done after people kept dying on Lake Shore Drive.
And don't forget all the objections to the Lake Shore Drive curb cut at 53rd Street, that allows turning cars to decelerate for the exit without having to merge back into a high-speed lane. It's a good thing that finally got built, too.
Getting back to the tree thing, I want to thank Sue Purrington of Alderman Hairston's office, and Joseph E. Riley of Metra for their sensible and helpful response in the Herald article. Two suggestions they made were that Harper residents consider planting trees on their own property, and get together and talk things out instead of wailing that the sky is falling. Anonymous Person et al, you might take heed. But if you feel you must scream, cry, get sick or something, try not to do it in someone else's back yard.