Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Is Alderman Hairston A Parking Junkie?

posted by chicago pop

Alderman Hairston Does the NIMBY Hustle
(Illustration by Tom Tian of the Chicago Maroon)

If you read the Maroon or the Editors Blog, this is old news. Thanks to Alec Brandon for tipping us off this past Sunday, and to the Maroon, from which the most very comical illustration by Tom Tian above was taken.

The scoop? Hairston's office wants to, and sounds like it will, remove the northbound 171 bus stop at University and 57th Street, to add room for (free) street parking.

Here's Brandon's take, which is pithy enough to be quoted here:

This is just insane. The utility people get from four parking spots can't outweigh the inconvenience to hundreds of students. I have no idea why Hairston is trying to do this, but it just seems insane.

I agree. It is insane. This is like selling your pancreas for another hit of whatever. It makes absolutely no sense. 550 people use that bus stop every day. You trade that for 4 cars, which could sit there for days. It's a quick fix -- not even a fix, really -- for a much more complicated problem.

Hairston's office is keeping quiet on just what set this decision in motion. So what comes of it? A decision to reroute a bus from a strategic stop at the heart of campus, causing all sorts of complications -- like getting north- and southbound CTA buses to pass each other on Ellis -- in order to add 4 more spots to the curbside inventory.

Four more spots.

Here's what Hairston had to say, quoted from the Maroon:

“As you are well aware, [there is a] lack of parking in Hyde Park and a balance must be kept between bus service and parking for residents,” Hairston said on Friday in an e-mail to Ronald Weslow, a member of the CTA’s traffic and engineering crew.
According to Director of Campus Transportation and Parking Services Brian Shaw, over 550 people use the endangered stop on an average day, making it the second-busiest bus stop on campus.

Note that there are no metered parking spaces there. Nor is this a primarily residential block. Conceivably, I could park my uncle's VW bus there while he spends a week or two in Thailand and no one would notice. If you did the same thing for your uncle, that's 2 spots out of circulation for a few weeks. Perhaps the logic here is that, by adding these 4 new spots on University, it will become easier to park over on Dorchester. Hmm.

Even if these spots turned over much more regularly, adding inventory at the expense of a well-routed and heavily used bus route is just backward.

The northbound 171 makes 2 key stops: the first, right across the corner from the Reynolds Club, at University and 57th; the second, right across from Pierce at University and 55th. I see mobs of students at both stops day and night.

We've heard from a lot of students about how difficult it is to get out of Hyde Park using public transportation; the last thing anyone needs is for it to be more difficult to get around within Hyde Park.

And it doesn't solve the problem! Adding parking is like adding lanes to a freeway -- no sooner do you build them, but they are congested again!

This isn't the first time, apparently, that parking spots for a few vehicles have been given preference over room for public transportation. Hairston has blocked other, proposed bus stops nearby.

[Director of Campus Transportation and Parking Services Brian] Shaw ... has been trying to get a bus stop for the #174 El shuttle between Cottage Grove and Ellis Avenues since the route was introduced a year-and-a-half ago, but the alderman’s concerns about parking halted his efforts.
Here, too, we're talking a handful of spots for a bus stop that could improve mobility for all sorts of people coming and going to the science and hospital complexes.

There's a lot Hairston could be doing to reduce congestion and free up parking in Hyde Park. Like putting meters on the Midway. But that would be a bold initiative, rather than stealing from Peter to pay Paul.


Dingbat said...

Alderman Leslie A. Hairston
Office: 1900 E 71st Street
Chicago, IL 60649
Phone: 773-324-5555
Fax: 773-324-1585
City Hall Office: 121 N. LaSalle Street
Room 300
Chicago, IL 60602
City Hall Phone: 312-744-6832

Stephen said...

Cars suck.

When in doubt, the default position should always be in favor of public transportation. Public transportation is one of the principal advantages of living in a big city. And contrary to Ms. Hairston's argument, parking in Hyde Park is NOT a problem. If she, or anyone, would spend a few years in Lincoln Park, they would know what I mean.

The problem (if there is a problem) is only compounded by a lack of development in Hyde Park that would draw university employees to Hyde Park to live, not just to work. If they lived in Hyde Park, presumably they would walk or take public transportation to work.

The real problem is never too many bus stops, but too many cars. Cars, not buses, transform an enjoyable walk through Washington Park, Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance into a real-life game of FROGGER, whereby park-goers run, stop and dodge their way across busy thoroughfares in an effort to enjoy parks space. Good luck trying to get to the Fountain of Time from the Midway without risking life. How about some pedestrian crosswalks, people.

Again, cars suck.

Famac said...

Didn't those buses park in front of Regenstein ubtil recently? Isn't that a better location?

I play tennis a the Quad Club and got smothered by bus exhaust for 2 hours once while buses idled there.

ScottM said...

I hate the current routing of the 171 bus. (OK I live on University between 55th & 56th, so I'm being completely self-serving here, but...)

Frankly, both stops on University are not setup to be bus stops. Neither is paved or sheltered and frankly the damage to the lawns at each stop is very, very bad.

Since the 171 serves the UofC rerouting it back to Ellis makes a lot more sense then running it up a partially residential street such as University.

Stops across the street from Reynolds and on 55th @ University would actually serve the same audience without the lawn destruction and allow to add a stop on 55th @ Ellis to pick-up people leaving the gym.

As someone who only learned of the new 171 routing as it started going by my house a few years ago I for one am glad that Ald. Hairston is finally doing something to change it. (Even if she is using the lame excuse of more free public parking.)

chicago pop said...

scottm: I hear what you are saying, and the weird thing is, it makes a lot more sense than what Hairston is saying about why she is doing this.

Based on a communication from the University to this blogger, the University was told that Hairston really is removing that bus stop, not to save the lawns, make neighbors happy and all that stuff, but to add 4 more parking spots in the hopes of making it easier to park in the neighborhood.

That's insane. I won't hold it against you if an action taken for a completely misguided reason has positive externalities from which you may prosper. But on the stated rationale, I defer to stephen's excellent assessment above.

Peter Rossi said...

Leslie is doing what alderman do-

screwover those who don't vote in favor of those who do.

though, I can't figure out what sort of person in our neighborhood would want to park at 57 and Univesrity!

Peter Rossi said...


please remove the silver spoon from your body parts.

No one cares about folks playing tennis. We are talking about a very important part of student life here. If there weren't those students, there would be no tennis club.

this makes no sense and will do great harm. Leslie is risking severe backlash here. She needs to correct this asap.

If I were the president of UofC, I would be on the phone immediately.

It's bad enough that our neighborhood is not improving, but to make it worse is unthinkable.

ScottM said...

The Quad Club is also introducing (or has already introduced) valet parking... (Hmmmm)

Again I do want to stress that although the rational is irrational it makes more sense to reroute this bus.

Plus I see the Mrs. playing a lot of tennis this summer at the Q, so there is another benefit of moving it.

chicago pop said...

Statement of principle (to which amendments and corollaries may be added):

Reroute a bus line. Fine. But do not do so in order, even as a secondary consequence, to give in to neighborhood demand for greater free, subsidized, on-street parking.

This only makes the problem worse. There is research on this topic and I fully intend to bore everyone with an exposition on the topic at some point, but here please take my word for it. Or go google Donald Shoup.

One should not screw public transportation for the benefit of homeowners or anyone else who wants to park their cars for free on the street. In fact, one ought not not screw public transportation in any way at all, ever.

To do so, in a word, in this age of global warming, is reactionary.

That is an inviolate principle here.

Of course, a bus line can be rerouted, and there can be all sorts of pleasant, though rather quotidian, benefits to assorted individuals, assuming that the line can still operate with optimum efficiency and serve it's purpose; but if the reroute is part of a larger politique on the part of a local politician in which cars are given preference over public transportation, then we can only utter:

Beware the jihad of HPP.

Jessi said...

famac: NO buses park at 57/University. Ever. It is a bus STOP and a LOT of students use it every day. The only "buses" that park are the night shuttles, and those are in front of the Reg.

Ellis is horribly congested as is. Having buses running both directions on it (171 and 172 already run southbound on Ellis) would be nearly fatal to those of us already almost dying trying to cross at 58th.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I think famac might be thinking of chartered buses that were here over the summer (e.g. reunion weekend?).

As scottm pointed out, that corner is particularly trampled and messy, so if they keep the stop it would be good to formalize it with brick pavers and a shelter of some sort.

I'd even settle for concrete, if brick pavers -- or limestone -- are too expensive. ;-)

Tom said...

Jessi is right about the buses running both ways on Ellis. While I liked the old 171 route better (it came north on Ellis and turned right on University), this was a disaster because the 171 ran North and the 172 ran South. These buses could barely pass each other and the pedestrian crosswalk there is probably the busiest in Hyde Park with everyone going from the University to the bank, bookstore, and hospitals.

Chicago pop nailed the problem with all this anyway. Its not that Hairston wants to reroute the route. Its the way by which she's gone about it and her (poor) rationale for doing it. If she'd gotten input from the CTA and the University's transportation people (however incompetent they are) she probably would have been able to come up with a constructive solution. However, announcing this immediately and forcing the University to scramble all in the name of four parking places is asinine and politically dangerous.

I know I already sent her a letter as a voting, working constituent in her Ward!

chicago pop said...

OK, for the latest on this bizarre lil' episode, check out today's online Maroon. Now Hairston is saying it's more than just parking, it's about some kind of tit-for-tat between her office and the University. Read the story and see if it makes sense to you. She claims that the University moved that bus stop from a previous location last summer, without getting proper approval from all the right authorities, including her.

So now she's getting sweet revenge.


Wonder just how signs could be moved, drivers trained, and schedules printed up if no one, including the alderman, knew about it before hand. Changing rationales is always suspicious. We think she's a parking junkie.

Anyway, on one note, at least, we sympathize with the 5th Ward Alderman: she's got NIMBY parking junkies all up in her grill. Sayeth she: “My office gets complaints every day about parking,” she said.


Abraham said...

Why is a VW bus used as an example of a vehicle that doesnt deserve a parking spot? I agree it should be a city bus spot and not a VW bus spot, but how is a honda civic that doesnt move very often different from a VW bus? It is a sensitive topic for me.

chicago pop said...

Abraham: you sound like Isaac, who had reason to be traumatized. This is not worth it, trust me. But I feel your pain, so feel free to substitute a Honda Civic or any other car that can stand in as an object of transference. No offense was meant to any VW bus or owner of a VW bus.