Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Garbage, Garbage, Everywhere

Over the past month and a half I've been involved in an intense operation called--"move in girlfriend."  This has involved purchasing, packing, and moving box after box of her possessions and (thank God) just a few pieces of furniture. 

What I discovered during this process is that first of all movers are worth every penny.  On the day we move out of my current apartment, I'm hiring someone.  It also became increasingly clear that while small items are easy to give away, no one seems to want old furniture anymore. 

This truism became painfully clear when I attempted to donate her old mattress as well as an armchair that I no longer wanted. 

I can understand the reluctance of local charities to accept mattress donations, especially with the resurgence of bedbugs.  So even though I brought the mattress to the Salvation Army, I was pretty certain they wouldn't be interested in taking it.  But it wasn't until I tried to find a responsible way to dispose of the mattress that I discovered just how messed up Chicago's garbage collection system really is. 

After nearly a week of searching, no options for recycling or disposing the mattress could be found beyond the obvious--leave it in the alley. 

So that is what I did.  Eventually the mattress and box spring disappeared.  But it was no thanks to a city-wide recycling plan or drop off center.  The Alley Fairies did what our local government seems unwillingly or unable to do.

Now I'm faced with a similar dilemma for my old armchair.  So far I can't find an organization that will come to pick it up and don't plan to drag it to the Salvation Army only to have them tell me they aren't interested.  Could it be alley time again?  Perhaps.  Unlike the mattress, I'm still looking for someone to take it so that it can have a new owner and won't simply fill a suburban dump with more Chicago garbage. 

I have no desire to take away the livelihood of the neighborhood junk man/junk woman but as a former resident of the state of Vermont, which has an excellent recycling system for almost any item imaginable, the garbage disposal system in Chicago makes me sick.

Perhaps when Mayor Emanuel is done privatizing our schools he can focus his attention on the city recycling system.  It will give him a great opportunity to take an old Daley-era idea and claim that it is his own.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Transit Dependent

For those of us without automobiles, we spend more time paying attention to transit updates than traffic reports. Unfortunately for people living in Chicago, those updates tend to occur only once you have crossed the turnstile and paid your fare.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is not known for its advanced planning or customer relations, a fact of life that came into sharp focus last weekend when southbound service on the red line was suspended from Jarvis to Loyola and streets near these stops abruptly closed to traffic.  Compounding the inconvenience to residents living near these three stops was the previously announced closure on June 1st of the Granville station for a six week rehab project.

Yet this inconvenience pales in comparison to what will take place in the spring of next year when the CTA will close the ENTIRE red line from the Cermak-Chinatown stop to 95th-Dan Ryan.  Free and reduced fare bus service will be made available throughout this portion of the red line as well as expanded train service on the green line.  However, these closures will add a significant amount of time to passenger's commutes and will more than likely reduce future ridership on this CTA line.  The closure of the green line in the mid-1990s led to greatly decreased ridership in the years following the project's completion.

Those with cars will more than likely be added to the city's already congested streets during this construction period, but those who are truly transit dependent will simply have to plan ahead and lose more of their day to the ever increasingly transit times.  

If you live near the red line, there is no dispute that the train line is in desperate need of repair.  A few months ago another chunk of the concrete viaduct supporting the train fell down into my alley.  I got to observe this as I was throwing out my trash. Thank God it hit the ground instead of me.

But something rankles at the thought of a full closure of 24/7 rail service in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods while rolling closures are put in place where commuters have more choices for getting around.

If you want a lesson in racial segregation in Chicago, look no further than the renovation of the red line.  The south side gets shafted again.