CTA Red Line fire

Clark and Division Red Line

We happened to be walking past this area, and noticed the commotion:

Investigators worked late into the night Sunday to figure out what had sparked an extra-alarm fire on an underground track that sent 19 people to hospitals for smoke inhalation and respiratory problems.

Five people were transported with serious injuries, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Richard Rosado said. The injured included a 10-year-old boy who was being held overnight at Children’s Memorial Hospital for smoke inhalation. The extent of their injuries was not known Sunday night.

“The smoke was so thick you couldn’t see across the aisle,” said passenger Dillon Johnson, 23. “We all started to sit down on the floor where the smoke wasn’t as bad.”

Fire officials said railroad ties caught fire just before 5 p.m. on the northbound track between the Red Line stops at Chicago Avenue and Clark/Division. Black smoke could be seen billowing from several subway grates and vents in the area, including near Gibsons Bar and Steakhouse on Rush Street. Red Line trains and several bus routes were redirected while firefighters fought the small underground blaze.

Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said it’s unclear what sparked the fire, but that railroad ties occasionally catch fire during the summer heat.

(click to continue reading Red Line fire: 19 people injured in CTA track fire – chicagotribune.com.)

Easily twenty fire trucks, plus various Chicago Transit Authority police cars, a couple of Water Department trucks, and police too. They had cordoned a large area off from cars, but were allowing pedestrians to still walk through, so of course I had to see what was going on.

Also yesterday witnessed a large arrest of some sort on Chicago and State Streets, an arrest that involved 7 or 8 police cars and SUVs, and a dude being detained on the ground in hand cuffs. Still don’t know what that was. Oh, and earlier called 911 when we witnessed a young boy riding his bike swerve against an oncoming taxi1 and ram his head right into a street light post. We heard the collision from a block away. He was with his father and a couple of brothers, all on bikes, but we were worried he might have sustained a concussion. Didn’t stay to see however, just called for an ambulance.

Crazy day.

  1. the bikes were going the wrong way on a one way street []

Reading Around on January 18th through January 20th

A few interesting links collected January 18th through January 20th:

  • Change of Subject: W.W.R.D? — What Would the Republicans Do? – [Republicans]

    now control the U.S. Senate, 41 votes to 59.The Democrats, based on this one very notable setback, seem poised now to attempt a strategy of retreat and appeasement, exactly as is being demanded by their harshest critics on Fox News. Evan Bayh, Barney Frank and the coalition of the pouty and lily livered seem to think voters in the fall will be drawn to the sight of their fluttering white flags.

  • Chicago Transit Authority urges commuters to report photographers | Photography is Not a Crime

    The Chicago Transit Authority is so “committed to safety,” that it is urging commuters to report people committing “excessive photography/filming.” The sign posted inside the train stations places photographers on the same level as, say, a non-CTA employee walking the tracks or an unattended package or “noxious smells or smoke.”

    In other words, it accuses photographers of being possible terrorists or just suicidal maniacs.

    The problem is that these signs not only encourage commuters to dial 911 when seeing someone taking photos, which will tie up real emergencies, it contradicts the CTA’s own policy on photography and videography within train stations

  • Econundrum: 10 Eco-Apps for Your iPhone | Mother Jones – Econundrum: 10 Eco-Apps for Your iPhone

Overloaded Intelligence Gathering Leads to Poor Intelligence

Too much data, indiscriminately accumulated, is just as much a problem as too little intelligence data, if not worse. Remember when we were America, land of the Free?

Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?

It has been demonstrated that when officials must establish before a court that they have reason to intercept communications — that is, that they know what they are doing — we get better intelligence than through indiscriminate collection and fishing expeditions.
[Rush Holt]

The failure of the U.S. Government to detect the fairly glaring Northwest Airlines Christmas plot — despite years and years of constant expansions of Surveillance State powers — illustrates this dynamic perfectly. As President Obama said [Janurary 5th, 2010], the Government — just as was true for 9/11 — had gathered more than enough information to have detected this plot, or at least to have kept Abdulmutallab off airplanes and out of the country. Yet our intelligence agencies — just as was true for 9/11 — failed to understand what they had in their possession. Why is that?  Because they had too much to process, including too much data wholly unrelated to Terrorism. In other words, our panic-driven need to vest the Government with more and more surveillance power every time we get scared again by Terrorists — in the name of keeping us safe — has exactly the opposite effect. Numerous pieces of evidence prove that.

Today in The Washington Post, that paper’s CIA spokesman, David Ignatius, explains that Abdulmutallab never made it onto a no-fly list because there are simply too many reports of suspicious individuals being submitted on a daily basis, which causes the system to be “clogged” — overloaded — with information having nothing to do with Terrorism. As a result, actually relevant information ends up obscured or ignored.  Identically, Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff and Mark Hosenball report that U.S. intelligence agencies intercept, gather and store so many emails, recorded telephone calls, and other communications that it’s simply impossible to sort through or understand what they have, quite possibly causing them to have missed crucial evidence in their possession about both the Fort Hood and Abdulmutallab plots:

This deluge of Internet traffic — involving e-mailers whose true identity often is not apparent — is one indication of the volume of raw intelligence U.S. spy agencies have had to sort through as they have tried to assess Awlaki’s influence in the West and elsewhere, said the officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information. The large volume of messages also may help to explain how agencies can become so overwhelmed with data that sometimes it is difficult, if not impossible, to connect potentially important dots.

Newsweek adds that intelligence agencies likely possessed emails between accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — as well as recorded telephone calls between al-Awlaki and Abdulmutallab — but simply failed to analyze or understand what they had intercepted.

[Click to continue reading Glenn Greenwald – Backfiring of the Surveillance State : Salon.com]

Pretty pathetic. And the solution is simple: start being much more targeted with information collection so there is less noise and more actionable signal. Allowing 8 year old kids like Mike Hicks to remain on the No-Fly List for seven years is just idiotic

Mikey, who would rather talk about BMX bikes and his athletic trophies than airport security, remains perplexed about the “list” and the hurdles he must clear. “Why do they think a kid is a terrorist?” Mikey asked his mother at one point during the interview.

Mrs. Hicks said the family was amused by the mistake at first. But that amusement quickly turned to annoyance and anger. It should not take seven years to correct the problem, Mrs. Hicks said. She applied for redress in December when she first heard about the Department of Homeland Security’s program.

“I understand the need for security,” she added. “But this is ridiculous. It’s quite clear that he is 8 years old, and while he may have terroristic tendencies at home, he does not have those on a plane.”

[Click to continue reading Mikey Hicks, 8, Can’t Get Off U.S. Terror Watch List – NYTimes.com]

and he’s not alone

For every person on the lists, hundreds of others may get caught up simply because they share the same name; a quick scan through a national phone directory unearthed 1,600 Michael Hickses. Over the past three years, 81,793 frustrated travelers have formally asked that they be struck from the watch list through the Department of Homeland Security; more than 25,000 of their cases are still pending. Others have taken more drastic measures. Mario Labbé, a frequent-flying Canadian record-company executive, started having problems at airports shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, with lengthy delays at checkpoints and mysterious questions about Japan. By 2005, he stopped flying to the United States from Canada, instead meeting American clients in France. Then a forced rerouting to Miami in 2008 led to six hours of questions.

“What’s the name of your mother? Your father? When were you last in Japan?” Mr. Labbé recalled being asked. “Always the same questions in different order. And sometimes, it’s quite aggressive, not funny at all.” Fed up, in the summer of 2008, he changed his name to François Mario Labbé. The problem vanished.

Boy, that makes me feel so much safer – just change your name, and voila, no problems!

Continuous Video Recording in Progress

The mind-set doesn’t appear to be ending soon, if Massachusetts Police policy is any indication:

A report from the New England Center For Investigative Reporting has chronicled a pattern of what civil liberties advocates say is a misuse of police powers: Massachusetts police are using the state’s stringent surveillance laws to arrest and charge people who record police activities in public.

It’s a situation that is pitting new technologies against police powers. With recording equipment now embedded into cellphones and other common technologies, recording police activities has never been easier, and has resulted in numerous cases of police misconduct being brought to light. And that, rights advocates argue, is precisely what the police are trying to prevent.

In October, 2007, Boston lawyer Simon Glick witnessed what he said was excessive use of police force during the arrest of a juvenile. When he pulled out his cellphone to record the incident, he was arrested and charged with “illegal electronic surveillance.”

In December, 2008, Jon Surmacz, a webmaster at Boston University, was attending a party that was brok

[Click to continue reading Massachusetts cops can arrest you for making them famous | Raw Story]

Even the Chicago Transit Authority is getting into the action

The Chicago Transit Authority is so “committed to safety,” that it is urging commuters to report people committing “excessive photography/filming.”

The sign posted inside the train stations places photographers on the same level as, say, a non-CTA employee walking the tracks or an unattended package or “noxious smells or smoke.”

In other words, it accuses photographers of being possible terrorists or just suicidal maniacs.

The problem is that these signs not only encourage commuters to dial 911 when seeing someone taking photos, which will tie up real emergencies, it contradicts the CTA’s own policy on photography and videography within train stations.

[Click to continue reading Chicago Transit Authority urges commuters to report photographers | Photography is Not a Crime]

More data, more clutter in the system for intelligence to sort out, or the already overloaded judicial system, and for what reason? We need a change in direction, and soon.

New Green Line station at Morgan

Morgan and Lake, to be precise. In general, a new station is a good idea, if the capital is available. The West Loop has really boomed, and having an additional El stop would help traffic flow in the area.

Lake Street El to somewhere else
[The new station will basically be right here – there is a sign for Rubenstein Lumber in this photograph, and Rubenstein’s address is 167 N. MORGAN STREET.]

A new el station will be built on the Green Line at Morgan Street in order to serve an increased population in the northern part of the West Loop. The station, expected to cost between $35 million and $40 million in tax increment financing dollars, will be built despite a feasibility study that found more potential riders for a Western Avenue stop on the Green Line.

Brian Steele, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation, said a 2002 study that examined daily boarding at potential stops on the western and southern Green Line branches found that around 1,000 people each day would board a new station on the Green Line at Western, with 800 boarding at Morgan. But Steele said the facts have changed.

“Since that time, the area around the Morgan station has seen big jumps in residential and commercial development,” Steele said, speaking anecdotally. The ’02 study, said, “was based on 2000 census numbers. This is 2008. Clearly, the Morgan station has seen significant growth, much more than the area around Western. Another thing that led to the decision was in 2006, the CTA introduced the Pink Line service, which goes through the corridor the Morgan station will serve.”

[From A Green Line station at Morgan]

It's all in the Motion
Lake Street Green line, from my building’s roof. The new station would be about 5-6 blocks west.

(via GapersBlock)

Supermarkets and the CTA

Sort of odd.

The Chicago Transit Authority is said to be looking into the possibility of having some L trains stop inside area supermarkets, or potentially consider adding bank branches and restaurants on its properties in an effort to get more mileage out of its extensive network of rail and bus routes situated on prime real estate.

“Right off the bat we are going to be looking at the idea of grocery stores right at train stations,” said Jeff Ahmadian, CTA’s deputy general counsel for the CTA, was quoted in a report in the Chicago Tribune. “People could get off directly inside the grocery store and go shopping without ever going outside,” he said, citing the Red Line’s Berwyn, Wilson and North/Clybourn stops as candidates for grocery stores, as well as other L stops that could also add supermarkets.

[From Chicago Transit Authority Looking to Add Supermarkets to Routes]

Don’t really see the advantage of this, I guess budget has to be spent somewhere, but seems like this is more of a way to waste money on consultants finding the perfect location.

To get the concept rolling, the CTA on Wednesday hired real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle to help it assess transit property, as well as secure businesses for CTA stations and other transit-oriented development. Chicago-based JLL will be paid $4.2 million over five years to represent the CTA.

Bike Safety in Chicago

Cops on Bikes
[Cops on Bikes]

Maybe when the police finish re-training cars to avoid hitting pedestrians in crosswalks, they can devote some resources to the ongoing automobile vs. bicycle wars. I’m never riding without a helmet again, that’s for sure.

A ghost bike marks the last place Clinton Miceli, 22, rode his bike.

“When you got to know him, he was just hilarious and full of life. He had everything going for him in this world. For him to go, it’s just a shock for all of us,” said Rob Mach, Clinton Miceli’s roommate.

Miceli was a graphic designer. He was riding his bike home from work Monday evening. A man in an SUV opened his car door in front of Miceli. Miceli was thrown into the path of oncoming traffic. He died from head injuries.

“He just got into it this last summer, getting around the city. He thought it was a great mode of transportation. He was very careful about it,” said Mach.

On Tuesday morning at the intersection of Broadway and Patterson, another cyclist was hit. Chicago police say the CTA bus driver attempted to pass the bike. The cyclist survived that crash.

“People are out there driving with cell phones. People are out there driving, not paying attention, not being prepared to stop, not being prepared to watch,” said Rob Sadowsky, executive director, Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.


“It’s usually people not paying attention or thinking they can out-speed you around the corner or something and turn right in front of you,” said Jennifer Gutowski.

In the incident Tuesday morning, the CTA bus driver was cited and suspended by the CTA.

The driver who opened the door in front of Miceli Monday night was also ticketed. A wake and funeral for Miceli are planned for later this week.

[From abc7chicago.com: 2 serious accidents highlight bike safety 6/11/08]

When I spent a few days in Seattle, I was amazed at the pedestrian’s power. Cars would stop hundreds of yards from any walker, even ones like me who were jaywalking. Bike riders were given wide berths by cars, and never tail-gated. I talked to some locals while riding public transit, and they all said drivers were well trained to stop for pedestrians, but that pedestrians never jaywalked because the police gave out a lot of tickets for this transgression. Toronto is the same: cars are very polite to pedestrians and bikes alike. Chicago? Not so much. Car is king, and you’d best not forget it.

Photo of the young man here