Want to know when the next train’s coming? Don’t worry – there’s an app for that.
In January, the Chicago Transit Authority officially rolled out its beta version of the CTA Train Tracker , available as a mobile application for smart phones and on the Internet. The authority’s bus tracker has already been in place since last year.
In the press release, the CTA stated that estimated arrival times are generated through a combination of scheduling information and the data collected by the QuicTrak program, “which monitors signaling systems and indicates when a portion of track is occupied by a train. Average transit time is determined by measuring how long it takes a train to travel a portion of track and by averaging the travel times of the last five trains to move across a portion of track, the CTA can calculate the estimated arrival times for trains at each station.”
Okay, so it’s a little confusing. But what Chicagoans really care about isn’t methodology, it’s how well the tracker works, right?
So far reaction seems to be positive – in large part because commuters have been waiting for this for awhile now. The CTA Tattler blog even wrote about the CTA pre-testing the tracker on the Brown line back in April.
The Twittersphere has been praising its introduction, which many say was a long time coming. Twitter user Jose L. Torrez went so far as to call it a “WIN!” while Anne Haley, aka Anniebannanie91 tweeted “Cta train tracker= my bff.”
“Train tracker seems to work well,” said Ryan C. Miller, coordinator of orientation and parent programs at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “I’ve not been burned by it – yet.”
Time Out Chicago also did their own little test to see what people’s reactions have been, as did The Huffington Post. Blogger Steven Vance got a chance to try out the tracker before everyone else did. His verdict? It needs a few tweaks for mobile devices but other than that, he’s “extremely impressed.”
So far, it sounds good. Now if we could just do something about those pitiful French -fry warming lights at the stations….and maybe WiFi underground. Yes, please?
- From WBEZ: CTA proposes closing several stops on the Red Line
- CTA: Red and Purple line modernization plan
- CTA: Alerts
- CTA Tattler: Theater troupe to act out Red Line riders’ stories
Once you’ve managed to survive the traffic on your daily commute, here comes the next fun part – the parking.
Chicago has long had the priciest parking meters in the country, and earlier this month, those rates were raised even more.
As of Jan. 2, the price of hourly Loop parking was increased from $4.25 to $5.00, marking an 18 percent increase. The price boost was agreed to back in 2008 when the city signed a deal to lease its parking meters for 75 years. Just two years ago, motorists only had to pay $3 an hour to park in the Loop.
Neighborhood parking increases from $1.25 to $1.50 an hour and downtown parking outside of the loop such as the Gold Coast, River North, Near North and parts of Lincoln Park, are seeing a 50 cent increase to $3.00 an hour. The changes are being rolled out at the city’s 36,000 metered spots.
Chicago Parking Meters LLC, which operates the city’s meters, have pointed to technological advances including the ability to use credit cards at the meters as rationale for the rising costs.
As far as parking garages in the loop, early bird rates (arriving between 5 and 8 a.m.) are going to run you anywhere from $12-$20, on average.
The increase in parking meter rates appears to be a nationwide trend, with hourly rates in New York City rising this month from $2.50 to $3.00. Rates in Boston also rose, making it cost $1.25 an hour to park in Beantown, up from $1.00. Chicago’s joined in the “priciest parking” segment by San Francisco and Los Angeles, among others.
- Chicago Ranked the Most Road-Congested City
- CTA Prepared for Cold Weather
- Rolling Out the New CTA Train Tracker
- Metras New Quiet Cars: Boom or Bust?
- Braving Chicago’s Winter on Two Wheels
- CTA Train Tracker: What’s Chicago Saying?
- Construction in Chicago
- No Expansion for O’Hare as City Puts off Bonds Sale
Like most big cities, Chicago has been a hub for those looking to start anew in a new nation with new opportunities. Along with the rest of the United States, the first waves of immigration consisted primarily of Europeans from Germany, Poland, Ireland and other “old-world” nations. The secondary waves saw mass numbers of immigrants from Mexico and other parts of Latin America.
The roots of Chicago’s immigrant history run deep. Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr founded Hull-House here in 1889. Hull-House, located in the near west side of Chicago, was a settlement house for newly-arrived European immigrants. By 1911, the complex had grown to 13 buildings. Hull House became the standard-bearer for the movement, and by 1920 there were almost 500 such settlement houses nationally.
According to Rob Paral of the Institute for Metropolitan Affairs at Roosevelt University, the Windy City has one of the richest immigration histories among American cities. In 1870, immigrants made up almost half of the city’s population – larger than anywhere else in North America. Between 1880 to 1960, the city’s foreign-born population was second only to New York’s.
Paral found that as of 2003, the metropolitan Chicago area had the seventh largest immigrant population in the nation, with 1.4 million immigrants constituting 18 percent of the overall population.
Ethnic groups formed in new homelands typically follow patterns of what’s called “chain migration.” That is, immigrants tend to settle in neighborhoods with others who not only share their native country but are typically from the same cities and neighborhoods back home.
There are a lot of similarities between the Polish communities that formed in Chicago throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s and today’s Mexican communities, according to Jan Lorys, director of the Polish Museum of America.
“If you want to study the Mexican population here now, you should look at the Polish community of approximately 100 years ago,” Lorys said.
While emigration from Europe has slowed down, in large part because of the formation of the European Union, more immigrants are coming from Asia and Africa. Even with the EU, the U.S. still holds certain appeals for immigration, Lorys said. Most European nations are more bureaucratic, making it more difficult to start and run one’s own business, he said. More and better opportunities for entrepreneurship exist in the U.S.
Tracking immigrant populations in Chicago and other cities is difficult. The 2010 Census eliminated the ethnicity category, making the 2000 data the most recent available in many categories. And that data was collected before the international economic crisis, before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and before the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other global events.
An interactive map published by the New York Times in 2009 tracked immigrant populations across the country, decade by decade. As of 2000, about one-fifth of the county’s 5.4 million residents reported themselves as being foreign-born. Of those, more than 120,000 were born in Poland while 430,000 were from Mexico. Newer immigrant groups made up a significant portion, coming from nations such as China, Japan, Middle Eastern countries and African nations like Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Paral and Roosevelt University found that the three largest foreign-born groups in the Chicago metro area as of 2003 were immigrants from Mexico (582,000 people,) Poland (137,670,) and India (76,931,) – constituting more than half of all the immigrants in the area. The other half is far more diverse, with no group comprising more than a small percentage of the population.
- PBS on the immigration experience in Chicago
- Jane Addams Hull House Museum
- Chicago Tribune: On the Move: Immigration Matters
- C-Span on Chicago Immigration
- Migration Policy Institute
- Mexican Migration Project
- Immigration History Research Center
- USA Today’s guide to ethnic Chicago neighborhoods
- Census maps for Chicago, 1990
- Great Chicago neighborhoods: “Three ethnic odysseys”
Map courtesy of the Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, Roosevelt University.
One of the largest immigrant groups to first call Chicago their new home were the Poles, who began settling here during the 1850s and the 1860′s. By the time of the Civil War, approximately 500 Poles had created a small community on the Northwest side.
The area once known as Polish Downtown is the city’s oldest and most prominent Polish settlement. It was the political, social and cultural capital for Polish-Americans in Chicago. That area was centered around the Polonia Triangle — the intersection of Division, Ashland and Milwaukee Avenue. It served as the headquarters for many of the major Polish organizations in the nation, including the Polish National Alliance and the Polish Daily News.
Neighborhoods that originally made up so-called Polish Downtown were Pulaski Park, River West, Bucktown, Wicker Park, East Village and Nobel Square. Other large Polish communities to this day include Jefferson Park, Avondale, Irving Park, Portage Park and Norwood Park. Outside the Northwest parts of the city, there are Polish communities in Archer Heights and Garfield Ridge.
Like many immigrant groups that first came to America, the Polish immigrants typically worked unskilled, low-paid jobs in steel mills, stockyards, tanneries and packing houses.
“Chicago had the jobs,” said Jan Lorys, director of the Polish Museum of America.
Poland didn’t exist as an independent nation during the time when emigration was at its peak. There was political and religious persecution for Poles in their homeland, and land ownership was difficult to obtain.
Their connections to their homeland remained strong throughout the ages. About 25,000 American Poles served in the Polish Army in France during World War I, including 3,000 volunteers from Chicago. Recruitment posters were a frequent sight in the city’s Polish areas. The community grew exponentially during and after World War II and historians estimate that almost half of all Polish immigrants who came to the U.S. between 1939 and 1959 ultimately settled in Chicago. That’s an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 people, according to records.
Chicago’s Polish heritage remains, even as newer immigrant communities surpassed the Poles in numbers. In 2000, according to New York Times immigration data, approximately 120,000 Poles and 430,000 Mexicans emigrated to Chicago out of more than 1 million immigrants who came to the city that year. Data from the U.S. census revealed that 21.7 percent of Chicago residents reported themselves as being foreign-born, and 35.5 percent said they spoke a language other than English at home.
As of the 2000 census, there were 933,000 persons of Polish ancestry in Illinois. Sixty-five percent lived in the Chicago suburbs, 23 percent lived in Chicago and 12 percent lived downstate. The Polish immigrant population in Chicago, nearly 70,000 as of the 2000 census, is the largest in the U.S. Traditionally, Poles coming to America would start out in Chicago and then eventually move out to the suburbs, but nowadays Polish immigrants are more likely to bypass the city and go straight for the suburbs, Lorys said.
Despite the changing demographics, the Polish influence remains prominent throughout the city even as many Polish-Americans have moved to the city’s suburbs and as more Poles choose to move throughout the European Union as opposed to coming to the United States. Chicago’s library system offers its website in Polish.
Since 1979, the city’s Copernicus Foundation has held the Taste of Polonia every Labor Day weekend, and it’s become one of the city’s most popular ethnic festivals, attracting more than 30,000 people each year. Many politicians have made the festival part of their national campaign tours during election season, including Tipper Gore and Vice-President Dick Cheney in 2000, and President George W. Bush in 1992.
Despite these influences, “Poles haven’t been as able to make a huge impact (on Chicago,)” Lorys says. “There has never been a Polish mayor… and you can vote here in Chinese and Spanish but not Polish.”
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