Letters & Comments, October 1, 2009 

CHA shortcomings, sick transit, the Lyric Opera, and crowdsourcing

CHA Shortcomings

Re: "They Didn't Think of the Children," by Deanna Isaacs, September 24)

Dear People:

"Still, in the 1940s and '50s, the Chicago Housing Authority considered itself a progresssive force, supplanting slums with new housing for families."

Around 1939, when I was ten years old, my mother taught piano at the Abraham Lincoln Center social settlement house on Oakwood Blvd., a block from where the Ida B. Wells housing project was being built in the black ghetto (roughly, along 39th Street between Cottage Grove and South Park, now King Drive). Watching this early project go up, I noticed something disturbing.

The project was all low-rise apartments and townhouses, with wide lawns and plenty of open space. It replaced solid blocks of big three- and four-story slum tenements. Beautiful! But—

The project could not have housed more than about 10 percent of the poor people who were displaced from those crowded slums that got torn down. So for each person who lucked into one of the new project apartments, about nine others were forced into even more crowded quarters elsewhere in the black slums, since they couldn't move out of the ghetto. Young as I was, this struck me as a really bad deal.

If the CHA eventually realized this, it might help explain why the later projects were tall towers that would house more people than they displaced. And we all know how well that turned out. George Price
N. Monitor Ave.

The Chicago Housing Authority was, under the original Mayor Daily, both racist and poorly planned and underfunded. That they built such projects as Cabrini-Green and Robert Taylor Homes is just proof of that. How could they have even conceived of people living in such buildings? They appear to be just a bit better than living in prisons, and that the city and federal government didn't consider that children were going to be living there is just one problem, as these buildings aren't fit for human habitation altogether. Years later, when they are cesspools of human depravity and criminal activity, we are "surprised" that this sort of thing goes on, as the people who built the projects had "no idea" that the sorts of things that routinely go on now would go on in such places. You could say that it's another case of government wasting our money, but perhaps the people in charge did it on purpose, to put people they considered "less than human" in their "place," and, maybe, they would sort out their problems away from the rest of us. They were deadly wrong, of course, and we all have to pay for the mistakes of a few shortsighted people.
Mitchco

Sick Transit

Hey Ben Joravsky, the powers that be are beginning to recognize that Chicago's transit facilities are inadequate to transport all the attendees to Olympic events: http://www.suntimes.com/sports/olympics/1793692,CST-NWS-olytransit28.article.

For at least 13 years now there have been plans to convert the Metra Electric to operate as part of the CTA as the Gray Line, now referred to as the Gold Line. This plan to improve the south side economic condition was created many, many years before the Olympics were even thought of.

Even the IOC noted that there were no concrete plans for rail service between the venues by the 2016 Committee, just vague references to using "existing infrastructure." The Electric District runs within footsteps of all the south lakefront venues, and it is a 4-track Class I Railroad; not a miniature train like CTA's el (able to carry a much higher per hour passenger load).

When the IOC says Metra will carry 2/3 of the rail passengers during the event, do they mean carrying large numbers of people from the suburbs into the city; or do they mean the Electric District carrying event participants along the lakefront between venues?

To construct a new CTA type rail line along the Metra lakefront alignment would cost one to two billion dollars, which no one is going to spend for a two-week event—even with leaving a legacy for the south side communities. Using the Metra Electric to provide service between the lakefront Olympic venues will not work without fare and service integration with adjacent CTA rail and bus services.

Due to FRA/FTA regulations, new rail lines using CTA type trains cannot operate in common or on adjacent ROW to Class I trains; so CTA type trains could not run on the 2 center Electric District tracks (even with conversion to third rail) right next to Metra trains. If the IOC was looking among other things for real rail plans, then we've already blown it. It would cost less than $200 MILLION (not billion) to convert part of the Electric District to operate as the Gold Line/Gray Line (the Gold Line utilizes only the Metra South Chicago Branch, the Gray Line uses the entire south side in-city Metra service). Mike Payne

Can We Tell You About the Lyric Opera?

Dear Chicago Reader:

Thank you for highlighting the Chicago Humanities Festival in your Fall Preview issue, August 27. You literally changed how I am spending my November. I registered for 10 programs, 2 of which are free because I am vounteering for 5 1/2 hours. Basically I am spending 2 entire weekends plus an additional weeknight at the Chicago Humanities Festival. Laughter and understanding where humor comes is a subject near and dear to my heart, and when I read about this in the Reader I knew I had to jump on it. Thanks again for turning readers on to events before the rest of Chicago finds out about them. The festival will probably be the highlight of my year. Ellen Goodman
Chicago

The New New Journalism: Crowdsourcing

Re: "That Man From Rio," posted by Michael Miner, September 29

Wheel-spinning, incremental, process-to-the-exclusion-of-substance reporting has been a hallmark of American journalism, wedded as it is to the singularly flaccid standard of objectivity and neutrality. The new model simply elevates this to a self-referential pinnacle: Look at me, the paid reporter, wondering about the same edgy, trendy, goofy things that readers supposedly are wondering about. Pelham

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