The Thanksgiving leftovers are history, but it's not too late to say thanks -- for reading and commenting on In Transit this year.
And the best way to express my appreciation is to turn the column over to you this week. We've got a tempting buffet of Metra fare hikes, red-light camera angst and someone with a beef over my word usage.
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No more Wacker workFinally, commuters pouring out of Union Station won't have to navigate the labyrinth of detours during Wacker Drive and Congress Parkway reconstruction. The project's cost? About $303 million, with $240 million coming from the federal government, $60 million from the state and the city of Chicago making up the difference. Highlights include wider lanes and bridges plus more merging space and better lighting.
Let's start with Peter VandeMotter of Mundelein, who is skeptical of Metra's plan to raise the cost of 10-ride passes by 11 percent Feb. 1. Essentially, Metra says it will eliminate offering 10 rides for the price of nine. VandeMotter's also underwhelmed by possible CTA fare hikes, including a proposed $2.75 surcharge from O'Hare for riders without passes.
"I think it was in the 1980s that Metra revived the discounted 10-ride ticket. It was a good move," VandeMotter wrote. "Not only was it convenient, it made it worthwhile for many to go to an attended station. About 10 years later, it made the weekly ticket obsolete. The decision to eliminate the discount will no doubt sharply reduce the number of riders using a 10-ride. Likely more will opt to pay the cash fare at unattended stations (most of them). Fare evasion will likely rise as the train crews don't have time to collect all the fares.
"It is too late this time, but I suggest that the next fare hike they raise the single ride ticket by a substantially higher percentage than the 10-ride to bring back the discount. Or maybe the recent move is part of a strategy to get rid of the 10-ride.
"Regarding the CTA, I know they plan to more than double the O'Hare fare, figuring it's mostly visitors who use it. If you have been to Philadelphia or New York lately, you may know that (squeezing) out-of-town visitors is nothing new."
Use English? Au contraire
Meanwhile, Bill L. Lankenau of Naperville was not impressed by my word-smithery last week when I wrote that, "work on the central Tri-State Tollway between Rosemont and Oak Lawn is finito."
He responded, "I'm having a hard time making my tablet say finito. It keeps rejecting it. Why not use good old American English?"
Seeing red (light cameras)
Karen Brennan of Volo is reeling from $800 -- yes $800 -- in red-light camera tickets.
"On Oct. 15, you wrote about a reader's beef with the red-light cameras in Lakemoor at the intersection of Routes 12 and 120," Brennan said. "I live 1 mile from this intersection and we NEVER go that way any longer.
"To see oncoming traffic, you need to go past the white line and unless your wheels come to a complete stop you will receive a ticket. We have five drivers in our home and since the red-light cameras have been installed we have received eight tickets. Six of the tickets show our cars slowing down almost, almost to a complete stop, when there was NO traffic coming from that direction. Fine -- we paid those tickets. Two of the tickets I contested because one video showed the car coming to a complete stop and the other video showed the light turning green. They were both denied.
"Like us, my neighbors have received three, four or more tickets since those red-light cameras have been installed. It is a racket. (I would) love to know how much revenue that intersection makes for Lakemoor each year."
Got a comment, concern or complaint? Drop me an email at email@example.com.
One more thing
Call me old-fashioned because I still like to consult a map when I'm driving. Next year, I'll be looking at the handiwork of Abby Friedman, a Highland Park High School student, who won the Illinois tollway's 2013 map cover art contest. Fifty-seven Illinois teens competed and more than 11,400 people voted for the winner. The theme was "Remembering our Veterans." And, here's a shoutout to Glenbard East High School's Veronica Severini, who was a runner-up.
• Stay far away from the Metra tracks and Route 25/St. Charles Road in Elgin until Wednesday when track repairs should wrap up.
• And if you're on the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) near Central Avenue, work on the interchange is ... still going on (not finito).
This week a new southbound exit ramp and northbound entrance ramp should open. But get ready for ramp closures at the southbound entrance to I-55 and northbound exit. For more info on IDOT projects, check out www.dot.state.il.us/.
Save the planet and breathe easier. That's the goal of the Regional Transportation Authority and Active Transportation Alliance's Commuter Challenge. The aim is to encourage drivers to carpool, use transit or bike more.
Commuters can check out the website www.drivelesslivemore.com/Public/Home.aspx to learn more. Why bother? Well, there are prizes. And a less polluted, less congested region.
The challenge runs until Friday.