September 17, 2012
The photo on the $100 ticket isn't all that's fuzzy regarding red-light camera violations, one driver complains, while another wants to ban trucks from using the Circle Interchange or make them pay a hefty toll.
Q: Jon, I feel disgusted. I received a $100 ticket in the mail for allegedly running a red light in Chicago. Even though I admit I was in the middle of the intersection when the light turned red, I distinctly remember the traffic signal was still yellow when I crossed over the "stop" bar on the pavement. So when I got the ticket, I assumed I had a defense, until I went to the (Chicago Department of Revenue) Web page to view the video of my crime and, by gosh, it shows I ran the light. But then I read a disclaimer next to the video that made me feel like the fix is in.
It said (in part): "Due to formatting constraints this video is a representation of the original evidence and is not intended for court purposes. … The video is in no way purported to be a true and correct copy of evidence that will be presented in court. The format has been modified to provide a higher level of security and as a result may display slightly different than the original captured video."
What the heck? Should I fight the ticket?
— N.H., Chicago
A: Follow the instructions on the violation notice to request an in-person hearing — and do it before the "pay or contest date." The city will send you hearing date options. Then, contact the Revenue Department and say you want to view the original video. Based on that video, you can decide whether to use it as evidence in your defense or pay the $100 fine.
The disclaimer on the website is standard language used by the red light camera vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., said Holly Stutz, deputy comptroller in the Chicago Department of Finance. According to Redflex, the purpose is to "advise violators that the video they can view on this site is not up to the standards that we provide to the city for prosecution purposes."
But Stutz said the videos provided online are "just as accurate as the original videos." The difference is that the online version might be grainier because it is compressed to provide the maximum amount of streaming video possible on the website, she said.
Q: There is one huge problem with the state's plan to fix the Circle Interchange, and correcting it would solve 75 percent of the traffic delays. Why are trucks that do not make deliveries or pickups in Chicago allowed through the interchange? They use it to avoid paying tolls on the Tri-State Tollway or the Chicago Skyway. Don't you agree the traffic problem (on the highway system west of downtown) would be completely solved if during rush hours a hefty toll were charged to all trucks that use the Circle Interchange but aren't exiting to deliver goods on local Chicago streets? In New York, truck traffic goes around Manhattan, just the way it should, because truckers don't want to pay the toll.
— J.M., email
A: No, I don't think implementing a rush-hour truck ban or even truck tolls on the Circle would completely ease gridlock on what the Federal Highway Administration has called the most congested highway freight bottleneck in the U.S. (For those readers unsure about the location we are talking about, the Circle Interchange is composed of the ramps where the Kennedy, Dan Ryan and Eisenhower expressways converge, along with Congress Parkway, near downtown.)
But whether drivers like it or not, variable tolls that increase or decrease based on traffic levels and the time of day do likely represent the future — for trucks and other commercial vehicles as well as for cars — in Illinois and across the U.S.
That's because the amount of money coming into the federal Highway Trust Fund from gasoline taxes is not enough to meet current or future needs. States and local governments will be forced to create new funding sources to maintain highways and expand the roadway infrastructure in the challenge to keep pace with growing demand.
And don't rule out truck-only toll lanes being constructed on highway pinch points in the Chicago area to accommodate the projected growth in commercial trucking.
There are currently no plans to add tolls to the Circle Interchange because of the roadway's tight confines, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
"There are ongoing discussions, however, about using managed lanes for car pooling, buses or tolling trucks to cut down on congestion on other parts of the expressway system," including on the Eisenhower, said IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell.
"As far as addressing truck traffic, there are other plans for expanding our expressway system, such as the Illiana Expressway, Elgin-O'Hare West Bypass and the Illinois Tollway's expansion of the Interstate 90 corridor that are being designed and undertaken specifically to enhance the shipment of freight throughout northeastern Illinois and reduce congestion caused by trucks," Tridgell said.
Q: The oddest thing happened on the CTA No. 147 Outer Drive Express bus tonight. A woman in a wheelchair refused to use the seat belt for disabled riders, so the bus driver informed us all she would have to step off the bus and call headquarters and let them know so CTA won't be held liable if something happens. She said it was a new rule because so many people have been injured in wheelchairs. Is this true?
— D.G., Chicago
A: The bus operator was apparently mistaken. There has been no change in CTA's standard operating procedures regarding securing wheelchairs on buses, said CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski. "Our policy recommends that customers secure their mobility devices and use the seat belt, but they are not required to do so," and they must be allowed to ride if that's their choice, Hosinski said.
Q: I'm wondering if you know what's happening on Kinzie Street just west of Lower Michigan Avenue? I live in Streeterville and use that shortcut often.
— T.H., Chicago
A: Kinzie and North Water Street are scheduled to reopen by January, following the completion of repairs to the Wrigley Building plaza, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Contact Getting Around at firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; on Twitter @jhilkevitch; and at facebook.com/jhilkevitch. Read recent columns at chicagotribune.com/gettingaround.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC