Sweet home, Chicago. Where the politicians are ethical, taxes make sense and practically all decisions are made for the good of its citizens.
Nothing could remind us of this more than the innovative and completely-unique idea to upgrade the CTA's fare system to the much-lauded Ventra, outsourced to a private company that has provided excellent customer service and transparency thus far. But the transition to the CTA's latest great initiative is just one of many our civic agencies has executed in recent history. Let's take a look back at some of the more notable ones.
The deal that led to Chicago's new parking meters is second only to the seamless transition to Ventra when it comes to ranking the popularity of a citywide rollout. For the uninformed, Chicago's parking meters were once dilapidated pieces of equipment that were more reliable acting as bike racks than they were for validating parking. Under the leadership of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, a deal was brokered to privatize the operation under contract for something like 99-plus years. The deal cost the city absolutely zero dollars, and much like Ventra, remains a scarce example of a move made by city government that garnered no negative press, public backlash or political fallout.
Protected bike lanes
Mayor Emanuel wants Chicago to be one of the premiere bike-friendly cities in the world, and he's well on his way to achieving that. Out of 5,900-plus miles of streets and alleys in Chicago, our bike-friendly city already has--as of July, according to the Active Transportation Alliance--12.3 miles of protected bike lanes (you know, the only bike lanes that really protect bikers)! That's a literal biking paradise. And there's more coming. It's true. All you have to do is visit the city site http://chicagocompletestreets.org/your-streets/bikeways/ and find that the 2013--THAT'S THIS YEAR---projects are coming soon. And it's only October! -Brian Moore
The 2016 Olympic bid
This represents the epitome of efficiency. It only took years of work and perhaps billions of dollars for the city to be one of the first eliminated for consideration for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Like any humble Academy Award- or Grammy Award-losing nominee might say, it was an honor for Chicago to not be taken seriously as a city capable of hosting the Games. Heck, even President Obama and Oprah Winfrey volunteered to show their disappointment on the world stage. Who else could claim that?
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Not before you have months of meetings between the city, team, rooftop owners and Ronnie Woo-Woo. Wrigley is a piece of history, and you can't be too careful with history. Falling concrete? That just adds an element of excitement. Urine smells? That's a strong whiff of the past. No video board? No one wants to relive the Cubs' failures, anyway.
Smaller cities with lesser culinary talent than Chicago let food trucks roam freely and have a robust food truck scene as a result. The City of Chicago, however, has done prospective food truck owners the favor of providing a number of hoops to jump through in order to operate a mobile kitchen on Chicago's streets. There's the parking restrictions that protect restaurants from competition with trucks (don't park within 200 feet of one), the designated food truck spots with 2-hour limits that aren't actually enforced and our personal favorite, the delightfully Big Brother-esque on-board GPS tracking device that will allow the city to make sure trucks are abiding by said rules. A number of truck owners were so pleased with the outcome that they gave the city the ultimate compliment: a lawsuit.
August 22, 2006. It was a hallowed day in Chicago culinary history when the City Council voted to ban the sale of foie gras, that delectable, indulgence otherwise known as the liver of a fattened duck or goose. This was the ultimate show of unity between the mayor and the council; Mayor Richard M. Daley called it "the silliest law" and reversed course in 2008. Way to all be on the same page, guys.
Chicago city stickers
Sure, there are plenty of things you COULD say are dominated by bureaucracy, red tape and general systemic failure in Chicago, but anything having to do with vehicle registration is not one of them. Case in point: the legend of Herbert Pulgar and the 2012 City Sticker Design Contest. Young Pulgar crafted an image so beautiful, so utterly poetic, that the City decided it was worthy of being associated with a piece of plastic film you pay entirely too much for. The winning design was so successful, in fact, the city decided it could not be trumped, yanked all stickers sold with the design on it, declared a redo, then ended the contest indefinitely. Absolutely anyone who says the competition died because the design included gang symbols similar to those used by the Maniac Latin Disciples is completely mistaken and a fool.
CTA Circle Line
Ah, the Circle Line. A totally unnecessary project that would have connected outlying CTA stations. Who has ever needed to get from one line to another north, south or west of downtown, right? The last public meeting for this project was in 2009, the idea first floated in 2002, but it could absolutely still happen. Why not have a Circle in addition to a Loop?
Billed as a fast way to get from downtown to O'Hare, the Mayor Daley-backed project is still in the "ideas phase," as we're calling it, after more than $200 million was spent. One local reporter recently toured the site and called it "one of the world's biggest unfinished basements." Looking forward to seeing the city cut the ribbon on this one in 2052. (In the meantime, if you're looking for a fast Blue Line ride that makes few stops you can just board the Ghost Train.)
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