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Congestion Pricing Won't Work in Chicago, But My Ideas Will!

Rather than spend more time complaining about about how you all annoy me, here are some perks I'd be willing to pay handsomely to avoid some of life's annoying inconveniences!

If you’ve been reading the Trib’s John Hilkevitch lately, then you know the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is currently asking the Tollway Authority to consider a traffic model known as “congestion pricing.”

Under this plan, a special lane charging 5 to 31 cents more per rush hour mile would be designated on or added to our major metropolitan expressways. The supply-and-demand theory is that some folks would be willing to pay more to cut 20 to 25 minutes off their commute.

But despite its success in other cities, it ain’t gonna work here. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the Illinois Tollway. Our brand of traffic futility consistently ranks in the nation’s top 10, so unless you’re going to force ‘em to fork over some real cash, this plan is already pointless.

So many traffic-weary motorists will avail themselves of the new lanes that they’ll be rendered completely useless. And then it would be too late to turn back because, fed up with poor public transportation options, a slew of new commuters will have filled in the low-class-lane void.

Improving tollway traffic flow here is a lost cause. And with the steady ascent of gas prices, the obvious effects of global warming, and the much-reduced stress factor, we should be putting all our energy into effective public transportation.

But all is not lost! This absurd congestion pricing contention has given me an interesting idea. What if we could pay a little more to avoid some of life’s other annoying “inconveniences?”

1. Left turn lanes for people who know how to turn left. What is it with you people? No one knows how to turn left anymore.

Here’s how it works! When making a left on Randall and Keslinger—from any direction—at least two turn-lane vehicles should pull out into the intersection.

Given the opportunity, go ahead and make your turn. But should oncoming traffic stymie your plans, wait until the light turns red and then those two cars (and only those two) should complete their turn.

Unless it’s a green-arrow, turn-only intersection like Bricher and Randall, under no circumstances should the lead car just sit there and wait for the light.

Under my plan, you pay $20, pass a written test, and a special license plate tag will grant you access to these new turn lanes.

2. Women- and children-free grocery store hours. Oh! I’d pay handsomely for this perk. It would be kinda like the converse of liquor-establishment ladies' nights.

Just think what we men could accomplish without all those women leaving their carts right squarely in the middle of the aisle as it takes them an hour to choose between the dark- and light-brown sugar. Or worse yet, setting up a blockade as two of ‘em obliviously babble about that insipid Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

Imagine the joy of shopping without a horde of young urchins randomly roaming the aisles unsupervised as their unconscious mothers yak away on their cell phones. My shins might finally recover from being regularly gouged by those mini-kiddie carts.

Better yet, no self-respecting male would wait until the last minute to scrounge through their oversize purse to locate their wallet and spend the next 10 minutes trying to find the last penny to come up with exact change.

It’s a grocery store ladies, not a CTA bus!

Come to think of it, I might be willing to darken the doors of a movie theater again if they temporarily banned women and children.

3. An electric utility that actually works. Though I’m concerned that the mere mention of this will give the mayor and City Manager Mary McKittrick some untoward ideas, I still think it’s worth looking into.

Our city utility’s attempt to rationalize the summer of outages by claiming the few storms we did have were extraordinary is a load of hooey. Despite record rainfall borne of monsoon rains the previous two years, we didn’t have nearly the same kind of problems.

If ComEd is the issue, then someone really needs to chew their lazy butts off. All I can tell you is, it’s a lot easier to write a column when the power is on.

4. Sick person free zones. Why do so many of you insist on foisting yourself upon the rest of society when you clearly have the latest iteration of the plague? The reason you don’t feel good when you’re sick is because nature intended you to stay home.

I’m sick and tired of sniffling miscreants wandering around Trader Joe’s, Metra riders who sound like they’re coughing up a lung, and students sneezing at school that I could spit—on them!

So here’s what we’re gonna do. The folks who actually take care of themselves will kick in a little extra cash to set up a health-screening service at venues where people tend to congregate. If those trained professionals deem you the least bit ill, then you will be immediately be sent home under police escort.

5. Cell phone free sidewalk lanes. Though this scourge is particularly endemic in Chicago, being held up by a moron trying to text or talk while walking has spread to our fair city. And it’s apparent that multitasking ain’t something any of you should claim on your resume.

Since we’ll never convince them that they’re not the only person in the world, our best bet is to create a separate sidewalk lane for people who don’t need to yak away every waking moment.

Should you so much as reach for it or accidentally wander into this lane with a phone plastered to your ear, strategically placed attendants will beat you with a police baton until you drop the heinous device and then confiscate it.

Problem solved.

Even though it’s abundantly clear that implementing these eminently worthwhile ideas would make our lives so much better, why stop there? Why not give my adoring public the opportunity to submit your own $0.02. (And don’t make any jokes about columnists—I’ve heard ‘em all.) So, dear readers, what frustration-mitigating effort would you be willing to support by coughing up a little extra cash?

Patrick Sennett October 25, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I don't think there's enough revenue enhancement in your plans to make them attractive to today's breed of Illinois politician. And how would you enforce the toll left turn idea? Turn the median into a giant flipper, like a pinball table. You could charge people to sit there on a joystick and flip cars off into the ditch. I like the new nonpartisan Patrick...
Jeff Ward October 25, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Patrick, The flipper idea works for me! Jeff
R G October 26, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Wow,Jeff, seems like you have a hidden treasure. Point four of yours, where you say people who actually take care of themselves. Obviously hand washing is the best way to keep from spreading germs. But I had no idea that you could just take care of yourself and you wouldn't get sick. I eat a well rounded diet, and hmmmm...flu and colds still come to visit me. I have loaded myself up with every vaccine the good old government says I should have. What exactly do you suggest I should add? I ask because obviously you "take care of yourself" and have not been sick a day in your life.
James October 26, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Jeff if today was the last day of your life, would you have chosen to publish this piece of crap? Your articles get worse and worse everyday. I think it's time you put down the pen and get a job at home depot.
Cindy Peterson October 26, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Jeff, I usually like a lot of what you have to say but I didn't realize you were such a misogynist. Maybe you notice women doing all that stuff in grocery stores because women patronize grocery stores more than men. I'm not sure that women have a monopoly on doing the things you mention in your article. I get just as annoyed by the grocery store behavior you mention as you do, but I don't think it's always women doing it. I think you need a test for proper grocery shopping etiquette like the one you suggested for left turners. I could pass that test with flying colors and I'm a woman. Here's another idea for you: do your grocery shopping at Menards. Every time my husband comes home from there, he marvels at the latest grocery addition there. The percentage of male customers there would probably be higher than at a grocery store. And when I was shopping at Woodman's the other day (always making a point to leave my cart out of the way when I walked away from it, and writing my check while my purchase was being scanned and bagged so all I had to fill out was the amount when the scanning and bagging was done), a woman there told me that Menard's had good prices on Halloween candy. Oh, but since you don't like to interact with women and children, you probably turn off your lights and don't answer the door on Halloween.

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