Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Modern Times In The Windy


Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who has a condo in the Old Town section of Chicago.  His main residence is in Phoenix; he visits Chicago for a week or two 4-6 times per year.  I hadn't seen him (or been in downtown Chicago, for that matter) for a year.  I saved $16-24 in on-street parking meter costs by using his condo's garage.  You surrender your key to the attendant, who parks and retrieves your car (so don't take your 458 Italia ;-)).

Parking meters have joined the digital age.  You park, walk to one of 2-3 meters per block, insert your coins or swipe your credit card, get a bar-coded chit, walk back to your car, and place it in clear view on the passenger's side of the dash.  (This is a worldwide phenomenon: meters in France worked the same way when I was last there in 2010.)  About a year ago, Chicago privatized its parking meters.  The rates have skyrocketed, of course (see: Indiana Turnpike.)

We ate at the Plum Market, an upscale grocery/deli that specializes in organic/fresh.  I was surprised that the prices were no higher than other in-town eateries (and lower, for that matter, than my favorite Italian place in St. Charles, IL).  We dined al fresco, so I had a chance to observe street life in the neighborhood.  It was colorful.  What recent recession?  Yet another high-rise condo was going up across the street from Plum Market.

Old Town has changed in the year since I was last there.  Bike paths in the roadway have reduced the main streets from 2 lanes or a lane and a half to 1.  (I ranted about this in a post about Minneapolis last winter.)  And they are used.  Maybe 15% of the people we saw were on bicycles--and it was a hot, muggy, day.  You have to look hard to find a Crown Vic cab any more, at least in Old Town.  We saw plenty of cabs.  But they were mostly small, economical, Japanese 4-doors.  Probably 30% of them were Toyota Priuses.  I can't imagine a better use for a Prius than in-town like this.  Plenty of regenerative braking.  They surely get north of 50 m.p.g. in hard, commercial use.


Minivan cabs may rule at airports, but in-town this is becoming the standard.  And it makes perfect economic sense for
the operators.

1 comment:

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