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Archive for August, 2013

He boarded the train a couple stops after I had.

The nearest open seat was between two commuters and in it he squeezed.  Those on either side adjusted themselves accordingly.   He was glossy eyed and unshaven.  He wasn’t a commuter on his way to work though it appeared as if this may have been a fairly common routine.  A green ball cap covered all but the fly-away gray curls that sprung forth around it’s circumference.

In his hand he carried two things. Carol O’Connell’s book Shell Game and a beer wrapped in the plastic bag.  Shouldn’t it be wrapped in paper?

Click. Schuup. Tick.   Then he raised the can to his mouth as foam encircled the opening and took the first sip.  His hands shook as he placed it between his legs, securing it as he opened his book to a dog-eared page.  From his pocket retrieved his reading glasses.

With the exception of the beer and his shaking hands, his actions were completely normal for this hour of the morning.

I changed trains at Belmont and boarded a Purple Line Express that was now making local stops through Old Town.  At Sheffield serval more passengers boarded, including two women who, at first glance, fit the Lincoln Park Trixie look to a T.    Yoga pants, t-back sports tops, running shoes with florescent soles, one with pink and the other with lime green, and each with an expensive bag over her shoulder.

Both women had their hair pulled back into pony tails, both wore large dark sunglasses, and both were carrying their Starbucks cups and somehow avoided smudging their sparkling lip gloss.

The two women were classic Lincoln Park Trixie, except for one thing – they were pushing fifty.  It was their somewhat thick ankles that first caused me to give them a second look.  They did not have bony hips nor did they have petite waists.  I was standing close enough to them to see behind their sunglasses and it was apparent that they had had their eyes done.

Though the train was somewhat crowded, the two woman pranced playfully in place as they talked to one another.  A little too made up and a bit larger than the others, their movements reminded me of full-sized poodles on short leashes who had just run into each other again this morning at the entrance to the dog park.

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Two years ago I sold my car.  I haven’t driven since and I haven’t given it a second thought.

The convenience of not having a car – and indeed it is a convenience to avoid paying for  gas, parking, insurance, maintenance, etc…. is in direct proportion to population density   and the frequency in service of public transit.  These two situations are related.

While Chicago’s population density is on average 11,864 per square mile, my neighborhood is at 33,000 per square mile.  Because of this density, transit routes are more profitable.  With three L stops, express bus service as well as local service, getting to and from is a snap with 24/7 train service and 18/7 bus service.

When the need arrises for a taxi, the rides are short and inexpensive.  Overall, transit connects both airports, and the Amtrak station.  Regional trains connects Chicago to Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan.  I can visit friends in Milwaukee or take a trip to the beaches of Michigan.

With this density comes a level of profit for the providers of goods and services.  Four full-sized grocery stores serve the area.  Two Walgreen’s and two CVS’, each no more than a half mile apart.  Scores of restaurants and bars are here as well as a new library.   Two Target stores are three miles apart, each in an adjoining neighborhood.  For the most part, everything is within walking distance and there are days when I don’t need public transit at all.

Within the city limits owning a car is discouraged through covert measures.  Due to the scarcity of available land, parking is a premium and priced as such.  Cars in the city require a permit.  Gasoline is highly taxed.  Residential buildings do not require a 1:1 ratio for parking – it would be too costly, regardless and pre-war buildings have no parking.  Toll roads act as a barrier, and now  city streets are being narrowed for the sake of moving the population more efficiently through the addition of bike lanes and BRT (bus rapid transit) lanes.

These circumstances combined create an environment where life without a car is quite convenient.   And that is precisely why I made the decision to live here, car-free and stress free.   It’s not complicated, but I did have to leave Ohio in order to live this way.

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