Biography

Jon Hilkevitch has been the Chicago Tribune's transportation reporter since 1997. He is responsible for covering every mode of ...

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Jon Hilkevitch

Jon Hilkevitch

Getting Around

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App paves way for pay-by-phone parking option in West Loop

App paves way for pay-by-phone parking option in West Loop

April 15, 2014

Drivers will have the option to park by smartphone in a small part of Chicago's West Loop starting Tuesday using an app to pay for on-street parking, officials will announce Monday.

  • Chicago drivers top state for cellphone violations

    March 23, 2014

    Almost 1 out of 5 drivers in Chicago are likely violating the city's nine-year-old ban on using hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel, according to a state study that prompts questions about whether a new and stricter Illinois law will reduce accidents caused by distracted driving.

  • Amtrak tries novel way to promote train travel

    March 17, 2014

    Inspiration can be found in surprising places, even on a train, where thoughts of greatness are free to gush from the brain.

  • Getting Around: CTA set to put all fares under Ventra

    March 10, 2014

    Take heed, CTA and Pace riders. An announcement is coming by the end of March on plans to make Ventra those transit agencies' sole fare-payment system, a move that has been delayed for months by numerous technical glitches and bumpy customer service.

  • Full-service gas with a robot attendant?

    March 3, 2014

    American drivers are happily spoiled by the conveniences of getting cash from an ATM, buying a cheeseburger or getting a carwash without ever leaving the vehicle, so why aren't there any drive-thru gas stations?

  • CTA moves up Blue Line rehab

    February 24, 2014

    The four-year overhaul of the CTA Blue Line O'Hare branch will be getting underway a few months early, the transit agency will announce Monday, with sections closing over 10 weekends between late March and August.

  • Getting Around: It's clear that dirty toll cameras no longer shield I-PASS violators in winter

    February 17, 2014

    The Illinois Tollway has more than 1,000 cameras deployed across its 296-mile system to enforce payments, yet each winter, drivers have gotten away with more than 900,000 violations for unpaid tolls in I-PASS lanes because snow, ice and road salt spray on camera lenses obscured vehicle license plates.

  • Imagine a smart highway system in Illinois

    February 10, 2014

    Automakers — having already created smart cars that can self-park, apply the brakes to prevent a crash or detect when the driver is dozing off — are now developing vehicles that drive themselves.

  • Chicago looking to regulate ride-sharing businesses

    February 3, 2014

    "Shared rides'' for hire, advertised as a less-expensive and hip alternative to taking a taxi, have been growing in popularity across the Chicago area and the U.S. — virtually free from any government oversight.

  • Pothole problems running deep

    January 27, 2014

    Repeated wild swings in temperatures this winter are speeding up the deterioration of Chicago-area roads and leading to an early pothole season, with a few months of freeze-and-thaw cycles yet to come.

  • Chicago area's pothole problems run deep

    January 27, 2014

    Repeated wild swings in temperatures this winter are speeding up the deterioration of Chicago-area roads and leading to an early pothole season, with a few months of freeze-and-thaw cycles yet to come.

  • Ventra's costs put nonprofits in a bind

    January 20, 2014

    Chicago nonprofit groups that distribute transit cards to tens of thousands of impoverished and ailing clients say they will soon face a dilemma created by the CTA's switch to Ventra: Either they'll have to spend more on transit or cut back on the level of transportation provided.

  • O'Hare noise complaints reach record heights in 2013

    January 13, 2014

    Residential noise complaints involving jets at O'Hare International Airport hit a record in 2013, which included a spike in objections just after a runway opened in the fall, according to a new city report.

  • Smartphones the way to go, transit experts say

    January 6, 2014

    CTA bus and train riders still coming to grips with Ventra could be paying fares in the not-too-distant future using smartphones and other mobile devices, at least those that can "tap" to transfer information, the transit agency has told Getting Around.

  • New O'Hare runway leads to more landings — and congestion

    December 22, 2013

    A new runway is allowing airplanes coming into O'Hare International Airport to shave several precious minutes off their time in the air but is also forcing those jets to spend more minutes taxiing to their gates after they have landed.

  • Overtime fees pad Divvy's bottom line

    December 16, 2013

    Chicago's Divvy bicycle-sharing program took in up to $2.5 million during its first five months, a figure driven by tourists and others who bought daily passes and racked up the majority of overtime fees, according to a trove of preliminary customer data provided by city transportation officials.

  • What's the risk of 'electronic pickpocketing' for Ventra cards?

    December 2, 2013

    After experiencing problems both activating his Ventra card and loading value onto it from his Discover card and then being double-charged for some fares, CTA rider Barry Finkel began to wonder how susceptible his new transit account is to hacking.

  • Ventra's transit benefits program also a problem

    November 18, 2013

    As the nation's second-largest transit system struggles to debug the unruly Ventra fare-payment system, another apparent Ventra glitch is also testing the patience of some customers.

  • Getting Around: As Kennedy traffic swells, reversible lanes lose their magic

    November 11, 2013

    It's just after noon on a recent weekday along the Kennedy Expressway as flashing chevrons activate and a series of 21 gates begins to deploy, shifting available inbound lanes from six to four to give outbound drivers relief for the afternoon and evening rush periods.

  • Room with a view thrills train travelers

    November 4, 2013

    — Fran and Ellen Mach have passed many hours reading during the approximately 20 trips that the Massachusetts couple have made on Amtrak between the East Coast and Chicago over the years, but this time they can't keep their eyes on the pages.

  • Some Ventra users report being charged multiple times for a fare

    October 28, 2013

    Chicago-area transit agencies' move to the Ventra fare-payment system, which has been pockmarked by extremely long waits for cards in the mail and an activation process that led to the temporary reinstatement of old payment options, could be on the cusp of another rough patch.

  • Workhorse Red Line's south branch ready again for decades of use

    October 20, 2013

    Thousands of weekday commuters will board the CTA Red Line on the Dan Ryan branch Monday for the first time in five months after a massive rebuild that will also deliver something its riders haven't experienced in decades: no slow zones.

  • South Lake Shore Drive extension opens Oct. 27

    October 14, 2013

    The South Lake Shore Drive extension, Chicago's newest roadway, is less than two weeks away from opening along a part of the city that for more than 100 years most people have seen only from a distance.

  • South Lake Shore Drive extension opening in next couple of weeks

    October 14, 2013

    The South Lake Shore Drive extension, Chicago's newest roadway, is less than two weeks away from opening along a part of the city that for more than 100 years most people have seen only from a distance.

  • IDOT wants feedback on Ike expansion plans

    October 6, 2013

    More than 600 ideas the state received for expanding the Eisenhower Expressway have been pared to four options, and drivers, transit riders and highway neighbors will have the opportunity this week to weigh in before a final decision is made.

  • Getting Around: Bus rapid transit for Ashland Avenue hits road bump in Chicago

    September 30, 2013

    Chicago is pushing to start by 2016 its boldest reordering of a major thoroughfare since the city first built roads for the automobile: a 16-mile stretch of Ashland Avenue fashioned around buses that travel in dedicated lanes at almost twice the speed of their regular CTA counterparts and make stops about every half-mile.

  • Getting around: 40% of pedestrians, cyclists would cross train tracks despite warnings

    September 23, 2013

    As many as 4 out of 10 Chicago-area pedestrians and bicyclists say they are at times willing to ignore flashing lights, ringing bells and gates at railroad crossings, a UIC study has found.

  • Rail deaths spur CTA safety bid

    September 16, 2013

    Almost every day somebody climbs or falls onto the CTA tracks, which has led to seven deaths so far in 2013 and more than 50 fatalities in recent years, according to an analysis the transit agency is set to release Monday as part of a redoubled rail-safety campaign.

  • All aboard: CTA, Pace start big Ventra card rollout Monday

    September 8, 2013

    The CTA and Pace on Monday will make their big rollout of a next-generation fare-payment system while beginning to phase out transit cards that have provided many years of dependable service but are showing signs of age.

  • The circuitous search for Chicago's on-again, off-again 29th Street

    September 2, 2013

    As a young boy growing up on Chicago's Southwest Side, Tony Broz sometimes wondered about the streets in his neighborhood and why one of them — 29th Street — was missing.

  • Getting Around: Beating the $5 CTA fare at O'Hare

    August 26, 2013

    After experiencing a larger-than-usual chunk of change disappear from my Chicago Card, your Getting Around reporter wondered whether the new $5 cost to enter the Blue Line at O'Hare International Airport has given other CTA customers second thoughts about riding a slow train home from the airport.

  • Getting Around: Divvy bike-sharing program catching on in Chicago

    August 19, 2013

    Chicago's budding bicycle-sharing program has attracted thousands of tourists, biking enthusiasts and the just-plain curious this summer, city transportation officials say. But preliminary data obtained by the Tribune suggest the new service also is beginning to catch on with the primary target markets — public transit commuters and drivers.

  • Illinois Tollway's robotic mower like a Roomba for embankments

    August 12, 2013

    Drivers on the Illinois Tollway this summer may have seen what look like yellow disk-shaped robots roaming steep, grassy embankments on the sides of the highway, not far from workers wearing safety vests and just standing around.

  • Getting Around: Ventra rollout may take some users for a ride

    August 5, 2013

    If given the option, would you pay $2.25 or $3 to ride a CTA train?

  • Experts expected to steer Lake Shore Drive away from being a superhighway

    July 29, 2013

    A long-planned transformation of North Lake Shore Drive is entering a new phase, as city and state planners look to cull ideas from the public on how best to serve the tens of thousands who use the crucial roadway every day.

  • Illinois Tollway puts I-PASS account in the palm of your hand

    July 22, 2013

    The Illinois Tollway is launching a mobile website Monday designed for I-PASS users, a move that officials say should help reduce account-related violations and administrative costs.

  • Getting Around: Storms sock on-time numbers at O'Hare

    July 15, 2013

    This year's weather has been among the worst in a decade for air travel in the United States, aviation authorities say, with the most volatile period possibly still ahead as the summer thunderstorm season is underway.

  • Inspectors dogged about wildlife smugglers

    July 8, 2013

    Bonnie Lane in Elk Grove Village seems an unlikely place to be sniffing around for elephant tusks and black rhinoceros horns brought into the United States from Africa, but Lancer the G-dog "nose" his way around cargo facilities.

  • CTA ends break in extra charge for Blue Line trips from O'Hare

    July 1, 2013

    The cost of riding the CTA Blue Line from O'Hare International Airport increases by 122 percent on Monday for many riders who haven't already been hit by the fare hike.

  • IDOT refines Circle Interchange plans

    June 24, 2013

    An almost half-billion-dollar reconstruction plan aimed at untangling the Circle Interchange in Chicago, one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the U.S., is being modified again to lessen the adverse impacts on nearby West Loop residents, Greektown businesses and the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, officials plan to announce this week.

  • CTA revs up its bus cleaning

    June 17, 2013

    Hey, Chicagoans, you really know how to trash the CTA.

  • City says Dearborn bike signals keeping cyclists in line

    June 10, 2013

    Chicago's first two-way protected bike lanes have been in place for six months through the center of downtown on Dearborn Street, and the experience so far has led city officials to conclude that all cyclists really need to obey traffic laws are signals of their own, telling them that stop means stop.

  • Getting around: Surprise sidetracks speed camera bill

    June 3, 2013

    State legislation aimed at reducing the number of children struck by vehicles near schools across Illinois breezed through the House in April, but it hit a speed bump in the Senate well before the General Assembly session ended last week.

  • Chicago wheels out Divvy bikes

    May 27, 2013

    Divvy, the new rental bicycle that Chicago's transportation chief predicts will become a popular "bike taxi" option for short trips, made its debut for test rides at Bike the Drive on Sunday.

  • 52% of low-income, minority CTA riders paying more

    May 20, 2013

    As South Side and south suburban Chicago Transit Authority riders figure out the best way to get to work and other activities Monday without Red Line Dan Ryan service, a new analysis shows that the CTA's fare increases for one-day and seven-day passes have hit minority and low-income customers hardest.

  • Gary taking a new tack to expand, land business for its airport

    May 13, 2013

    For many years, Gary/Chicago International Airport has offered its services as a reliever airport to help ease flight-delay pressures at Chicago's two airports.

  • Analyzing the effects of shutting Red Line for 5 months on South Side

    May 6, 2013

    The Chicago Transit Authority's next big project and its impact on riders were the focus of conversation Friday afternoon at Carter's Barbershop in the city's North Lawndale neighborhood.

  • Indiana E-ZPass users may face extra fee on Illinois Tollway

    April 29, 2013

    Indiana drivers who use E-ZPass transponders to pay tolls electronically on the Illinois Tollway might soon be charged an extra fee to balance out what Illinois officials see as a long-unresolved fairness issue.

  • Brace for delays at O'Hare

    April 22, 2013

    Delays may average 50 minutes per flight at O'Hare International Airport this week because of fewer air traffic controllers in the tower until the federal budget sequestration is resolved, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

  • Legislation proposed for speed limit laws near schools

    April 15, 2013

    There is no mistaking Illinois for Kansas when it comes to driver behavior around children, state Rep. Elaine Nekritz says.

  • CDOT tries coordination to ease road work headaches

    April 8, 2013

    Resurfacing a street or replacing a cracked sidewalk, then digging up the work a short time later to install new utility lines followed by making the paving repairs again — and perhaps even a third time — is a time-honored Chicago tradition.

  • Don't be fooled. CTA changes take effect

    April 1, 2013

    Spring is in the air, and starting Monday so are service changes affecting some CTA bus routes and the Blue Line.

  • Chicago man starts petition drive against new Ventra fare-payment card

    March 25, 2013

    Springlike weather is arriving late this year, but it's shaping up to be a long, hot summer for the Chicago Transit Authority.

  • CTA's Ventra fare system a tool of mass confusion

    March 18, 2013

    The Chicago Transit Authority soon will launch a new fare-payment system that affects almost every CTA and Pace rider, although transit officials have yet to fully explain how it will work.

  • CTA hearing sets sights on switch to Ventra card

    March 11, 2013

    A public hearing will be held Monday night about an upcoming fare-payment system that offers new options for CTA and Pace customers, but also contains costly penalties — most notably a $3 cash CTA rail fare — that transit riders can avoid, with a little effort.

  • Joe Orr Road project may pave way for south suburban economic boon

    March 4, 2013

    A $40 million roadway expansion is under way in southeast Cook County that will culminate in a new connection between Illinois and Indiana, and officials say the project provides a possible template for marrying transportation and economic development priorities across the two states.

  • States driven toward 'zero death' crash goal

    February 18, 2013

    It's a long-shot safety campaign known in shorthand as "zero deaths."

  • State hits brakes on city plans for protected bike lane

    February 11, 2013

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to install 100 miles of protected bicycle lanes in Chicago by 2015 is running into a speed bump thrown down by the state.

  • Commuter savings on the rise

    February 4, 2013

    Savings have been kicked up another notch for participants in the commuter benefits program, which can put hundreds of dollars back in your pocket each year in connection with the costs to ride the CTA, Metra, Pace and the South Shore Line to work, or to vanpool or pay for parking.

  • CTA website offers why 'things go wrong'

    January 28, 2013

    The CTA is going all out on defense in the hope it makes up for inconsistent offense.

  • I-190 shoulder a favorite way station for motorists awaiting O'Hare arrivals

    January 21, 2013

    It's a frequent scene just outside O'Hare International Airport, almost as common as seeing airplanes land and take off.

  • CTA's off-peak riders yearn for decrowding of their own

    January 7, 2013

    When it comes to CTA train sizes, which range from two to eight cars, riders forced to squeeze their way aboard even during non-rush hours are wondering about the long and short of it all.

  • Getting Around: New book is pulling for Chicago's cable-car era

    December 31, 2012

    Public transportation became an absolute necessity for Chicago around 1860, when the city's population had ballooned to more than 112,000 from about 30,000 only 10 years earlier.

  • Getting Around: Chicago made big progress improving crosswalks in 2012

    December 24, 2012

    Worn-out crosswalk striping and other poorly visible pavement markings have impaired safety in recent years on Chicago streets, where about 3,000 vehicle-pedestrian accidents occur annually, but the problem is starting to disappear, according to city officials.

  • CTA's plan to relieve overcrowding goes into full swing

    December 17, 2012

    "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work." — Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912)

  • Study: Squeeze on spending could lead to mass-transit meltdown

    December 10, 2012

    If you are a CTA or Metra rider who is miffed about paying more to ride buses and trains next year, those higher fares represent only one relatively minor worry for Chicago-area transit customers, according to a new study by DePaul University.

  • Challenge is launched to reduce single-occupancy commuting

    December 3, 2012

    A new commuter challenge might be just the ticket if you are driving to work nearly every day and see the pros increasingly outweighed by the cons.

  • Mark your calendar: Transit dates to watch in the coming weeks

    November 26, 2012

    Major events are circled on the Getting Around transportation calendar as 2012 crosses over into 2013, and the first big one is scheduled to take effect by Friday, when drivers flock back to Lower Wacker Drive.

  • Getting Around: Answering questions about CTA construction and idling buses

    November 19, 2012

    What the "L" is taking so long at CTA's Loyola station? That and other reader annoyances and curiosities from the Getting Around mailbag.

  • Lower Wacker Drive to reopen soon

    November 12, 2012

    Lower Wacker Drive, the best shortcut through downtown Chicago, will reopen to traffic at the end of November, while other changes are set for this week as the $300 million Wacker Drive reconstruction heads toward completion in December, officials said.

  • Challenging Illinois toll violations shifts to the fast lane

    November 5, 2012

    Each month, hundreds of vehicle owners make the trek to Illinois Tollway headquarters in Downers Grove or phone the tollway's busy customer service center to make their case against toll violations and fines for which they believe they are not legally responsible, toll authority officials say.

  • New taxi app fixing some issues before rollout

    October 29, 2012

    A taxi-tracking service that started last year in London, where it takes two to four years to learn everything the famous "black cab" drivers need to pass a licensing test, will make its U.S. debut in Chicago on Thursday.

  • Designers seek input of riders to develop useful transportation apps

    October 22, 2012

    George Aye and Sara Cantor Aye want to help improve the experience of using mass transit in the Chicago area, and they are appealing for your participation.

  • Getting Around: How much are you willing to pay to avoid traffic?

    October 15, 2012

    A campaign being launched Monday is aimed at building political and public support for finally taking strong action against traffic congestion in the Chicago area after years of mulling possible solutions while bemoaning the bumper-to-bumper march toward gridlock.

  • Transportation in a disaster zone

    October 8, 2012

    If catastrophe struck the Chicago area, many thousands of evacuees would require transportation out of the disaster zone and a place to receive medical care, food and temporary shelter.

  • CTA inspection reports show needed repairs in subways

    October 1, 2012

    Burned-out lights, broken handrails and cracks in emergency-escape catwalks that pose a tripping hazard are among more than 260 defects CTA safety inspectors have found in the subways of the Red and Blue lines.

  • Jet-setters eager to get glimpse of new Learjet 85

    September 24, 2012

    As the debut of the newest iPhone creates a giant buzz among the general public, Chicago's most elite jet-setters are agog over a different sort of consumer toy.

  • Reader wants to put a stop to red-light ticket

    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.

  • Another seating issue arises for new CTA trains

    September 10, 2012

    The CTA could go a long way toward addressing public unhappiness over the "New York-style'' seating on Chicago's new rail cars if only CTA officials would consider doing what New York transit officials did many years ago.

  • CTA cracks down on tardy, absent workers

    September 3, 2012

    Taking a tougher stance on chronic labor problems, the CTA has fired 63 bus and rail workers this year through Aug. 20 for repeatedly showing up late to work, compared with only nine terminations for the same violation in all of 2011, according to records obtained by the Tribune.

  • CTA passengers uncomfortable in new 'L' cars

    August 27, 2012

    More than 100 of the CTA's new rail cars are in service on the Pink and Green lines, and the Red Line is due to get them starting in November, followed by the Purple, Yellow and Orange lines, according to transit officials.

  • CTA's bus rapid transit won't be so rapid

    August 20, 2012

    CTA planning manager Joe Iacobucci is the first to acknowledge at the transit agency that "if you ask the average person in Chicago what BRT is, you get a blank look."

  • Railroad police on high alert as Sept. 11 anniversary approaches

    September 5, 2011

    Railroad police are on high alert for suicide bombers at Union Station in Chicago as the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks approaches this week, authorities said.

  • O'Hare runway construction: Flying into a danger zone

    March 28, 2011

    The almost-completed first phase of O'Hare International Airport's expansion had close calls that could have resulted in fatal airplane crashes, according to a Tribune investigation of incidents filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.

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