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Oprah's Diva Detour Survival Guide

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The Parking Ticket Geek

The Geek is an idiot, who gets a lot of parking tickets, and knows how to fight back.

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The blockades on Michigan Ave. went up at 12:01 this Monday morning, blocking traffic in both directions as preparations for Oprahpalooza began.

For the the next two days and change, possibly Chicago's most famous stretch of paved asphalt, will be blocked to vehicular traffic for a taping of the premiere of the 24th season of  The Oprah Winfrey Show.

From today through Wednesday morning at 5 AM, hundreds of thousands of cars, buses, taxis and delivery vehicles will be detoured, rerouted, stuck in traffic and severely inconvenienced.

Drivers' faces will turn purple, a cacophonous roar of honking horns will fill the air, steering wheels will get pounded upon, traffic will back up for blocks in every direction and road rage will erupt everywhere.

I guess it's not a surprise that a Mayor that will sell off the parking meters for a fraction of their worth, would also let a private individual have control over three blocks of the most valuable street real estate in the city for three days.

The Mayor Daley says Oprah is going to reimburse the city for all the costs associated with blocking off the street, and that's good.

However, there is no way to calculate the cost of driver's lost time stuck in traffic, the economic costs of lost transportation efficiency or the amount of business that may be lost by businesses on that strip of Michigan Ave. Obviously, some businesses will do fine and possibly do great. But others will suffer.

While Oprah does do a great job of shining a spotlight on Chicago, does the city really need to totally screw up traffic for nearly three days for this event? It's not like Chicago isn't a world class city already. Do we really need the press?

I guess when you're frantically and breathlessly chasing an Olympic bid, you'll do most anything to show off the city in a good light.

In the meantime, the rest of us need to deal with this Diva Detour. Here's the lowdown on what drivers need to know and do to survive.

Stay The Hell Away

Understand that congestion is the norm for traffic in this area of downtown Chicago. So you won't be surprised when I tell you this blockade will cause severe and chaotic traffic gridlock and backup traffic for blocks on arterial streets surrounding Michigan Ave.

So, this website advises staying the hell away and avoid getting within even a mile of this area.

Alternate Routes

If you need to drive downtown, here are some alternate routes and strategies for getting around during this traffic fiasco.

The city lists the following streets for alternate routes.

  • Clark Street, Dearborn Street and Lake Shore Drive may be used as alternates.
  • Lower Illinois Street and Ohio Street will remain open to traffic.
  • Grand Avenue will remain open to traffic.

Yes, these streets will work. But, in their infinite wisdom, the powers that be forgot to mention some really choice alternative thoroughfares for drivers to get around more easily.

Lower Michigan Ave./Lower Wacker Drive: Luckily, for savvy drivers like myself, most people do not know about or fear Lower Wacker Drive and it's short offshoot, lower Michigan Ave.

This underground part of the city is a fast way to get around downtown. With access to the expressways at it's most southern entry point, and plenty of side streets leading to expressways, for the next few days, Lower Wacker may be imperative for drivers trying to get in and out of this area.

Lower Michigan, which runs from Grand south, over the bridge at Wacker all the way to Lake St., is good for access to Lake Shore Drive, Wacker (lower and upper), Columbus, and Illinois.

Columbus Drive: A very fast north-south alternate just east of Michigan Ave.  Use it to get to Randolph or Congress where you can head east to gain access any expressway. Or, ultimately, near the Museum Campus, Columbus will merge into LSD southbound and thus, I-55 southbound.

Additional Traffic Control

Keep an eye out for an increased presence of Traffic Control Aides who will help assist with traffic management, as well as variable message boards to give you the lowdown on where to go.

Handicapped Access

While the Diva Detour is in effect, people with disabilities that need to access this area for work or to attend the show, need be dropped off or picked up on the west side of Cityfront Plaza Drive, between Illinois and North Water Streets (across from NBC Tower).

Parking

Assume that parking will be worse than normal, especially Tuesday. Lots during the week are pretty full to begin with. Add tens of thousands of nitwit housewives coming downtown to pay homage to the prophet Oprah and you have a parking problem. So, expect, to park far from your destination and be prepared to walk.

Pedestrian Access

Allegedly, access to all Michigan Ave. sidewalks will be open for the duration of the blockade. Although, access to the Michigan Ave. bridge, will be closed during the taping of the show. However, just use the stairs to go to the lower level bridge access under the top side if you need to get over the bridge.

CTA Chaos

Hundreds of CTA buses will have to be re-routed, thus the many bus routes that utilize Michigan Ave. are going to be in disarray.

I suggest checking out the CTA Tattler or Chicagosphere for more information or going directly to the CTA website for the Diva Detour details.

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1 Comment

robert said:

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This is sad, oh so sad. Untold thousands are going to be inconvenienced to satisfy the ego of one person. It's not as if there were no other venues available. This is an example of someone exercising clout simply because they can.

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