I don’t suspect that too many of my readers know about CREATE. If I am assuming incorrectly, well you know what they say about assuming but just in case. CREATE is a huge national scope project that will invest billions in capital improvements to increase the efficiency of the region's rail infrastructure. Chicago is an essential hub. 25 percent of all U.S. rail traffic touches Chicago, 46 percent of all intermodal (using more than one method of transport) units in the U.S. touch Chicago, 54 percent of intermodal units to/from the ports of Seattle/Tacoma touch Chicago, 26 percent of intermodal units to/from Los Angeles/Long Beach touch Chicago. Bottom line…. Transportation is us!
I learned a great deal attending last week’s information, education production put on by Blacks In Green at the new Logan Center at U of C. The purpose of this event was to inform the interested and inquisitive citizens of south side communities that are being directly affected by some of the planned major construction projects. Speakers included people from the planning groups tackling this gargantuan project, local employment consultants and a representative from Olive Harvey who filled us in on the training programs being planned for the 53 million dollar improvements at Olive Harvey that would prepare people for employment in the transportation industry. When she was introduced you could feel the energy surge through the new tony surroundings of the Logan Center Film Screening room. People in attendance wanted to hear about JOBS and of course training for those jobs.
Prior to her five minute spiel, another person had endeavored to suggest that the new contracts and sub-contracts for the construction jobs might be adjusted to include non-union positions. We all know that will never happen in Chicago construction I don’t care how many folks from communities attend planning meetings. I would be delighted to be wrong on this point. So, needless to say the room was ready to hear about Olive Harvey training for transportation employment.
I was perched on the end of my seat waiting to hear about the wonderful, skilled jobs awaiting inner-city students. Are we going to hear about the really slick computer software that is involved in train traffic control? There is similarity in air traffic control, train and intermodal software and the industry for software to run high speed trains is growing. These are good paying jobs! The average traffic director wage is around $95,000 a year at entry level. Conductors and Yardmasters come in at nearly 50 g’s. Fast forward to disillusionment, we’re talking cold water in the face. Here is the list of programs being offered at the 53 million dollar upgrade at Olive Harvey. Commercial Driver Training, Commercial Passenger Driver - Class B, Defensive Driving – Attitudinal, Forklift Operation and Safety, Limousine - Residential Chauffeur Training, Public Passenger Vehicle Training – Taxi, Supply Chain Management (Fundamentals of), Supply Chain Management (SCM). In other words, drive Miss Daisy or the school bus or if you’re really into it, a forklift. Nope, there will be no software development or training to guide trains, planes and trucks through the city of Chicago hub. There is even a cute name for the process. It’s COP.
Common Operational Picture (COP) is the development of an open interface for integrating information from dispatch systems of all major railroads in the region – tracks, signals, switches, train occupancies, train IDs, etc. – into a single display. COP will benefit the operation of the full Chicago Terminal system. The output of this work will be that all of the Chicago railroads participating in the CREATE Program will have a fully integrated overview display system of all CREATE partner freight and passenger railroads operating in Chicago. (Excerpt from CREATE). But for Olive Harvey it’s COP-OUT.
CREATE was not the only disappointment of the week. Nor did Chicago corner the market on what might be considered lost opportunity to be forward thinking about job creation for inner-city occupants, low income earners, etc. I think a big nod of disapproval is appropriate for New York. Bloomberg might have topped the charts with what some are considering a major good move. Take low performing school kids out of school. Bypass the federal education requirements and train the kids to be urban farmers. WOW!
I am a confirmed supporter of urban agriculture. In fact one of my favorite people is Emmanuel Pratt, the brains behind the aquaponics training and education center at Chicago State University. Pratt would like to put an aquaponic system in every school but with his program, it’s not about farming. It’s about education. The Aquapons (Pratt's project) project teaches kids science and technology while raising fish and growing plants. It is experiential learning. The fact that Michael Bloomberg, New York mayor, won the Bloomberg Innovation Challenge is in itself pretty entertaining. The news release didn’t give too many details except the bit about getting under-performing kids out of the classrooms and into the fields. I hope Mayor Bloomberg contacts Emmanuel Pratt to design an education program to go along with learning to be a field hand.