National Geographic : 1919 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE mittee to determine what units should be executed first. This committee is known as the Chicago Plan Commission. It is non partisan, non-political, having advisory but not executive powers. It has a mem bership of 325, representing every sec tion of the city, every interest, and every shade of public opinion. The municipal, county, State, and Federal officers whose work has any relation to the several projects provided for in the plan are ex-officio members. In order to provide for a continuing executive head, Charles H. Wacker was made permanent chairman; and though city administrations come and city ad ministrations go, the Chicago Plan is never lost sight of; indeed, it finds each new administration realizing more than the preceding one that it is a people's pet project. How firmly rooted in the mind of the average citizen it has become is disclosed by the referendum held in the November election with reference to the improve ment of Michigan Avenue. That im provement was authorized several years ago by a popular vote, which approved a bond issue of three million dollars for carrying the project into effect. But the war came on, and with it such a tremendous increase in prices that the work could not be done unless the bond issue authorized was more than double the amount originally asked for. Yet the people, having already burdened their pocketbooks by putting four Liberty Loans, a Red Cross drive, and an allied war-work drive "over the top," re sponded with an overwhelming majority in favor of the new bonds. A REMARKABLE CENSUS OF TRAFFIC How hard it is to carry improvements through is well illustrated in the case of this undertaking, the details of which will be discussed later. Under Chicago law it is necessary to prove that an improve ment is of local rather than of general benefit, in order to tax the property owners of a given assessment zone for that improvement. To do so in the Michigan Avenue in stance a study had to be made of all the traffic entering and going out of the Loop District. A great staff of census-takers was set to work keeping a record of the comings and goings of every vehicle pass ing in or out. By checking up the num bers it was shown at what hour the vehicle came in, what route it took, where and when it stopped, and where it went out again. How thoroughly the census was worked out is illustrated by the experience of a Chicago motorist. A friend, happening to be recording the passing vehicles at Rush Street bridge one evening, saw the motorist and his wife pass in their car. He set down the number, as the work required. Later he saw the wife going back alone, and still later saw the man and another woman go out of the district in a taxi. When the watcher reached headquar ters he checked up the motorist's move ments, just to see whether one car could be followed from the time it went into the district until it came out. A few days later the traffic census taker accosted his motoring friend: "I've got a line on you now !" he exclaimed. "Last Wednesday evening you crossed the Rush Street bridge at 7:4o o'clock. Your wife was with you and you went to the Auditorium for dinner. After dinner you sent your wife home in your car, and at 9:39 you took a taxi at the Sherman House in company with another woman. You drove down Randolph Street to Michigan Avenue, stopped at the Blackstone for thirty minutes, and then drove up Michigan Avenue and across the Rush Street bridge." The motorist admitted that the census taker had correctly stated his journeyings of that evening, but wanted to know what he meant by such "sleuthing." The taxi trip was a perfectly proper one, but it did serve to show how careful was the census. But even the taking of such a census, which resulted in the accumulation of tons of figures, was only the beginning of the difficulties. Eight thousand lawsuits had to be litigated before the work could be done; then the people themselves had to pass judgment on the improvement by voting for or against the bond issue.