Stories by Nick Blumberg

A southbound CTA Red Line train is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

CTA Says Red Line Extension a ‘Top Priority’ for Biden Administration, on Track to Begin Construction Next Year

The $3.6 billion Red Line Extension project will carry the Red Line 5.6 miles south from its current terminus at 95th Street down to 130th Street. Nearly $2 billion in funding is slated to come from the federal government.

(WTTW News)

CTA Data Shows Reliance on Overtime, Chronic FOIA Delays and Years of Mischaracterized Records

The CTA issued a correction to years worth of data on worker overtime provided to WTTW News, after the transit agency discovered the records did not accurately reflect actual hours worked. The issue also highlights the agency’s slow response on public records requests. 

(WTTW News)

CTA Continues to Rely on Bus and Train Operator Overtime — But Fails to Provide Detailed Information Within Required Time Frame

Illegally delayed responses are a chronic problem with the CTA’s FOIA office. Other news organizations and advocacy groups have also dinged the agency for its FOIA transparency failures. Despite not sending information on operator working hours as required, available information indicates the CTA continues to rely on overtime.

Graphic that says “Chicago's Skyscrapers.” (WTTW News)

WTTW News Explains: Where Does Chicago Stand in Skyscraper History?

Chicago is a city of firsts — everything from the first Ferris wheel to the first brownie and the world’s very first skyscraper. WTTW News explains.

CTA President Dorval Carter speaks at a Chicago City Council meeting Feb. 27, 2024. (WTTW News)

CTA President Pledges to Restore Service to Pre-Pandemic Levels, Faces Frustration at City Council Hearing

CTA President Dorval Carter said the transit agency plans to restore reduced bus and train service to pre-pandemic levels this year, including a 44% boost to bus service, with the process beginning in the coming weeks.

Fewer than 2% of Chicago’s signalized intersections have an accessible pedestrian signal, like the one pictured. (WTTW News)

Despite Decades of Cries for Help, Chicago Failed to Aid Blind Pedestrians. Now, City Wants Lengthy Timeline to Fix Problem

Fewer than 2% of Chicago’s signalized intersections have an accessible pedestrian signal that provides auditory and tactile guidance to blind, low-vision and deafblind pedestrians — despite more than two decades of requests and years of internal acknowledgement from city staffers about the need for such accommodations.

The Chicago Tribune Freedom Center printing complex is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

Chicago Tribune Journalists Push for Contract Deal, Accuse Company Owner of Stripping Assets Ahead of Planned Rally

Tribune Publishing journalists plan to picket and rally Saturday outside Tribune Tower, accusing the hedge fund that owns the company of brutally undercutting local news in service of a relentless thirst for profits.

(WTTW News)

Starbucks Broke Labor Law, Must Reopen Unionized Chicago Coffee Shop Shuttered Last Year, Federal Labor Officials Say

The National Labor Relations Board is asking a judge to order Starbucks to reopen 23 shuttered locations around the U.S. – including at Bryn Mawr and Winthrop avenues in Edgewater – claiming the company closed the coffee shops as retaliation for employees unionizing or to hinder their organizing efforts.

WTTW News Explains: How Did Those K, L, M, N and O Chicago Street Names Come to Be?

As you travel a ways west from the lake in Chicago, it’s hard not to notice clusters of north-south streets that all start with the same letters – K, L, M, N, O. What gives? WTTW News Explains.

(WTTW News)

Private Trash Haulers Rarely Face Punishment for Illegal Pickups, City Data Shows

Despite scores of noise complaints from residents jolted awake by garbage trucks, private trash haulers have been slapped with just five tickets for illegal pickups during quiet hours over the last two years, according to a WTTW News data analysis.

(WTTW News)

One Agency to Rule Them All? As Fiscal Cliff Looms, CMAP Pitches Bold Plan to Overhaul Chicagoland Public Transit

With CTA, Metra and Pace expected to have a combined $730 million budget deficit starting in 2026, state lawmakers passed a measure charging the regional planning agency CMAP to think big and come up with a plan.

Members of Lunt Tenants Association and organizers from the Chicago Union of Tenants after delivering their letter of resident demands on Nov. 29, 2023. (Nick Blumberg / WTTW News)

Rogers Park Residents Form Tenants Union Over Bedbugs, Maintenance Complaints; Building Manager Says Problems Addressed

A group of fed-up residents from a Rogers Park apartment building showed up at the property’s management company Wednesday to announce they’d formed a tenants association. It’s part of what organizers said is a resurgent tenants union movement.

(WTTW News)

Measure Aimed at Curbing Illegal Early Morning Chicago Trash Pickup Advances

For many Chicagoans, the quiet pre-dawn hours are regularly interrupted by the sound of noisy — and illegal — early morning pickups by private garbage hauling companies. A proposed ordinance aims to fix that. 

The JA Air hangar at Aurora Municipal Airport. (Provided)

Aurora Officials Gave Long-Delinquent Aviation Company a Sweetheart Deal, Lawsuit Claims — Ahead of Sale to Company Now Backing Aurora’s Mayor

A federal lawsuit awaiting a judge’s ruling says city of Aurora terms for Revv Aviation illegally disadvantage one of their competitors at the Aurora Municipal Airport. Revv’s owners have donated to Mayor Richard Irvin’s campaign fund and hosted a fundraiser for him. 

Paul Fehribach cooks Chicago-style barbecue. (WTTW News)

Chicago Chef Celebrates the Underappreciated Reach of Midwestern Food in New Cookbook

You can rag on our region for Crock Pot meals loaded with cream of mushroom soup, or salads mostly made of marshmallows and Cool Whip. But one Chicago chef says the culinary depth and national influence the Midwest has had on America’s taste is underestimated.

Longtime Chicago Housing Authority resident A.H. said she’s faced subpar work and maintenance issues in recent years, including a damaged living room ceiling and flooded basement. (Provided by A.H.)

Chicago Housing Authority Leaseholders Accuse Management Companies of Retaliation, Blast Agency Oversight: ‘They’re Not Dictators’

One longtime CHA resident said the potential sale of her home is part of a longtime pattern of neglect and retaliation from management companies and a failure of proper oversight from the CHA — a pattern echoed by claims from four other leaseholders or resident advocates in neighborhoods around the city.

(WTTW News)

New Plan Pitches ‘Big, Bold Solutions’ to Transform Regional Public Transit in Chicago Area

Unprecedented regional coordination, $1.5 billion in new annual funding and a push to transform service and draw in more riders than ever. Those are just some of the ambitious ideas up for debate as part of an effort to create a bold new vision for public transit in the Chicago area.

(WTTW News)

WTTW News Explains: How Are Highway Exits Numbered?

Do you ever find yourself wondering how all the exits got their numbers? It’s relatively simple — but not necessarily intuitive. WTTW News Explains.

A southbound CTA Red Line train is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

CTA Leaders Talk Service Boosts, Looming Challenges as Advocates Call For More Improvements

The CTA says in July of 2023, it delivered an average of 88% of scheduled rail service, compared to 71% in August of last year. And it says it delivered 96% of bus service this July, compared to 81% last August.

(Courtesy of Tutoring Chicago)

With Pandemic-Era Learning Losses Driving Demand, Tutoring Nonprofit Looking for Volunteers

Chicago students are still struggling to make up for COVID-era learning losses, and a local tutoring organization is trying to help students close that gap.

Elite Ambulance offices. (WTTW News)

Paramedics, EMTs Claim Chicago-Area Ambulance Company Illegally Forced Them to Pay For Red Light, Speed Camera Tickets

In a class action wage theft lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cook County court, plaintiffs say instead of contesting the tickets, which were incurred during emergency calls while running with lights and sirens, the company charged the cost of the moving violations against employees’ pay without their consent.

South lion at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Heather Paul / Flickr)

Art Institute, School of the Art Institute Workers Ratify Union Contract in a First for a Chicago Cultural Institution

Art Institute of Chicago Workers United was the first in a unionization wave that’s swept across local museums and cultural institutions.

Construction is underway at the Garfield Park Community Plaza on Aug. 11, 2023. (WTTW News)

Renovations Underway at Garfield Park Community Plaza, an ‘Oasis’ For Neighbors

Renovations are underway at the Garfield Park Community Plaza to create more play areas for kids, a stage, a covered roller rink and a sculpture designed by young people from the community.

Help wanted signs. (WTTW News)

New Measure Aims to Protect Illinois Temp Workers, Move Them Into Permanent Jobs

Some 800,000 Illinoisans are working in temporary jobs, according to industry estimates. That number has more than doubled over the last two decades.

“Two Country Future” is featured in the new show “Enduring Ties” at the Chicago Center for Photojournalism. (Courtesy of Alex Garcia)

Chicago-Based Photographer Documents ‘Enduring Ties’ With Cuba in Show at New Photojournalism Center

Alex Garcia’s pictures allow the humanity of his subjects to shine, free of preconceived notions. The show has celebratory moments as big as a fireworks show and as small as the back of a car. And it doesn’t shy away from the harsh conditions many Cubans face.

Standing with former Northwestern athletes, attorney Ben Crump speaks during a press conference addressing widespread hazing accusations at Northwestern University Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley, File)

First Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Female Northwestern University Athlete; Former Quarterback Also Files Suit

The hazing scandal at Northwestern University has widened to include a volleyball player who on Monday became the first female athlete to sue the university over allegations she was retaliated against by the coach for reporting her mistreatment.