Using a rare non-Diverging Approach blog post to discuss some personal matters (and I promise, I’ll get back to blogging soon). As many readers already know, in addition to being a suburban transit nerd and advocate here at The Yard Social Club and at Star:Line Chicago, I’m also a professional transportation planner. For over a decade, I’ve worked in Chicago’s transportation industry as a consultant and, more recently, in the public sector with stints at the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and the Illinois Department of Transportation. This is also why every page on this website and every downloadable PDF here includes a quick little disclaimer that everything I do here is totally unrelated to my current and various past employers.
Unfortunately, after two years at the state, my position was eliminated as part of a larger court-mandated job reclassification effort. I was given the opportunity to apply for the replacement position and while I was invited to interview for the new position, I ended up not being the selected candidate. It was obviously disappointing, but I have no hard feelings towards the agency and I wish my co-workers and my replacement the best of luck moving forward.
While I was at IDOT, I eventually ended up becoming part of the agency’s internal Dynamic Message Sign (DMS) committee, and I ultimately ended up becoming one of the more prolific authors of some of the safety messages motorists have seen on interstates and expressways throughout the state. If you’ve driven on Illinois expressways over the last 18 months, there’s a very good chance you’ve read some of my work once or twice.
With March upon us — and with plenty of extra time on my hands — I wanted to take something of a final lap of my time as one of those DMS writers and to have some fun with the modest following we have on our social media accounts (and if this ends up landing my resume on an extra desk or two, all the better). I’ve pulled out 68 of my favorite messages that I was responsible for and assembled the “Slide Into My DMS” bracket. All throughout March, I’m inviting you all to follow us on the Star:Line Chicago Twitter account and vote for your favorites in head-to-head matches. The full bracket is located in this Google Sheets document, and the matchups (and much of the bracket introduction you just read) are all located in this Twitter thread.
It’s important to note that I was only one person on the DMS committee, and that some of the messages also came from a contest IDOT ran in 2018 and from some peer Departments of Transportation, so you may have a few personal favorites that aren’t shown here. However, everything in the bracket includes my contributions to the zeitgeist, so maybe there are a few in here you enjoyed as well.
Bracket Rules and Format
The official bracket is over on Google Sheets, which will also include links to active and past matches, which are in the form of Twitter polls. Poll durations may vary, but each poll (except the play in matches, which have already concluded) will be open at least 48 hours. Each day, four new polls will open, and all polls will be included in the same Twitter thread for easy reference. Follow us on Twitter @StarLineChicago to participate!
The Kennedy Region
The Kennedy Region includes 17 messages that were based on current events, ranging from annual events like Chicago’s Air and Water Show to more esoteric pop culture milestone anniversaries (generally 20th, 25th, 30th, etc.) that take a little digging to appreciate. But here’s the cheat sheet.
|1||ARUBA, JAMAICA // TEXTING’S A // MISTAKE-A||8/26/19||Statewide||Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of The Beach Boys’ Still Cruisin’ album, widely regarded to be their worst album to date.|
|2||YEAH, IF YOU COULD // NOT TEXT AND DRIVE // THAT’D BE GREAT||2/20/19||Statewide||Office Space‘s 20th Anniversary. Ended up with over 87,000 upvotes on Reddit.|
|3||SLOWING DOWN // IN WORK ZONES // IS SO FETCH||10/3/19||Statewide||On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was.|
|4||TRY PUMPKIN // THE BRAKES // IN WORK ZONES||9/11/19||Statewide||Scheduled to run concurrently with Morton’s annual pumpkin festival, and the annual PSL fever.|
|5A||NO TEXTING // NO SPEEDING // NO KETCHUP||7/12/18||Chicago-area||Taste of Chicago 2018.|
|DRAG YOUR HOTDOGS // DIP YOUR BEEFS // DROP YOUR PHONES||7/10/19||Chicago-area||Taste of Chicago 2019. (“Drag it through the garden.”)|
|6||POP QUIZ, HOTSHOT: // NOT BUCKLED UP? // WHAT DO YOU DO?||6/10/19||Statewide||Shoot the hostage.|
|7||HEY CHICAGO, WHAT // DO U SAY? DID U // BUCKLE UP TODAY?||4/8/19||Chicago-area||Cubs home opener.|
|8||DON’T BE ALL BLUE! // TAKE FIVE TO // DESIGNATE A DRIVER||8/29/19||Chicago-area||Jazz Fest.|
|9||BEAT DA PACKERS // BEAT DA TRAFFIC // USE MASS TRANSIT||9/5/19||Chicago-area||Bears home opener (on a Thursday night).|
|10||BABY, YOU’RE MUCH // TOO FAST: SLOW // DOWN IN WORK ZONES||6/7/19||Statewide||We miss you, Prince.|
|11||DIDN’T BUCKLE UP? // YOU CHOSE… // POORLY||5/24/19||Statewide||There’s probably a “no ticket” joke in here too somewhere.|
|12||“OH, IT’S // JUST A TEXT?” // DON’T GIMME THAT||9/26/19||Statewide||The Biz never sleeps.|
|13||“DON’T YOU // FORGET ABOUT ME” // -YOUR SEAT BELT||2/15/20||Statewide||Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours…|
|14||SAVE THE FLYING // FOR THE PILOTS // OBEY SPEED LIMITS||8/16/19||Chicago-area||Air and Water Show.|
|15||DON’T BE A // FOOL IN THE RAIN // WIPER ON LIGHTS ON||8/15/19||Statewide||Getting the Led out.|
|16||GET BUSY LIVING // GET BUSY DRIVING // PUT THE PHONE AWAY||9/23/19||Statewide||I guess I just miss my friend.|
The Eisenhower Region
The Eisenhower Region includes 17 holiday-themed messages. Don’t take the seeds too seriously here; I put my finger on the scale a bit to make sure the Halloween and Christmas messages were all grouped together.
|1||DRIVING: THE ONLY // GOOD REASON NOT // TO CALL YOUR MOM||5/12/19||Statewide||Mother’s Day|
|2||STARTING 2020 // ON A HIGH NOTE? // DESIGNATE A DRIVER||12/31/19||Statewide||New Year’s Eve (and cannabis legalization)|
|3||BOOS, NOT BOOZE // SAVE A SCARE // DESIGNATE A DRIVER||10/25/19||Statewide||Halloween|
|4||LET SOMEONE ELSE // HO-HO-HOLD THE KEY // DESIGNATE A DRIVER||12/16/19||Statewide||Christmas|
|5||OH WHAT FUN IT IS // TO RIDE IN A SOBER // DRIVER’S SLEIGH||12/20/19||Statewide||Christmas|
|6||WORKING IN THE LAB // LATE ONE NIGHT? // DON’T DRIVE TIRED||10/28/19||Statewide||MASH GOOD|
|7||GREEN LIGHT BEER // LEADS TO // BLUE LIGHTS HERE||3/17/19||Statewide||St. Patrick’s Day (meet me downtown this year!)|
|8||TEXTING IS TACKY // TELL THEM YOU LOVE // THEM IN PERSON||2/14/19||Statewide||Valentine’s Day|
|9||SIPPING MARGARITAS // OR MINT JULEPS? // DESIGNATE A DRIVER||5/4/19||Statewide||Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby|
|COLUMBUS MADE IT // BECAUSE HE DIDN’T // TEXT WHILE SAILING||10/14/19||Statewide||Columbus Day 2019|
|10B||“DISCOVER” YOUR // SEAT BELT // CLICK IT OR TICKET||10/8/18||Statewide||Columbus Day 2018|
|11||EXTRA HOUR IN JAIL // FOR DRUNK DRIVERS // THIS WEEKEND||11/2/19||Statewide||Daylight savings time ends|
|12||YOUR SLEIGH SHOULD // NOT BE FLYING // WATCH YOUR SPEED||12/13/19||Statewide||Christmas|
|13||THE BEST PRESENT // IS BEING PRESENT // ARRIVE ALIVE||12/24/19||Statewide||Christmas|
|14||SCARIEST COSTUME: // A DRIVER // WHO TEXTS||10/31/19||Statewide||Halloween|
|15||NO SALE IS // TO DIE FOR // SLOW DOWN||11/29/19||Statewide||Black Friday|
|16||FREEDOM IS HAVING // A SOBER RIDE HOME // DESIGNATE A DRIVER||7/4/19||Statewide||Independence Day|
The Stevenson Region
The Stevenson Region includes 16 special messages displayed for particular concert or one-time sporting events throughout the state. These are also pretty indicative of my varied tastes/guilty pleasures in music.
|Seed||Message||Date||Artist and Location|
|1||DON’T BE A SUCKER // GET AN S.O.S. OUT // TO A SOBER DRIVER||9/19/19||Jonas Brothers @ United Center|
|2||A SAFE RIDE HOME: // SEE IT, LIKE IT // WANT IT, GET IT||6/4/19||Ariana Grande @ United Center|
|3||GET THE RIGHT // STUFF: HANG TOUGH // WITH SOBER DRIVERS||6/14/19||New Kids On The Block @ Allstate Arena|
|4||DON’T GET BROUGHT // DOWN WITH A DUI // DESIGNATE A DRIVER||7/27/19||Electric Light Orchestra @ United Center|
|5||HEADING HOME? A SOBER DRIVER CAN // SHOW YOU THE WAY||7/28/19||Peter Frampton @ Northerly Island|
|6||BELIEVE WHEN I SAY // PLEASE PUT YOUR // PHONE AWAY||8/10/19||Backstreet Boys @ United Center|
|7||SOBER DRIVERS ARE // THE CHAMPIONS, // MY FRIENDS||8/9/19||Queen @ United Center|
|8||GET A SOBER ANGEL // TO DRIVE AND // THERE’S NO PROBLEM||9/28/19||Chance the Rapper @ United Center|
|9||DON’T LET ME DOWN // GET CLOSER WITH A // DESIGNATED DRIVER||10/4/19||The Chainsmokers @ United Center|
|10||IF YOU CAN’T BE A // 4-TIME WORLD CHAMP // BE A SAFE DRIVER||10/6/19||USWNT friendly @ Soldier Field|
|11||BELIEVE THAT YOU // ARE STRONG ENOUGH // TO WAIT TO TEXT||11/27/19||Cher @ United Center|
|12||BUCKLE UP // DOO DOO // DO-DOO DO-DOO||10/28/19||Baby Shark Live @ TaxSlayer Center|
|13||ONE LOOK // (AT YOUR PHONE) // COULD KILL||7/7/19||Alice Cooper @ Peoria Civic Center|
|14||WHAT’S THE DEAL // WITH PEOPLE WHO // DON’T BUCKLE UP?||12/19/19||Jerry Seinfeld @ Peoria Civic Center|
|15||GOT DOUBLE VISION? // IT’S URGENT // DESIGNATE A DRIVER||6/23/19||Foreigner @ Assembly Hall|
|16||MEET YOUR SOBER // RIDE HOME BEFORE // YOU START TO SWAY||7/20/19||Michael Buble @ Allstate Arena|
The Dan Ryan Region
The Dan Ryan Region includes 18 messages displayed for no particular reason other than promoting safe driving.
|1||PHONE DOWN EYES UP // WHEN YOU DRIVE // A CAR OR TRUCK||Various|
|2||HANGING WITH BUDS? // AVOID THE JOINT // DESIGNATE A DRIVER||1/20/20|
|3||TREAT YOUR KIDS // LIKE A FANNY PACK: // BUCKLED UP IN BACK||Various|
|4||HASH AND HASHTAGS // ARE BOTH ILLEGAL // BEHIND THE WHEEL||1/21/20|
|5A||PLEASE STOP TAKING // PICTURES OF THIS // SIGN WHILE DRIVING||3/8/19|
|THANK YOU FOR // READING THIS SIGN // AND NOT YOUR PHONE||11/18/19|
|6||KEEP YOUR TWEETS // OFF THE STREETS // DROP IT AND DRIVE||4/12/19|
|7||GOT THE MUNCHIES? // GET FOOD DELIVERED // DON’T DRIVE HIGH||2/7/20|
|8||WATCH YOUR SPEED // NOT YOUR NEWS FEED // DROP IT AND DRIVE||11/12/19|
|9||OH CELL NO // DROP IT // AND DRIVE||5/28/19|
|10||PUFF, PUFF // PASS THE KEYS TO A // DESIGNATED DRIVER||2/21/20*|
|11||STATE TROOPERS // WEED OUT // IMPAIRED DRIVERS||1/27/20|
|12||ORGAN DONOR? // LET’S NOT FIND OUT // WATCH YOUR SPEED||12/6/19|
|13||BE A THINKER // USE YOUR BLINKER||7/15/19|
|14A||STEERING WHEELS // ARE NOT // HANDS-FREE DEVICES||7/26/19|
|SHIFTER IN “D”? // PHONE IN // HANDS-FREE||8/2/19|
|15||DAY DRINKING // IS STILL DRINKING // DESIGNATE A DRIVER||7/19/19|
|16||DROP IT AND DRIVE // MEANS YOUR PHONE // NOT YOUR TRASH||Various|
Follow the matches and vote on the Star:Line Chicago Twitter account. And yes, feel free to slide into the DMs.