David Schaper | KUER 90.1

David Schaper

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.

In this role, Schaper covers aviation and airlines, railroads, the trucking and freight industries, highways, transit, and new means of mobility such as ride hailing apps, car sharing, and shared bikes and scooters. In addition, he reports on important transportation safety issues, as well as the politics behind transportation and infrastructure policy and funding.

Since joining NPR in 2002, Schaper has covered some of the nation's most important news stories, including the Sandy Hook school shooting and other mass shootings, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, California wildfires, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and numerous other disasters. David has also reported on presidential campaigns in Iowa and elsewhere, on key races for U.S. Senate and House, governorships, and other offices in the Midwest, and he reported on the rise of Barack Obama from relative political obscurity in Chicago to the White House. Along the way, he's brought listeners and online readers many colorful stories about Chicago politics, including the corruption trials and convictions of two former Illinois governors.

But none of that compares to the joy of covering his beloved Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2016, and three Stanley Cup Championships for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, 2013, and 2015.

Prior to joining NPR, Schaper spent almost a decade working as an award-winning reporter and editor for WBEZ/Chicago Public Media, NPR's Member station in Chicago. For three years he covered education issues, reporting in-depth on the problems and progress — financial, educational and otherwise — in Chicago's public schools.

Schaper also served as WBEZ's Assistant Managing Editor of News, managing the station's daily news coverage and editing the reporting staff while often still reporting himself. He later served as WBEZ's political editor and reporter; he was a frequent fill-in news anchor and talk show host. Additionally, he has been an occasional contributor guest panelist on Chicago public television station WTTW's news program, Chicago Tonight.

Schaper began his journalism career in La Crosse, Wisconsin, as a reporter and anchor at Wisconsin Public Radio's WLSU-FM. He has since worked in both public and commercial radio news, including stints at WBBM NewsRadio in Chicago, WXRT-FM in Chicago, WDCB-FM in suburban Chicago, WUIS-FM in Springfield, Illinois, WMAY-AM in Springfield, Illinois, and WIZM-AM and FM in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Schaper earned a bachelor's degree in mass communications and history at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a master's degree in public affairs reporting at the University of Illinois-Springfield. He lives in Chicago with his wife, a Chicago Public School teacher, and they have three adult children.

A record number of Americans are dying by accident and increasingly because of fatal overdoses and falls, and not so much in car crashes.

A new report from the National Safety Council shows more than 136,000 people in the U.S. died accidentally in 2014, the highest number ever recorded. That's an increase of 4.2 percent from the year before and 15.5 percent more than a decade ago.

The higher accidental death rate is being fueled in large part by the opioid and heroin epidemic.

The excruciating wait times at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports the past couple of weeks have travelers fuming and some city officials looking for other options.

Chicago Alderman Ed Burke is calling on the city to do airport security the way it's done in Kansas City, San Francisco and several smaller airports around the country. He wants to hire a private company to staff the screening checkpoints.

The head of the Transportation Security Administration is promising the agency will do a better job of staffing enough officers at airport security checkpoints to reduce long lines. But he says those long lines are likely to continue through the peak summer travel season.

Travelers at some airports have been waiting two to three hours or more to get through screening. As a result, thousands have missed their flights in recent weeks.

The problem has been particularly bad at Chicago's airports.

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Illinois lawmakers may soon vote to eliminate the state's statute of limitations on child sex abuse crimes.

The move comes in response to the 15-month sentence given last month to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Although Hastert admitted molesting teenage boys he coached decades ago, he could only be sentenced for a financial crime related to his efforts to pay one of his victims millions of dollars in hush money to cover up the crime.

In Chicago, one neighborhood's rat problem is about to get a lot worse.

Crews are preparing to tear down an old hospital and when the wrecking ball starts swinging, the rodents living in and underneath the aging structure will scurry.

The city and the developer are setting poison baits and traps to help control the problem, but some residents are turning to one of the rats' worst enemies instead — cats.

Construction On Old Buildings Worsens Rat Problem

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Amid low gas prices and a stronger economy, Americans are driving more than ever before, with new federal government figures showing traffic volumes are at an all-time high.

However, there is a downside to this resurgence of driving: increased traffic congestion and pollution.

New data from the Federal Highway Administration show that Americans drove a record 3.15 trillion vehicle miles last year — that's the equivalent of traveling from Earth to Pluto and back 337 times.

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For the first time in decades, passengers will soon be able to catch a commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is in Havana this morning to sign a deal to get those planes in the air. NPR's David Shaper reports.

A growing number of Americans are driving less and getting rid of their cars.

The trend is gaining traction in middle-aged adults, to the point where fewer of them are even bothering to get or renew their driver's licenses, but it's been prominent among younger adults — millennials — for years now.

"Honestly, at this point, it just doesn't really seem worth it," says 25-year-old Peter Rebecca, who doesn't own a car or have a driver's license. "I mean, I live in Chicago, there's really good access to, you know, public transits for pretty cheap."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reached a long sought-after agreement with two major airlines — United and American — to build a new runway at O'Hare airport. The $1.3 billion project will increase capacity at the congested airfield in hopes of reducing delays.

However, the deal does not include an agreement with the airlines to increase terminal space and add new gates, which some travel industry experts say is critical to reducing congestion at O'Hare, an airport notorious among frequent fliers for delays.

Editor's note: This report contains graphic descriptions of torture.

The Chicago Police Department is the latest force in the national spotlight for a controversial shooting of a young black man, but the issues raised by recently released videos showing police shootings are not new in Chicago.

The incidents, critics say, are evidence of what they call a long history of Chicago police using excessive force on minorities in the city.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appears to be reversing course and says he now "welcomes" a Justice Department investigation in "systemic issues embedded" in the city's police department.

The mayor's office Thursday morning released a statement seeking to "clarify" Emanuel's comments Wednesday, in which he suggested a federal civil rights pattern-and-practice investigation "in my view, would be misguided."

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A police video recorded in Chicago was so damaging that someone had to pay. And yesterday, some of the bill came due.

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He was considered a model police officer — a devoted family man and a mentor to the young people in the small Illinois town of Fox Lake, near the Wisconsin state line.

Stepping off his recent flight from Boston at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, education consultant Debashis Sengupta looked a little surprised.

"The flight today was actually quite nice," says Sengupta. "No problems at all, in fact — not something I was expecting from United."

This frequent flier says an uneventful, on-time flight on United is the exception, not the rule.

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After Hurricane Katrina's massive storm surge annihilated tens of thousands of homes on the Gulf Coast, many families tried to quickly rebuild. Ten years later, some are still trying, while others are losing hope.

Tiny Pearlington, Miss., sat unwittingly in the center of Hurricane Katrina's path of devastation. They eye of the storm passed directly overhead, and a 30-foot storm surge nearly obliterated the town.

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast 10 years ago, the eye of the storm made landfall near a tiny speck of a town at the mouth of the Pearl River on the Louisiana border with Mississippi.

To say Katrina — one of the deadliest and costliest hurricanes in U.S. history — nearly wiped Pearlington, Miss., off the map isn't entirely true. The fact is, Pearlington was so small that it wasn't even on many maps.

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Water levels in the Great Lakes are rising from record lows. Lakes Huron and Michigan are 3 feet higher than a year ago. Here's NPR's David Schaper.

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The federal government's new rules aimed at preventing explosive oil train derailments are sparking a backlash from all sides.

The railroads, oil producers and shippers say some of the new safety requirements are unproven and too costly, yet some safety advocates and environmental groups say the regulations aren't strict enough and still leave too many people at risk.

The federal judge overseeing the criminal case of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert will continue to preside over it, even though he made campaign contributions to Hastert, as neither the prosecution nor the defense see it as a conflict of interest.

During Hastert's arraignment Tuesday, Chicago U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin acknowledged that in 2002 and 2004, he contributed $500 and $1,000 to Hastert's campaign through his law firm, but he said he had never met the speaker.

Many investigators say Positive Train Control (PTC), an automated safety system, could have prevented last month's Amtrak train derailment. Amtrak officials have said they will have PTC installed throughout the northeast corridor by the end of this year, which is the deadline mandated by Congress.

But the vast majority of other commuter railroad systems, which provided nearly 500 million rides in 2014, won't be able to fully implement positive train control for several more years.

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National Transportation Safety Board investigators say Positive Train Control — a system of satellites, communication towers and complex software that makes sure trains' safely follow their routes — would have prevented Tuesday's Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia, which killed eight passengers.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET.

The city of Chicago has become the first in the nation to create a reparations fund for victims of police torture, after the City Council unanimously approved the $5.5 million package.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the abuse and torture of scores of mostly black, male suspects in the 1970s, '80s and early '90s by former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his detectives is a "stain that cannot be removed from our city's history."

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