NBC News Chicago reported last week that Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance, in a groundbreaking ceremony, unveiled five ((5) new bus only traffic lanes. These are in addition to the bus only lanes that currently run in the downtown loop on Madison and Washington Streets.
Construction on the new lanes took place on North May, Chicago, LaSalle and Western Avenues. According to the Transportation Alliance, the new lanes will increase ridership, shorten bus commutes and hopefully decrease traffic congestion. “For Chicago to be a more vibrant, sustainable, and equitable city, we need to move people more efficiently. Bus lanes are a good way to do that,” Ron Burke, the Executive Director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said.
The Active Transportation Alliance says that incoming Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot supports expanding the program, and their goal is to add 50 miles of designated bus lanes over the next four years.
These new loop link lanes downtown look nice, but I think it’s unclear as to whether they have actually shortened commute times or helped with traffic. Part of the problem is that normal vehicles and bicyclists can often be seen using those lanes as well, which in turn can back up traffic. City officials have said they are going to start issuing tickets to drivers who drive in these bus only lanes. There was no mention by city officials as to what they expect the effect these new lanes will have on traffic safety or decreasing traffic accidents.
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An alarming eighteen (18) pedestrians have been struck and killed in Chicago this year. That is up from a total of fourteen (14) through all of 2017. The Chicago Sun Times reported today that the Active Transportation Alliance, a community protection group, is calling for immediate changes from city legislators. The group is calling for proposing lower speed limits, more speed cameras and a $20 million-a-year fund to pay for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Vision Zero,” which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2026. Many accidents have also been caused by pot holes or other obstructions on the road that need new Asphalt Installations to be repaired, many people do no take the right kind of trucking careers for when driving.
The group is asking that the money go to multiple improvements including: better-lit crosswalks and countdown timers; pedestrian-refuge islands on wider streets; asphalt repair; narrowing streets and trucking careers re-striping the width of lanes to force motorists to slow down and installing bump-out curbs that force turning vehicles to go slower and make wider turns.
Neither Mayor Emanuel or the cities’ transportation department has responded to these requests by the Active Transportation Alliance.
I think most of these improvements are needed. My only issue has to do with the speeder cameras. I don’t think there is enough evidence yet showing that these cameras are an actual deterrent or make our streets safer. As I have written multiple times in the past, we know for sure that the red light cameras have not made intersections safer. Multiple studies from Texas A&M University have shown that overall the cameras have not actually reduced accidents. I think the jury is still out on the speeder cameras.
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