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Published on May 1st, 2008 | by Sarah Lozanova

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Chicago Unveils Plan to Punish Driving While Encouraging Riding

May 1st, 2008 by  


traffic congestion parking Chicago

[social_buttons]The average Chicagoan spends an hour and a half commuting to and from work each day. With the second largest public transportation system in the country, one million people ride city buses each day. Mayor Daley considered both facts when he devised a plan aimed at easing congestion, commuting times, and air pollution in the central business district. A $153 million federal grant can help make this plan a reality.

Priority Given to Buses Over Cars

The first part of the plan entails creating a 100 mile bus corridor with dedicated bus lanes during peak hours. Kiosks selling bus tickets allow passengers to quickly board buses and many routes will run express, resulting in fewer stops. Traffic lights will be programmed to turn green for buses, helping to keep them in motion. Hybrid buses will be used, reducing pollution in these heavily populated areas.

“The Bus Rapid Transit service will give commuters a more modern and faster alternative to driving as well as better connections with rail lines,” said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. “The result is less congestion and less pollution.”

Driving Discouraged

This plan not only encourages mass transit use, but also discourages driving. Cars will squeeze into fewer lanes as buses have dedicated lanes. Parking meter and loading zone usage fees would increase during peak times.

6,013 meters line the streets of the central business district, according to the Chicago Department of Revenue. They generated a hefty $10.1 million in 2007 for the City. If parking rates increase too much, drives will prefer private parking lots. Some businesses are weary of effects of parking rate increases.

“We’ve expressed concern about past congestion pricing proposals and their impact on both businesses and employees and we will be looking at this in coming weeks,” said Justin DeJong, a spokesman for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

Changing Behavior

The question behind Mayor Daley’s plans is whether a carrot and a shove will get people out of their cars. Is this enough to ease the American love affair with the automobile, at least in times of peak congestion?

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About the Author

is passionate about the new green economy and renewable energy. Sarah's experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative. When she can escape the internet vortex, she enjoys playing in the forest, paddling down rivers, or twisting into yoga poses.



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