Why’s Chicago Punishing Drivers?

Chicago is the second most congested region in the country and the mayor wants to change this. Will Daley’s plan to discourage driving and lure them into buses work? If so, it can improve the quality of life in the city.
With the goal of easing congestion, commuting times, and air pollution in the central business district of Chicago, this multi-faceted plan could change the way Chicagoans get around. A $153 million federal grant can help make this plan a reality.
Buses Get Preferential Treatment
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

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.
Will This Plan work?
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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Sarah Lozanova is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Energy International Quarterly, Triple Pundit, Urban Farm, and Solar Today. Her 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 she resides in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Midcoast Maine with her husband and two children.