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 green copywriter and communications professional specializing in renewable energy and clean technology. She is a consultant for Sustainable Solutions Group and a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Home Power, Earth911, and Green Builder. 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.

7 responses

  1. Sarah – this is a brilliant plan. It troubles me to call it “punishing drivers” because that’s not the point. It rewards people, it’s not punishing. Suburban people will read that headline and misinterpret it and freak out, raising hell. That’s a huge risk.

  2. I guess it is all relative. Motorists have enjoyed subsidized gas, an unbelievable quantity of paved surfaces and the right to drive pretty much in any lane (in Chicago). Such a large amount of land is dedicated to personal vehicles.
    I agree that this plan is a positive thing, but compared to the rights that motorists have had, this by comparison is a punishment in my eyes. It looks out for the good of many and not a few.

  3. No, by your logic, the punishment had been for people who didn’t want to drive cars. Now, *their* punishment is being alleviated. If you call it punishment, then you’re creating an us vs them mentality which really goes nowhere, and at worst, drives suburbanites further into their fortresses to the detriment of everyone, including Chicago.

  4. As a resident of Chicago who uses a bike as a primary mode of transportation, this plan has my support. There has always been a negative connotation to plans that involve only a “car tax” solution — they are not egalitarian. The wealthy don’t care about monetary penalties as much as the middle-class (as much as the poor). I like this plan because it makes no distinction for income. Furthermore, the reason buses don’t “work” is that there are too many cars in the way. I know that sounds overly simplistic, but this is the catch-22 with respect to public transportation. Giving buses a higher priority will make them a) faster and b) more predicable with respect to schedules. That’s a great start.

  5. Well said kohker.. this is a common sense plan. I’d like to see more specifics, and I’d also like them to fix the EL so that it runs faster than a broken tricycle.
    I agree that acting like this is about “punishment” is not the way to go about it. It’s not clear if the gist of the post is in favor or opposed to a new plan for Chicago, or keeping the status quo, there’s a lot of negative words like “punishment” “lure” “squeeze” …

  6. I think ‘punishing’ can be taken to be a little tongue-in-cheek guys, so I’m not to worried about sparking an suburban exodus with this post.

  7. We just survived one of the worst winters in Chicago history and Mayor Daley wants us all to depend on buses?!! Until I see his fat ass on a bus or waiting at a stop in the cold and snow, he can go screw himself!

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