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  1. #1
    Arschgaudi Mayonnaise's Avatar
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    1st shot in war on traffic

    By Gary Washburn
    Tribune staff reporter
    Published March 15, 2005


    City Hall will begin a quick-towing policy at accident scenes next month, the first shot in a war on traffic congestion that will end years from now when the entire city has been equipped with "smart" traffic signals to keep cars and trucks flowing smoothly, Chicago officials announced Monday.

    Also in the works are such things as tickets-by-camera for drivers who illegally use bus-only lanes; the use of traffic aides in brightly colored jackets who will bike through downtown to reach accident scenes and direct traffic; and special lanes on some busy streets reserved for use by vehicles with multiple occupants during rush hour.

    "At one time, the answer to traffic congestion was always to build more and more and bigger roads and expressways," Mayor Richard Daley said at a news conference. "That's out of the question in Chicago. ... [But] we can make Chicago move faster and safer by centralizing traffic control and making greater use of modern technology, as other cities have done."

    But the plan will be only for city streets. Chicago-area expressways are overseen by the state.

    As it is, the average Chicago-area driver wastes about 61 hours a year in traffic, part of a national problem that costs nearly $70 billion annually in time and gasoline, officials said.

    Chicago officials studied what Tokyo--the city Daley called the most advanced in the world on the traffic control front--Houston, Los Angeles and Atlanta have done to ease congestion and devised a local plan that incorporates methods used by each.

    The anti-congestion effort will be the responsibility of a new Traffic Management Authority that will be part of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Employees from various departments, which until now have dealt with different aspects of traffic control, will staff the new authority.

    Checking practices in other cities, Chicago officials concluded that "from a centralized location, we had to be able to quickly mobilize and move resources," said Ron Huberman, executive director of the emergency management and communications office. "We needed to track multiple events simultaneously, we needed to be able to pull information from multiple places quickly and then communicate it quickly to the public so motorists could make better decisions."

    The things that are easiest to do will be done the quickest, all of them by late summer, Huberman said.

    Experts say that as much as 60 percent of congestion is caused by accidents or other events that block lanes, and the first initiative will be the towing effort, he said.

    City trucks currently are called only after emergency responders have reached the scene, but dispatchers in the 911 center next month will begin sending them at the same time as police and firefighters.

    New software scheduled to go online in July will allow officials to track construction permit applications in relation to scheduled events that could affect traffic, allowing permit issuance to be delayed or the hours of work to be limited.

    The costly and herculean task of installing "smart" signal timing, street sensors and changeable message signs to maximize efficient traffic flow is to begin in September, with a pilot project somewhere in the downtown area that will be funded by $14.9 million in federal seed money.

    But Huberman could not estimate how many years it will take or how much it will cost to equip the city's 2,800 intersections. The current cost per location ranges from about $75,000 to $250,000, he said.

    As the new technology is installed, green lights will be able to stay green longer for approaching Chicago Transit Authority buses, cameras will be able to catch motorists who invade bus-only lanes in the downtown area and message boards will be able to advise drivers how to avoid congestion. Also planned is real-time transmission of accident and congestion information to the electronic media for transmission to listeners and viewers.

    Ald. Thomas Allen (38th), chairman of the City Council's Transportation Committee, applauded the new effort, but he called for new technology on side streets as well to improve safety. Specially equipped vans deployed in other cities use cameras to nab speeders and motorists who blow neighborhood stop signs, he said.
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  2. #2
    H23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mayonnaise
    ....Experts say that as much as 60 percent of congestion is caused by accidents or other events that block lanes, and the first initiative will be the towing effort, he said.
    I can believe that. Here in the DC area, for example, the DC beltway can handle a staggering amount of traffic at reasonably quick speeds. Sadly, a steady occurance of minor accidents predictably snarls traffic every day.

    I think it is very wise to focus on quick-reponse to traffic problems before even considering to build more roads.

  3. #3
    Senior Member lokerola's Avatar
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    Good old DC. I sent 8 years of my life communting around the beltway 2 hours a day 5 days a week. That's 40 hours a month, or about 480 hours a year. For 8 years, let's see, that's roughly 3840 hours, or 160 days in traffic. I want my life back!
    Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don't fail me now.





  4. #4
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lokerola
    Good old DC. I sent 8 years of my life communting around the beltway 2 hours a day 5 days a week. That's 40 hours a month, or about 480 hours a year. For 8 years, let's see, that's roughly 3840 hours, or 160 days in traffic. I want my life back!
    It's a choice. Live close to work and ride bikes/make love/eat/sleep/do other stuff more. I love my 10 minute commute!

  5. #5
    H23
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    Quote Originally Posted by galen_52657
    It's a choice. Live close to work and ride bikes/make love/eat/sleep/do other stuff more. I love my 10 minute commute!

    I agree that it is a choice to some extent. However, it still makes a lot of sense to get the most out of the existing roads before building new ones. If the impact from accidents were drastically reduced and there was more public transport options, the cagers would be less able to make a case for new highways-- like that horrible ICC in Maryland.

  6. #6
    No pain, no gain. PainTrain's Avatar
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    Studying Tokyo is only worthwhile to a point, imho. They are used to mass transit and don't have the sprawl of Chicago.

  7. #7
    flux capacitor Orikal's Avatar
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    The city of Houston recently started a similar plan called "Free and Clear". It's coming up for a vote soon, and a lot of people are pushing to ban the towing program and the red light cameras.


    Quote Originally Posted by galen_52657
    It's a choice. Live close to work and ride bikes/make love/eat/sleep/do other stuff more. I love my 10 minute commute!
    It's going to be a long, long time before people wake up and realize that down here.

    Delusion: A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence.

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