Lake County Motorist

Suburban Chicagoland commuter and motorist weblog

Playing catch-up

Before we begin, let’s get caught up on a few Lake County Transportation topics.

Tri-State Rebuild and Widen: Trucking right along, although I can’t resist asking “Are we there yet?” about the completion date. The northbound express lane recently disappeared and there are three all-access northbound lanes now.

Route 120: The bypass seems to be the thing. Volozen shares info from the Daily Herald: Consensus Reached on 120 Vision. Route 120 Corridor Planning Council has the details in their October 16 press release.

Route 53: Aside from the “yes” vote registered on the 2009 referendum, I haven’t heard much else about 53. Note that the referendum’s passage didn’t mean 53 was going to happen any time soon, but Lake County voters have made their opinions known. Let me know when the earth movers show up.

Construction: There’s quite a bit of it. Methinks federal stimulus money is spurring construction jobs and roadwork-induced commuter headaches well into late fall/early winter this year. Hopefully a bit of short-term motorist pain will give way to long-term motorist relief, at least until the housing market picks up and population increases.  Lake County Passage’s text-only Mobile web page provides a quick glance of what’s underway. Commuters are especially delayed by the various projects around Rt. 22, which coupled with limited escape routing through woodsy burbs makes this road a much-groaned-about topic.

Motorist links for the Road Week Ahead:

Filed under: Commuting, Congestion Relief, I-94, , ,

Relaunch coming soon

After a lengthy hiatus, I’m planning to relaunch Lake County Motorist in the coming weeks. The format will change, as I don’t have as much time to work on the site as I originally did, but I’ve missed this blog. Amazingly, traffic hasn’t improved much in Lake County during my hiatus, so there is much to blog about. Hang tight, and pardon our dust as I move a few things around.

Filed under: Miscellany

Accidents spur changes on Edens extension

The Edens Spur has seen a lot of traffic accidents over the past few weeks. Now, in an effort to increase safety during this construction season, IDOT has reconfigured the spur in an effort to reduce crashes.

I was in the area on June 5, stuck in traffic on the surface streets, when three helicopters hovering over the Spur encouraged us to reroute even before noticing traffic being forced off the highway at Waukegan Road. I was also in the area June 13, when the wail of emergency vehicles heading to the accident around lunchtime convinced me that something severe had happened.

Commenters to the Chicago Tribune story offer, as usual, a melange of insight, knee-jerk same-old-same-oldisms, and a few good ideas for how to fix the Spur and its eastbound single-lane merge onto the Edens. I especially like the idea of taking the U.S. 41 merge down from three lanes to two, providing more room for the interstate folks to merge. As commenters note, 41 rarely has enough traffic to require three lanes at this point. If southbound 41 is backed up, it’s because the Edens itself is backed up. Furthermore, the Spur’s bridge already has enough room to support two lanes.

Hey IDOT: Any ideas on how to permanently fix the Spur?

Filed under: Commuting,

Best local government websites for commuters

There are over 50 communities in Lake County. As the demographics of each community varies wildly, so does the quality of each town’s website.

I checked out the web sites from a commuter’s point of view. Namely, I looked for the following:

  • Does the community’s website have a section dedicated to its road maintenance program (if it has one)? Usually, Public Works assumes this role.
  • Is road construction information easy to find on the community’s website?
  • Does the community provide electronic updates to residents regarding road maintenance, via the website, email or automated phone messages?
  • Is the community’s road maintenance web page updated regularly?
  • Does the community’s website provide exceptional convenience to residents who have road maintenance concerns?

Admittedly, there is variation amongst communities regarding the amount of road construction performed. It’s not fully clear to me as to which communities don’t handle road construction at all. Perhaps reader insight can help clarify these things.

I also emphasize that this is not a review of “Best Overall Community Websites.” I tried to focus primarily on the motorist/commuter features.

With that said, here are my picks for Lake County’s most informative community websites for motorists and commuters:

9. Highland Park (cityhpil.com)

Progress-oriented: Per Highland Park’s website, “In Fiscal Year 2006, the City launched a five year program to upgrade City streets. ” The City developed a Pavement Condition Index and assigned a rating to each city street. It sounds like an ambitious plan, and this Lake County Motorist is eager to see how it plays out. The web page hasn’t been updated since 2007.

The city provides a Capital Improvement Project web page listing planned roadwork projects, although it too hasn’t been updated since 2007.

Parking information is provided across numerous PDFs – too many PDFs, in my humble opinion.

Highland Park also has an online pothole reporting form, which I pointed out in a February 2008 post.

Cons: Roadwork web pages haven’t been updated in months. No detailed (and current) construction schedule provided – if it does exist on the site, I didn’t find it.

 

8. Lake Barrington (lakebarrington.org)

Many of Lake Barrington’s road services are provided by Cuba Township. However, the Village posted its Pavement Management Program map [PDF format] on its own website. There are no timelines provided, but it’s a start.

Cons: No roadwork timelines provided.

 

7. Vernon Hills (vernonhills.org)

Winter detail: Vernon Hills’ website includes the village’s snow and ice removal plan, presented as a massive 19MB PDF. I applaud the Village for providing such a detailed document to the public, but it would be nice if an abridged version were also available for download.

The Traffic Information Page provides helpful information about village traffic laws as well as educational resources. Vernon Hills even offers online bicycle registration!

Cons: I didn’t find a singular resource for roadwork updates on the site. No online parking ticket payment system.

 

6. Libertyville (libertyville.com)

Better in winter: Libertyville’s website didn’t appear to list any construction updates, but the site lists comprehensive information regarding snow plowing routes and timing. The site lists the specific streets the Village is responsible for plowing, comprising one of the most detailed lists of its kind among the community websites (Zion also provides a similarly detailed street name list).

Cons: No roadwork updates. No online parking ticket payment system.

 

5. Wauconda (wauconda-il.gov)

Wauconda publishes infrastructure construction updates to a dedicated section of its website. Projects are grouped as Approved or Planned. Road projects are a part of, but not the only component of, these lists.

 

4. Grayslake (villageofgrayslake.com)

Convenience for residents: Residents can file requests for many village services online, including pothole patching, street light repair, and restoration requests. Users can even request new street signs and (presumably) traffic signals online.

Grayslake accepts online payments for parking fines.

Cons: Grayslake’s Construction Updates web page provides only one-liner project descriptions and updates regarding village construction, including roadwork. I would like to see more comprehensive information provided on this page, such as project start date and end date. The web page directs readers to file a request for service to obtain more details – not very user-friendly for non-residents (or is that the point?)

 

3. Round Lake (eroundlake.com)

Ease of use: Round Lake’s Public Works web page includes construction project updates. As of 6/17/08, there is only one pending project listed, but once more projects are added you’ll find them listed here.

Residents may also submit requests for service via an online form.

Cons: No online parking ticket payment system.

 

2. Gurnee (gurnee.il.us)

Keeping residents informed: Gurnee’s frequently-updated website alerts readers to street sweeping schedules and snow plowing/road salting status.

Gurnee also provides comprehensive road construction updates along with a detailed project list. Users can sign up for Construction and Development e-newsletters via the village’s list-serv.

Gurnee also accepts online payments for parking fines.

Cons: No firm dates published yet for projects slated to begin “soon” such as Washington Street construction (which was delayed due to ongoing construction on the Route 120 bridge over I-94) and the Grand Avenue resurfacing. However, this is not a major “con”. The lack of firm dates is understandable, because some of these projects depend on other roadwork to be completed first.

 

1. Deerfield (deerfield-il.org)

Dig those construction updates: Hats off to Deerfield for posting comprehensive roadwork updates on the village’s website. The updates include a weekly Construction Forecast listing the work plans by-day, by-street. The village lists projects for which they are responsible, as well as those under other jurisdiction such as the ISTHA and the County.

The parking permit web page lists village parking fees for the Metra commuter lot.

Cons: The roadwork information is presented on a single, looooong web page. Navigation could be improved to make it faster and easier to find information about a specific road or project.

 

Honorable Mention: Zion (cityofzion.com)

No construction updates, but Zion lists every street that it plows during winter. Zion also has its own unique transportation feature – the Beeline Trolley. The trolley’s schedule is posted on the city’s website.

Filed under: Road Conditions, , , , , , , , , ,

Why don’t you take the train?

Hunting for parking at a Metra rail station and boarding the ever-more-crowded trains can make one feel that everyone is taking Metra these days.

But a look at the vehicle-clogged roads seems to tell otherwise. Indeed, several of my associates have increased their rail ridership recently, but others have not.

Metra’s commercials encourage “If Metra’s right for you,” perhaps you should consider the train for your next commute. Certainly many commuters take Metra up on their offer, with many more hopping aboard as gas prices have climbed. Metra even added capacity on key lines to keep up with demand.

So, do you take the train or bus? And if not, why not?

I take Metra whenever I can. For me, riding the train is less stressful than driving. The train is reliable, and I’m able to work during my commute. With gas at $3.80 a gallon even in the suburbs, Metra becomes a more attractive commuting option every day.

But sometimes, I drive to work instead of taking the train. This can continue for days at a time. If I’m not on the train, it could be for one of the following reasons/excuses:

  • I elected to grab another twenty winks, thereby delaying my exit and I thus missed the train.
  • I was unable to find parking at the station (see Excuse #1).
  • I had to work later than the last shuttle bus would’ve been able to get me to the station, and I didn’t want to pay for a taxi or beg someone for a ride.
  • I have errands to run after work, including car repair or maintenance appointments.

Many of my motoring associates would love to take Metra to work, but matters of convenience or lack thereof stand in the way. According to USA Today, fewer than 20% of U.S. households have easy access to mass transit.

A few reasons cited by those who are not on board:

  • Train schedule does not work with their work schedule, due to arrival/departure times or train frequency.
  • Total commute time would be longer than with driving (cited for those who do not live or work near Metra stations).
  • Can’t get from home to train due to distance and lack of a vehicle.
  • Can’t get from the train station to the workplace, again due to distance and lack of connecting transportation.
  • Insufficient time to pick up children from daycare without incurring tardiness fees.
  • The person prefers the autonomy of driving their own car.
  • Claustrophobia
  • Train is too crowded

Any others? Has your use of mass transit changed due to gas prices, environmental concerns, a broken-down car or any other reason?

Also see:

Why people in Portland, ME didn’t take the bus.

Why people on the City-Data forums don’t take mass transit.

On Choosing Between Mass Transit and Car.

You may have heard: Half of Chicago area employees say they would use mass transit if their employers subsidize it, as is suggested by the Commuter Act.

Pace transit sees highest usage in 50 years [PDF] ( feature article in the agency’s Rider Report newsletter)

Baltimore residents get on board.

Filed under: Mass Transit, ,

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