Lake County Motorist

Suburban Chicagoland commuter and motorist weblog

Pay-to-play on busiest Chicago streets

The City of Chicago will receive federal money to implement congestion relief tactics including bus-only lanes on key routes and increased parking meter rates downtown during rush hours.

The Chicago announcement reminds me of a recent article that addressed congestion pricing and similar options in the suburbs (I was unable to find the link, but I will update this post with the link should I find it).

Congestion pricing is increasingly being studied as a way to reduce the number of vehicles in busy areas and encourage alternate modes of transportation. It’s an attempt at letting the market decide the value of driving in premium areas at peak times.

If one’s need outweighs the penalties, one will drive where needed and pay the fees anyway. Otherwise, plans are changed and routes are re-routed.

However, increased prices and tolls alone won’t solve the problem or satisfy the citizenry.

  • If fines are increased to discourage traffic, the supporting systems must increase capacity or else existing traffic may simply be pushed onto surrounding streets that may not be designed to handle so many vehicles. According to the Chicago Tribune article, bus-only lanes and express buses will be used to increase capacity along key routes. Whether these routes will all serve the Loop is not known, as the routes haven’t been confirmed.
  • The supporting systems must be safe, convenient, and cost-effective when compared to the congestion fee. In particular, public transit (often cited as the supporting system in these matters) isn’t as convenient for suburban users as city users.
  • The decrease in vehicle traffic should not cause a significant decrease in revenue for local businesses.
  • The public should be educated as to why the congestion pricing is being implemented, what the rules and fees are, what the fees will be used for, and how individuals could save time and money using alternate transportation.

This will be a great opportunity for Chicago to innovate in congestion management. The transit-oriented ideas – particularly the kiosks and decreased stop frequency on the four key routes – would address a common complaint that “the bus is too slow” as a means of urban transport.

On the other hand, spacing the bus stops further apart would decrease convenience for elderly or mobility-challenged riders. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Reported from beyond the seven-county region: Chicago Gets NYC’s Congestion Money [Streetsblog]

Filed under: Congestion Relief, , ,

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