about | events | committees | news | docs | links | contact | staff | search | home
CMAP Fact Sheet


For immediate release, Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Press Contacts: Tom Garritano (312-386-8609)
Mandy Burrell (312-863-6018)

Menu of Options for Improving Mobility in Illinois

This fact sheet accompanies the CMAP/Metropolitan Planning Council joint news release, "Highway congestion numbers show pressing need for improvements to entire regional transportation network." The following describes in greater detail the menu of technology, infrastructure, financing, and planning enhancements being explored and/or implemented to improve access in metropolitan Chicago. The accompanying release is available at here.

Technology and Infrastructure

Managed lanes to reduce congestion. Some expressway and major arterial lanes can be prioritized to minimize congestion through intensive management. The key element of managed lane systems is that access to and travel through those lanes can be allocated through both real-time operations management and through vigilant enforcement to maximize traffic flow and minimize travel delay. Access to managed lanes can be controlled dynamically by travel time period (rush-hour reversible lanes or peak-period parking restrictions), vehicle passenger occupancy (HOV/Transit Lanes), trip purpose (truck/freight lanes), and congestion pricing (dynamically priced lanes and HOT lanes). For better system performance, travel speed can be managed using a combination of signage technology, barrier, and vehicle guidance systems to encourage utilization, ensure maximum free flow of traffic, and provide re-entry into general lanes with minimal vehicle conflicts and merge delay. Managed lanes can often be further optimized by mixing strategies; for example, providing a high-speed express bus alternative with congestion-priced lanes.

Point-to-point express bus transit service. Point-to-point express buses take the fastest route between passenger origin and destination points. Such express routes have a cluster of stops at passenger origins and a cluster of stops at passenger destinations without stops in between, facilitating rapid travel. Point-to-point express bus transit services provide a one-seat ride for busy routes, and utilize modern, comfortable, and accessible buses. Bus stop and other service amenities are also tied in to point-to-point express bus proposals to further encourage ridership.

Intelligent transportation systems. Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) provide real-time information for system managers and travelers. ITS helps authorities detect and respond to incidents. ITS gives travelers real-time information to make better decisions about which routes to take. ITS tools include automated monitoring, incident detection and management, and traffic control. For example, aggregated travel time information from I-PASS transponders and traffic sensors is widely reported and is used to detect incidents. ITS is deployed as an integrated, standards-based system to facilitate data-sharing among agencies. Most transportation improvements and new systems integrate ITS as a core component.

Smart cards. Smart cards can significantly speed up the process of boarding on our transit systems, allowing faster bus operations and increasing rapid transit station capacity. Smart cards also reduce the burden of cash accounting. The region's transit providers encourage travelers to pay fares with smart cards by giving steep discounts. Users can opt for a per-ride card that gets reloaded at public vending machines, or they can use an account-based system that automatically reloads. Account-based cards offer monthly or per-ride fare options.

Improved freight rail infrastructure and flyovers. The Chicago region handles one-third of the nation’s rail and truck cargo, making it the busiest U.S. rail freight hub. The CREATE (Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency) program is a public-private partnership that seeks to maximize the efficiency of five major rail corridors. Grade separations at 25 rail crossings would eliminate waits for motorists, and CREATE would also reduce transit delays via six rail-to-rail "flyovers" – overpasses and underpasses to separate conflicting train movements, including many freight-passenger rail conflicts.

Streetscape improvements. Investing in the walking and bicycling environment can divert local trips off of our highway system. A good walking environment is also required for transit to function. Examples of these improvements include new and improved sidewalks, street lighting, directional signs, parkways and parkway improvements, bikeways, and pedestrian amenities. Such enhancements are meant to encourage walking and biking, support transit, and boost thriving local business districts, reducing the need for long, motorized trips for daily necessities.

Compact intersections to facilitate acceptable signal timing for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike. By moving to more compact intersection designs, we can improve travel for both walkers and motorists. A compact intersection with minimal pedestrian crossing distances reduces pedestrian exposure to fast-moving traffic and also allows for shorter signal cycle lengths, since the time required to cross pedestrians across the major street is minimized. The resulting shorter cycle lengths, shorter crossing distances, and better green-time allocation reduces delay for pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists alike. Moving to more compact designs will be especially important as the region is required to focus more on accommodating the elderly and people with disabilities in our public rights-of-way.

Collaborative planning

Integrated land use and transportation planning. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) was created in 2005 to integrate transportation and land use planning in the region, to maximize state resources and local economic development, reduce the effect of development on the environment, and improve the quality of life for area residents. During the spring legislative session, Illinois lawmakers approved SB 1201, which would create a $5 million Comprehensive Regional Planning Fund to support CMAP’s work to create a long-term, comprehensive vision for the seven-county region.

Transit-oriented development. By planning for compact, pedestrian-friendly, residential and commercial development near public transportation stops, communities encourage transit ridership and local business development, as well as reduce people’s need to drive. TOD is a means to reduce the region’s oil dependence and carbon footprint.

Jobs-housing balance. Living near work reduces the need for long commuting trips. However, regional job centers often have high housing costs, so low-income workers may choose distant housing with long commutes. Employer-assisted housing, tax incentives for housing development, and other affordable housing programs provide opportunities for low and moderate income workers to be closer to work and reduce the trips required on our highway system. Economic development in low- and moderate-income communities can help reduce long commutes for people who spend the highest percentage of their income on transportation.

Increased transpotation funding. We have all experienced deteriorating roads. We have seen in Minnesota that our bridges and viaducts need increasing attention. There is no reasonable doubt that increased funding for highway capital projects is necessary. Likewise, all three public transit service providers in metropolitan Chicago are operating in the red, and new money for capital projects is sorely needed. Increased capital and operating funding for the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace is necessary to ensure the Chicago region continues to offer multiple options for getting around.

Creative financing

Congestion pricing. Congestion pricing improves system efficiency and reduces congestion while also raising needed funds for infrastructure and operations. Revenues can be used for a mixture of highway and transit needs, and can be shared between state and regional agencies and local communities affected by congestion pricing. Well-conceived congestion pricing plans frontload investments in public transportation and other alternatives to the priced road, so that users have alternatives and the pricing plan is effective. The most important goal is to use market pricing to sway enough drivers to choose other ways or times to travel to improve the overall traffic flow on the road and improve access for everyone.

Private investment in transportation infrastructure and services. Private interests benefit greatly from public infrastructure, while placing additional burdens on that infrastructure. It is often appropriate to seek to recoup some of the additional costs private developments place on public roads. For arterial impacts, an impact fee can be required. Transit infrastructure also can be required. Likewise, it is important that developments be platted so that the traffic burden of the development is spread out over a number of local streets, rather than loaded onto our over-burdened arterial highway system. Strong development ordinances require interlocking development patterns with many connections between adjacent developments, spreading traffic out, and minimizing arterial burdens.

Public-private partnerships. State resources are tight. Attracting private sector capital to either replace or fill the gap left by public funding shortfalls could allow Illinois to construct new, much-needed transportation projects. In Illinois, lawmakers would need to approve legislation allowing the state to contract with a private entity; this legislation also would need to set standards for such contracts to ensure the private entity takes on its fair share of the risk.

Transportation Enhancement Districts. TEDs charge market rates for parking on the street and use part of the increased revenue to make the area more accessible by foot, transit, bike, and car. They are managed similar to a Special Service Area. Popularized by UCLA professor Don Shoup, TEDs promise to solve much more than a perceived or real lack of parking. By pricing meters according to the time of day -- so that at any given time some parking spaces are vacant -- drivers are assured easy access to their favorite shops and restaurants, retail establishments do not lose customers to districts with plentiful parking, and the municipality and community share in increased revenue.

-- END --


CMAP, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
233 South Wacker Drive, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60606
312-454-0400 (voice), 312-454-0411 (fax), info at chicagoareaplanning dot org (email)

Click here for directions to Sears Tower.

Copyright © 2008