Today’s Headlines

  • LSD Hearing Attendees Want Slower Speeds, Better Ped, Bike & Transit Access (Tribune, DNA)
  • Letter: How About Turning the Drive Into a Toll Road? (Tribune)
  • Suburban Driver Accused of DUI, Hit-and-Run After Motorcyclist Killed in Jeff Park (DNA)
  • Senior Dies After Crashing His Car Into a Pole in Norwood Park (DNA)
  • Community Org: Pedestrianizing Argyle for Night Market Has Helped Local Businesses (DNA)
  • Another Clueless Article on Street Reconfigurations, This Time Taylor, From the Gazette
  • Chicago’s Pedicab Ordinance Is the Most Restrictive in the Nation (HuffPo)
  • During Construction, O’Hare People Mover Won’t Serve Parking Lots (Tribune)
  • Steven Will Dig This: DuPage County Releases Smartphone App for Biking (Active Trans)
  • Tour de Fat Is This Saturday (DNA) — Enter SBC’s “Commuter Idyll” Contest Today to Win VIP Passes
  • Cartoon: CTA Bus Driver Puts Out Good Vibes (RedEye)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • CL

    I can’t believe people want to take the ONLY efficient way to go north/south in Chicago, and ruin it with a redesign that drastically slows it down. Then we will be left with zero efficient ways to cross the city.

    Lake Shore Drive is like a miracle, that it moves quickly even during rush hour, with the exception of the downtown area (but that’s to be expected). The only thing I would change is to permanently fix the potholes.

    The Sun-Times said that 95% of outbound and 78% of inbound drivers speed. The people at meetings who complain that people drive too fast are a tiny minority, because clearly 95% of drivers think 40 mph is too slow.

  • Ryan Wallace

    You are correct that 40 mph *feels* too slow, but this is only because the previous designers built the road to be far too forgiving to auto traffic, allowing you to comfortably drive far faster than the design speed. A new LSD would not be the same road with a new speed limit; it would be redesigned such that going over the speed limit actually *feels* too fast.

    Also in many cases going at a consistently lower speed is more efficient (and FAR safer) than alternating between fast and slow speeds.

  • PayAttention

    The link to this article is wrong: Suburban Driver Accused of DUI, Hit-and-Run After Motorcyclist Killed in Jeff Park.

  • Jim

    The good news none of this will start for yeas, and I doubt we’ll see anything too drastic.

    I’m so sick and tired of people thinking that cars need to slow down.

    Many people here don’t understand how to drive. It’s much safer to have a driver alert to conditions around them than have a driver constantly looking at the speedometer trying to maintain a slow speed.

    For those of you who actually know how to drive and can afford a car (most people here can’t), next time you are driving try maintaing a Slow speed, like 20 mph. You’ll find your eyes are off the road much more than they should be.

    But most people here think things like speed cameras actually mKe the roads safer. And you have no clue what you are talking about.

  • If it moved a consistent 30mph at all times of day that would be a big improvement over being bumper-to-bumper and STOPPED at rush hour. Especially since it has so few stoplights.

  • Yes, and if you PRACTICE it, it becomes reflexive, just like maintaining 45 (between stoplights and speed bumps, for which you catastrophically brake before getting reflexively back up to speed) is now.

  • I think the idea is to design conditions that are impossible to traverse without reflexively driving at 20-30 mph, so a slower, more even speed is maintained without even trying (and hence without constant monitoring of the speedometer).

    It’s the same reason the Dearborn cycletrack was designed to be so narrow and with red lights every blessed block. The riders who are accustomed to traveling more quickly either slow down and roll with it (because they pretty much have to) or take a more efficient route.

    I’m all for drivers being more alert to conditions, but drivers being more alert to conditions without traveling fast enough to probably kill me would be even better.

  • The Dearborn PBLs were not designed with narrow lanes and long waiting periods at the lights in order to slow down cyclists. Because of the limitations of the roadway, CDOT had no choice but to design the lane that way. Doing otherwise would have required taking more space and time away from drivers, which would have been tough to do, politically.

  • Please refrain from making personal attacks. Future posts along those lines will be deleted. Thanks.

  • I’ll also add my anecdote that the constant barrage sustained by the medians, retaining walls, curbing, streetlights, trees, and all the vegetation immediately adjacent to the Drive suggests to me that maybe it’s already not as safe to drive at highway speeds as everyone seems to think it is.

  • BlueFairlane

    I would agree with this assessment. I think the combination of what feels like unusually narrow lanes, an absent shoulder, short merges, and those two 90 degree curves, Lake Shore is already engineered in a way that should slow people down, but doesn’t.

  • I recall a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to that effect when some people expressed concern that CDOT wanted to bring Lakefront Trail levels of mayhem to the heart of the Loop. But you’re right, it wasn’t the primary intention.

  • CL

    But wouldn’t an enforced 30 mph speed limit just mean that traffic would get so hopelessly backed up that there would just be stopped traffic for miles? Cars would be on the drive nearly twice as long, and there would be just as many of them.

    I’m not an expert on traffic, but in my experience, anything that slows traffic (rain, a work zone) seems to result in clogged roads so that everyone is crawling.

  • No. The backups come from differences in speed — slow on city streets, then ZOOOOMY on the drive, only to crash back down to something reasonable on city streets again. Or refuse to do so, and then you get the insanity that is Hollywood/Sheridan and environs, as people keep trying to go 45mph+ even after they get off.

    Have you looked into the research on adaptive cruise control? If cars (like ones that are being driven by computers) slow down to maintain safe reasonable distances BUT NOT STOP when the highway chunks up, stop-and-go traffic utterly disappears and the whole thing moves quite smoothly, faster on average than city streets. Congestion is caused by people desperate to go as fast as possible and remove all empty pavement between them and the next person, who then hit a momentary brake-tapping incident that accordions the whole house of cards (as it were) into catastrophic slowness.

  • CL

    Thanks for the explanation. That makes a lot of sense — but I’m not seeing how a 30 mph speed limit would bring about what you’re describing. It sounds like we would need everyone on the road to change their behavior.

    But if we slow down LSD, people will continue to drive so that they’re right behind next person — that happens on 30 mph roads already. So I think we’d see the same type of driving and backups, but with a lot more cars on the road at the same time. There might be other arguments for slowing the road down, but I don’t think reduced congestion is one of them — I think my travel time would be a lot longer on a 30 mph LSD. Unless I am still missing something, which I might be.

  • Yes, but jerk-stops cause less congestion on roads where the effective (NOT signed) max is under 40mph than they do when it’s 60+, because the problem snowballs slower.

    How far, end-to-end, are your trips on LSD? 8 miles? 8 miles at 30mph takes 16 minutes (assuming we’re in the physics-class universe where everything always goes perfectly). At 60mph, 8 miles takes 8 minutes. Yes, it’s twice as fast. But it’s only 8 minutes. You’ll lose that in four stoplights if you hit them badly, and I bet you hit more than four stoplights on your way to/from the Drive.

    The only time a 20mph speed-limit difference really matters is if you’re going greater-than-city-driving distances (like from Chicago to Madison, or out to Westmont or something).

  • BlueFairlane

    Elliot’s right on this one.

    People in Chicago are territorial, so they drive in the trunk of the car in front of them in order to keep anybody else from switching lanes. They do this at whatever speed they’re traveling, so the following distance at 60 mph is roughly the same as the following distance at 30 mph. Say, then, that somebody switches lanes anyway, and the car behind them has to hit their brakes. The amount of braking you have to do at 60 is far greater than the amount at 30, and humans aren’t computers, so they tend to overbrake. This causes a much larger differential in top speed and brake speed, which works through the line of traffic in a chain reaction. Now, people might be able to drive 60 for brief stretches, but there’s far greater variation in speeds, which causes more erratic movements, which ultimately takes the average speed way down.

    There are places you can observe the effect in isolation. Drive I-65 between Lafayette and Crown Point on a Sunday. You’ll be going along pretty well, and then you’ll be passed by a long line of cars who want to stay in the left lane. They’re all in a hurry trying to do 80, so they’re driving two inches apart. Then they come up on a semi, and somebody in the line decides they don’t like passing semis, so they hit their brakes. You instantaneously see an explosion of brakes lights, the whole line drops to 50, and it stays like that for 10 miles. Had they been going slower in the first place, though, the first driver might not have hit his brakes to pass the semi, but even if he had the reaction to it wouldn’t have been as severe, and everybody would have gotten through faster.

  • CL

    I take it the whole way down (about 17 miles on the fast part of LSD) so for me it currently saves tons of time compared to other routes, such as 94. I make these trips during rush hour, but most of the traffic is going north, so I’m able to go 50 mph almost the whole way — with the exception of some congestion right around the loop. I can get from Rogers Park to 103rd street in an hour during rush hour. On the way back, it takes like 40 minutes.

    I see what you’re saying about the impact of breaking on slower speeds, and I appreciate the explanation — but it seems like the only time it could potentially improve speeds is during rush hour, in one direction. Every other time of day, LSD saves me lots of time — as it’s currently configured. But maybe I’d feel differently if I had a rush hour commute to the downtown area. (Of course, if I had that commute I would just take the train…)

  • CL

    Thanks, that makes a lot of sense. I just drove across the country in my car, and I do notice that there is a lot of variation in speed in the left lane. Sometimes it’s 80 mph, and other times it’s not moving any faster than the right lane. I don’t see the left lane drop to 50 mph, but I do see it fall to 60-something when everyone is trying to go 70+.

    Currently, I’m able to go 50 mph on Lake Shore, except for the curves / downtown area (which doesn’t take long), so I doubt a 30 mph speed limit would improve my travel times. For me, LSD already moves really well, and very fast — except for going north at 5 p.m. or when something happens, like an accident. Those are the only times I’ve felt stuck on that road. However, I understand what you’re saying in general, and I appreciate the explanation.

  • People using LSD to bomb straight through as a convenient bypass are — in my opinion — a constituency that should have very little say about how LSD is redeveloped. At 60mph, 17mi is 17 minutes (easy math! I like easy math). At 30mph, it is twice as long: still only 34min. Cry me a river, since the same trip length down the Red Line is usually over an hour.

    If I got to wave a sparkly magic wand and get IDOT to take my own idiosyncratic first-choice options into account, I’d order the constituencies in this importance:

    1. People who use it (via car, bus, taxi, carpool or anything else) because all other reasonable options for their commute/other trip are worse. Especially if the redesign can make their options dramatically less worse. This includes a lot of the people going north at 5PM. Because if they had a better way to do that trip, they’d already be using it.

    2. People who live within a mile of it. This includes both those who drive on it in private cars and those who wish to go past it to use lakeshore amenities.

    3. People who live more than a mile from it and whose primary use of LSD is going past it to use lakeshore amenities.

    4. People who live nowhere near it who use it as a whole-city bypass road and prize their ability to go 70mph just to get through in an instant

    5. Suburbanites who want to do something downtown and don’t want to be convinced that bringing a car downtown on purpose is idiotic, because when they go anywhere they always go in a car and are flabbergasted when someone suggests they get out of it.

    And, for me, the gradient for “how much I care about their pain” drops sharply between #3 and #4. Alas, you’re a #4 (unless you’re a #2? I don’t know where you live), so although I agree that my ideal remodel of LSD would make your life mildly more inconvenient, I don’t prioritize your inconvenience over the priorities of people in my categories #1 and #2, or even over #3s.

    Full disclosure: I may be biased, as I am a #3. By my lights my own PERSONAL conveniences and inconveniences in regard to LSD are purely academic when compared to actual experiences of people in my categories #1 and #2.

  • CL

    I don’t understand why you think I’m #4 instead of #1. I live in Rogers Park. I commute to Evanston for work, but I also make regular trips to the southeast side for work — my destinations are between 71st street and Hegewish area. I am not bypassing the entire city. I am going to the South Side. 17 miles on LSD gets you to Jeffrey / South Shore, and from there I proceed to my destination on the south side.

    Travel times on public transit are 2+ hours. I am using LSD because all other options are dramatically worse, to the point where it would be ridiculous.

    Driving to south side is not the same as bypassing the entire city. The south side is part of our city, and currently it’s poorly connected to the rest of Chicago — except for Lake Shore Drive, the ONE efficient way to get there.

    I’m all for making the transit options better, but we’re talking 2+ hours right now — nothing you do to LSD is going to change the fact that public transit is a horrible option. Even when we talk about shorter trips (ones that don’t originate on the far north side), the difference between 25 and 40 minutes affects where people shop and eat and work. We need at least one efficient way to get to the south side.

  • Yes. Which means that changes to the drive that make your commute better (not leaving it the same) are the highest priority on my list. However, they may not be the changes you THINK are going to make your commute better.

    Being 20min away from something rather far away from you is not an innate right, especially if it massively negatively impacts a lot of other stakeholders.

  • FG

    How do changes to the drive make CL’s commute better? A lot of people do use the drive for cross city commutes.

  • I’m saying that modifications that are game-changer level improvements to a lot of the #1-3 people on my list MIGHT have as a side effect raising a Rogers-Park-to-UChicago commute length from 20min to 40min (which is still a damn short commute by “I am driving a long way from my house” standards). This is an acceptable loss. Especially since if pie-in-the-sky awesome options like a mid-Drive rail line happen they might help some #1 people improve their commute by getting them onto a train and out of their private cars (and removing that congestion from the Drive entirely). Less cars on the drive == better driving conditions for the people who still HAVE to use it.