Mayor Lightfoot, Here’s My Wish List for the Next CDOT Commish

The CDOT headquarters at 30 North LaSalle. Image: Google Maps
The CDOT headquarters at 30 North LaSalle. Image: Google Maps

Chicago’s new Mayor Lori Lightfoot has a big job ahead of her in choosing a new Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner. (Here’s some info about current acting CDOT commissioner Tom Carney.) Chicago’s streets are dominated by cars, both moving and idle. Plenty of people would like to ride a bike for transportation but they’re rightly concerned about aggressive drivers. CTA Bus ridership is falling because the buses get slowed down by private vehicles and run infrequently. Streets that could otherwise easily accommodate dedicated bus lanes or protected bike lanes lack them because too much street space is reserved for storing empty automobiles. Another lost opportunity is our boulevards, which are often too wide for the amount of car traffic they carry.

My hope is that the next transportation commissioner will bring positive equitable and transformative change to Chicago’s streets. This person will:

  • Happily challenge car dominance culture like this commissioner in Portland, Oregon.
  • In light of the current climate emergency, implement policies that reduce vehicle miles traveled and the rate of single-occupancy vehicle use while increasing the rate of active transportation utilization.
  • Fight for more dedicated funding for active transportation. 
  • Understand the intersection of our land-use policies and the impact they have on housing affordability, people’s transportation decisions, public health, and the environment.
  • Challenge the idea that free on-street parking is a given in a dense urban city, especially near our city’s rail stations and high-frequency bus lines.
  • Work with expert planners in the city to eliminate free on-street car parking in an equitable way. I like that the city of Portland invests half of its parking revenue into active transportation.
  • Work with other city officials to successfully renegotiate Chicago’s parking meter deal to free up street space for much needed bus-only lanes and barrier-protected bike lanes.
  • Work with Mayor Lightfoot to end aldermanic interference when it comes to bike lanes — aldermen are not city planners or transportation engineers, therefore they should not have veto power bike lanes.
  • Ride on all the routes listed on the city’s bike map and survey them in terms of comfort and safety from the perspective of a child, young adult, older adult, and person with disabilities. Even better would be to ride these routes with the aforementioned folks and get their feedback.
  • Recognize that ridership follows investment. We cannot expect thousands of Chicagoans to switch to active transportation is we don’t commit to investing in the level and quality of service that attracts and grows transit and bike riders.
  • Commit to building and maintaining 50 or more miles of barrier-protected bike lanes, the lanes that have proven effective and popular with riders of all ages and abilitiesThese lanes should be seen as the standard treatment for streets.

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 5.20.34 PM

Source: iBikeSafe Twitter

  • Call for more enforcement efforts to keep vehicles out of the painted lines designated for folks on bikes.
  • Bring innovative bike parking to all corners of the city. Here’s an an example I’m pretty geeked on, a semi-portable on-street bike parking fixture that can be placed in a parking space on a test or seasonal basis.

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Source: Modacity

  • Support a downtown congestion fee that will be implemented equitably and will be used to support mass transit, biking, and walking.
  • Commit to working with Illinois legislators to pass a law allowing camera enforcement of bus lanes.
  • Work with state lawmakers to incentivize the purchase of e-bikes for individuals and businesses.
  • View walking as a valid and important form of transportation and work to improve the city’s sidewalks.
  • Actually uses active transportation to get around Chicago.

What are some things you want to see from our next transportation commissioner? Let us know in the comment section.

  • Jeremy

    Add metered parking. LaSalle is a good example (coupled with getting rid of the 7-9 & 4-6 parking restrictions). Adding metered spots in some areas allows for removal of metered spots in other areas, or will at least reduce the city’s true-up payments related to the parking meter deal.

    Experiment with bus bulbs. Similar to that temporary bike coral, there are temporary bus bulbs that can be installed to see if bus times improve.

    Ticket delivery/taxi/ride share drivers that block bus stops during peak commute times AND analyze if behavior improves. If companies don’t pay or just treat it as a cost of doing business, start booting the tires.

  • Tooscrapps

    Here’s mine one: Remove all stop/yield signs from the LFT for trail users at vehicle crossing like roads and drives. Anytime there is a vehicle crossing, add a sign for vehicles that say “Trails users have right-of-way.”

    Why doesn’t a vehicle entering/leaving a parking lot at Burnham or Foster have to stop before crossing the more heavily used trail?

  • Carter O’Brien

    We could improve bus reliability and speed during peak rush hour times immediately by simply having the City actually enforce the rush hour parking controls. All it takes is one or two illegally parked cars to slow the bus down to a crawl.

  • Heather

    I’d like to see designated pickup/drop-off points for cabs and ride share drivers vs. them stopping (often times w/o signaling) where they see fit and blocking bike lanes, bus lanes and holding up traffic.

    I’d like to see better signage and enforcement of people on foot and on wheels along the lakefront trail to use the spaces designated for them.

    I’d like to see more and wider bike lanes – especially if the scooters become a permanent option – to better accommodate those who use them – and with that more bike racks for folks to park at.

    Speaking of bike racks, I’d like the CTA to work with people who actually bike on how to efficiently and effectively park their bikes at the stations – and perhaps have a designated and clearly marked car that has seats removed to accommodate more bicycles on the trains.

  • Courtney

    Amén! I’d love to get rid of at least half the parking at the Parks and create safe biking routes so folks can easily bike to the lake. Bus service to the lake also needs to be improved.

  • Courtney

    I’m with you on your last point! I wish CTA trains had been ordered with bikes in mind.

  • Tooscrapps

    Most interior park roads could use a parking diet and better traffic controls. At the very least, they should start charging for parking in places that are used as long-term car storage! I’m looking at you Stockton and Cannon.

  • troll e troll, PhD

    REAL BRT on Ashland and Western, not that nonsense local and BRT.

  • Jeremy

    See my comment from a few hours ago. I would rather get rid of the parking controls, and use bus bulbs so buses don’t need to be pulled over to the curb.

  • Carter O’Brien

    I’m not saying enforcing the rush hour parking is the end-all be-all, but the fact is it can be done *now*, under the heading of revenue generation, and it most absolutely will have immediate and practical benefits.

    You’re talking about a much more complex approach to infrastructure, which based on what we’ve seen so far would take many years to be incorporated into street design due to public comment requirements, budget and labor limitations, etc. It’s highly unlikely to happen in any case. Do you realize how many miles of streets, intersections that would need the bump outs and actual concrete you’re talking about?

  • Tooscrapps

    So on a street with one lane in each direction, you’d rather have the bus hold up the vehicle traffic behind it during boarding than have a dedicated curb-side rush lane? Then after boarding is complete, it still has to wait for any traffic ahead of it rather than bypassing vehicles using the aforementioned lane?

  • Jeremy

    LaSalle and Ashland have two travel lanes plus a parking lane in each direction. I have no problem with cars in one lane being temporarily stopped behind a bus. Are we serious about getting more people into buses and out of cars, or not?

    Attached is a photo of a temporary bus bulb. Several could be installed along a route for a couple of weeks to test whether they help speed up routes. If commute times for buses improve and there aren’t catastrophic issues related to cars, permanent structures could be built.

  • Tooscrapps

    Ok but Carter is talking about rush hour parking controls, not removing parking lanes. These primarily exist on streets with one travel lane in each direction and are ‘enforced’ 7-9AM and 4-6PM. A bulb-out on these streets would essentially turn those lane into parking 24/7.

    We need to enforce what we already have. Better signage followed by towing blitzes would be a good start.

  • Jeremy

    Got it. LaSalle has those restrictions, and that is the only street i am on during those times, so that was my frame of reference.

  • Mcass777

    How about maintaining the bike lanes already in use? Elston is dangerous in spots filled with flooded curbs and crumbling pavement. Yep it is 2 years old!

  • Tooscrapps

    Roger that.

  • Gary Chicago

    The city need to maximize it resources for the Benefit of the most amount of people
    1) eliminate neighborhood parking zones , if you have a city sticker then you should be able to park . This will increase compliance with city stickers and benefit all instead of the few living on that block . Out of towners can park at lots and meters
    2) Bike lanes need to have a use tax/licence , play you got to pay . Cant bitch when the bike lanes are snowy if you dont pay for upkeep and maintenance
    3) Congestion pricing for cars in the loop with one person only
    4) Rideshare cars that do 50% or more mileage in the city , state of IL registered and city sticker required . Very easy to verify mileage
    5) TOD designated buildings if tenants rent a parking spot proof of IL and city stickers required . TOD got special zoning to build and they have a responsibility to be a TOD
    6) Chicago is blessed with an alley system , lets use them for delivering freeing up the streets

  • Gary Chicago

    who do you think shoould foot the bill to fix a bike lane ?