UPDATE: Transportation writerÂ Jon Hilkevitch (“Hilkie”) published an article today about crosswalk enforcement in Chicago based on a new state law the Active Transportation Alliance helped pass that removes ambiguity about what drivers must do when a person wants to cross the street (they must STOP).
But I’m updating this post because he also writes about the crazy pedestrian situation I describe below at Adams and Riverside. I’ve quoted the key parts here:
The situation can be even worse downtown, where a vehicles-versus-pedestrians culture seems to flourish unchecked. Simply walking across Adams Street outsideÂ Chicago Union Station at rush hour can feel like you’re taking a big risk, as pedestrians dodge cars, buses and cabs and then must maneuver around the panhandlers and assorted vendors clogging the sidewalks near the curb.
It’s a mystery why such mayhem is tolerated by city or Amtrak police. The highest volume of pedestrian traffic downtown is right there at Adams and theÂ Chicago River outside the station, according to a study conducted for the city.
“The cabdrivers have no concern with pedestrians trying to cross Adams in the crosswalk,” said Richard Sakowski, who commutes downtown daily on Metra from his home in Oswego. “They cut in front of other drivers cursing and yelling, pull from the center lane to the curb and stop in the crosswalk, not caring who they might hit. It is a very dangerous situation that the city does not care about.”
Chicago officials disagree, yet they have for years studied the problems around the downtown commuter rail stations without taking major action.
The city has received more than $10 million in grants to develop an off-street terminal on the south side of Jackson Boulevard just south ofÂ Union Station to address traffic safety issues and the crush of taxis and buses vying for limited curb space, according to theÂ Chicago Department of Transportation.
“No timetable yet, but construction could begin in the next few years,” CDOT spokesman Brian Steele said.
Every weekday afternoon in Chicago, over 100,000 people need to get to Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center to get on their Metra trains and go home. If you’re watching them walk, it seems like they don’t have enough room. The multitude of private automobiles with a single occupant and the hundreds of taxicabs also traveling towards these train terminals block the tens of buses that are trying to get commuters to the stations or to their neighborhoods.
Let’s look at Adams Street between Wacker Drive and Riverside Plaza. Riverside Plaza is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare (privately owned) alongside the west bank of the Chicago River and connects both train stations.
People “wait” to cross to the south sidewalk on Adams Street at Wacker Drive because they want to get to the entrance of Union Station. I use wait lightly – they creep out into the street and jog across whenever there’s the slightest opening (against the crosswalk signal).
Those who didn’t cross Adams Street at Wacker Drive now have to cross at Riverside Plaza. Thankfully, there’s a timed signal here for the crosswalk that stops traffic on Adams Street. It doesn’t always work because taxi drivers park their cabs on all segments of Adams Street here, sometimes on top of the crosswalk stripes themselves.
Take a look at the data (from the City of Chicago Traffic Information website):
- 41,700 pedestrians, walking in both directions, were counted on Adams Street immediately west of Wacker Drive in one 10 hour segment, between 7:45 and 17:45, in 2007.
- 14,300 vehicles, westbound only, were counted on Adams Street immediately east of Wacker Drive in one 24 hour segment, on September 20, 2006.
For simplicity, divide the number of pedestrians in half to get the actual number of people walking toward the train station in the afternoon. 20,850 commuters walk on Adams Street to get to Union Station. But trains don’t stop at 17:45. There are several more leaving every 5-10 minutes until 19:00. So add a couple more thousand pedestrians. Imagine that a couple hundred of them will be walking in the street because the sidewalk is crammed (I haven’t photographed this yet).
Now for vehicles. We don’t know how many are delivery trucks, taxicabs, or buses were counted. Only two bus routes come through here. (On Madison Street, in front of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, there are twelve bus routes and fewer walkers.) Some of the vehicles are turning right or left onto Wacker, so we can probably decrease the quantity that’s actually passing by the same count location as the pedestrian count.
So now we know a little bit more about how many people, and by what mode, travel on Adams Street between Wacker Drive and Riverside Plaza. Walking commuters have little room (so little that some choose to walk in the street) on their standard 10-14 feet wide sidewalks and motorized vehicles get lots of room in four travel lanes. Then, the vehicles that achieve the highest efficiency and economic productivity are delayed by the congestion, in part caused by the least efficient vehicles.
Is the space divided fairly? What should change? What examples of “transportation spatial mismatch” can you give for where you live?
Is Chicago ready for Tokyo-inspired elevated pedestrian bridges at intersections? Las Vegas has several of these, as well as every Asian city with a few million residents. I first brought this up in the post, World photographic tour. Photo by Yuzi Kanazawa.