CategoryStates

Finding data about traffic and roads in Illinois

There are two good websites that provide information about roads, traffic, and their many attributes. One is provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) called Getting Around Illinois (GAI). The second is the Traffic Count Database System (TCDS).

Both provide Average Daily Traffic (ADT) counts with TCDS making the information easier to find and presents more of it.

The GAI map has an important layer: jurisdiction. With that information you can determine who has “ownership” of a road. Jurisdiction has been an important factor in the nearly year-long delay of the Jackson Boulevard protected bike lane segment from Ogden Avenue to Halsted Street. IDOT has jurisdiction over this segment (which continues east to Lake Shore Drive; the road is also known as Route 66) and is requiring that the Chicago Department of Transportation do more analysis and revise their designs.

If you are looking for ADT counts, I highly recommend TCDS as it uses the more familiar Google Maps and doesn’t require the Microsoft Silverlight plugin (which is slow and often denigrated with poor usability applications).

GAI has truck routes and crash information as well.

Slicing the crash data into interesting visualizations

The Chicago Crash Browser as it looks now. This only exists on my laptop and no place else. I can’t put it online because it’s so inefficient it would kill the server. 

I presented my Chicago Crash Browser to attendees of an OpenGov Hack Night three weeks ago and gathered a lot of feedback and some interest from designers and programmers there.

We collaboratively came up with a new direction: instead of focusing on creating a huge web application that I proposed, we (anyone who wants to help) would start small with a website and a couple of crash data visualizations. The visualizations would serve two purposes:

  • attract attention to the project
  • start building a gallery of data-oriented graphics that describes the breadth and extent of the crash data

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Tucson’s neighborhood friendly ordinances

I’m moving to Tucson so I can bike on Dutch-style separated bike paths.*

My Grid Chicago writing partner John Greenfield visited Tucson, Arizona, earlier this month. His post about their bicycle facilities is on our site today. I published two posts about my visit in 2010, first Tucson has every kind of bikeway and Rialto theater in downtown Tucson.

In John’s post, he describes that the proliferation of bikeways (of all kinds!) are in part due to a city ordinance that requires they be installed in all road projects. Think Complete Streets but where you actually have to make one instead of just “considering” making one, which is what happens here.

I started digging into the city code to find the ordinance and its exact language. I haven’t found it yet, but I did find this:

Chapter 15, Section 13 is about going to the voters to approve or reject the city’s involvement in any project to construct “freeway, parkway or other controlled-access highway” or “grade-separated interchange”. So, in a regular or special election, the city must ask voters whether or not the city should be involved in building big roads, on a project by project basis.

Imagine that. What if the voters of Chicago could reject the destruction of their neighborhoods because of expressway construction for the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower, and Kennedy? Well, first of all, would people approve or reject those projects?

“(e) If the voters reject the proposed project, the mayor and council shall request that the state department of transportation not include the proposed project in the state highway system.”

An approval for a project is valid for five years. If no construction happens in that time, then the project approval has lapsed and the voters must be asked again. I’m sure many people (especially the people proposing the project) would find this law an enormous barrier to “progress”, but it ensures some level of public participation.

* Just kidding.

Figuring out how many CMAQ projects are for roads

Simplified, the purpose of Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant is to fund projects that reduce congestion and improve air quality. This usually means bicycle, pedestrian, and transit facilities and vehicles. But it also means road projects. Like intersection widening, new signals, changes to signal programming, and “signal interconnect” (timing the signals to cooperate with each other to have some free flowing traffic). It can also mean making grade separations at railroad tracks to eliminate backups when trains cross. However, not everything is infrastructure: there’s also marketing, encouragement, analysis, bike sharing, and education.

In a conversation I was having last night with some transportation advocate friends, one joked that most of CMAQ funds road projects. I agreed (probably because the irony of reducing congestion by making higher capacity roads was funny to me), and we moved on to other topics. I set out verify the actual distribution share for the six-county region in Northeastern Illinois.

I spent almost an hour converting the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s CMAQ 2012-2016 projects list from PDF to Excel and then quickly identified every project as being “road” or “not road”. I tallied the amount of proposed CMAQ funding for the projects to get the answer: road projects take up 25.7% of CMAQ funding.

But I can’t stop there! Now that I have CMAP’s data in a spreadsheet, I can get the average of Daily VOC eliminated for road and non-road projects, as well as the estimated cost per VOC kilogram eliminated.

On average, non-road projects have a lower cost per VOC kilogram eliminated ($4,109.37 versus $9,472.90). And non-road projects on average eliminate 19.7 times more kilograms of VOC daily (5.918 kg versus 0.301 kg for road projects).

There are some disclaimers! These are all estimates and not every project has received funding. Also, projects are not selected solely on cost per kilogram of VOC eliminated, or daily VOC eliminated. I’d also like to see estimates on the number of people affected by each project.

You can check my math by downloading my modified projects list (XLS).

The first raised crosswalk I’ve seen in Illinois

The raised crosswalk, a view looking northeast, from the sidewalk. 

Forest Park was a client of mine in 2012 via my work for Active Transportation Alliance; they’re a technical consultant for cities that had grants from the Communities Putting Prevention to Work program. I visited the village with one of their staffers to identify great locations for bike racks (that also included advice on their existing rack inventory, and suggestions for exactly which models to buy).

We would drive around town and then stop and walk a lot. One place where we did a lot of walking was in their downtown, on Madison Street (the same Madison Street as in Chicago). I was pleasantly surprised that their signage reflected the “stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” law, replacing the now-irrelevant “yield for pedestrians in crosswalk” signs. And to top it off, they had talking and lighted signals at some of the crosswalks. I do not support any widespread installation of these: I think they help move our culture in a direction that perpetuates the low respect we have for pedestrians. I believe there are other ways to enforce driver compliance that do not require this kind of equipment.

Forest Park has installed one of those ways: it’s a raised crosswalk (also known as a speed table). It looks like a speed hump, but is much wider, has a flat top, and carries a marked crosswalk (see my article on Grid Chicago “What is an unmarked crosswalk?“). It causes drivers to slow down and has an added – subjective – benefit of intimating that the driver is entering a “protected space”, one for people on foot and that it should be respected. They bring the roadway up to the pedestrian’s level instead of dipping the sidewalk down to the driver’s level.

I don’t know of one in Chicago, but three guys are working to get several installed in a Logan Square traffic circle redesign.

Note: If you are interested in knowing exactly which models of bike racks to buy, learn more at Simple Bike Parking, or contact me directly. I may charge a fee.

The raised crosswalk as seen from a car moving westbound. 

Should Cook County become a state?

“A state Republican legislator has introduced a bill to the Illinois General Assembly to separate the Chicago’s county from the state–effectively making the midwestern city the 51st state in the union” via Yahoo! News.

I’m just thinking aloud here:

  • We could fix our own transit funding issues. We wouldn’t have to compete with transit funding for downstate agencies (at the state level, competition at the federal level would still exist).
  • We’d be a very small state, 5.3 million.
  • Metra would be tough to deal with, unless it came under CTA control first! Har har.
  • I think this could make the State of Chicago a larger economic powerhouse without the meddling of so many different legislators.

What else would be different if Chicago (and Cook county) was its own state?

“These liberal policies are an insult to the traditional values of downstate families,” Mitchell told the Decatur Tribune. “When I talk to constituents, one of the biggest things I hear is ‘Chicago should be its own state . . . .Our voters’ voices were drowned out by Chicago.”

That’s kind of funny. Like Chicagoans are a bunch of abortion-having, dolphin-saving, vegan, bisexual couples.

Collecting the wrong information doesn’t help us plan well

The Illinois Traffic Crash Report (see scan below) has a field in the upper left titled “PEDV” which means “Pedalcyclist or pedestrian visibility.”

The possible entries for this field are the following codes*:

  1. No contrasting clothing
  2. Contrasting clothing
  3. Reflective material
  4. Other light source used

For my crash report, the police officer noted “1 – No contrasting clothing.” I don’t remember what I was wearing that night, so I can’t dispute that. I didn’t have lighting required by state law. I don’t know if the police officer would mark “4 – Other light source used” if I did. I’m not aware of what kind of guidance the report or data dictionary offers the police officer filling out the report; how is “contrasting clothing” defined?

Wearing contrasting clothing is not required by law. Using a headlight while bicycling at “nighttime” is. The light will be more effective than any kind of clothing in increasing the visibility of the bicyclist.

The crash report should note the bicyclist’s compliance with state law, not whether or not their clothing choice may have been a contributing factor in the crash (which the presence of this code on the report implies). I took the photo below last night when I was wearing a black jacket and gray jeans. It doesn’t appear very contrasting – but I was in compliant with state and city laws about lighting at night.

My clothes may blend into the night, by my blinking light surely doesn’t.

Collecting information on lighting law compliance could help cities and police better plan education and enforcement initiatives. It can give us information on crashes that we wouldn’t otherwise have, like how many crashes involved cyclists who didn’t have the required lights. Or where a lot of crashes occur even though a high percentage of cyclists involved there had sufficient lighting.

Illinois cyclists had a big win with the inclusion of doorings in state-provided crash reports. I think the next change should be to record information on compliance with lighting laws. If you need a good light, try this one from Planet Bike.

*This information comes from the “2004-present person codes” data dictionary from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Illinois will finally begin tracking dooring bike crashes

Governor Quinn made a rule change today requiring Illinois police departments to record dooring-type bicycle crashes on the SR-1050 motorist crash reporting form, according to Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune. The announcement will be made tomorrow.

Apparently, Gov. Quinn read the Chicago Tribune’s article on March 21st about how the Illinois Department of Transportation could not and would not collect information on dooring crashes. I first wrote about this data deficiency on March 11.

For now, responding police officers will have to write DOORING next to the bicyclist’s name on the crash reporting form (the Chicago Police method was to write DOORING on a second piece of paper and record this data internally – IDOT would not accept the second page). The Tribune article explains that IDOT already ordered a bunch of new forms and won’t make a new order until 2013 at which time the form will have a checkbox making this process much simpler.

I would like to thank Governor Quinn, writer Jon Hilkevitch, Amanda Woodall, the Active Transportation Alliance, and all who contacted IDOT asking for their reporting standards to be changed to record dooring crashes. This means that next year you’ll see bike crash maps with a ton more dots – those of doorings, unless we continue educating ourselves, family and friends about riding AWAY from the door zone.

Why collecting this data is important

From the article:

[Active Transportation] Alliance officials said dooring accidents are common, basing the conclusion on reports from bicyclists. But without a standardized statewide reporting system, there has been no way to accurately quantify the problem or pinpoint locations where such accidents frequently occur and where modifications to street layouts would help, alliance officials said.

“We hope to use the data to obtain funding for education safety so drivers as well as bicyclists know what the risks are and what the factors are to create safer roadways,” said Dan Persky, director of education at the alliance.

Ride out of the door zone. Illustration by Gary Kavanagh.

Voting on bikeways in San Luis Obispo County

Session summary: A staffer at San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) wants to learn about ways to have residents learn about proposed bikeways in the jurisdiction, their costs, and possibly vote or rank them to prioritize installation. SLOCOG is also considering a referendum for a sales tax that would fund transportation improvements to pay for road maintenance, transit service, and bikeways. This tool could be used to decide how the sales tax revenue is spent.

UNEDITED

SLOCOG – what a funny name
250-300k population for the county.
slow-growth county, not affordable

GIS, web interface – routes of bikeways, identified by color
$30m over 25 years
bike plan
Oh, you want that class 1 to the beach? That’s $15m
survey of unmet bike needs

This is what we want to do, this is the money we have.
This is where 10k people want a bike lane.

passenger car sales tax (I missed how the sales tax would work)? county sales tax increase to fund transportation
quadruples range of options.

Adriel Hampton: Bright Idea – ideation, vote them up and down
Lot of marketing, moderation, outreach
Just cuz you build it, people don’t come
You have to market it hard.

Me: Will there be a soft side to this? In-person charrettes? No, but will consider.
Have the potential bikeways already been identified and have all had their costs estimated?
Yes, bikeways identified.
Costs will be estimated soon based on past construction projects.

Starting with bikeways, then complete streets modules, streetscapes.

Jeff Wood:
Phily Planning Organization, web interface – click on the projects you want
Portland
Sacramento – Willingess to pay game?

Matt: How do they frame sales tax? This is the touchiest subject for us.

OpenPlans GeoExt application.

Adriel: I think scenarios is better than open.
Matt: We’ve made the plan, have the network. We need the people to justify the funding decisions we make.
[email protected]

Leah: TechSoup – let county-wide bike coalition get grants to pay for software/application.
Google StreetView – have the trike feature your best bike route.
LA Times, if you do this in the budget, then this happens. Generated a lot of buzz.

Sean Hedgpeth: Capital and operating budgets.
I added about federal funding not paying for maintenance.

Matt: rideshare.org
Richard: 66% votes needed to approve the sales tax.
Sean: Have to sell sales tax with potholes.
Matt: Cycling will get 7% of sales tax.

What’s the county’s policy on open data? It’s not that it’s hidden, it’s just that the organization and outreach is not there.

SidewalkChalk (?, url)

Adriel: SeeClickFix – civic points – put a gaming aspect on things. participation rates are so low.
1-9-90 model. Create, read, do nothing to web content.
Look at
Adding some goofy elements to project.
So anti-Farmville until I found out about their special corn that would help Haiti

Why the Chicago bike crash map doesn’t show doorings

The data on the Chicago bike crash map comes from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) after reports are made to the Chicago Police Department, but it’s missing certain types of crashes. IDOT currently will not collect data about doorings.

Some Chicago cyclists created this sticker to alert drivers and their passengers to the dangers of the door. “Someone opened a door and killed my friend.” This is version 1 of the sticker; see version 2. Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.

Here’s a summary of the process:

1. Police officers make the reports

Chicago police officers collect information on dooring (outlawed by MCC 9-80-035) because of a recent agreement with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) – the importance of reporting doorings became a bigger priority after someone died after being doored on LaSalle Street in 2008.

When there is a dooring, Chicago police officers use an “Additional Units Form” in addition to SR-1050 (standard reporting form for Illinois motor vehicle crashes) and write “dooring” where the IDOT barcode would be on the Additional Units Form.

2. How the Chicago Police Department records it

When the Chicago Police Records Office sees that there’s no barcode they know they can’t send it to IDOT, but they see “dooring” and scan it for their own records (so they can provide it to crash parties later) and then email that number to the CDOT Bicycle Program. (There was a general order put out by CPD on this procedure and, yes, they actually send them– at least some of them.)

The CPD also knows that doorings, according to IDOT, are not a “reportable” crash. In addition to doorings, IDOT doesn’t consider the following as “reportable” crashes:

  • Any crash in which the first point of impact does not involve a moving motor vehicle.
  • Any non-injury crash which causes less than $1500 in property damage, unless one or more of the drivers was uninsured.

3. CDOT and Chicago Police Department connect

CDOT can then connect to the Police Departments records system, download a scan of the crash report, reads it and enters specifics into a tracking spreadsheet.

This is how dooring data is collected in Chicago because IDOT will throw away reports or attachments without barcodes. This should change. This process affects ALL cities in the State of Illinois but as far as I’m aware, only Chicago records doorings. It’s unfortunate that local agencies are forced to bear this additional task and provide special training for thousands of officers outside of statewide practices because IDOT doesn’t acknowledge the importance of this issue and revise its reporting policy.

Below is the SR-1050 form and you can see the IDOT barcode with the case number below it. The bike and pedestrian crash data I have from IDOT includes those case numbers.

Read more about doorings on Grid Chicago.

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