TagIDOT

Chicago has too many traffic signals

IMG_2496

People wait at a stop light on the first major ring road in the city center of Amsterdam. Photo: Northeastern University, Boston

I was flabbergasted to learn today that there are only 5,500 signalized intersections in all of the Netherlands. I was reading Mark’s blog “Bicycle Dutch” and he interviewed a city traffic signal engineer in Den Bosch, who described how different road users are prioritized at different times based on the complex programming. (Watch the video below.)

In Chicago there are more than 3,000 signalized intersections. And I believe this is way more than we need.

I understand more than the average person how traffic moves in each place and how it “works”. There is such a thing as too many traffic signals because at some point the signals (their proximity and their programming) start causing delays and conflicts.

Saying that traffic – of all kinds, bikes, trucks, buses, delivery vans, and personal vehicles – moves better in cities in the Netherlands than in Chicago is an understatement.

Aside from their impacts on traffic (which can be good in some situations, but aggravating existing problems in other places), signals are very expensive to purchase, install, and maintain.

In Chicago, an alderman (city councilor) can use part of their $1.3 million “menu” money annual allocation to purchase a traffic signal for $300,000. That’s money that won’t be used for transportation investments that reduce the number of severe traffic crashes as well as reduce congestion like bus lanes and protected bike lanes.

Let’s review

I compared their populations (about 17 million in the Netherlands and 2.7 million in Chicago) and saw that Chicago has a lot more traffic signals per person.

On Twitter, however, I was challenged to find the number of traffic signals per mile driven, not per capita.

So, I did, and I was surprised by the result.

This assumes I collected the right statistics, and converted the driving figures correctly.

The surprise: There are more passenger miles driven (known as VMT) in the Netherlands, per capita, than in Chicago. I actually can’t even get passenger miles driving in Chicago – I can only find “all miles” driven. And that includes trips on interstates that pass through Chicago but where the driver or passengers don’t stop in Chicago.

Here’s the analysis, though.

Driving

  • According to the OECD, there were 145,400 million kilometers driven on roads, for passenger transport, excluding bus coaches, in the Netherlands in 2013 (the latest year for which data was available in the Netherlands). That’s 145.4 billion kilometers. (Source, no permalink.)
  • According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 11,150,109 thousand miles for all kinds of road transport, in Chicago in 2013. That’s 11.2 billion miles, which converts to 17.9 billion kilometers. (Source)

Population

  • In 2013, the Netherlands had 16,804,430 inhabitants (they had declared reaching 17,000,000 this year), according to the OECD.
  • In 2013, the City of Chicago had 2,706,101 inhabitants, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009-2013 ACS 5-year estimate.

Signals

Results!

  • The Netherlands has over 39 signalized intersections per billion kilometers traveled.
  • Chicago has over 167 signalized intersections per billion kilometers traveled.

Chicago Crash Browser, miraculously, has 2012 bicycle and pedestrian crash data

Screenshot shows that you can choose your own search radius. When researching, be sure to copy the permalink so you can revisit your results. 

I’ve upgraded the Chicago Crash Browser, my web application that gives you some basic crash and injury statitics for bicyclist and pedestrian crashes anywhere in Chicago, to include 2012 data. It took the Illinois Department of Transportation eight months to compile the data and it took me four months to finally get around to uploading it into my database. While I spent that time, I made some improvements to the usability of the app and output more information. Since the last major changes I made (back in February 2013) I’ve gained two code contributors (Richard and Robert) making this my first communal project on GitHub.

I know that it’s been used as part of research in the 46th Ward participatory budgeting process for 2013, and by residents in the 26th Ward to show Alderman Maldonado the problem intersections in the Humboldt Park area. Transitized recently included pedestrian crash stats obtained from the Crash Browser in a blog post about pedestrianizing Michigan Avenue in Streeterville.

The first change I made was adding another zoom level, number 19, so you can get closer to the data. I made some changes to count how many people were injured and total them. You can now choose your search distance in multiples of 50 feet between 50 and 200, inclusive. As is typical, I get sidetracked when I notice errors on the map. Thankfully I just fire up JOSM and correct them so the next person that looks at the map sees the correction. Future changes I want to make include upgrading to the latest jQuery, LeafletJS, and Leaflet plugins. I’d also like to migrate to Bootstrap to improve styling and add responsive design so it works better on small screens.

Sign up for the newsletter where I’ll send a couple emails each year describing new changes (I’ve so far only published one newsletter).

The 2012 Chicago bike crash data is in

Crash statistics differences from 2011 to 2012

I posted this as a series of tweets on Friday night.

What Complete Streets means to DOTs: the case of widening Harrison Street

What Harrison Street looks like in 2013, replete with additional lanes and no “bicycle ways”. 

The Chicago and Illinois Departments of Transportation completed a project in 2012 to rebuild the Congress Parkway bridge over the Chicago River and build a new interchange with Lower Wacker Drive. It also rebuilt the intersections of Harrison/Wacker and Harrison/Wells.

Harrison prior to the project had two striped travel lanes (four effective travel lanes) but now has six travel lanes (including two new turn lanes). Bicycle accommodations were not made and people who want to walk across the street at Wacker and Wells must now encounter a variety of pedestrian unfriendly elements:  they must use actuated signals (waiting for a long time), cross long distances or two roadways to reach the other side, avoid drivers in the right-turn channelized lane, and wait in expressway interchange-style islands. Additionally, Wells Street was widened and all corner radii were enlarged to speed automobile traffic and presumably to better accommodate large trucks.

That is how IDOT interprets its “complete streets” law (which took effect on July 1, 2007) and how CDOT interprets its “complete streets” policy (decreed by Mayor Daley in 2006). The full text of the Illinois law, known as Public Act 095-0665, is below:

AN ACT concerning roads.

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,
represented in the General Assembly:

Section 5. The Illinois Highway Code is amended by adding
Section 4-220 as follows:

(605 ILCS 5/4-220 new)
Sec. 4-220. Bicycle and pedestrian ways.
(a) Bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be given full
consideration in the planning and development of
transportation facilities, including the incorporation of such
ways into State plans and programs.
(b) In or within one mile of an urban area, bicycle and
pedestrian ways shall be established in conjunction with the
construction, reconstruction, or other change of any State
transportation facility except:
(1) in pavement resurfacing projects that do not widen
the existing traveled way or do not provide stabilized
shoulders; or
(2) where approved by the Secretary of Transportation
based upon documented safety issues, excessive cost or
absence of need.
(c) Bicycle and pedestrian ways may be included in pavement
resurfacing projects when local support is evident or bicycling
and walking accommodations can be added within the overall
scope of the original roadwork.
(d) The Department shall establish design and construction
standards for bicycle and pedestrian ways. Beginning July 1,
2007, this Section shall apply to planning and training
purposes only. Beginning July 1, 2008, this Section shall apply
to construction projects.

Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect July 1,
2007.

Here is the case: a “bicycle way” should have been incorporated into the Harrison/Congress/Wells modification.

Here is the evidence:

  1. The project location is a transportation facility in the State
  2. The project location is in or within one mile of an urban area.
  3. The project widened an existing traveled way, from 52 feet (two marked travel lanes, four effective travel lanes) to approximately 64 feet (six marked travel lanes).
  4. Local support for bicycle and pedestrian ways is evident; see the “Streets for Cycling Plan 2020” planning process and the addition of a concrete deck (to reduce bicycling slippage) on the sides of the Harrison Street bridge over the Chicago River approaching the project location.
  5. The project was constructed after July 1, 2008.

The missing piece of evidence, though, is whether or not the Secretary of Transportation, based upon documented safety issues, excessive cost or absence of need, made an exception for this project.

The Chicago “complete streets” policy is less specific than the Illinois “complete streets” law, printed below:

The safety and convenience of all users of the transportation system including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, freight, and motor vehicle drivers shall be accommodated and balanced in all types of transportation and development projects and through all phases of a project so that even the most vulnerable – children, elderly, and persons with disabilities – can travel safely within the public right of way.

One of the examples CDOT gives on how this policy can be implemented is “Reclaim street space for other uses through the use of ‘road diets’ e.g., convert 4-lane roadway to 3-lane roadway with marked bike lanes” – they accomplished the opposite on Harrison Street.

In a 2010 traffic count, 16,800 cars were counted here, an amount handled by roads with fewer lanes and less than the amount in CDOT’s guidelines for implementing road diets and narrowing a road from 4 lanes to 2, yet in 2012, the agencies increased capacity.

Before: An aerial view from November 7, 2007. Image from Google Earth’s historical imagery feature. These two images represent the same zoom and area so you can compare the land changes from before to after the infrastructure modification. 

After: An aerial view from April 4, 2013. Image from Google Earth. Notice the additional lanes, roadway width, land taken south of Harrison Street, and the widened intersection at Wells with increased curb radius. 

Talking about a pedestrian street for Peoria Street on Vocalo

Click on the rendering to enlarge and learn about the main features. 

Ryan Lakes and I took our Peoria Street pedestrian street proposal to the masses by speaking to Molly Adams and Brian Babylon on Tuesday morning’s Morning AMp show on Vocalo, FM89.5

Listen (or download) to the 15 minute interview on SoundCloud

What is the Peoria Street pedestrian street?

We propose creating a gateway connection between the University of Illinois at Chicago’s east campus and the West Loop neighborhood over the Peoria Street bridge by nearly eliminating car traffic, completely eliminating parking, removing curbs, and adding amenities to make this a place to go to instead of through.

The Peoria Street bridge over I-290/Eisenhower expressway, between Van Buren and Harrison Streets, was closed to car traffic in 1965 when a new entrance for the CTA station opened. This entrance of the UIC-Halsted Blue Line station is by far the most used access point to the busy station, as it’s the closest to campus buildings. In fact, according to a CTA letter to IDOT, “weekday passenger volumes at this station entrance exceed 11 of the other 12 total station passenger volumes at the other stops on the Forest Park Blue Line branch”.

The UIC Campus Master Plan of 2010 calls for creating a gateway at this place, and the Illinois Department of Transportation is proposing to rebuild this bridge as part of its Circle Interchange project. The bridge should rebuilt to accommodate a pedestrian street. However, rebuilding isn’t necessary and our proposal can be implemented in situ.

Ryan Lakes with Vocalo producer and cohost Molly Adams at the Vocalo studio in the WBEZ studio. 

Updated March 20 to bring the chronology of events up-to-date. 

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.

Stats from the OECD: Comparing traffic injuries of the United States and Netherlands

For an article I’m writing for Architect’s Newspaper about the Chicago Forward CDOT Action Agenda, I wanted to know about traffic injuries and fatalities in the United States, but compared to the Netherlands and Denmark and other places with a Vision Zero campaign (to have 0 traffic deaths each year).

I already knew the OECD had a good statistics database and web application. With a few clicks, I can quickly get a table of traffic injuries (casualties) listing just the countries I want. I can easily select the years I want, too.

In one more click the web application will show a time animated bar chart. A feature I’d like to see added is dividing the figure (in this case traffic injuries) by the population. Check out the video to see what it looks like. The United States looks to be in terrible shape, but our country has several times more residents.

I had trouble downloading and opening the CSV file of the data table I created. The XLS file was damaged, also. The built-in Mac OS X Archive Utility app couldn’t open the .gz file, but I used The Unarchiver app successfully.

My calculations, based on data from OECD (national population and traffic fatalities), Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), and the American Community Survey:

Fatalities per 100,000 in 2009

  • United States: 11.02472
  • Denmark: 5.48969
  • Netherlands: 4.35561
  • Sweden: 3.84988
  • Chicago: 16.74891
  • United Kingdom: 3.83555

Chicago’s fatality rate per 100,000 citizens in 2009 was 16.75 (473 deaths on the roads). The fatality rate dropped in 2010: just 11.65 deaths per 100,000 residents (315 deaths on the roads; the population also decreased).

Updated September 28, 2012, to add the United Kingdom. 

Crashes by bike or by foot at different intersections

While working on a private web application that I call Chicago Crash Browser, I added some code to show the share of pedestrian and pedalcyclist crashes. The site offers users (sorry I don’t have a web server that can make it public) a list of the “Top 10” intersections in terms of bike crash frequency (that’s bike+auto crash). You can click on the intersection and a list will populate showing all the pedestrian and pedalcyclist crashes there, sorted by date. At the bottom of the list is a simple sentence that tells what percentage pedestrian and pedalcyclists made up at that intersection.

I’m still developing ideas on how this information may be useful, and what it’s saying about the intersection or the people using it.

Let me tell you about a few:

Milwaukee Avenue and Ogden Avenue

I mentioned in my article Initial intersection crash analysis for Milwaukee Avenue that this intersection is the most bike crash-frequent.

23 crashes within 150 feet of the center, 2005-2010

82.61% bike crashes **

17.39% ped crashes.

Ashland Avenue and Division Street

28 crashes within 150 feet of the center, 2005-2010

46.43% bike crashes

53.57% ped crashes **

Milwaukee, North and Damen Avenues

46 crashes within 150 feet of the center, 2005-2010

39.13% bike crashes

60.87% ped crashes **

Halsted Street, Lincoln and Fullerton Avenues

38 crashes within 150 feet of the center, 2005-2010

42.11% bike crashes

57.89% ped crashes **

Montrose Avenue and Marine Drive (Lake Shore Drive ramps)

11 crashes within 150 feet of the center, 2005-2010

90.91% bike crashes **

9.09% ped crashes

Why do you think some intersections have more of one kind of crash than the other?

People walking at Milwaukee-North-Damen.

The Chicago Crash Browser can be made public if I have a host that offers the PostgreSQL database. Do you have one to offer?

Rambling about automobile crash data and cellphone distraction

How often do bicyclists get involved with crashes because of cellphone distraction? See the table below. And how many crashes are caused by the bicyclist being distracted by a cellphone? We won’t and don’t know. 

The Chicago City Council will vote tomorrow on ordinance 02011-7146 to add a new section in Chapter 9 of the Municipal Code of Chicago: “9-52-110 Use of communication devices while operating a bicycle.”

In a Chicago Sun-Times article today, Matthew Tobias, the Chicago Police Department’s deputy chief of Area 3 patrol, reported on the number of citations that the department has issued to drivers in violation of the cellphone ban: “from 2,577 administrative violations in 2008 to 10,920 in 2009 and 19,701 last year” (known as “citations issued” in the table below).

I looked at the crash data to see how many crashes were coded as having been caused by “Distraction – operating an electronic communication device (cell phone, texting, etc)”.

Out of 274,488 recorded crashes in 2008, 2009, and 2010, there were 331 crashes which had a Cause 1 or Cause 2 of “Distraction – operating an electronic communication device (cell phone, texting, etc)”. The table below compares the rates of crashes to the rates of citations issued and the number of crashes that the police noted were caused by cellphone distraction. It also shows the number of these “cellphone distraction” crashes that involved bicyclists and pedestrians.

Year Citations issued Automobile crashes Cellphone distraction crashes % of cellphone distraction crashes Involved with bicyclists? Involved with pedestrians? National VMT (billions)*
2008 2577 111,701 91 0.081 3 10 2973.47
2009 10920 81,982 130 0.159 1 7 2979.39
2010 19701 80,805 110 0.136 6 8 2999.97

Maybe this data shows that the increased enforcement is causing fewer crashes?
However data for cyclists’ involvement in crashes and their cellphone use WON’T BE recorded unless there’s a rule change as the cause is only recorded for the vehicle involved in the crash, and bicycles are devices, not vehicles.

None involved fatalities.

*Yep, that’s 2 thousand billion. Read it like this, 2 trillion 973 billion and 470 million. VMT data from Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Federal funding primer and why projects take so long to construct

Many Chicagoans who ride bikes are in awe (myself included) at how fast the Kinzie Street protected bike lane (the first of its kind in the city) has been designed and constructed in four weeks.

I explain how it’s been possible to do something so fast:

  1. Federally funded projects, like “commuter bicycle parking” (u-rack manufacturing and installation, using CMAQ federal funding) in Chicago, are under the control of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), which must review and approve every design.  If it takes IDOT six months to tell the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) it does NOT approve and requires revisions, it will take IDOT another six months to review and approve the revised design. I experienced this directly when I was modifying the current bike parking contract. That’s one extra year added to a project based on a cumbersome state review process. Cities and their mayors have been advocating the federal government to give federal aid directly to cities so they can work faster.
  2. All design work must be completed and approved by everyone before a contract can be advertised for competitive bidding. Federal funds generally cannot be used to pay for local city forces, like CDOT crews, to do the work.
  3. Then comes the procurement process…

[This process is nearly the same for all cities.]

While there is room for improvement in the above process, it’s may not be fair to blame the City or CDOT for taking a long time to implement a project like Stony Island (tentatively scheduled for 2014), when Chicago doesn’t have authority over it’s own roads*.

If every project were locally funded – CDOT is funding the project with budgeted but unallocated funds – and approved, we could see a lot more projects like the Kinzie Street protected bike lane happening very fast. It should be obvious, also, that Mayor Emanuel and new CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein are extremely motivated to show their commitment to the transition plan as well as complete this project by the Bike To Work Day Rally on Friday, June 17th.

*This can be interpreted in two ways:

  1. There are roads in the city that are under the jurisdiction of the state providing an additional burden when it comes to modifying them.
  2. The process described above removes from the City authoritative control of its roads when projects modifying those roads are funded in part by the federal government.

Construction on Kinzie Street has been happening at a breakneck pace.

© 2017 Steven Can Plan

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑