CHICAGO — A new analysis shows the Chicago region has grown more car dependent since 1980, and that a different approach is needed to create healthier, more sustainable and more equitable communities, the Active Transportation Alliance said citing its 2018 Regional Mode Share Report.
The alliance, whose stated mission is to promote walking, bicycling and public transit to create healthy, sustainable and equitable communities, called for a moratorium on expressway expansion as one means of slowing the dependency auto travel.
“The report demonstrates the region’s inability to build its way out of traffic congestion,” Ron Burke, the executive director, wrote in a blog on the organization’s website “A larger percentage of Chicagoland residents are driving to work today compared to 1980, and the total amount of driving in the region has grown approximately four times faster than the population. While the region’s population grew by 18 percent since 1980, the traffic increased by 66 percent in the same period.”
The report notes that the Chicagoland region has seen a substantial decrease in walking, biking and transit work trips since 1980 when nearly a quarter of residents used one of these modes to get to work.
Regionally, as walking, biking and transit trips have declined, driving commute trips have increased as have the percentage of people working from home. While disappointing, over the last decade the downward trend of people walking, biking and taking transit to work has reversed and is again climbing, growing from 15.4 percent in 2006 to 17.1 percent in 2016.
“Between 1996 and 2015, the region spent billions of dollars to add more than 1,000 miles of new roadway that was purported to reduce congestion,” Burke said. “This has only led to more driving, more traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities, as well as more air pollution, flooding and chronic disease due to physical inactivity.
Burke said roadway expansion also has made it more difficult for people to access jobs and other destinations without a car, worsening economic hardship for low-income residents.
“For these reasons, Active Trans is calling for a moratorium on expressway expansion in the Chicago region,” Burke said, urging the public to contact the Illinois governor’s office in support of the moratorium.
“Research shows that roadway expansion in urban areas only exacerbates traffic congestion in the long run by inducing more driving that over time fills in the additional roadway space, with congestion rebuilding to previous levels,” Burke wrote. “Investments in transit, biking and walking carry greater long-term benefits at a much lower cost. The planned expansions of I-294, I-290 and I-55 would cost a combined $7.4 billion. In comparison, Chicago added 100 miles of new bikeways from 2011 to 2015 for $12 million and converting expressway lanes to carpool lanes is inexpensive.
Burke said the alliance had sent letters to the region’s planning agency, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), as well as the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Tollway Authority (ITA), asking each to take the following steps:
- Remove expressway expansion projects from the ON TO 2050 regional plan, Illinois’ Long-Range Transportation Plan and the Tollway’s Move Illinois Capital Program.
- Adopt a policy acknowledging that expressway expansion leads to induced demand that undermines congestion relief, reinforces car-dependency and disadvantages people who cannot afford or cannot physically drive a car.
- Prioritize lasting, cost-effective congestion relief with strategies like better public transportation and rush-hour demand management.
The latest congestion/bottleneck report issued by the American Transportation Research Institute lists the I-290/I-90-I-94 interchange as the third most congested area in terms of congestion.
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