The Chicago region is one step closer to implementing another new strategy to reduce traffic gridlock. On May 24, the I-90 Corridor Planning Council, which Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is a member of, recommended that the Illinois Tollway Board of Directors implement congestion-priced, managed lanes on the Jane Addams Tollway and add transit to these lanes. The Corridor Planning Council also recommended that the Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) work with the Tollway to improve auto and transit connections between the Jane Addams and the Kennedy Expressway, where the Tollway portion of the I-90 ends, also including managed lanes with enhanced transit. Further, the council recommended that both agencies integrate all future plans and local governments in the corridor plan for station hubs to support transit options.
As highlighted in the May 18 edition of Talking Transit, cities across the globe combine congestion pricing with enhanced transit to squeeze more capacity from existing roads and alleviate traffic gridlock. Congestion pricing is a traffic demand management strategy that prices roadways either by time of day or level of traffic. It is not a means of raising revenue, but rather a tool to improve traffic flow and provide people with options. However, the benefits of congestion pricing are only possible if complemented with enhanced transit service. This strategy gives people an incentive to travel during less congested times, encourages the use of carpooling and transit, and reduces the enormous waste resulting from idling vehicles.
In 2010, MPC partnered with the Tollway to explore congestion pricing in Chicagoland. The results showed that implementing congestion pricing on the Jane Addams would shave almost 50 minutes from morning commutes. Further, because a lane would be added to accommodate the congestion priced lane, drivers in the regularly tolled lanes would also benefit, decreasing their commutes by almost 35 minutes.
Congestion pricing combined with enhanced transit is an important tool to efficiently move people and provide options for commuters, while maximize existing infrastructure and financial resources. It also has the added benefit of promoting equity by providing lower income commuters with affordable transit options. Further, commuter activity at bus hubs can be a catalyst for economic activity that would support small local businesses and community development.