City Seeks Comments on Draft ‘We Will Chicago’ 10-Year Plan, Including Transportation Goals – Streetsblog Chicago

On July 14, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration released a draft of an ambitious citywide plan for community input. Entitled we go chicago, the 10-year plan is the first of its kind in size and scope since a 1966 plan released during the Richard J. Daley administration. The 148-page “We Will” document is divided into eight priority areas: Arts and Culture; Civic and community engagement; Economic development; Environment; climate and energy; Housing and Neighborhoods; Lifelong learning; Public Health and Safety; and Transport and Infrastructure.

The plan’s introduction acknowledges both the deliberate and unintended damages of past city plans that have increased inequality between affluent predominantly white neighborhoods and low-income communities of color, and specifically names the construction of federal highways , redlining, so-called urban renewal, blockbusting and Lightfoot Rahm’s predecessor. Emmanuel’s closure of 49 public schools in 2013 is one damaging policy (among many others) that the new plan seeks to correct.

The objectives defined by the plan are sufficiently ambitious. The draft was created with input from community meetings and pillar research teams of artists, organizers and volunteers who bring the city’s most pressing issues to the fore in each pillar area.

Image: We're going to Chicago
Image: We’re going to Chicago

The Transport and infrastructure pillar includes the last fourteen pages of the document (the website makes it easy to jump to any pillar of interest) and names five general goals with numerous sub-goals and a handful of supporting data under each goal. Fortunately, the objectives of this pillar are focused on improving access to transport for all, environmentally friendly development and moving from cars to public transport. Here are some highlights.

The first goal, as part of a planning process focused on equity and resilience, is to “ensure that the city’s transportation networks and infrastructure system are safe, equitable and accessible to all “. Goals under this goal include the equitable distribution of transport and prioritizing the safety of all users, regardless of age, income and ability.

It’s great to see that this is a top priority for Chicago’s transportation system, which currently serves the North Side much better than the South and West Sides, while tackling the terrible spike in violence. road aggravated by the pandemic.

However, I found it odd that on the supporting data page, the title of a traffic fatalities chart reads, “The majority of traffic fatalities in Chicago involve occupants or drivers of vehicles.” Road deaths are always tragic, but during the COVID-19 pandemic the number of people killed outside of motor vehicles (i.e. on foot, bicycle, etc.) has increased at a higher rate than the number of motorist deaths.

Image: I'm going to Chicago
Image: I’m going to Chicago

The second objective of the Transport and Infrastructure pillar is to “create transport networks that promote greater connectivity through active and sustainable options…methods that do not require car ownership”. This includes expanding public transit to communities that need it most, better connecting neighborhoods outside of the city center by public transit, and prioritizing investments in infrastructure that makes it easier to walk, cycling and public transport.

Luckily, Chicago has plenty of relatively easy-to-reap fruit in this department. Overall, building a connected and protected cycling network and installing bus-only lanes with transit signal priority would not be particularly difficult or costly.

We Will’s supporting data shows the extreme difference in walkability between the north and south neighborhoods. He also boasts a bit about the addition of bike lanes over the past 10 years, although it’s worth noting the very modest growth of “low-stress bike lanes” (protected lanes on main streets and traffic-calmed roads on side streets) from ‘other cycle lanes’, most of which are marked with paint, offering no real protection or separation between bikes and cars.

Image: We're going to Chicago
Image: We’re going to Chicago

The third objective is to reduce the negative impacts of road, rail and river freight traffic – pollution, noise, dangerous traffic conditions – where it is most severe, mainly in the black and Latin neighborhoods on the south and south-west sides . Chicago residents who live near industrial corridors along the river and near city limits live with much higher levels of air pollution and suffer worse health problems than residents who don’t. not. This objective also aims to make roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users, and to mitigate the damage to health and the environment caused by heavy truck traffic, while maintaining the status of the city as a transportation and shipping hub.

The fourth goal prioritizes investments in communities most affected by past transportation and infrastructure decisions. This includes “reconnect[ing] communities that have been divided by transportation infrastructure. Other cities have begun dismantling the highways that decimated black and brown communities in the middle of the last century. It’s refreshing to see leaders in traffic-choked Chicago showing interest in removing the freeway (instead of expanding) in an upcoming plan. This goal also calls for support for network-wide transportation projects advocated by community members.

Image: We're going to Chicago
Image: We’re going to Chicago

The final objective of the transport pillar is to promote environmental sustainability in transport projects, including the reduction of pollution and emissions from transport – the majority of which is generated by car and truck drivers – and invest in climate resilience projects like water conservation strategies and stormwater management.

A support policy ideas paper provides an additional 77 pages of over 600 proposals for achieving the dozens of goals and objectives outlined in the We Will plan. The policy ideas – at least under Transportation and Infrastructure, which is all I’ve read so far – range from broad (e.g. “supporting and funding programs and services to increase the use of public transit and reduce car use”) to specific (“implement transportation and infrastructure recommendations included in the Illinois International Port District Master Plan”), modest (more temporary pilot bus lanes “ pop-up”) to ambitious (redesign and/or removal of existing motorways). Although these ideas are in the most preliminary stages, they flesh out the conceptual skeleton of the plan and are worth reading to imagine how the plan might take shape.

The city is seeking comments via an online survey, also broken down by pillar topic. The survey will be open through the fall, and feedback will be incorporated into policy guidelines that will be presented to the Chicago Plan Commission and City Council for adoption in 2023. You can read the full plan and provide feedback on all pillars of the We Will Chicago website.

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