Driving to Lakeview on the 30th, I noticed a new stoplight ready to go online at Irving Park Road and Oakley Avenue, halfway between Western Avenue and Leavitt Street.
Sitting and sputtering along at about 6 mph on eastbound Irving Park that night, I can say with absolute confidence the last thing Irving Park needs is yet another stoplight. Irving Park tends to be heavily congested between its Kennedy Expressway ramps (at Pulaski) and Lake Shore Drive, and often for several miles west of the Kennedy as well. It’s bad for everyone except residents of Oakley Avenue who want to turn left. So thousands of motorists, truckers and bus riders are stopped daily for the convenience of a few.
This is so Chicago. I haven’t been able to track down online the approximate cost of a stoplight installation, but my guess is it is around $100,000 or more. In Chicago, this usually involves three or four posts into the ground, plus the overhead arms.
Having lived in Chicago for more than a decade, I have long decried the explosion of stop-sign installations as they sprout like weeds. Every excuse—a school (kids), a park (kids), a condo complex (old people)—is used, regardless of the actual number of pedestrians. The alderman signs off on the petition, and there’s another 24-hour traffic stop. There are several intersections in Chicago—either T-intersections or bizarre one-way configurations—in which cross-traffic is impossible. So the stop sign is there just for fun or just for the convenience of the occasional pedestrian. If you don’t believe me, I can show you in Rogers Park and the Gold Coast, respectively, these intersections.
(A park is here.) y>>>>One way east>>>>>>>>
a Fig. 1. A T-intersection with a worthless stop sign.
<<<< 1-way west < >>>>One way east>>>>>>>>
a Fig. 2. An intersection with no cross-flow traffic
f and a stop sign.
With the massive increase in vehicles and miles driven in Chicago over the past several years, we need fewer traffic controls, not more. I’m not suggesting uncontrolled intersections, like in Lincolnwood. I’m suggesting far fewer four-way stop signs. Let drivers drive! If an intersection doesn’t warrant a traffic signal, remove it and post stop signs at the minor street so the major-street traffic can continue in peace. If kids are crossing the street for a park or a school, then install an electric stop sign activated either by a timer or a janitor. There’s no reason hundreds of Metra commuters driving eastbound on Lunt to the Rogers Park train station at 6:30am in December need to screech to a complete stop for a playground used after school and on weekends when it’s nice out. (There are two of those on Lunt: near Western and near Ridge.) For one driver on one day, it’s no big deal. But the cumulative effect is thousands of dollars lost in time, gasoline and brake decay over the course of a year.
Part of the problem in Chicago is that no one pays attention to crosswalks. If police aggressively ticketed crosswalk violators—and CPD has tried enforcement zones recently—there would be no need for the flurry of stop signs, and “No Turn on Red 7am-7pm” could change to “Turning vehicles yield to pedestrians.” So much friendlier, so much time and gas saved.
Two other complaints about commuting in Chicago:
1. Chicago has no “Yield” signs. They would make slowing for an intersection legal; that’s what most people do at stop signs anyway. There are so many stop signs now they are no longer taken seriously.
2. At intersections with sparse late-night cross traffic, let the signals flash yellow on the major street and red on the minor street 11pm-6am. How much gasoline is wasted sitting at lights with no traffic? It’s outrageous.
Major Chicago streets that were once pleasant thoroughfares with lights every half-mile or so have become stop-sign minefields:
1. Sheffield Avenue
2. Halsted Street
3. Clark Street (the Grace and School signs back up traffic for blocks)
4. Sheridan Road
5. Inner Lake Shore Drive between West Sheridan Road and Belmont Avenue
6. California Avenue
7. Diversey Avenue
8. Randolph Street
9. Lake Street
10. Broadway (that Melrose stop sign is a killer)