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Oak Park transportation geekery

A couple of transportation-related pieces in the Wednesday Journal this week that I wanted to highlight because I enjoyed them overall. But I have responses and minor corrections to each of them.

First, there was this piece by trustee candidate James Taglia:
Oak Park's review of parking is much needed

Then there's also this "One View" by Jack Crowe:
Bike-friendly? Try Chicago, not Oak Park

Candidate Taglia's letter focuses on the financial side of parking. I want to just clarify somewhat that, while the Transportation Commission has been working hard and I love seeing us get well-deserved credit for that hard work, it's actually the Village Board itself who is undertaking a year-long study of the overall parking situation in the village. We're happy to take any assignments, of course, and my understanding is that the Board may lean on us for public hearings, etc.. But much of the impetus driving this forward is them, not us. We certainly have asked some pointed questions about competing parking interests during our multi-year research on the Y2, Y3, Y4 overnight zones. I'd like to hope that stirred the pot! I actually think the trustees themselves, however, deserve the real pat on the back for doing this. It's overdue and conversations at the Board table have hopefully shown a willingness to make some big shifts that are needed--even if they aren't necessarily popular. Let's see what is needed first.

One final comment I'd make about Mr. Taglia's letter is that he left out something we frequently talk about with the community in Transportation Commission meetings: enforcement. It is one of the most common pieces of public comment we hear. Not only do we have burdensome rules about where and when you may park, but the coverage of whether motorists are following those regulations is spotty. It's the same with no parking signs that allow for street maintenance...if the sign says every week there is no parking between 8am-10am, Oak Parkers expect a street sweeper to come by. Or else why have the rule?

Enforcement costs money. New signs cost money. Neither of those is reason alone to not overhaul the parking situation. But we need to consider the enforcement picture and the number of new signs we'll need if we're giving an honest accounting of the financial impact.

(Insert here another discussion that is ongoing within the Transportation Commission about the desire for engineering solutions for traffic calming and whether cheaper solutions wins over "better" solutions. That involves issues of data collection, best practices, fun stuff.)


Mr. Crowe's letter is in the right spirit. Most Oak Parkers want easier bicycling. But I'd offer a few points...

--Oak Park was awarded Bronze status as a Bicycle Friendly Community so it's not all bad.

--Re: bike lanes on Jackson the driving factors for continuing to have the bump outs and spottiness of the lane was 1) cost because the bumpouts had only recently been installed and removing them was seen as a waste of taxpayer money 2) the neighborhood, specifically a church and the curves, made a continuous bike lane not feasible. That said, my family uses the bike lane on Jackson all the time and it is a major reason why I changed my tune on the upcoming Madison road diet. Since the Madison road diet was first proposed, we've gotten the Jackson bike lane, a flashing pedestrian light on Jackson, and the engineer has some great ideas about slip lane installation on Washington, plus we're getting a new traffic light at Washington/Wisconsin...all these factors make me less cautious about traffic being on Jackson or Washington.

--Given that Madison is due to become a route with a bike lane, I'm not sure the concern over Lake Street is warranted. Any new street project will be looked at in terms of Complete Streets so that bicycle use will be considered. But the 2008 Oak Park Bicycle Plan has Lake St down for Shared Lane markings. With the transition to Oak Park's Neighborhood Greenway Plan for biking in 2014, I'm not sure Lake St is such a huge concern. Riders who get to the eastern edge of Oak Park from Chicago have multiple east-west opportunities on quieter streets and several options for dedicated bike lanes a few blocks north or south.

The official VOP page on biking: