Mar 28 2023
Public Safety

Chicago Enacts Smart Streets Pilots for Safer Driving

The new city ordinance will use technology to crack down on traffic violations that put citizens in danger.

Chicago’s city council recently passed an ordinance aimed at improving traffic safety and efficiency with two pilot projects: Smart Streets and Smart Loading Zone. The first would use cameras on city poles or vehicles to capture parking infractions and ticket offenders, while the second would use license plate-reading cameras to make loading zone payment easier and catch violators.

The push for the city’s Smart Streets Pilots Ordinance is a response to a spike in traffic fatalities at both the local and national level. On-street traffic deaths in Chicago rose from 96 in 2019 to 139 in 2020.  The four-year average from 2014-2018 was 111.

Nationally, the death rate for pedestrians since 2019 rose nine times faster than the rate of U.S. population growth, with pedestrian deaths hitting a 40-year high in 2021.

Other U.S. cities have taken similar transportation-related smart street initiatives, including Tampa, Fla., which has experimented with connected vehicle technology to improve roadway safety. Meanwhile, Jacksonville, Fla.  is expanding its autonomous vehicle capabilities.

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Chicago’s Smart Streets Pilot to Crack Down on Parking Infractions

The ordinance, introduced by Chicago’s mayor earlier this year, would allow surveillance cameras to be fixed on poles or on the front of city or transit authority vehicles to record parking violations. The city would be authorized to ticket registered vehicle owners for violations such as parking in bike lanes, crosswalks and no-parking zones.

The goal is to keep drivers from illegally parking in places that put vulnerable road users — pedestrians, bicyclists and people taking transit — in danger, forcing bicyclists to merge with traffic, for example. The city also aims to keep drivers from parking in dedicated bus lanes and at bus stops to provide more efficient and reliable bus service.

“As we continue to invest heavily in infrastructure safety improvements, including expanding our network of bike and bus lanes, this program will make our transportation system safer, smarter and more efficient,” Gia Biagi, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, said in a press release.

MORE FROM STATETECH: Raleigh's smart city program tackles traffic management.

Second Pilot to Enforce Rules in Commercial Loading Zones

Chicago’s Smart Loading Zone pilot will use license plate-reading camera technology to enforce parking guidelines in areas designed for the loading and unloading of commercial vehicles. The pilot seeks to prevent double-parking that puts drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians at risk; decrease vehicle idling; and create more efficient payments and drop-offs for commercial drivers.

In a press release, Alderman Brendan Reilly called the ordinance “a necessary step in the fight to drive down traffic fatalities and crashes in our city.”

Alderman Brian Hopkins also said in the release: “In my years representing some of the densest parts of the city, I know firsthand the significant challenges downtown faces with traffic safety, slow bus speeds and double parking. I welcome the Smart Streets pilot in my ward as an important tool for improving traffic safety and ensuring drivers are following the rules of the road.”

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