by Conrad Weisert
©2015 Information Disciplines, Inc., Chicago
December 1, 2015
NOTE: This document may be circulated or quoted from freely, as long as the copyright notice is included.
The Chicago Tribune reported last week that the Kennedy Expressway1 is still the most congested highway in the United States. That road (Interstate 90) runs from the central business district (the Chicago "Loop") past my home and out to O'Hare Airport. I see those massive traffic jams from my seat on either the CTA Blue Line (the Dearborn Street Subway downtown) or the Metra Northwest commuter train, and wonder why so many drivers choose to put themselves through such frustration day after day.
Of course, if all those drivers didn't make that choice, traffic would be reduced and then drivers would be tempted to return. Thus, saturated traffic jams are the normal condition and will remain so as long as gasoline remains so cheap in America.
Some of those outbound cars contain people who will miss their flight reservations, while inbound cars contain people who will be late for work or will miss the beginning of theater or concert performances. The massive traffic jams are not limited to what we used to call "rush hour", but persist in both directions throughout the day and evening. (In the middle of the night you can make excellent time on Chicago expressways, as long as you don't run into a construction project.)
The Tribune item reported that highways in Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Washington, and Houston are also among the most congested in the nation. For a hopeful prediction on future solutions see this Urbanful article.
The frustrated drivers and passengers in those cars rank low on my sympathy list. Chicago supports excellent mass transit options to most areas, including both airports. If you miss your flight because of slow-moving traffic, don't complain. On the other hand, if a train breaks down, you have a good excuse, which the airlines ought to honor; fortunately train delays don't happen often.
By the way, a taxi from the Loop to O'Hare will cost close to $50. The CTA is currently $2.25.2 From your window on the Blue Line you'll see dozens of those expensive taxis with their meters running as you zoom past them.
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