Smart Cities

Chicago may test parking enforcement tech to cut traffic deaths

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Dive Brief:

  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and five aldermen asked the city council to consider two pilot projects, including a smart streets pilot that would automatically issue tickets for parking or standing violations in areas with posted signs and a similar pilot for commercial loading zones, according to a press release on Wednesday from the mayor’s office.

  • Lightfoot said the parking enforcement technology could help Chicago address its rising traffic fatalities, which climbed more than 50% between 2019 and 2021, by encouraging safer driving and reducing parking violations. In 2021, more than 170 people died in traffic crashes in the city.

  • “By testing a small-scale pilot in 2023, the City will be better able to evaluate how these initiatives will work best when implemented on a citywide scale,” Lightfoot said.

Dive Insight:

The news comes after the parents of a deceased three-year-old girl filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging the city allowed unsafe road conditions. The girl died when she was run over by a semitruck in June after her mother, who rode a bicycle carrying both of them, swerved around a utility truck that was allegedly parked illegally in a bike lane.

A growing number of cities, including New York City and Philadelphia, have implemented or are considering measures to address the nationwide increase in traffic deaths among pedestrians and cyclists. According to the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates, fatalities increased by 2% among pedestrians and 8% among cyclists during the first nine months of 2022.

The smart streets pilot would use cameras mounted on poles and city or Chicago Transit Authority vehicles to automatically ticket drivers for parking or illegally standing in crosswalks, bike lanes, bus lanes, bus stops and no parking zones. Under the proposal, first-time offenders and anyone ticketed within 30 days of a new camera installation would be subject to a 30-day warning period.

In addition to potentially reducing traffic deaths, increased parking enforcement may improve bus service by ensuring that dedicated bus lanes and stops are unobstructed.

“One driver illegally parked in a dedicated bus lane creates slowdowns for dozens of passengers stuck behind the parked car, creates longer wait times for people waiting at bus stops, and ultimately makes bus trips longer and less predictable,” the press release said.

Illegally parked vehicles can also make it tougher for people with physical disabilities to board buses.

“CTA’s bus priority network and bus stop infrastructure are key to delivering a better rider experience to more than half a million daily bus riders, especially those with disabilities, who are often negatively impacted by illegal parking,” CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. said in a statement.

The second pilot would use license-plate-reading camera technology to automatically ticket drivers who violate parking rules within commercial loading zones.

“The pilot aims to prevent double-parking that puts drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians in unsafe conditions, decrease vehicle idling and reduce emissions, and create a more efficient system for payment and drop-offs for commercial drivers,” the press release said.


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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