Jul 10, 2020

Workers choosing cars over transit — increased congestion and lost productivity

As northeastern Illinois eyes a return to normalcy amid COVID-19, drivers in the region may be faced with gridlock and longer travel times if more workers decide to stop using public transit and take cars to get to work. The additional commute time could equate to more than $1.2 billion annually in productivity costs to the region.

With more offices reopening under Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, a new CMAP analysis found that if 25% of the pre-COVID transit trips are replaced by car trips, drivers throughout the region would spend an extra 193,000 hours on the road each weekday.

193,000 extra hours spent driving per weekday = $1.2 billion total cost of additional time spent driving per year

Other key takeaways from CMAP’s modeling data include:

  • Average congestion — measured as the hours spent driving in congested conditions — would increase by 14% throughout the region.

  • Roads within Chicago would see the most gridlock — a 35% increase in congestion throughout the day.

  • Commuters from the suburbs to downtown Chicago during the morning rush hour would suffer as well:

    • A trip from Joliet in Will County to the Loop would take 8.9 minutes longer.

    • A driver going from west suburban Aurora to downtown Chicago would have to plan for an extra 7.8 minutes in travel time.

     

  • Time spent in congested conditions on numerous inbound corridors also would increase significantly, including an 111% increase along North Lake Shore Drive from Hollywood Avenue by Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood to Michigan Avenue.

Estimated additional morning inbound driving time to the Loop if 25% of transit users switch to driving

With ridership slowly rising as the economy opens back up, both Metra and CTA have announced the extensive measures they’ve taken to keep their facilities safe. In early June, Metra officials announced they’ve deep cleaned and disinfected their railcars, stations, and high-touch areas, and won’t run trains that are more than 50% capacity in the immediate future. CTA has established passenger limits on its buses and train cars, and rolled out rigorous cleaning methods covering its fleet, stations, and high-touch areas.

A strong recovery and a robust regional economy are difficult to envision without Metra trains carrying workers into the Loop and other business districts during the morning rush hour, and bustling L trains and CTA buses taking employees from Chicago’s neighborhoods to their jobs throughout the region. Our public transit system long has kept the region connected and has been a vital element to the region’s diverse economy.

Workers who are inclined to drive instead of taking the Metra, CTA, or Pace may view that as a safer alternative during the pandemic. It’s important to note, however, the individual decision compounded at the regional level comes with increased gridlock and more time spent on the road than in the office.

To minimize congestion on the region’s roads as workers return to the office during the pandemic, employees, their employers, and policymakers should consider alternatives by asking themselves:

  • What can we do in the region to improve traffic flow and encourage transit use, especially during peak travel times?

  • Can employers offer varied work schedules to space out transit commuters and avoid overcrowding trains and buses?

  • Should we research and consider ride sharing that can accommodate more than two passengers?

  • Can more bicycle options be implemented in Chicago and other communities?

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Jul 10, 2020

Workers choosing cars over transit — increased congestion and lost productivity

As northeastern Illinois eyes a return to normalcy amid COVID-19, drivers in the region may be faced with gridlock and longer travel times if more workers decide to stop using public transit and take cars to get to work. The additional commute time could equate to more than $1.2 billion annually in productivity costs to the region.

With more offices reopening under Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, a new CMAP analysis found that if 25% of the pre-COVID transit trips are replaced by car trips, drivers throughout the region would spend an extra 193,000 hours on the road each weekday.

193,000 extra hours spent driving per weekday = $1.2 billion total cost of additional time spent driving per year

Other key takeaways from CMAP’s modeling data include:

  • Average congestion — measured as the hours spent driving in congested conditions — would increase by 14% throughout the region.

  • Roads within Chicago would see the most gridlock — a 35% increase in congestion throughout the day.

  • Commuters from the suburbs to downtown Chicago during the morning rush hour would suffer as well:

    • A trip from Joliet in Will County to the Loop would take 8.9 minutes longer.

    • A driver going from west suburban Aurora to downtown Chicago would have to plan for an extra 7.8 minutes in travel time.

     

  • Time spent in congested conditions on numerous inbound corridors also would increase significantly, including an 111% increase along North Lake Shore Drive from Hollywood Avenue by Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood to Michigan Avenue.

Estimated additional morning inbound driving time to the Loop if 25% of transit users switch to driving

With ridership slowly rising as the economy opens back up, both Metra and CTA have announced the extensive measures they’ve taken to keep their facilities safe. In early June, Metra officials announced they’ve deep cleaned and disinfected their railcars, stations, and high-touch areas, and won’t run trains that are more than 50% capacity in the immediate future. CTA has established passenger limits on its buses and train cars, and rolled out rigorous cleaning methods covering its fleet, stations, and high-touch areas.

A strong recovery and a robust regional economy are difficult to envision without Metra trains carrying workers into the Loop and other business districts during the morning rush hour, and bustling L trains and CTA buses taking employees from Chicago’s neighborhoods to their jobs throughout the region. Our public transit system long has kept the region connected and has been a vital element to the region’s diverse economy.

Workers who are inclined to drive instead of taking the Metra, CTA, or Pace may view that as a safer alternative during the pandemic. It’s important to note, however, the individual decision compounded at the regional level comes with increased gridlock and more time spent on the road than in the office.

To minimize congestion on the region’s roads as workers return to the office during the pandemic, employees, their employers, and policymakers should consider alternatives by asking themselves:

  • What can we do in the region to improve traffic flow and encourage transit use, especially during peak travel times?

  • Can employers offer varied work schedules to space out transit commuters and avoid overcrowding trains and buses?

  • Should we research and consider ride sharing that can accommodate more than two passengers?

  • Can more bicycle options be implemented in Chicago and other communities?

To Top