Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chicago and traffic fatalities

The City of Chicago has expressed an ambitious goal: to eliminate all pedestrian, bicycle, and overall traffic crash fatalities within 10 years. How does it intend to do this? According to one report, by increasing biking as the mode of transportation in trips of less than five miles, by 20 mph zones in residential areas, improving street maintenance and a focus on and address problem intersections.

A lot of programs and organizations are reluctant to specify performance measures, often for fear that they may not be able to accomplish them. But the point about performance measures is that, although it may have taken an organization a while to get to them, they are the starting point for analysis, not the end point. When you look at your performance, you don't just want to check to see whether you got there or not. You want to think about how close you came, what went right, and what didn't go so well. Performance measure reviews shouldn't be an exercise in casting blame. They should be an effort to make things work better.

Chicago may not make its ambitious goal. Ten years out is a long time; technologies will change; politics will change. Rahm Emanuel may not longer be mayor. But there are a lot of reasons to think that this is a well-thought-out goal. The City of Chicago released a detailed plan earlier this month - you can get a full (pdf) copy of the plan, Chicago Forward, here. The traffic crash fatality goal is the first goal set out under an overarching theme, Safety is Paramount. It's got a time frame. It does not stand alone, but is the first among several related goals, which include reducing pedestrian and bicycle crash injuries, reducing total roadway crashes and injuries, and increasing safety education for adults and children. And it's followed by a detailed list of research findings, policies and planned actions.

I plan to check back regularly, to see what updates are published. It will be interesting to see how Chicago progresses, and how it reports that progress.

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