Chicago likes SAFEclear

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This Chicago Tribune article says that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is looking to Houston’s SAFEclear program as a model for how to address Chicago’s traffic woes:

Daley wants to implement quick-response towing operations–deploying them even faster than the Minuteman trucks operated on expressways by the Illinois Department of Transportation–on Chicago streets, starting downtown.

“We are attacking the root cause [of congestion] by removing wrecked and stalled vehicles a lot faster than we did in the past,” said Houston Mayor Bill White, who was elected on a promise to make easing traffic congestion his No. 1 priority. “It’s like giving a raise to everybody, because they have more leisure time, because the traffic is flowing faster.”

Each minute a disabled vehicle is on the highway results in four minutes of worsening traffic backups, White said. Despite a booming automobile-centered population, commuting times have been reduced as much as 20 percent in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, officials said.

I still think the root cause of congestion is a high number of vehicles on the freeways at the same time. I don’t think the root cause is stalled vehicles on the shoulder.

It’s interesting that the mayor has some stats to give to the Chicago Tribune. I have been wracking my brain and can’t remember the city releasing a study that backs up his claims that a disabled vehicle equals four minutes of traffic backup, and that commuting times have been reduced by 20 percent.

Maybe the study is forthcoming. Any day now.

There is more in the article about SAFEclear, mostly positive, but it does mention the sad story of the elderly man who was killed when he ran across the freeway, while a SAFEclear wrecker was hooking up his van for a forced tow.

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.