Thursday, August 11, 2011

CDOT Wants to Get Personal

You're not still sitting alone in your car while driving to work or running errands in the neighborhood, are you? If so, the Chicago Department of Transportation has its sights set on you.
Traffic jam on North Lincoln Avenue. (Photo: BikeWalkLincolnPark)
The city has an open request for proposals for companies to work with CDOT to roll out a five-year "personal marketing" program to get lone Chicagoans out of their cars and using one of five alternative methods of getting around: public transit, biking, walking, carpooling, or car sharing (like the Chicago non-profit I-GO, or Zipcar). The RFP says that the program will target five neighborhoods and involve  reaching out to all households in the selected areas, with the goal of converting at least 10 percent to regularly making environmentally friendly choices when making transportation choices.

For those households who receive the direct mail solicitation and respond that they are open to the idea of learning more, CDOT will follow up with phone calls, e-mail newsletters, and even house calls. They'll provide customized information like stop-specific transit schedules and bike maps, as well as promotional materials like pedometers, CTA passes, and t-shirts.

But will Lincoln Park be one of the neighborhoods chosen? In some ways, it seems that we'd be ripe for targeting, because we have a walkable, bikable area that is already well-served by public transportation and car sharing programs. On the other hand, we'd guess that statistically, Lincoln Parkers are already using alternative methods at relatively high rates, so it would be harder to find people to convert. But we have neighbors who drive their cars daily to their Loop jobs, so there's certainly room for improvement in our 'hood!
Bike commuters on a Friday morning on North Wells Street. (Photo: BikeWalkLincolnPark)
In the mean time, we hope you already know that you can get customized directions for using public transit, walking, or biking on the Chicago tab of HopStop, as well as on Google Maps .  HopStop is fun because it lets you point to your starting point and destination on a map, in case you're not sure of the address. It also tells you how many calories you'll burn by riding your bike there, as well as the volume of carbon emissions savings you're achieving by walking or riding your bike. That's some nice immediate motivation! Although none of these methods are perfect due to inherent limitations that apply to all wayfinding technology, they're a pretty good starting point. 

At least, until a friendly CDOT worker knocks on your door and hands you your customized map.

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