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Study: Chicago Area Traffic Improved Last Year

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Kennedy Expressway Traffic

Traffic on the Kennedy Expressway on April 5, 2011. (Credit: CBS)

Jim Williams (CBS) Jim Williams
Jim Williams, a native Chicagoan, co-anchors the CBS 2 Chicago Wee...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – If you drive in the Chicago area, you’re going to find a recent study hard to believe.

As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports, a study by INRIX Traffic Scorecard found traffic in the Chicago area improved from 2010 to 2011.

Those results have long-suffering drivers asking “are you kidding?”

Peggy Friedman said, “the traffic is horrible.”

And many Chicago area drivers think traffic gets worse with every passing year.

But a study by INRIX Traffic Scoreboard found Chicago area drivers were stuck in traffic an average of 36 hours in 2011, compared to 48 hours in 2010.

Drivers like Wayne Cohen don’t believe it.

“Get on the Kennedy Expressway and see if there’s no traffic,” he said.

INRIX was quick to point out, traffic problems are relative. Company spokesman Jim Bak said no one is suggesting traffic now is easy.

“People might look at this and say, ‘I spend way more time in traffic than this. Why are they telling me things are getting better? It’s awful out there.’ But it’s degrees of awful, is what it comes down to,” Bak said.

He blamed high gas prices, and the still-struggling economy for the traffic dropoff.

Veteran traffic reporter Bart Shore said he sees another reason.

“Ever since the tollways raised the price, less people are using the Illinois Tollway system right now,” Shore said. “So we’ve seen less volume of traffic on the tollways.”

But even that drop was not as big as expected. The Illinois Toll Highway Authority expected to lose about 6 percent of drivers after the toll increase went into effect on Jan. 1, but the system experienced only a 2.4 percent drop in car traffic for the first three months of this year.

Drivers still need a lot of patience on the roads, and more and more motorists, like Larry Lenzi, are looking alternate ways to get around.

“I try to actually ride my bike to work as much as I can,” Lenzi said.

INRIX said, in 2010, Chicago was the 7th most congested American city. Last year, traffic was better, according the study, as Chicago dropped to 10th on that list.

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