Most speakers at a 1st Ward meeting Tuesday night said they oppose plans to install a new traffic signal on Sheridan Road south of Garrett Place at the entrance to a Northwestern University parking lot.

Some claimed to be upset they’d not been told about the plans and given a chance to discuss them previously.

Others said the signal would interfere with the flow of traffic on Sheridan and end up sending more traffic onto other streets.

Although plans for the traffic signal were reported on Jan. 22 by the Daily Northwestern and by Evanston Now, Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said four months later at the May 24 City Council meeting when the proposal came up for a vote that there hadn’t been enough time for neighbors to discuss the issue. She asked that the council postpone a decision on the light until after Tuesday’s ward meeting.

The new signal would be an addition to a larger plan for upgrading traffic lights on Sheridan to provide better traffic management by coordinating signal timing and adding left turn signals at more intersections, said the city’s transportation director, Paul Schneider.

The rest of the upgrade plan was approved by aldermen last week and is to be funded mostly by a federal grant. The university would pay for the additional light.

Fiske said she was concerned the new signal would not improve pedestrian safety and would only guide traffic in and out of the parking lot.

But Ron Nayler, the school’s associate vice president for facilities management, said the school wants to improve safety for both pedestrians and drivers at the intersection.

He said the main issue for pedestrians is providing more protection for people walking north-south along the east side of Sheridan Road — where they now have to dodge cars entering and leaving the parking lot.

He said pedestrian traffic in that direction is very heavy, especially during class change periods.

Speakers at the meeting suggested issuing more tickets to drivers and pedestrians instead, or stationing a police officer at the proposed signal location.

They also focused on the issue of pedestrians walking east-west across Sheridan. Some older residents complained that students cross anywhere along the road without regard to traffic, although a few conceded that they sometimes cross at mid-block themselves.

One man argued for building a pedestrian bridge across the road, but Schneider said that assessibility requirements make such overpasses extremely expensive to build, and Naylor argued that overpasses are rarely used unless fences or other barriers prevent people from crossing at any other point.

Jeanne Lindwall, of 625 Library Place, said she feared the additional signal would slow traffic on Sheridan, leading drivers to use other routes.

But Schneider said that the overall plan to interconnect all the signals would improve conditions, creating “a smooth, steady flow” on Sheridan that should not make drivers want to find alternate routes.

He also argued that under current conditions many drivers who want to turn left out of the parking lot instead are forced by the heavy traffic to turn right, and then wind their way through neighborhood streets to reverse direction and continue their journey south.

The light, he said, would let them safely turn left and stay on Sheridan.

Not all Evanstonians at the meeting opposed the new signal.

Chuck Lewis, of 2735 Sheridan Road in the 7th Ward, praised the professional staff from the city and university for working together to develop a solution to the issue.

He said he was troubled by “the undertone of hostility” toward the university at the meeting and suggested that opponents were imagining adverse impacts that would not actually come to pass.

And Claire Lew, the newly elected president of NU’s student government, said the intersection now is “incredibly dangerous” for students and said that the overwhelming sentiment among students favors the new light.

The new traffic signal project is expected to be on the City Council’s agenda for a vote on June 14.
 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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21 Comments

  1. traffic light – yes

    In the 7 years of daily biking that I did while employed at NU, the sidewalk at the entrance to the parking lot where the traffic light is proposed was by far the most dangerous location that I encountered on campus. Those on bikes, walking and in cars were all dodging each other. In late afternoon the impatience of drivers lined up trying to get onto Sheridan from the lot (while blocking the sidewalk) was matched by the eagerness of those driving on Sheridan to get through the two traffic lights that exist at present. A light would be a very welcome addition.

    1. Absolutely true– it is a

      Absolutely true– it is a near miracle that more serious accidents haven’t happened here.    Anyone who has spent any time around this area should understand that this is true.

      What I find amazing is that the anti-NU cabal is so willing to make outrageous claims about the potential harm this light will cause (it will actually make it more dangerous, it will slow traffic so much that it will cause people to take routes other than Sheridan Rd., etc.) without a shred of evidence to support their assertions.  Or what about Ald. Fiske’s statement: "Fiske said she was concerned the new signal would not improve pedestrian safety and would only guide traffic in and out of the parking lot".  Huh?  Doesn’t she understand that controlling inflow and outflow from this lot will necessarily make it easier for pedestrians– that they won’t be constantly dodging cars that stick over the sidewalks and make sudden moves onto Sheridan when a brief opening in traffic appears?

      I would urge Ald. Fiske to spend a half hour at this intersection while school is in session.  I am quite certain that she would better understand the benefits that a traffic signal would provide.

  2. A Great Idea

    Considering the fact that one student was killed earlier on Sheridan, and the fact that students by nature really do not pay attention when crossing, I think this is a fantastic idea.

    I really think it is crazy that anyone would dissent on this light.  But, oh well, this is Evanston…

  3. The light is not the issue

    The light is not the issue, NU does not have the best interest of safety in mind.  The city engineer stated the light was to  be installed at Garrett which makes sense.  NU for what ever reason can not resolve with the Garrett school the issue of using their parking lot as an access for the NU parking lot.to Garrett street.

    Putting a light at street  intersections makes sense putting a light at the middle of the block at a parking lot makes no sense.  Both Streets North and south of the proposed light will have no light or lighted cross walk thus as drivers approach the new light they will not pay attention to students crossing the street at those locations.

    Our less than bright council members will approve this light, which will create problems and cost taxpayers money in the future. There are solutions to NU’s proposal that they should bear the cost but our council members and Mayor are all too happy to bake NU cookies.

     

     

     

    1. What do you mean that “NU

      What do you mean that "NU does not have the best interest of safety in mind"?  Why do they want the light installed, if not for safety?

      It is too bad that Garrett refused to cooperate with the original plan, but they didn’t, and until their lease on their land expires they have the right to so so.  Perhaps all of the animosity should be directed towards them rather than NU, but I have a sneaky suspicion that their would be opposition even if the light was to be situated at the intersection.  And while the proposed light is at an entrance/exit to a parking lot, I bet that there are more cars going in and out of it in a day than there are at the intersection. 

      Some of the reasons stated for the opposition are mind-boggling to me.  For example, you say, "Both Streets North and south of the proposed light will have no light or lighted cross walk thus as drivers approach the new light they will not pay attention to students crossing the street at those locations".  So you are saying that when drivers approach traffic lights they become inattentive and are more likely to have accidents involving pedestrians?  Are you serious? — do you have any evidence at all to support such an assertion?  Will pedestrians cross at locations other than at the light? Of course, just look at the people crossing with a few hundred yards of the current lights at Noyes and The Chicago Ave. split. But the light will at least slow down the traffic and create gaps where they wil be able to cross more safely (asthe light does at Noyes). 

      1. NU and safety

        If NU had the best interest of the students in mind it would close the driveway – the parking lot is not a street as NU is stating. There is not that much traffic coming out of the driveway that would justify a street light, if the city engineers had to spend the city’s money they would not approve it, although we taxpayer will be required to now pay for maintenance of the light.

        They are creating the problem they have other ways to enter the campus – their master planning is based on their own agenda.

        Closing the access to the parking lot from Sheridan eliminates the problem, why isn’t NU in favor of that solution?   If they are so concerned about the students,

        NU and Garrett should solve the problem, if NU can not work it out – then they should not get us taxpayer to subsidized a new mess.

  4. “some” see red no matter what NU does

    Some residents I’m sure complained loudly that the Fire Engine NU gave to the City would increase our carbon emissions and might be to heavy for our delicate roadways.

    Many residents complain at anything University does.  Some even fashion whole careers out of such opposition, isn’t that true Alderman Fiske?

    1. Traffic Light

      I think the comment by shoe thrower is pretty inane!  The overwhelming majority of Evanston residents were very pleased that NU donated a new fire truck, something that the city desperately needed.  In addition, residents don’t compalin about everything related to the University, just things that may not be in the best interest of the city.  While most in Evanston are very happy to have the University as part of our community, they wish they would do more( pay taxes, students observing no bikes on side walks, etc.).

      I was at Alderman Fiske’s ward meeting this past week, and as always, it was professional and highly informational.  This was the first time many residents had the opportunity to hear about the traffic light proposal.  Also in attendance were about 6 NU students.  They were sitting with a few NU officials and another sitting Alderman( 7th ward).  When Alderman Fiske said she would FIRST take questions from the residents who lived in the area of the proposed traffic signal, the students immediately started to thrust their hands in the air in their effort to be recognized.  Alderman Fiske reiterated that she would first take questions from the residents, but the students continued their obnoxious hand raising.  When residents made comments in opposition of the proposed signal, the students would snicker, make comments and not act like young adults and future leaders.  In addition, the NU official and Alderman sitting with them, made no effort to control them and ask them to act like the young adults they are supposed to be.

      So, shoe thrower, this is what Evanston residents are opposed to!  Not everything NU does, just actions like these!  Many students feel "entitled" because the y attend NU and feel that this is the reason they should be respected.  No, respect is earned, and while many NU students and faculty have earned our respect, many of them have not.  Coexistance between NU and the City is a two way street, one that a fire truck and some cookies does not buy.  By the way, shoe thrower, Alderman Fiske is the first ward alderman because she has a firm grasp on many wide ranging issues and she is acutely aware of all the issues affecting the first ward and the city.  Saying her career is fashioned solely because of oppostion to NU is another inane comment and shows that maybe shoe thrower should keep his/her shoes on!

      1. Are you saying students don’t count as residents?

        Interesting – then I’m sure you’d be willing to give back all the money Evanston receives when they get counted in the Census.

      2. obnoxious hand raising

        "When Alderman Fiske said she would FIRST take questions from the residents who lived in the area of the proposed traffic signal, the students immediately started to thrust their hands in the air in their effort to be recognized.  Alderman Fiske reiterated that she would first take questions from the residents, but the students continued their obnoxious hand raising. "

        So how do you know that the students don’t live in the area of the proposed traffic signal?  That would make them eligible to ask questions, n’est-ce pas?

        Or did Fiske say that she would first take questions from non-students, and then students?  As if students deserve to be ignored because they are not part of her base.

        And what is so obnoxious about hand raising?

      3. Students speaking out

        I was at the meeting and observed that Alderman Fiske didn’t permit any student to speak until the meeting was nearly over.

        It wasn’t just letting homeowner residents be first to speak. The student residents almost didn’t get to speak at all. The library was closing by the time one of them finally got to talk.

        The alderman, I suppose, is free to run her meeting as she sees fit. But it seemed less than equitable to me for the students not to have some earlier chance in the meeting to give their views.

        Several thousand students are affected by whether the signal goes in or not, and they have had no more chance to give their views about it at a ward meeting than the homeowners have.

        — Bill

        1. Renters and students disenfranchised?

          What was her justification for this?   Was she refusing to hear them because they did not live near the proposed signal?  Or was she refusing to hear them because they were enrolled at Northwestern?   Or is it because they do not own their homes?  

          Enquiring Minds really want to know what is going on here.  Are renters and students being deliberately disenfranchised?   

           

      4. If Ald. Fiske sought comments

        If Ald. Fiske sought comments from residents of the ward before those of non-residents, I think that is completely appropriate.  If, however, she allowed non-student residents the chance to speak without allowing student residents the same opportunity, that is simply wrong.  Perhaps they were "obnoxiously" raising their hands because they felt that they too had a right to be heard.

        1. Light on ward boundary line

          The proposed traffic signal location is on the boundary line between two wards. That stretch of Sheridan divides the 7th Ward to the east from the 1st Ward to the west.

          So residents of both wards will be affected by the light– as, for that matter, will other residents of, workers in and visitors to Evanston who drive, bike or walk along that section of Sheridan Road.

          Seems to me that a balanced opportunity for all affected groups to have their voices heard would be the optimal approach under these circumstances — assuming the goal is a solution that best balances the needs of all involved.

          — Bill

          1. A First Ward Meeting

            Bill,

            I agree that an optimal approach would be to have all concerned voices heard. However, this was organized, quite clearly, as a First Ward meeting. It was hosted by the First Ward alderman to solicit discussion/feedback about an isssue directly affecting First Ward residents – a meeting with her constituents, yet open to the general public. The meeting you think would work, and again I do agree, was not the meeting you attended. Hopefully, in the future, all aldermen will take your last paragraph to heart when scheduling community meetings about issues that cross ward lines.

            As to how the First Ward meeting was conducted, I won’t comment since I wasn’t present. (I would hope others would hesitate before jumping to diabolical conclusions, but I know better.) I don’t have an axe to grind, nor a horse in this race. I’ve seen the complications of daytime entry/exit, and I’ve been vexed trying to exit that parking lot (at night) so I can understand the desire for a light.

            Are students residents? From my perspective, sure. However, and it may be a semantic point, I’d note a careful reading of The Daily Northwestern, for clues as to how the students view themselves: Students, on- or off-campus, are "students." A "resident" is someone who lives in Evanston who has no active academic or employee status ("faculty"; "staff"; "non-living-wage-paid, subcontracted employee"; etc.) with the university.

          2. Multiple identities

             Hi Jim,

            Thanks for your comments.

            But I think you are trying to make too much of one-word labels often used as shorthand  by reporters, whether they work for the Daily Northwestern or any other publication.

            "Mostly single young adults who mostly live in the 1st or 7th wards mostly in rental apartments or university housing and are enrolled at Northwestern University" is a mouthful. As is "mostly married older adults who mostly live in the 1st or 7th wards mostly in single-family homes or condominiums they own and who mostly are not students at or employees of the university."

            One-word identifiers are sometimes needed to make stories readable. That doesn’t mean they necessarily represent anybody’s world view or self identity.

            — Bill

          3. Not Just Reporters

            Bill,

            I’m not only talking about reporter shorthand – though, yes, they do that. When people write letters, or comment on the Daily’s site, they do the same thing. They could be aping the shorthand, but sometimes shorthand becomes the framework (see Estate Tax vs. Death Tax), in which case they’re buying into the frame. I’ve always considered it a tribal identifier: "We students" or "Our faculty" or "those residents with their budget problems," or "Evanston’s draconian parking regulations." City issues are third-person issues.

            Since it is something of a sidebar to the discussion at large, I’m offering it for future observation, to see for yourself how the students present themselves in the community. "Student" will loom large in the identification, and "resident" will be a rare utterance indeed, even though both are true. It will be more common that aside from "Northwestern student," they’ll identify themselves with their hometown (in which case Evanston-raised students would identify as Evanston residents, naturally). You might even recognize it in your own past, when you were a college student. It is hardly unique to Evanston and Northwestern.

      5. Inane? We Know? Really?

         Dear We Know,

        I am sorry that you thought my comments were inane.  My intention was sarcasm.  I’ll try to be more clear in future comments.

        I would like to also clarify that I never said that Alderman Fiske’s "career is fashioned solely because of opposition to NU" but I am glad that you bring that up.  In truth Alderman Fisk has fashioned a career out of selling retail gourmet pet pampering products.  The "opposition to NU" that you bring up is more of a hobby.  But let’s be clear, you brought it up, not me.  

        As for your observations about silencing obnoxious hand-raising students, I think you raise a lot of important issues about many things.  I had thought about ways that I would like to respond but Bill would never publish them.  What I would like to suggest however is that once the traffic light is in place and a safe pedestrian crossing is established, you should take a walk to campus and sign up for some classes.  Take some sociology, writing and most importantly, world history courses.  History is full of rowdy, young and obnoxious characters, many of whom were also not permitted to speak by autocratic politicians acting on behalf of their entrenched, bitter benefactors.  You see, a good student of history learns to better understand the present through studying the past.  The idea is that such insight can make the world a better, peaceful and more friendly place.  Isn’t that what we all want?

        Have a great, safe summer!

         

        Shoe Throwing Liberal

  5. More Traffic In Neighborhood

    I appreciate all the concern for student safety on Sheridan and recognize another crossing would help on that front.  I’m also new to the area and have several small children.  So the biggest concern for me is increased traffic in the neighborhood.  Notwithstanding the traffic directors assertion that more lights equals smooth traffic flow, I worry that if too many lights are installed on Sheridan, the commuters from Wilmette and north will likely use Orrington and the other side streets as "short cuts" and substantially increase traffic and the risk to my 3 year old who like the students mentioned above sometimes forgets about how dangerous the road is.  Weighing both sides of the issues (careless student safety vs. careless 3 year old safety), I prefer that no light is installed.

    That said, I recognize that if I was a student or NU adminstrator I would have different self interest and point of view.  However this issue is decided, it’s important in the long run for community relations that we recognize where each side is coming from and avoid stereotyping posters as "immature students" or "NU haters" when they disagree with our positions.   

     

  6. Traffic light on Sheridan

    I fall into the category of "resident": older, condo-living, no connection to the University except that I attend concerts and walk with my dogs along the waterfront.  It is nearly impossible, during rush hours,  to cross Sheridan road to get to the lakefront ANWHERE south of the curve at Orington and Sheridan.  Rush hours are also dog-walking hours.I would welcome a stoplight at the drive to the parking lot.  More people than students need to cross over.  Perhaps some traffic would cut through the neighborhood, but there are stop signs on every corner.  Not very attractive to speeding commuters.

    1. Stop light at parking lot south of Garrett

      I can’t find the Evanstonnow news story but as I recall someone argued that a stop light there would interfer with her view and property—I did not know there were private residences between University Place and Lincoln but anyone with a private residence there should know better than to expect no university fallout.  So the city was going to try portable stop lights in the street during rush hours [as I recall the story].

         Nov. 17 around 5PM I guess that was what they were doing.   Before I got close I assumed there was a major accident with all the flashing lights.   So many lights, so many police/others !  Traffic going south was blocked up for several blocks.  A horrible experiment gone wrong.  I’ve never seen a back-up like that caused by cars going into/out of the lot.  The cost of just that one experiment would probably have paid for the light.  Apparently the city will go to any expense [i.e.  to get votes] to placate one homeowner who owns a house where no one would expect one and wants to live like on a street miles from the university.

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