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Wrigley Field Traffic: Suburbanites, Street Peddlers Add to Congestion

By Serena Dai | July 23, 2013 12:36pm | Updated on July 23, 2013 2:21pm
 Crowds arrive at Wrigley Field for Opening Day in April.
Crowds arrive at Wrigley Field for Opening Day in April.
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Getty Images/Jonathan Daniel

WRIGLEYVILLE — What do street peddlers and suburbanites have in common?

They're both sources of Wrigley Field game-day congestion, according to a traffic study of the area.

The Sam Schwartz Engineering study, conducted for the Cubs, revealed dozens of suggestions to relieve traffic around the field, including taking street performers off the public way and running express trains from the suburbs, from where most people who drive to the game come.

The company put together the study with information from the Chicago Department of Transportation, Office of Emergency Management and Communication, the CTA, and local traffic expert Chester Kropidlowski. It also looked at traffic on three game days in May, including a night game and a Friday afternoon game.

Congestion before the game is not as bad as postgame traffic because fans tend to trickle in over a longer period of time, the study found.

That said, about 40 percent of fans who come by CTA via the Addison Red Line stop tend to crowd the narrow sidewalk, "made worse" by the usual crew of street businesses, like ticket peddlers and merchandise salesmen, the study said.

"Street peddlers and street performers should not be allowed to perform in the public rights of way where they pose obstacles for pedestrians and potentially impact public safety," the report recommended.

Many of the recommendations focused on the Cubs giving alternate travel options and organizing that information better for fans, particularly suburban ones.

Most of the cars drive in from the north and northwest suburbs, the study said, with the highest number of season ticket holders outside Chicago coming from suburban Northbrook, Deerfield, Winnetka, Evanston and Park Ridge.

Several potential fixes targeted these suburbanites.

For one, the Cubs could better promote CTA remote parking lots, the study said. The Red Line's Howard stop, Purple Line's Linden stop and Yellow Line's Skokie stop could all be potential spaces for drivers from the north and northwest suburbs, and the team should "market these options much more aggressively." 

Combined, the three lots offer more than 1,360 spaces.

Metra and Pace usage could be encouraged by pumping up the experience with food and fun, the study said. Buses and trains could be stocked with free wireless service, food or entertainment, or maybe Metra riders could get food or ticket discounts.

In the long term, the CTA could look into running a Red Line express train to Evanston or Skokie to both promote remote lots and reduce pedestrian traffic around Addison's Red Line "L" stop. 

Easing traffic was a sticking point for neighborhood groups and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) as the Cubs sought city approval for a $500 million plan to upgrade the stadium and develop the neighborhood.

The study, first reported and shown in Crain's Chicago Business, recommended several ideas that the Cubs and city already plan to implement. 

Adding traffic lights on Clark Street at Roscoe, School and Waveland will help, the study said. They are expected to be paid for with about $1 million in unused cash from a fund the team was required to contribute to as part of the first Neighborhood Protection Plan.

A remote parking lot at DeVry University, which decreased in usage along with declines in ticket sales, costs $6 to use but will be offered for free as part of the new framework. That should help with the number of cars entering Lakeview, too, the study said.

Any plans should be put into action by city organizations, the Cubs and local business — including rooftops, the study said.

The report said that 7 percent of Wrigley Field attendance is people visiting the rooftops overlooking the field, so rooftop owners should pay for 7 percent of any plans. 

"There will always be issues with traffic congestion in the neighborhood," the report said. "Implementing the suggestions in this plan will offer an incremental approach to reducing the number of fans that drive in the area of Wrigley Field and moving traffic and people out of the neighborhood quicker."

The Cubs and Wrigley Field are 95 percent owned by a trust established for the benefit of the family of Joe Ricketts, owner and CEO of DNAinfo.com. Joe Ricketts has no direct involvement in the management of the iconic team.