Downtown Naperville, It’s Pedestrians Vs. Vehicles

Have you ever noticed, when you’re driving in downtown Naperville, you’re dealing with idiot pedestrians, but then if you’re lucky enough to find a place to park, you become a pedestrian dealing with idiot drivers. Well now Naperville is trying to help drivers and pedestrians at the same time, not an easy task, especially when both efforts appear to be working against each other.

In the recent Naperville Survey, residents again considered traffic congestion and parking to be the number one issue of dissatisfaction. It was also the top concern during the last resident survey, and it will probably be the same #1 troublesome concern when the next resident survey rolls around.

Naperville’s Department of Transportation, Engineering, and Development (TED) has been busy trying to figure out ways to lessen traffic congestion, increase parking, and improve the flow of traffic, especially in the downtown area.

At the same time Naperville’s Downtown Advisory Committee has been busy working on designing a more appealing streetscape plan with new, long-lasting sidewalks, corner improvements, adding benches, and other amenities, including widening sidewalks for outdoor restaurant seating, and more room for pedestrians to do what they do best, which is walking with shopping bags. The problem is that if you’re going to widen the sidewalks, you’re going to lessen street-space for vehicles to navigate, or reduce parking, or both. So which is it for city officials, helping pedestrians or drivers? They can’t do both, or can they?

Chicago figured out a way in 1909 to address the problem when they ‘finished’ lower Wacker Drive in 1926. Of course, as we know, it’s never really finished, just updated. But you have to give Chicago credit for being ‘ahead of the curve’ (pun intended) with traffic flow and congestion.

Chicago did it from below with traffic, while cities like Des Moines and Minneapolis did it from above with sky-walks for pedestrians. It took Des Moines 118 years from its incorporation date (1851) until its first sky-walk in 1969 to open. It’s pretty cool (actually warm) to leave the warmth of your home, to drive to downtown Des Moines, park in a heated garage, walk through a sky-walk to your office or for shopping or having a meal without the need to wear a coat in the middle of February.

Maybe city officials could create a downtown vehicle ordinance similar to what they did for watering restrictions. If your address is an even number, you can water on even-numbered days, odd-numbered addresses can water on odd-numbered days. The same could be done with driving a vehicle in downtown Naperville; it would depend if your license plate ended in an even or odd number. Signs could be posted when entering the downtown area, much like signs posting weight limits for trucks in certain areas. Yes, it would require that drivers know the last number of their plate and date, but drivers should be required to put a little effort into venturing downtown.

Or what about the idea of turning the middle dividing line between lanes, into a very narrow walkway for pedestrians to walk single-file, heel-to-toe. It could be considered Naperville’s version of the ‘pedestrian fast lane’.

Show 2 Comments


  1. Jim Haselhorst

    The nature or design of downtown Naperville buildings makes them skywalk unfriendly. The skywalk system in Minneapolis works because of enclosed multi-level parking garages are built next to large multi-level office/retail space building with interior courtyards. Most of the building in downtown Naperville are not next to a parking garage and no have interior courtyards, all the retail stores and restaurants have exterior entry.

    The underground idea is possible but I think it would be better to think in terms of a subway system, rather then a driveway. Such a system would address traffic and parking by providing easy access to downtown and the train station from outlying areas like southwest Naperville, I-88/Freedom Drive, Cantera, etc.

  2. Julie Berkowicz

    Now that I’ve had my chuckle for the day from your post, how about this idea? From satellite parking lots, adjacent to the downtown area, provide free Tuk Tuk style shuttles. That will also create another unique and quaint experience within downtown Naperville. We have several lots, including the Children’s Museum where they could consider lot upgrades to make them more appealing and hold more cars. As a downtown employee we see this problem most every day. We just need some creativity without soaking the taxpayer.

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