The city began an experiment at the corner of State and Jackson this morning, turning the intersection into a pedestrian zone during stoplight changes similar to Oxford Circus in London. The Tribune's Jon Hilkevitch has details:
The test involves stopping all vehicles — heading east on Jackson and north and south on State — for 35 seconds every third traffic light cycle to let pedestrians cross in all directions, including diagonally.
The test got underway at 10:17 a.m., and some pedestrians cheered and hooted in celebration as they crossed at State and Jackson. Still, there was some skepticism of how the experiment will go, at least at first.
The experiment will last several months and, based on results, could become permanent at that location.
Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said today that traffic at the intersection "will flow better, not worse. We think we can make all modes [of transportation] safer."
The evidence from around the world shows that these kinds of intersections make traffic flow more smoothly, because cars aren't waiting for pedestrians as much, while making it safer for pedestrians to cross. I've seen them in London and Tokyo, and in my experience they work fine. I hope Chicago keeps this one, and creates a few others at high-volume intersections.