I just don’t use the highway that often. Even in Milwaukee, I mostly got on the highway just to leave town. In Chicago, I’ve learned that, apart from Lake Shore Drive, highways are a traffic-snarled nightmare to be avoided at all costs.
Still, sometimes I have to leave town, and wind up taking the Interstate. And doubtless like legions of new residents before me, I have found that the radio’s traffic reports are utterly incomprehensible, even more so than in other cities.
I was certain that someone had addressed this problem, and indeed, Gaper’s Block has a fairly good starting point, telling you what the hell stuff like “the Stevens inbound” and “the Circle” and “the Dan Ryan” are. Believe me, if you’re not from here, it’s utter nonsense. I can barely remember the Interstate numbers, let alone some arbitrary new names slapped on a ten mile stretch of highway as it passes through the city.
But even with guides and explanations, nobody seems to have put an actual map together. I’m a visual learner (duh), so it helps me much more to see a line labeled “Stevens Expressway” than to read a paragraph about it.
And what about travel times? Knowing that “you’re 30 minutes to the Junction” doesn’t help you at all if you don’t know what the travel time is supposed to be. Is that fast? Ungodly slow? Who knows?? Again, a labeled map is what’s needed.
And then, there’s the use of random exits as reference points. I was once traveling southbound on I-55 (oh, sorry, I was outbound on the Stevens) and the traffic guys warned repeatedly of a deathly traffic tie-up at “Arsenal”. Shit! Where’s Arsenal? Is it coming up? Is it on my map? I drove on, expecting certain doom at any second.
Turns out “Arsenal” is waaaaaaaaay the hell out in the ‘burbs, past the warehouse district, past Joliet even. It’s pretty much the final marker of Chicago civilization. And by the time I got there, all signs of the traffic tie-up were gone.
So, uh, yeah. Thanks for nothin’, Chicago radio.