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Gabe Klein, Chicago's New Transportation Head, Has Big Plans

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The city's newly appointed Department of Transportation commissioner and bike enthusiast Gabe Klein began unveiling his plans to retool the city's approach to getting around in a series of media interviews this week.

Klein's most noteworthy plans include installing video screens to the city's 2,200 currently "under-utilized" lighted bus shelters, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The screens would provide a bevy of information including Bus Tracker data, current inventory for car- and bike-sharing programs and calculations of how long it would take to walk to popular destinations located nearby.

"Transportation is as much about information and technology as it is about infrastructure,” Klein told the Sun-Times of the proposal.

Klein has also called for more "pedestrian-friendly" intersections in the city's downtown area, employing a pedestrian scramble strategy previously used in U.S. cities including Denver and currently being piloted in Washington, D.C., where Klein previously served as head of their Department of Transportation.

The intersections would give pedestrians a slight head start on automobile traffic as street traffic signals in all directions would remain red for some 14 seconds after each cycle, according to NBC Chicago. Such a move would allow pedestrians to cross all six ways, including diagonally.

He also reportedly hopes to narrow some streets to help slow down traffic, in addition to addressing speeding by vehicles, most notably taxis.

Some transportation experts are already criticizing Klein's proposals. DePaul University professor Joe Schwieterman was particularly disenchanted by the plan to allow for pedestrian scrambles downtown, according to ABC Chicago.

"The downtown grid works. It functions. It is a delicate situation with pedestrians and motorists. There is some risk here. These kind of innovations can make downtown more pedestrian friendly, that's a good thing. But when traffic doesn't move you get pent-up frustration, you get backups. It could make the Loop less attractive for commerce," Schwieterman told ABC.

While at the helm in Washington, D.C. for just over two years, Klein revamped the city's parking program and created the capitol city's bike-share program, the country's largest, according to his resume. He is also a decidedly social media-friendly guy, tweeting regularly and recently touting Chicago's trial run of protected bike lanes on Kinzie Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street.

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