Problem Do you wonder how busy downtown traffic is able to go and stop in Chicago? Is it because Chicago has traffic control aides in the streets? That’s up for debate.
According to the City of Chicago’s website, traffic control aides assist in facilitating the movement of traffic; keeping intersections clear; allowing police to be in the neighborhoods fighting crime; providing assistance to pedestrians; and helping redirect traffic during emergency street closures. Is it necessary, though, to have traffic control aides out on the streets as much as they are? Some taxpayers don’t think so.
Consider the following about Chicago’s traffic control aides:
The City of Chicago had over 500 traffic aides employed and paid them a total of $4,028,000 in wages by the summer of 2010.
In 2009, Chicago paid $10,356,465 in total wages to traffic control aides.
This year, Chicago has 122 salaried traffic control employees on pace to earn an average of $50,000 each, and 78 out of the 122 salaried traffic control aides are projected to make more than $50,000 in earnings.
In 2009, 28 of the 136 salaried traffic control aides made $50,000 or more, and salaried aides made on average $43,000.
The highest salaried employee is on pace to make $58,860 this year, and the highest salaried employee in 2009 made $57,045.
Additionally, the average monthly salary for salaried traffic control aides increased 4.9 percent between 2009 and 2010, and the average hourly wage for hourly traffic control aides increased 3.9 percent between 2009 and 2010.
Although it might sound like a good idea to have traffic control aides, in reality they can actually impede traffic. They often do not add value to traffic lights already in place telling drivers and pedestrians when to go and when to stop, and as many drivers can likely relate, they also often make driving in Chicago more stressful. Ultimately, the cost of having traffic control aides in Chicago is not the best use of taxpayers’ money.
Our Solution Chicago should prioritize spending by eliminating the job of “traffic control aide” and instead utilize police officers only when needed to direct traffic. For large events, or if a traffic light is out, for example, the City would call on officers to assist in directing traffic and pedestrians.
Why This Works Out of the nine largest American metropolitan areas, the City of Chicago is the only city to hire people exclusively as traffic control aides. The other eight cities (New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco) use police officers as traffic control aides, often only for special events. The police in these eight cities have other traffic-related duties like issuing parking tickets and pulling over speeding or drunk drivers. Where the information was available, officers in these states make salaries comparable to or less than those of other police officers within their respective cities.2
Chicago needs to make sure it uses tax dollars as efficiently as possible. Traffic control aides require about $10 million annually from the City of Chicago’s taxpayers, and this money could be better utilized elsewhere. Chicago should look to what other large cities do, like using police officers, and stop spending tax dollars on this unnecessary service.