-By Julia Steege-Reimann-
The Village of Niles, Illinois knows that making it easy for people to get around can drastically improve quality of life for residents and protect the environment at the same time.
“The Village of Niles prioritizes efficient, safe, and sustainable transportation and other mobility-related services for residents and visitors alike,” said Hadley Skeffington-Vos, Deputy Village Manager.
To prioritize mobility, leaders worked with residents to develop and implement mobility plans.
“Niles has incorporated feedback from residents and trusted experts into mobility plans in order to best serve the wants and needs of all who live, work or play in Niles,” said Skeffington-Vos.
Data shows that residents are happy with mobility in Niles. The Town regularly conducts The National Community Survey (The NCS) to gather feedback from community members. Niles’ residents rate almost all aspects of mobility higher than the national benchmark.
“Niles is a leader in mobility, whether that means improving roadways and bike paths to offering free transportation options to making sure snow and ice is removed promptly,” said Damema Mann, Director of National Engagement for Polco/National Research Center (NRC).
For its efforts, Niles has received the 2020 Voice of the People award for Excellence in Mobility. This is the only national award that honors local governments based on feedback from residents. The award is presented by Polco / National Research Center (NRC) and the International City & County Management Association (ICMA). This award acknowledges local governments with the highest ratings from The NCS and that take the best actions on behalf of their communities.
Among the biggest priorities for the City was improving accessibility. Niles has an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Transition Plan to guide the Village in making facilities more accessible.
One important aspect of the plan is the implementation of accessibility management software. This software helps the Village update its plan, document progress, estimate costs, and create an ADA compliance grievance procedure, among other services.
In addition to making facilities more accessible, Niles’ leaders have worked hard to maintain and improve bike paths, walkways, and roads.
Niles has a 36.7-mile regional trail that travels throughout Chicago suburbs. Not only does the trail go through beautiful forests, but it is also accessible to the highway, bus stops, and major public parking lots.
In terms of improvements, The Niles Bicycle and Pedestrian plan recommends improvements to sidewalks through a five-phase approach. The project prioritizes sidewalks closest to schools, parks, and civic institutions.
The City has recently improved a number of streets as well, including updating street lighting and sidewalks.
Not only does Niles focus on improving roads and trails, but leaders also prioritize keeping road conditions safe.
For its excellent snow and ice removal services, Niles was awarded the 2019 American Public Works Association (APWA) National Excellence in Snow and Ice Control Award.
The village uses a routing software which determines the most efficient routes and helps employees get on the streets before storms reach Niles.
The Village always prioritizes snow removal for bus route streets and high traffic streets to help maintain ease of travel as best as possible.
Last, the Village provides a number of free or cheap bus options to encourage residents to take public transportation.
For example, Niles offers a free courtesy bus service. The free buses run seven days a week. They stop at all major shopping centers and public facilities, and within a short distance of every residence.
“The Free Bus is not only beneficial to residents, but also to the environment, as it encourages people to use public transportation rather than personal vehicles,” said Skeffington-Vos.
The Village also added the Pulse Milwaukee Bus Line in 2019. The Pulse Line is designed to provide a fast, frequent, and reliable bus service in heavily traveled corridors of suburban Chicagoland.
The Pulse busses are equipped with Wi-Fi and bike racks. The boarding platform is raised to facilitate easier boarding. Also, the ADA-accessible heated shelters provide comfortable weather protection.
“Continuing to improve mobility within the Village will impact the sustainability of the Village, the economic health of our commercial corridors, and the physical health of our residents. It will increase the attractiveness of Niles as a place for young families to raise children,” said Skeffington-Vos.