The Cities That Work Series: Building a stronger mega-regional public transportation system
- By Jenny Delumo
- July 13, 2012
On Wednesday, July 25, MPC is hosting our 2012 Annual Luncheon: The Cities That Work, featuring an insightful and provocative dialogue between the mayors of Chicago, Gary and Milwaukee. Follow our blog over the next few weeks as we feature posts by guest authors from across the mega-region and members of our staff on issues that unite the tri-state region. Bookmark this page, www.metroplanning.org/thecitiesthatworkseries to follow the series.
For more details or to purchase tables or individual tickets for the July 25 event, visit MPC's web calendar.
Have you ever been reluctant to accept a job offer because it would increase the length or cost of your commute? This is not an uncommon dilemma, and one that I and others I know have had to face over the course of our careers. I once purchased a car in order to take a job conducting community outreach across southern Cook and DuPage counties; but that is not an option open to everyone. As a renter with no children I also, unlike so many, did not have to factor school quality, median home prices, or property taxes into my decision whether to move to a new town or accept a longer commute.
A recent report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Territorial Review: The Chicago Tri-State Metropolitan Area highlights this issue. The report shows that in the tri-state mega-region – anchored by Chicago, IL, Milwaukee, WI and Gary, IN – an interconnected and adequately funded public transportation system is imperative for matching the region’s well-educated working population to employers. Yet, the study finds that only 24 percent of all workers and 14 percent of suburban workers have convenient access to public transportation that can get them to work within 90 minutes.
One model for helping increase people’s access to employment and public transportation options is Transportation Demand Management (TDM), which strengthens the variety of transportation options available to residents to reduce traffic congestion and promote environmentally-sustainable travel. The Metropolitan Planning Council’s Commute Options program – a northeastern Illinois TDM pilot – has surveyed more than 3,500 employees from 12 regional employers to analyze their commuting patterns and understand their barriers to using public transportation. The program found that 38 percent of commuters who drive alone to work cite the length or inconvenience of public transportation commutes as a major obstacle to using that as an alternative travel mode.
Transportation Demand Management could provide a framework for region-wide public transportation planning. However, for such a program to be successful it should include:
- Establishing a formal relationship between existing tri-state transportation and metropolitan planning agencies, such as CMAP, NIRPC and SEWRPC, to improve the efficiency of regional transportation planning.
- Implementing a comprehensive mega-regional transportation funding plan.
- Leveraging existing transportation financing schemes and considering innovative approaches like value capture taxes to support transportation projects.
The abundance of opportunity in the tri-state mega-region can only be realized through strong inter-government collaboration and the coordination of resources. The foundation for this type of transformative work has been laid with the formation of such groups as the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program and the Tri-State Economic Development Alliance. Where we go next is up to us.
Jenny Delumo is a research assistant at the Metropolitan Planning Council.