MPC to advocate for increased funding for transit and development near transit
(Chicago) … Today Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn’s Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force presented their recommendations for improving public transit in the Chicago region. The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) supports the Task Force’s recommendation to restore confidence and improve decision-making by reorganizing the Regional Transportation Authority and combining the Chicago Transit Authority, Pace Suburban Bus and Metra boards. Further, MPC enthusiastically endorses increased funding for our region’s public transportation system and new incentives to attract more residential and commercial development near transit stations across the region to increase transit ridership, a benefit to all.
The Chicago region will be $16.5 billion short over the next five years to fund repair costs, enhancements and expansions to the transit system as proposed by the Regional Transportation Authority's strategic plan.
Current sources of capital funding, such as the federal and state motor fuel taxes, are quickly dwindling. Greater fuel efficiency and fewer total miles travelled by car both regionally and nationally mean gas tax revenues are declining; by 2040, funding from this tax will fall by more than 36 percent. The Highway Trust Fund will be bankrupt by July2014 without more funding from Congress. At the same time, our region spends significantly less on transit than other regions. The situation has degraded; since 1991 our region has increased transit operations funding by only 13 percent while San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles have increased their operations funding by 29 percent, 33 percent and 83 percent, respectively. We must secure new and reliable sources of funding to close this gap.
The Chicago region has not capitalized on opportunities to develop housing and retail near transit. While demand for transit has climbed, our region has hobbled developers looking to build next to transit rather than enticing them. Only 8 percent of our region’s population is located within a quarter mile of rapid transit. And the percent of regional jobs within a half mile of transit actually declined by 0.40 percent in the Chicago region between 2002 and 2011. Chicago’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Ordinance is a good start, but we must continue to encourage equitable development clustered around transit both in the city and in suburban corridors.
MPC recommends improved incentives for developers to build near transit, which will wisely concentrate regional growth around transit stops so that people can get where they need to go even if they don’t own a car. These incentives will encourage sustainable and equitable development for a diverse group of users. As transit ridership numbers increase nationally, it is ironic that this region—with bragging rights as the second largest transit system in the U.S.—has not kept pace.
“Demand for transit has increased, and projections show it will continue to grow,” said Peter Skosey, executive vice president at MPC. “We need to make sure there is enough access to housing near transit, and that our entire transit system network is adequately funded. To ensure our region remains economically competitive, the General Assembly should act on these Task Force recommendations now.”
For more information on the state of Illinois’ transportation funding situation, read parts one and two of MPC’s three-part blog series on transportation infrastructure funding. For more information on transit-oriented development, including interactive maps and details on Chicago’s TOD ordinance, take a look at our TOD page. To talk to someone at MPC, contact Mandy Burrell Booth, communications director, at 312 863 6018 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Ariel Ranieri, communications assistant, at 312 863 6020 or email@example.com.