Photo by caribb from Flickr
More than three years in the making, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is wrapping up its GO TO 2040 plan for the future of northeastern Illinois, which is expected to launch in October. GO TO 2040 will be the region's first plan that coordinates metropolitan Chicago's land use and transportation goals, as well as key quality of life issues such as workforce development, economic innovation, and local food systems.
MPC has been a strong ally of CMAP's since the agency was created by the Illinois General Assembly in 2005, by combining the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, the former land use planning agency, with the Chicago Area Transportation Study, the metropolitan planning organization responsible for regional transportation infrastructure investments. Since then, MPC has continued to partner with CMAP as it developed the vision and regional scenario for northeastern Illinois, ultimately leading to GO TO 2040.
During GO TO 2040's comment period, MPC submitted suggestions to CMAP to strengthen what is already a sound plan. GO TO 2040 sets forth success measures to track the impact of new approaches to regional planning and investments. It also creates regional development targets for the year 2040, such as the redevelopment of 100,000 underutilized acres to support existing communities; reduction in average household housing and transportation spending, from the current average of 55 percent of household income to 45 percent; and the doubling of public transit ridership from its current 2 million people per day to 4 million riders. All of these will help quantify the effects of policies and investments that improve connections between housing, transportation, and employment centers.
The plan also emphasizes the importance of smarter spending, in particular by focusing on investments that achieve multiple benefits. For instance, by building parks in highly residential areas and investing in affordable housing near transit stops and shopping districts, the region can make the best use of scarce resources. MPC's comments commend CMAP for starting to put the plan into action with its selection of transit capital investments. The organization made tough decisions when it came to new public transit and road projects, by prioritizing them based on the largest population served, support of existing communities, the potential to generate revenue to support ongoing maintenance, and several other important factors. Given that $385 billion is expected in revenue over the next 30 years, while $332 billion of that is needed just to keep northeastern Illinois' existing transportation sytem well-maintaned and operating efficiently, CMAP's project prioritization will be a critical guide to making the best investment decisions for the region.
To make the plan even stronger, MPC recommends promoting it as a road map that can lead this region out of the current fiscal crisis. Through smarter, goal-oriented investments, northeastern Illinois can set the benchmark for how Illinois as a whole should be focusing public sector dollars. MPC's comments also emphasized how important CMAP’s strong partnerships will be during the plan's implementation phase: CMAP isn't in this alone; municipalities, regional technical assistance providers, civic institutions, and the private sector all must come together as a region to advance our region plan. To that end, MPC also urges CMAP to move people to action by demonstrating why the solutions in the plan are essential to our collective future, through facts, graphics and an overall plan presentation that brings the region's current challenges to life.
As CMAP and its many regional partners look ahead to GO TO 2040 implementation, communities will need incentives and on-the ground support to play their part in advancing this regional plan. MPC will continue to advocate not only for a strong regional plan but also for new funding sources, smarter use of existing resources, more strategic deployment of technical assistance, and better use of project selection criteria that can support communities as they plan for the future. Together with local municipalities, CMAP and our civic partners, we look forward to supporting all of these efforts as we continue to advocate for a more sustainable and prosperous metropolitan region.