Effective development ought to ensure that all people have reliable transportation choices that connect where they live to where good jobs are available. Yet for decades, the Chicago region has been growing outward, often into areas with limited or no rapid transit access. While most of the region's population was near reliable rail service in 1950, today the vast majority of jobs and households are not within walking distance of rapid transit stations. Indeed, over the past half-century, the number of Chicagoans living within a half-mile of rapid transit has declined by more than a half million.
The result is a car-dependent region where taking the bus or train is not a reasonable option for most. This increases transportation costs for families and contributes to air pollution, while creating neighborhoods that are isolated and often segregated. Previously developed areas within both the City of Chicago and surrounding suburbs are abandoned as growth moves elsewhere, destabilizing once-vibrant neighborhoods. Meanwhile, our public transportation network, which provides useful service but is limited by the cost of building rapid transit extensions and the competition from free highways, is underused; the region is 65 percent more populated than it was in 1950 but the number of annual transit rides taken has declined by 61 percent.
Development near transit helped double Chicago's downtown population between 2000 and 2010—even as the city as a whole lost population. By building new opportunities for people of all incomes to live, work and shop near transit in neighborhoods across the city, we can grow Chicago and give more Chicagoans excellent access to high-quality schools, jobs, retail and parks.
Together with a group of partners throughout the Chicago region, MPC is engaged on a multi-front initiative to encourage equitable transit-oriented development (TOD). The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) established clear goals for encouraging livable communities with access to public transit in the GO TO 2040 regional plan. These goals, which would mean more housing and jobs close to rapid transit stations, require policy and financing solutions, as well as considerable local support.
MPC is working to revise local land use policies to orient them towards densifying areas near transit, extending the TOD Ordinance passed by the City of Chicago in 2013. At the same time, it is working with partners to develop financing tools to encourage TOD projects and to guarantee that new construction and renovation are accessible to people across the income spectrum. Finally, MPC is coordinating a series of outreach programs through our Corridor Development Initiative (CDI) process to work with select, priority communities to craft a vision for redevelopment near transit. Together, these efforts are designed to increase growth in areas near transit.
- When people can rely on public transit to connect where they live and where jobs are available, it reduces their cost of living. In Minneapolis, the opening of a new light rail line provided residents living near stations a 50 percent increase in access to low-wage jobs.
TOD increases access to jobs and decreases commuting costs
- People living and working close to transit drive less, reducing congestion and pollution. Of employees in the Chicago region living within a quarter mile of rail transit stations, 29.1 percent take transit to work and 10.4 percent bike or walk; of those living more than a half-mile from rail stations, just 8.5 percent take transit to work and just 2.3 percent bike or walk.
- Equitable TOD works to guarantee that neighborhoods near transit are welcoming and livable to the widest range of the region's population as possible. According to a national study, people who moved to a transit-accessible residence from an inaccessible one saw a 6.5 percent increase in number of jobs accessible; decreases in average commute times and commute costs; and a 42 percent decline in daily vehicle miles traveled.
- Loan funds, regulatory changes and community members all can support the goal of encouraging more of the region's development in areas near transit.