On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) Board of Governors and Executive Advisors for a dialogue on how the region's civic and business communities can support the mayor’s key priorities, including strengthening the city’s economy, infrastructure and quality of life. Village of Addison Mayor Larry Hartwig, chair of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, which represents all 270-plus mayors in northeastern Illinois, also spoke with MPC's leaders about the challenges suburban mayors face.
Where We Stand
At MPC’s Board meeting, Mayor Emanuel recognized the deep challenges facing Chicago, chief among them the need to create jobs, tackle the ever-growing backlog of capital infrastructure maintenance, and strengthen the economy in the face of a shrinking budget. Daunting, yes, but the mayor repeated what has become one of his mantras: “Never allow a good crisis to go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do things you might never have done.”
Indeed, since taking office in May, Mayor Emanuel has brought new ideas and energy to the issues confronting our city and region. MPC was pleased to serve on his economic development transition committee and help staff the transportation transition committee. The resulting Chicago 2011 Transition Report highlights many solutions the mayor has pledged to enact, including a Bus Rapid Transit pilot, new ways to finance and coordinate infrastructure investments, and meaningful Tax Increment Financing (TIF) reforms.
These are just some of the ways Chicago can unleash its strategic advantages, said Mayor Emanuel, which include a strong work ethic, rich system of universities and research institutions, robust, multimodal transportation network, and position as the Midwest’s service and cultural hub. While the mayor acknowledged that he alone cannot create jobs, he can create the right conditions to attract jobs. He highlighted several key strategies, including supporting coordinated capital investments in rail, roads, schools and water; providing incentives to private institutions, such as universities and hospitals, that invest in Chicago’s neighborhoods; and making place-based investments in Chicago’s public spaces and natural areas that attract young families.
In the coming weeks, the mayor will unveil his budget, which undoubtedly will include cuts, but also outline a new investment strategy for Chicago. “Change is coming,” the mayor said. “The question is, are we going to shape it and make it our friend, or are we going to run away from it?” MPC is ready to shape it, along with Mayor Emanuel, the rest of the region’s mayors who are facing similar challenges, and our many community, civic, and business partners. As MPC Board Chair King Harris summed up, “We have got to go all out to help. Under these circumstances, we cannot be divided.”
Project Progress Report: Commute Options
Since spring 2011, seven local employers have jumped on board northeastern Illinois’ Commute Options pilot, led by MPC, in partnership with the Civic Consulting Alliance and a host of local transportation vendors. To contribute to the Chicago Climate Action Plan’s goal of removing 19,000 cars from the road, and save their workers money, time and sanity, each employer is working with MPC to customize incentives to encourage employees to ride transit, bike, walk, or carpool to work instead of driving alone.
MPC congratulates the following workplaces for committing to Commute Options in 2011: W.W. Grainger, Chicago Public Schools, Goose Island Beer Company, Loyola University, Labelmaster, Underwriters Laboratories, and Champro Sports.
Each employer kicks off its Commute Options program by surveying its employees to determine their current commuting habits. At no charge to the employer, MPC analyzes the responses and recommends several existing and new incentives—including Regional Transportation Authority/Chicago Transit Authority Transit Benefit Fare Program, bike sharing, carpooling, Pace vanpool, car sharing, telecommuting, Employer-Assisted Housing, and Emergency Ride Home—to encourage their employees to get out of their cars and into a better ride to work. After each employer has implemented its Commute Options, MPC will conduct quantitative and qualitative analysis to evaluate the success of each program.
W.W. Grainger, based in Lake Forest, Ill., hosted an on-site commuter fair for its employees this summer, at which Pace and Metra promoted their services. The company also remarketed its pretax transit benefits program and designated preferred parking spots for registered rideshare participants. To complement the shared shuttle that the company participates in as a member of the Conway Park Business Owners Association, from June through September, Grainger test-ran a dedicated shuttle for its employees from the Lake Forest campus to two local Metra stations. This fall, the company will evaluate performance of the dedicated shuttle and determine next steps. For its commitment to Commute Options, Grainger recently earned glowing press from the Lake Forester and Lake County News-Sun newspapers.
Principles of Placemaking
Cities around the world are recognizing that safe, well-used public spaces are just as important to healthy communities – and our economy – as quality workforce housing choices and reliable transportation. Through Placemaking Chicago, MPC supports the creation and care of public spaces across Chicagoland through policy advocacy, close collaboration with public agencies and elected officials, direct outreach to residents and community organizations, and an active social media and online presence.
We’re always on the lookout for Chicago-area stories that highlight individuals and communities using Placemaking principles to create, improve and maintain great public places, such as Three Brothers Garden in Chicago’s Irving Park neighborhood. While at first glance the northeast corner of Belle Plaine Avenue and Pulaski Road seems like little more than a small paved lot occupied by a few parked cars, closer inspection reveals the Three Brothers Garden, fenced-in between the parking lot and Irving Park Lutheran Church. Peek over the fence and you’ll see residents gardening rows of thriving fruits and vegetables to be donated to the Irving Park Food Pantry. The space it occupies may be unassuming, but this garden has done remarkable things to unite and give back to the community. Read all about it in this month’s Placemaking profile.
Thanks to a sponsorship from IBM, MPC is offering a $2,500 prize for the best Placemaking application submitted to Apps for Metro Chicago (A4MC). This regionwide competition invites developers and community groups to compete for more than $50,000 in prizes by using data sets offered by the city, county, state, and other agencies to solve problems and improve quality of life in metropolitan Chicago. The winning Placemaking app will help people find, create, sustain and/or share vibrant public places. Find out how to enter A4MC and what it will take to win the Placemaking prize at A4MC's web site.>>
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News of Interest
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Illinois PPPs for Transportation Act: A new infra tool for the US state
Riders for Better Transit needs you!
Become a fan of MPC on Facebook
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