MarySue's Midweek Links - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MarySue's Midweek Links

The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program – one of MPC’s closest national partners – has released a new report and (very cool) interactive map, State of Metropolitan America: On the Front Lines of Demographic Transformation, which foreshadows 2010 Census results. Together, the data and Brookings analysis provide an insightful snapshot of who Americans are today and where our metropolitan areas, including the Chicago region, are headed. The report spotlights five key demographic trends brewing in the nation’s 100 metropolitan area and identifies seven distinct types of metropolitan areas:

  • Diverse Giant
  • Skilled Anchor
  • Next Frontier
  • New Heartland
  • Industrial Core
  • Border Growth
  • Mid-Sized Magnet

Each typology is differentiated by population growth, population diversity, and educational attainment. By comparing the nation’s 100 largest metro regions, Brookings is identifying shared challenges and pointing each region toward others like them to help identify common solutions.

Chicago is a so-called “Diverse Giant.” These are the nation’s largest metro areas, including New York and L.A., as well as coastal anchors such as Miami, San Francisco, and San Diego. According to Brookings, these areas share above-average educational attainment and diversity, but below-average population growth, owing in part to their large sizes. They are growing more densely and are home to sizeable populations of “second-generation” children of immigrant parents, but exhibit wide educational and wage disparities.

To me, this classification rings true, but also masks incredibly complex challenges from retrofitting car-dependent communities to preparing the workforce for green economy jobs. The regional plate is over-full.

MPC made some news this week with a study of our own: Our analysis of the federal government’s $1.2 billion investment in faster train service between Chicago and St. Louis was picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mary Wisniewski in her Monday column, The Ride. For the article, “Speed thrills, but delays matter,” Wisniewski took a trip on Amtrak’s Lincoln Service to see how the federal money would be spent and what the benefits would be. She wasn’t sure what to expect because, as she wryly noted, “compared with the massive high-speed rail bridges being built in China, the plans for the Chicago/St. Louis route seem prosaic -- better signaling, track improvements -- yawn!”

However, she learned what those technology upgrades, new cars and up to 30 miles of double tracking will do: eliminate delays and bring more trains per day to Chicago. Ridership on Amtrak’s line is already up 16.5 percent in the last year, and MPC’s study shows the faster service will bring 800,000 new tourists to Chicago over the next 10 years, who will spend $320 million in the city. The boost also will mean some 5,300 new tourism and construction jobs into the Chicago area and 120,000 metric tons less of carbon dioxide emissions in the air. Read the complete study on our homepage.

How many vibrant 95-year-olds do you know? I’m proud to know two who just celebrated that milestone. One is long-time Board member John Baird, who is as engaged in regional planning and fair housing issues as ever. Plus, he downhill skis! My second 95th birthday wishes go out to The Chicago Community Trust, Chicago’s community foundation. The Trust funds many aspects of our work, for which we are most grateful; we are equally grateful for the hundreds of other grants the Trust makes each year to strengthen organizations and individuals across the metropolitan region. Happy birthday to two community gems!


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For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

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