Talking Transit: Sketching a future for Chicagoland transportation policy - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Talking Transit: Sketching a future for Chicagoland transportation policy

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The Chicago region's transit and roads systems are suffering from delayed maintenance and need new investment.

Published monthly, MPC’s Talking Transit provides updates about transit-related activities around the world.

Get In the Loop on all the latest local, national and international transit headlines.

2014 is an important year for the future of the Chicago region’s infrastructure. MAP-21, the U.S. federal transportation funding bill, is expiring. The 2009 Illinois state capital bill is reaching the end of its life. And the metropolitan area’s roads, bridges and transit networks continue to fall into further disrepair.

The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is working with local, state and federal policy leaders to advance new approaches for financing and investing in metropolitan Chicago’s transportation system. In February, Talking Transit explored infrastructure deterioration in Illinois; last month continued with a detailed look at current funding sources; and this month provides a review of MPC’s policy priorities for 2014.

Did You Know?

Despite an annual budget of more than $4 billion, the Ill. Dept. of Transportation is not tied by law to apply a rigorous cost-benefit analysis to projects before allocating funding. Nor are any of the other major transportation agencies in Illinois required to select projects based on performance measures.

With massive infrastructure repair needs and declining access to funds at local, state and federal levels, however, there is a clear mandate to invest the money we do have in the most essential, beneficial projects. Government investments ought to produce an effective transportation system and expand economic growth.

A Strategic Mobility Agenda

MPC’s transportation policy reform program is based on the idea that a statewide, data-based approach is used to identify the most effective, accountable and transparent investments. Using a set of pre-identified performance measures would guarantee that the state makes sound transportation investments.

Worldwide and nationwide, states and metropolitan regions are using performance measures to select the best projects In the United Kingdom, major transportation projects are subjected to a cost-benefit evaluation that compares the infrastructure and environmental costs of rail lines and highways with their ultimate mobility benefits. Similarly, in Minnesota and North Carolina, performance measures are used to compare projects with one another and to select those determined most useful for those states’ futures.

MPC is promoting legislative change at the state level that guarantees accountability, transparency, strong return on investment and a more level playing field. By prioritizing quality investments, we will make the Chicago region’s mobility systems more effective for everyone.

Several Potential New Sources of Revenue

With greater accountability and strategic mobility decision making, our region will spend its public funds more effectively on transportation projects. Yet, paired with these critically important forms, the region—and the State of Illinois as a whole—remains in need of increased funding.

MPC continues to work with communities, businesses and political stakeholders to evaluate appropriate options for new transportation revenues at the federal, state and regional levels. Each of the following options, all of which are up for consideration, could go a long way in solidifying transportation funding.

Federal revenue options:

  • Increase the federal motor fuel tax and index it to inflation.
  • Implement a vehicle miles traveled tax.
  • Allow tolling of existing roads.

State revenue options:

  • Increase the state motor fuel tax and index it to inflation.
  • Dedicate revenue from the state sales tax on motor fuel purchases to transportation.
  • Broaden the sales tax base to include personal services.
  • Implement Transit Facility Improvement Areas along a transit corridor.

Regional revenue options:

  • Regionally imposed transportation user fee.
  • Congestion pricing on the existing system.
  • Variable priced parking.

MPC is working with our many partners to determine which of these revenue proposals are most feasible. Those proposals will shape our advocacy for future state and national investment in transportation infrastructure.


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For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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