Transit Drives Jobs in Chicago Region - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Transit Drives Jobs in Chicago Region

Broad research reveals transit is a key factor in business location and recruitment strategy 

(Chicago) … Chicago region trains and buses not only deliver passengers, they deliver job growth and economic resiliency. New research that the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) released today at a forum for business, transit and government leaders reveals the value of transit in creating new jobs and retaining businesses and talent in the Chicago region.  Transit Means Business shows that a well-funded and robust transit system yields many benefits, including jobs, increased worker productivity, a strong and resilient real estate market, and better health outcomes.

Among MPC’s key findings:

  • From 2005-2015, 50 percent of new jobs were located within a half-mile of a CTA or Metra station. During that time period, the region added 334,000 new jobs, a growth rate of nearly 9 percent. Areas close to stations more than doubled the regional average, growing jobs by 19%.
  • In 2017, 85% of all commercial construction in the 7-county region occurred within a half-mile or less of a CTA or Metra station.
  • During the financial crisis, areas within a quarter-mile of a CTA or Metra station were economically resilient, posting 1.36 percent job growth. Despite the region losing nearly 150,000 jobs during the peak of the financial crisis (2008-2009), areas within this quarter-mile grew by nearly 11,000 jobs.
  • Transit commuting is growing rapidly for the region’s largest age cohorts: Between 2011 and 2016, transit ridership to work for those ages 25 to 44 grew 8%, while riders age 55+ saw a spike of 23%.
  • 13% of the region’s labor pool is without a car which means for 588,875 people, transit is a primary way they access employment.

“This study complements decades of research that reveal one singular truth: Investments in transit generate regional economic growth,” said Audrey Wennink, Director of Transportation at the Metropolitan Planning Council. “We must ensure our system is well-maintained and expanded so we can continue to attract jobs and businesses to our region. Our future as a global city depends on it.”

In addition to the new analysis, Transit Means Businesses also features case studies of 15 employers from around the region, each of which rely on and benefit from metropolitan Chicago’s transit system. MPC profiled a wide variety of companies, from manufacturing to tech, from real estate to universities, including regional powerhouses like McDonald’s, Illinois Medical District, Bosch, and Method.

Nearly all of the companies profiled cited transit as critical to attracting talent, particularly for early-career professionals. Human resources specialists have observed that many younger professionals want to live in urbanized areas and use transit as their primary mode of transportation. As a result, companies are relocating downtown or ensuring their sites are more accessible by transit.

For example, Bosch, which is located in Mt. Prospect, financially supports Pace to ensure the bus from the Metra station makes a special stop at their workplace. “Without the option of commuting via Metra, recruitment would be significantly more difficult,” said Antonia Robinson, Bosch Tool HR Partner.

Many companies are relocating to capture young talent. Since 2009, Chicago has experienced an influx of suburban companies relocating or adding a satellite office in Chicago’s Central Business District. The trend is expected to continue since companies need to capture young talent that seeks a live-work-play balance.

McDonald’s famously relocated their headquarters from Oakbrook to the West Loop this year to attract the broader range of talent they saw was critical to their growth.

“Our move was motivated by a desire to get us closer to customers, encourage innovation and ensure great talent is excited about where they work,” said Robert Gibbs, Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for McDonald’s and a panelist at today’s Transit Means Business event. “Our proximity to the Green Line, coupled with the fleet of shuttles we run from Union and Ogilvie Metra stations, means that we greatly benefit from—and also deeply rely on—our region’s transit system.”

Despite these positive economic impacts, the Regional Transit Authority has estimated that nearly one third of transit infrastructure in Northeastern Illinois is not currently in a state of good repair. According to the RTA 2018-2023 Strategic Plan, the maintenance backlog for the three Chicago area transit agencies is $19.4 billion.

“Our region’s transit system is at a dangerous crossroads,” said MPC President MarySue Barrett. “With Transit Means Business we have documented that transit is a primary driver of job creation. Yet, we are at tremendous risk if we fail to invest in the entire system’s maintenance. Employers today are telling their government officials that transit is fundamental to economic growth.”

Since the state gas tax was last raised in 1991, its purchasing power has declined by more than 46 percent—reducing the average Illinoisan’s contribution to transportation infrastructure from the equivalent of $160 to about $85 per year today.  That is the equivalent of a quarter per day.  In 2016, MPC quantified that maintenance and basic upgrades of Illinois transportation infrastructure will require an additional $43 billion in investment over 10 years, or an average of $4.3 billion each year.

Friday’s Transit Means Business Forum brought together advocates from business, transit and government to highlight the need for sustainable transit funding in order to meet the transportation needs of people and businesses throughout the region. Action on statewide sustainable transportation revenue is a top MPC priority for 2018 into 2019. Recommendations and outcomes of the forum will be documented at metroplanning.org/transitmeansbusiness and shared with elected officials.

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