2022 City of Chicago Policy Agenda
The independent Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) works with governments, businesses, and advocacy groups to promote racially equitable and environmentally sustainable planning and policy solutions. We seek to promote a better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone.
We support policies, programs, and budgets that lead to just, sustainable, equitable outcomes for all residents.
Ensure transparent, equitable, engaged infrastructure investment
Chicago has tremendous infrastructure assets to offer its residents. Our region is the transportation hub of the nation, and the Chicago area has the second largest transit system in the country. We enjoy an abundant source of drinking water, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District operates a world-class wastewater treatment system. Unfortunately, that abundance is not shared equitably. Some residents have too much water in the form of flooding; others have too little because their water has been shut off. Chicagoans struggle to access our public transit system because bus routes are infrequent or train stations too far away. MPC supports policies and budgets that ensure all Chicagoans have access to the infrastructure assets they deserve.
Increase the safety of our roads, particularly for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Accelerate Implementation of Vision Zero. Every Chicago resident deserves to get where they are going without worrying about becoming a victim of a traffic accident. Vision Zero is Chicago’s pledge to eliminate traffic related fatalities and serious injuries. MPC advocates for accelerating this pledge, specifically by accelerating implementation of Neighborhood Plans and accelerating Complete Streets Quick Delivery projects.
Accelerate Implementation of Protected Bike Line network. Protected bike lanes eliminate an important barrier to cycling: bicyclist perception of safety. The City should accelerate delivery of this vital bicycle infrastructure.
Protect the health of Chicago residents by ensuring reliable, safe drinking water.
Accelerate Lead Service Line Replacement. After decades of inaction, the City of Chicago in 2021 initiated a lead service line replacement program informed by a detailed plan and funded by state and federal resources. Yet the program has made scant progress in its first year. MPC will work with City and State officials to accelerate equitable replacement in Chicago.
Reduce flooding by investing equitably in green infrastructure.
Facilitate stormwater credit trading. As climate change increases heavy rainfall events in the City and region, we will need innovative solutions to help capture stormwater and keep it from overwhelming our sewer systems and inundating our homes. Stormstore – a joint project from MPC and the Nature Conservancy – increases the stormwater management capacity of the region by investing in green infrastructure in disinvested neighborhoods. MPC supports legislative and administrative changes to enable Stormstore to deliver on its promise. Specifically, MPC supports updating Chicago’s federal pollution discharge permit (NPDES) to enable stormwater credit trading as a method of compliance.
Plan for and coordinate equitable, sustainable communities
Land use shapes where you live and influences what you do; planning is ideally the process by which land use decisions are made and critical resources like transportation and housing are managed. These two pillars of land use and planning define how residents experience their neighborhoods. It impacts the types of services that are provided, transportation options, jobs and housing that are available, and overall health and wellness. They are critically important to quality of life. MPC promotes policies and practices to ensure that each neighborhood has the type of land uses that create vibrant, healthy places that are thriving with opportunities. We also support processes that align these land uses with community goals and long-term vision, allowing more residents to be involved in the development of their neighborhoods and a holistic view of how land uses and city systems fit together.
Encourage industrial land use practices and policies that protect environmental and human health, and promote resilience.
Revise existing industrial corridor development and land use policy. Many of Chicago’s land use and zoning policies were enacted decades ago, prior to the integration of practices for meaningful community engagement. Many industrial developments undermine health, community, and connectivity. MPC supports industrial corridor planning that engages stakeholders and residents in developing land use policy aligned with human health, environmental health, and economic development opportunities. We also support strategic planning for the equitable placement of transportation, distribution and logistics facilities.
Strengthen permitting and enforcement procedures in industrial corridors. Weak permitting criteria and lax enforcement of regulations for industrial violations have created ongoing challenges in environmental justice communities that are home to industrial users. Simultaneously, an increase in warehouse developments has accelerated forms of pollution that are not accounted for in the City’s environmental permitting processes. MPC supports a cumulative impacts ordinance that incorporates health impacts into permitting criteria. We also support improved tracking and enforcement of industrial violations by increasing the number of City staff dedicated to this effort.
Plan for the long-term implementation of racially equitable housing, transportation, employment, and other essential services.
Strengthen the incentives for equitable Transit Oriented Development. In 2021, Chicago adopted the equitable Transit Oriented Development Policy Plan, which outlined a path forward for ensuring the benefits of TOD are shared in communities across the city. Chicago should take action aligned with that Policy Plan, including strengthening incentives, targeting incentives to disinvested neighborhoods, and requiring TOD where appropriate.
Implement Bus Rapid Transit. To incentivize development on bus corridors, frequency, accessibility, and speed will have to be improved. Bus Rapid Transit offers an ideal solution: it can operate at nearly the same trip speeds as CTA rail and be built for a fraction of the cost. CTA should publish the Bus Rapid Transit plan it has long promised, to make high-speed, high-quality transit accessible to all the city’s neighborhoods.
Fund transit and bike/walk planning at CDOT. CDOT is woefully understaffed to plan for and implement sustainable modes of transportation. Without increased staff capacity, Chicago will struggle to meet many of its transportation and climate goals. The city should invest resources in more transportation planners who can help design and think systematically about bike/walk and transit projects, in order to improve access to affordable, equitable, healthy transportation as well as implement goals in the Climate Action Plan.
Target accessible improvements to transit station areas. To make transit equitable, it needs to be accessible. Stations and the sidewalks near them need to be designed for the needs of all residents who use them, and must include considerations of ADA access, public safety, and adequate lighting.
Strengthen standards for citywide and neighborhood planning.
Institutionalize the use of health and racial equity impact assessment tools in city policy development and land use decisions.
Align city budgets and capital plan with We Will Chicago priorities, and other city and neighborhood initiatives.
Assess the Chicago zoning code to align with equity, health, and resilience values. Revise land use and zoning to reflect We Will Chicago recommendations.
Revise the current uses of financial incentives – such as Tax Increment Financing – to promote equitable development.
Engage residents on infrastructure issues.
Publish a citywide study on flooding in Chicago (R2021-1123). Flooding – whether caused by sewer system backups, rivers overtopping their banks, or rising Lake Michigan levels – destroys property and creates health hazards. And while flooding occurs in every ward in Chicago, there is some evidence that this issue disproportionately effects Black and Latinx Chicagoans. Yet the causes of and solutions to flooding in Chicago are not publicly known. MPC urges the Department of Water Management to follow cities like Seattle in publishing a comprehensive report on flooding’s causes, solutions, and racial inequities.
Additionally, MPC will continue to support legislation, funding, and programming that:
Expand affordable housing supply through preservation strategies and new production.
Protect vulnerable residents—especially those leaving the justice system—so that they can access and remain in stable housing.
Fairly fund all modes of active and equitable transportation options.
Protect the health of all Chicago residents by planning for, funding, and ensuring access to safe and affordable drinking water.
Create jobs and build wealth for low-income Chicagoans.