ON TO 2050 carries forward the GO TO 2040 recommendation to build walkable communities with a variety of services, amenities, and transportation options. These places also often serve as vibrant nodes, offering community gathering spaces and a strong local identity. Continuing to support compact, walkable communities will help meet increasing demand for these places, support transit and existing communities, improve the health of residents, and broadly promote a high quality of life. Such places exist throughout the region, from suburban downtowns and small town main streets to urban neighborhoods.
In the future, more people might want to live in dense, walkable communities due to two key societal shifts. CMAP's Draft ON TO 2050 Socioeconomic Forecast Appendix estimates that the number of residents age 60 and older will nearly double between now and 2050. As baby boomers downsize and our senior population continues to grow through 2050, many seniors might prefer places with accessible and walkable amenities. At the same time, consumer preference surveys and recent home buying trends indicate a growing desire for mixed-use communities with walkable amenities in both urban and suburban areas., Density and pedestrian accessibility are also critical for an area's ability to support high quality transit service. The chart below illustrates a sea change in the types of housing being built in the region, moving from predominance of single-family detached units to an equal balance of the multi-unit developments more typically found in compact, walkable places.
CMAP anticipates continued technological innovations that will increase transportation options and improve connectivity between transportation modes. Increased data and communication technology will allow residents to use a bus for one leg of a trip, a shared bike for another, and a vehicle for yet another (see the recommendation to Harness technology to improve travel and anticipate future impacts in Mobility for more information). This increases transportation options, limits the need for a personal vehicle, and aids creation of walkable places. Recognizing the potential for such change, CMAP included Walkable Communities as one of the five Alternative Futures during ON TO 2050 plan development. Walkability varies widely across the region and different approaches will be needed to best improve the environment for pedestrians.
[GRAPHIC TO COME: Local Strategy Map interactive feature illustrating walkability levels in the region and best practices to improve walkability.]
Adaptation will be needed to ensure that compact places work for a range of modes and uses. Rapidly changing technology is resulting in multiple demands on the street and street edge. The popularity of online shopping has brought more trucks into all types of neighborhoods, at all times of day. Increased use of shared mobility -- from bikeshare to companies like Uber and Lyft -- has created competition for limited street frontage. While best practices exist for creating complete streets, minimizing parking demand, promoting compact development, and safely accommodating all users, the types of transportation uses and the types of places that people want are changing swiftly. Yet long-term policies and guidelines often still prioritize movement of automobiles over pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit without consideration of development context, contributing to a poor balance among competing users that can render a place less safe and inviting. By considering the full range of users and uses from the beginning of infrastructure projects, transportation implementers will be able to avoid unintentional conflicts, such as street furniture that makes it harder for a pedestrian or physically impaired resident to get to the bus. The City of Evanston took this “full range” approach when planning for Sheridan Road. Improvements along the corridor included not only roadway resurfacing/reconstruction and the installation of new water main and storm sewer, but also numerous bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements.
[GRAPHIC TO COME: Rendering illustrating a streetscape adapted to new mobility options while preserving walkability and character.]
In addition to its negative impact on walkability, parking remains an important determinant of development outcomes. Too much parking reduces the space available for denser homes or businesses and may increase the overall cost of a development, while too little parking can limit access and potentially deter some types of investment. Pricing of parking is also a major part of the equation. Communities can price parking to increase local revenues and manage parking demand. Carefully planned and appropriately priced parking facilities can increase transit ridership, as shown in the graphic below based on the recent CMAP Transit Ridership Growth Study. Overall, community plans must balance meeting parking needs and supporting all transportation modes in walkable places. Local governments, transit providers, counties, IDOT, CMAP, and others hold important powers that can be used to create the compact, walkable communities that many residents increasingly want.
Note: the design of this graphic will be updated in the final plan
The following describes strategies and associated actions to implement this recommendation.