In metropolitan Chicago, black and Hispanic residents experience persistent disparities in employment, health, educational attainment, and income. These negative outcomes are worst for black residents, who also endure longer commutes than residents of other races or ethnicities. These residents are more often transit dependent, yet many must commute to jobs located far from frequent transit service. At the same time, these same residents tend to have limited employment opportunities within their own communities. Challenges are compounded for residents with disabilities, who have an unemployment rate that is twice that of those without disabilities. A significant number of people with disabilities cite lack of transportation as a barrier to employment.
Analysis shows that high levels of economic inequality are limiting our region’s ability to grow. Long-term regional economic prosperity requires that we address these issues and take action to increase opportunity and improve quality of life for all residents. Transportation can play a role in creating pathways to opportunity for low income communities and people of color. Working with stakeholders, CMAP has identified EDAs to focus planning efforts and policy recommendations. Many residents of EDAs have limited options for transportation that would efficiently connect them to economic and other opportunities. This is particularly true for residents living in EDAs in the city of Chicago, where access to transit options does not always ensure access to jobs within a reasonable travel time. CMAP research shows that just 9 percent of residents in South and West side Chicago EDAs are employed nearby, compared to the economically connected areas of the city where 72 percent of residents live near their jobs.
Low income residents in the Chicago region use all modes of transportation to get around and are more likely to use active modes of transportation to get around than higher income residents. It is especially important to ensure equitable access to safe pedestrian and bicycle pedestrian facilities for low income residents.
Meaningful progress toward achieving increased access to opportunity can only happen with intentional coordination among public and private actors to leverage technology, improve outreach and engagement, and direct transportation investments where they can have needed impacts.
The following describes strategies and associated actions to implement this recommendation.