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Local strategy map
Transit availability and employment

CMAP research shows that locating employment near transit is one of the most effective ways to increase transit ridership. Local governments and transit agencies can take different actions in different parts of the region to make transit a competitive option for people’s commutes.

High local employment, high transit availability

Buses in Chicago.



High employment density and high transit availability complement one another. Transit service enables higher density of jobs than would be possible if all employees needed to drive to and park near work. Areas with high transit availability can be particularly attractive to employers looking to hire employees who don’t have access to a car or prefer not to drive.  Areas with very high transit availability benefited most from employment gains between 2010-15.

 


However, as many of these areas gain new employers and residents, existing transit service may not be able to accommodate increased transit ridership. Bus transit service in these areas may also be slowed by congestion on roadways. Places with high transit availability, high density, and transit oriented design and placement of buildings are good candidates for targeted investments to eliminate bottlenecks and improve the speed and reliability of transit. These investments include transit signal priority and dedicated lanes for buses, and upgrading signal boxes, expanding yards, and rebuilding junctions for trains.

Low local employment, high transit availability

Buses in Chicago.

 


Some areas of the region have substantial transit availability but a small or declining number of nearby jobs. Some of these areas may be primarily residential, while others have experienced a persistent, long-term lack of market investment, leading to declining property values, tax receipts, employment, and population. The result is that while residents of these areas may be able to use transit to reach jobs in other parts of the region, they are likely to have longer commutes.

 


Rebuilding disinvested areas will be critical to long-term regional prosperity by ensuring that jobs and economic opportunities are available in all communities. Most disinvested areas were economically thriving in the past and still have strengths, including existing public transit, to build upon. The region needs to identify new strategies to overcome structural disincentives to investment in these areas. It is also critical to maintain and enhance transit assets in these areas. Reliability is always a critical component of successful transit service, but becomes even more important for riders traveling long distances. Improvements that make transfers smoother and existing service more attractive and accessible should be part of a coordinated strategy to reinvest in these communities.

 

High local employment, low transit availability

Transportation network in Kane County.


Numerous suburban job centers have low transit availability. Some of these areas are relatively close to places with higher transit availability, but current development patterns make “last mile” travel from stations to final destinations challenging. Municipalities and businesses have an important role to play in encouraging transit-supportive land use patterns. Planning for bus and rail transit-supportive land uses must also involve enhancing pedestrian and bike connections to transit, thereby making it easier and safer for employees and residents near transit corridors to walk or bike to rail or bus stations. Municipalities should also update plans, zoning codes, and development regulations to require greater densities and mixed uses near rail stations and bus corridors that serve employment centers. Collaboration with transit agencies in these efforts is crucial. Pace has established transit supportive guidelines focused on non-rail transit in suburban communities.


 

There may be an opportunity to expand the reach of existing transit in these areas through the use of emerging technologies and services. Communities, transit agencies, and businesses in the region have pursued a variety of last-mile strategies to extend transit service to auto-oriented employment areas. For example, the TMA of Lake-Cook county manages a shuttle bug program that provides employers shuttle service on Pace Suburban buses to nearby Metra stations. Other communities are exploring partnerships with private sector shuttle services to enhance transit access to job centers.