Local strategy map
Transit and employment density in economically disconnected areas

Transportation infrastructure, access to employment, and socioeconomic factors each affect the daily commute patterns of the region’s residents. For residents of economically disconnected areas (EDA) -- parts of the region with concentrated low incomes, limited English proficiency residents, and/or minority residents -- daily commutes can be particularly long.

Waukegan EDA cluster

Transportation in the Chicago region.


EDAs in the Waukegan area are majority Hispanic, and neighboring economically connected areas are majority white. Disparities exist between residents in these areas across various economic outcomes, including educational attainment and income. Despite relatively low educational attainment rates, residents in these EDAs participate in the labor force at rates similar to residents living in nearby economically connected areas. However, a roughly $43,000 gap exists between them in average median income.


Most workers in both EDA and economically connected clusters travel to work by car. Workers living in EDAs are more likely to carpool than drive alone: 22 percent of workers in these tracts carpool to work relative to seven percent of workers from neighboring economically connected areas. Residents in these EDAs also have significantly lower average commute times than their economically connected neighbors—25 and 28 minutes, respectively. The average commute time of this EDA cluster is also among the lowest commute times in the region. These trends are in part driven by low transit availability: the EDAs and the economically connected areas score average transit availability scores of three and two out of five, respectively, on CMAP’s Transit Availability Index.


In EDAs in suburban areas, such as in Waukegan, Joliet, and Aurora, residents have less access to public transit. However, with relatively higher incomes, these workers are able to live closer to employment opportunities or more easily afford a vehicle, circumventing the poor access to transit within the nearby employment centers. In neighboring economically connected areas, residents also commute primarily by car though their average commute times are generally longer. These residents may be choosing homes that are farther from employment, but offer more amenities, are in stronger school districts, or have other quality of life benefits.

South Chicago EDA cluster

Transportation in the Chicago region.


Geographic location affects residents’ access to employment, transportation, and other services, impacting economic opportunity. A comparative analysis of EDAs in south Chicago and the nearby southwest suburbs illustrates this gap. Large disparities in homeownership, unemployment, and income exist between these two communities. The two geographies also differ demographically: more than 98 percent of residents in the EDAs are residents of color relative to 25 percent of residents in the southwest suburban economically connected area.


Workers from EDAs in south Chicago are more likely to travel to work using public transit, driven by low income and high access to public transit. Residents in the southwest suburbs cluster have higher incomes and limited transit availability, and primarily drive to work. EDAs and economically connected areas here have average transit availability scores of five and four, respectively. Both geographies have high commute times, 39 and 32 minutes respectively, though a sizeable 7 minute difference exists between them.

West Chicago EDA cluster

Transportation in the Chicago region.


EDAs in west Chicago differ from nearby north Lakefront communities. A $49,000 gap exists in average median income between the primarily white north Lakefront communities and west Chicago’s majority black EDAs. Large disparities also exist in educational attainment, unemployment and labor force participation, as well as in commute and travel patterns.


Residents in EDAs in west Chicago are less likely to commute to work with public transit than their Lakefront neighbors. Despite high access to public transit (with a five out of five average transit availability score), 28 percent of workers in these EDAs commute via transit and 65 percent commute by car. These workers may be travelling to jobs in areas with limited transit availability, requiring a commute by car. A relatively larger share of Lakefront commuters travel to work using public transit (39 percent) and only 43 percent travel to work by car. A significant share of residents in the more affluent north Lakefront tracts also walk or bike to work. Though a larger share of Lakefront commuters travel to work by public transit, Lakefront commuters have lower average commute times relative to residents in west Chicago’s EDAs.


The west- and south Chicago case studies illustrate the economic benefits of transportation and supportive land uses. Within EDAs and some commute destinations, housing and employment exists at densities sufficient to support frequent transit service. For many residents of economically connected areas, supportive land use also includes strong and job-dense employment centers within or very near these communities.