Inclusive Growth, Resilience, and Prioritized Investment help guide ON TO 2050.

Three circles overlapping.

Residents of metropolitan Chicago live and work here because of the many opportunities for prosperity that the region offers. We are home to diverse industries, a well-educated workforce, and world class institutions of higher education. The region remains a nexus for rail, air, water, and automotive transportation in North America. In the past decade, the region has made great strides on investing in its transit and road networks, preserving high-quality open space, and fostering livable communities. At the same time, we are struggling to keep up with our peers economically, making do with less revenue to maintain our aging infrastructure, and facing growing inequality.

The Chicago region has a tradition of seizing its destiny rather than leaving the future to chance. To thrive, we must address our challenges collaboratively and ensure metropolitan Chicago's status as a global center of commerce, a place where opportunity is open to all.

Our progress has stalled for reasons that are complex but by no means irreversible. By systematically investing in our residents, infrastructure, and communities, as a region we can make tangible progress toward broad, lasting prosperity and quality of life. Most important, while we possess the assets necessary to succeed, we are strongest when we coordinate our efforts region-wide.

In developing this ON TO 2050 comprehensive regional plan, CMAP spent approximately three years working with partners to conduct extensive research, issue more than two dozen reports, and engage over 100,000 residents of the seven-county region. The plan affirms and builds on the recommendations of its predecessor, GO TO 2040, to offer specific direction where needed and identify additional priorities. The plan process identified three clear, overarching principles:

Inclusive Growth: Growing our economy through opportunity for all.

Resilience: Preparing for rapid changes, both known and unknown.

Prioritized Investment: Carefully target resources to maximize benefit.

These principles will inform every recommendation in ON TO 2050's five chapters of Community, Prosperity, Environment, Governance, and Mobility.


Inclusive Growth

Regions that offer economic opportunity for residents regardless of race, income, or background enjoy longer, stronger periods of prosperity and fewer, shorter periods of economic stagnation.

Metropolitan Chicago simply cannot thrive when so many people and places are left behind. Despite our many enviable assets, we fall short of ensuring economic opportunity for all residents. Though also true of many other regions, this unfortunate reality is particularly evident here according to numerous measures based on race or ethnicity. For a stronger, more equitable future, our region needs to ensure every resident and community has the ability to fully contribute to and benefit from the economy. By taking deliberate steps region-wide, together we can make progress toward inclusive growth across all seven counties and 284 municipalities and ensure a more robust economy.


Inequity persists when the location of someone’s home, their race or ethnicity, or socioeconomic status determine their economic success, health, and overall quality of life. This inequality manifests strongly along racial lines, and often can be traced to racially discriminatory policies and practices such as redlining, exclusionary zoning, school segregation, and predatory lending. Residents also experience health disparities depending on where they live and work. Promoting inclusive growth can disrupt these patterns and help the region be stronger and more successful economically.    

Estimated change in households by income level and race and ethnicity, Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area, 2005-15
  •   Low
  •   Middle
  •   High
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning analysis of American Community Survey data
Note: Low income is less than 60 percent of area median income. Moderate income is 60 percent to 140 percent of area median income. High income is more than 140 percent of area median income.

To compete in the global economy, we must tap the full potential of all our workers, businesses, and infrastructure. Currently, a substantial portion of the region’s human capital — embodied in the talents and skills of excluded residents — is being wasted. Paired with other strategies to capitalize on the region’s economic assets, emphasizing inclusive economic initiatives can help restart long-term growth in disinvested places and increase prosperity across the region.

Strategies for inclusive growth can also help the region attract and retain a diverse populace. Having recently lost population — particularly among low and moderate income residents as well as black residents — we must take intentional, proactive steps to open doors in communities where opportunity hasn't knocked for generations as well as pursue economic growth that benefits residents at all skill and income levels.

Regionally, inequity also takes a toll on communities themselves, many of which have not recovered from the recession. Despite making prudent budget choices, too many municipalities find their tax base limited by long term disinvestment of people and jobs and resulting high vacancies. Combined with decreasing federal and state support, this lack of capacity can make it difficult for municipalities to provide essential services. Inclusive growth can help such communities stem these trends and control their own destiny.

Long-term regional prosperity requires economic opportunity for all residents and communities.


To remain strong, metropolitan Chicago requires communities, infrastructure, and systems that can thrive in the face of future economic, fiscal, and environmental uncertainties.

By achieving "Resilience," our communities can prepare for and recover from acute shocks and chronic stresses. This requires making infrastructure, natural systems, and social structures more durable. In addition to rebounding quickly from, for instance, stronger storms and frequent flooding, a resilient region can actually capitalize on these challenges. To cite one example, if extreme heat causes pavement to buckle, it can be replaced not only by a road more resistant to extreme temperatures, but one also built to mitigate flooding and ensure reliable, weather-resistant transportation.

Flooding data story.

"Resilience" refers to much more than climate change. Many communities lack the capacity — for example, revenue, staff, expertise, equipment, and other resources — to effectively implement local and regional goals related to services, land use, and quality of life. By pooling resources, deploying new technologies, and training staff, resilient municipalities can plan collaboratively to provide essential services even as federal and state support continues to diminish. While funding from the State of Illinois will continue to play a crucial role — though quite an uncertain one, due to fiscal conditions — in our prosperity, local revenue streams must become more resilient to economic forces beyond the region’s control.

Working closely together to achieve resilience, our region's communities can also prepare for inevitable challenges as global markets spur a transition to new types of work in emerging industries and change commercial, industrial, and even residential development patterns.

Our region and its communities must anticipate and adapt to future challenges — both known and unknown — driven by climate, commerce, technology, and other factors.

Prioritized Investment

In any era, metropolitan Chicago requires wise stewardship of public revenues to maximize regional benefits. Especially when federal and state funding becomes less sufficient year by year, we must ensure "Prioritized Investment" for infrastructure, development, and the economy to maximize regional benefits.

Prioritized investment extends beyond transportation infrastructure, to the built environment, technical assistance, and other public resources. For decades, funding of public services and infrastructure at all levels of governments has been stagnant or diminishing, yet costs continue to rise. Due to the need of new support for transportation in particular, ON TO 2050 identifies a number of alternatives to our state's and region's antiquated sources of revenue. We require funding methods sustainable and flexible enough for operating and maintaining a modern system of roads, transit, and freight, whose needs could continually shift due to emerging technologies and economic realities.

State of transit system data story.

Coordinating investment broadly — by linking transportation with housing, or targeting public expenditures to attract private resources, among other examples — is also essential for effectively using limited resources. To maximize the benefit of precious transit resources, for instance, requires land use decisions that support residential and commercial development so people can live and work near bus or train service. Making the best use of existing roadways through strategies like improved responses to weather and events, or managing demand through congestion pricing, can limit expansion needs. Similarly, stormwater management investments can meet multiple goals by also offering recreational options and improving water quality.

Above all, prioritized investment requires close coordination across implementing agencies responsible for providing technical assistance or selecting projects transparently based on clear, measurable objectives. Local governments can take a similar approach to development through targeted reinvestment in existing places, paired with fiscally and environmentally sustainable expansion. To improve the existing system, we must address the backlog of transportation, water, and other infrastructure in need of repair or replacement, opting for expansion projects only when they meet clear regional objectives.

We must carefully target public resources to maximize regional benefits for mobility, the economy, and quality of life for all residents.