A Pivotal Moment

Jul 19, 2013

A Pivotal Moment

We have abundant natural resources — including a magnificent system of parks, open spaces, trails, and waterways — with access to Lake Michigan for drinking water and recreation.

We have a transportation system that moves people and goods, acting as an engine of jobs and prosperity. And the residents of the region themselves are perhaps our greatest renewable resource, constituting a diverse workforce that fuels economic development. But we cannot take our quality of life for granted in the years to come. Stark new economic and environmental realities require the region and its communities to set priorities carefully.

Residents of our region's seven counties — Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will — aspire to and deserve a high quality of life. The mission of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is to help the counties and 284 communities plan together for sustainable prosperity through mid-century and beyond.

Download the Challenges and Opportunities chapter of the full plan (PDF).

Meeting Challenges Together

Our ability to respond to past challenges has made the Chicago area a great place to live and work. Meeting these tests head-on — including economic upheavals, social inequities, ecological harm, and even disasters like the Chicago Fire — made us stronger. Avoiding such challenges would have held our region back. Each of us is forever indebted to the foresight of Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett and to the thousands of civic leaders, business people, and average citizens who helped implement so much of the 1909 Plan of Chicago. This region's successes have always resulted from our willingness to set aside what separates us and work together to accomplish broader, shared goals. We need that spirit of community now as much as ever.

Building Sustainable Prosperity

Implementing the GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan is metropolitan Chicago's best chance to set the stage for economic growth in decades to come. The plan defines carefully coordinated policies to address the fundamental challenges that shape residents' daily lives. After nearly three years of research, public input, and deliberation, GO TO 2040 reflects the collective will of our region's leaders and residents. The region can no longer afford not to plan effectively. As we face new challenges and opportunities together, the GO TO 2040 plan can lead us to prosperity that is sustainable for generations to come.

The Urgency of Long-Range Planning

Most of our region's near-term challenges are the direct result of choices made — or too often deferred — in the past. Urgent challenges have often been an excuse to avoid planning, but they actually reinforce the need to plan more effectively. We need to act now, before today's opportunities become tomorrow's crises.

During decades of rapid but largely uncoordinated expansion, the region grew in patterns that were not sustainable. New homes cropped up in areas that were difficult to reach by automobile and virtually impossible by public transit. Jobs created were often far from the region's residential centers, keeping commuters tied up in traffic and wasting billions of dollars in lost time and fuel. Patterns of development consumed land at a rapid rate, with serious implications for natural resources — including less open space, potential water shortages, and diminished air quality.

Now is our best chance to begin reversing long-range trends like these, which are barriers to the prosperity and livability of this region and its communities. 

Communities Collaborating for Success

CMAP was created at a turning point for the region, as the business community, civic leaders, and local elected officials recognized that many of our most pressing issues are best addressed comprehensively and regionally. Wanting to break with "business as usual," our region's decision makers, residents, and other stakeholders have collaborated to formulate a response: GO TO 2040.

While the region is prosperous by many measures, sustaining residents' quality of life depends on our ability to address these problems. GO TO 2040's main purpose is to grow our region's economy by building on its strengths and overcoming its challenges.

The plan articulates policy reforms that are carefully targeted to enhance the region's economy by setting clear priorities, including improved efficiency of investments and transparency of public decision making. Within local control over zoning and land decisions, communities have many opportunities to work both together and independently toward the common goal of sustainable prosperity.

GO TO 2040 calls for investment in existing communitiesand emphasizes development that is more compact and "livable." By implementing GO TO 2040, residents will have more options for getting around, more options for housing, more jobs nearer to where they live, more parks and open space, more plentiful and cleaner water, healthier air, and better quality of life.

GO TO 2040 is About Sustainable Prosperity

The GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan seeks to maintain and strengthen our region's position as one of the nation's few global economic centers. Prosperity is driven largely by a combination of infrastructure, overall business environment, workforce, and amenities. To remain an attractive place for workers and businesses, our region needs:

  • Global connections that link us to international trade andinformation networks, providing economic opportunitiesand a broad range of jobs.
  • A robust, diverse business community, skilled labor force, and excellent higher education system.
  • Modern, well-maintained infrastructure, including transportation, energy, telecommunications, and water.
  • A healthy environment with ample open space and parks for recreation.
  • Active institutions for arts and culture, along with otheramenities for a high overall quality of life.
  • Government that is transparent and highly accountable.
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A Pivotal Moment Slideshow