The cumulative choices of 284 municipalities and seven counties determine quality of life and economic prosperity across our region. With local autonomy over land use comes the responsibility to consider how those decisions shape a community's livability, including how they affect neighboring communities and the region as a whole. As a region, we need to implement policies and investments that make livability the highest priority.
Livable communities are created through effective planning and decisions by local officials, developers, and individual residents. Therefore, one of GO TO 2040's highest priorities is to promote comprehensive planning in communities across our seven counties. This includes not only land use and transportation planning, but also planning for future housing supply and demand, and ensuring that local zoning ordinances are aligned with local plans.
GO TO 2040 also recommends the use of green techniques for new development and redevelopment to improve energy efficiency, while also helping to reduce water consumption and improve stormwater management. Though we live in an area where fresh water seems abundant, our water is not a limitless resource. Over the next 30 years, water and energy resources will likely become more limited, affecting residents, businesses, and local governments alike. Improving our water and energy efficiency will save money and head off shortages that could profoundly affect our quality of life.
Residents in livable communities tend to make fewer automobile trips, which will reduce fuel consumption and pollution from transportation, our region's second greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions—mostly from cars and trucks. When residents are able to live near their jobs, it helps to reduce travel costs, pollution, and congestion. Efficient use of land that supports walking, bicycling, and access to transit also reduces energy consumption—saving money for individuals, communities, and the region.
A century ago, Daniel Burnham understood that parks and open space were central to the region's quality of life and environment when developing the 1909 Plan of Chicago, which led to the network of parks, forest preserves, and lakefront areas that we now enjoy. Today, that network must grow along with our region through planned investments in a regional network of "green" infrastructure corridors that connect our parks and open spaces. The GO TO 2040 plan also calls for us to strengthen our region's food systems. Illinois has some of the most fertile soils in the country. While Illinois farmers grow only six percent of the produce consumed in the state, we could grow much more.
Our region faces significant obstacles to achieving livable communities. At present, many of us have no choice but to drive because our communities were designed primarily for car travel. Often residents live long distances from where they work because jobs and housing in our region are far apart. Too many communities lack access to parks and healthy food. And rapid consumption of land and other natural resources contributes to environmental problems across the region. By committing to achieving livability, local communities can help to create a more sustainable, prosperous, and economically competitive region.