Constrained Resources

Mar 30, 2017

Constrained Resources

Read a summary of the Alternative Futures engagement phase (April-August 2017), during which CMAP connected with more than 2,500 residents in 127 workshops and five topical forums, with another 61,000 providing input via interactive kiosks. Capping off these activities was a speech to the City Club of Chicago by CMAP executive director Joe Szabo.

What if public resources are further constrained by 2050?

With less federal and state funding available for public services -- for example, transportation, social services, affordable housing, and more -- local revenues such as tolls, taxes, and fees would increase by 2050. Lower capacity communities would have difficulty providing sufficient services, infrastructure, and maintenance. Disinvested areas, which already struggle to meet needs, would suffer even more due to their limited tax base and shortage of economic opportunities. Residents would demand that investments become more transparent and cost-efficient, with measurable outcomes; service sharing would become more common. Public-private partnerships and other forms of financing would also become more common.

What is the primary driver behind this future?

In 2050, federal and state sources of funding for critical infrastructure and services have reduced, and tax rates have not kept pace with needs. The federal and state governments currently provide funding to support transportation, housing, environmental, and community development programs, among other services that are vital to supporting quality of life in the region.

In this future, many programs have not adjusted to changing market forces. For example, transportation revenues are based on gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. If this revenue structure does not change, revenues will decline by 2050 as cars and trucks become even more fuel-efficient, more vehicles run on electricity or alternative fuels, and more people choose other modes of transportation. 

What would life be like in 2050 with constrained resources?

In 2050, local governments rely more heavily on local sources of revenue due to the persistent inadequacy of federal and state resources. As a result, local taxes, fees, licenses, and fines have increased, as has the frequency of public-private partnerships. Other outcomes could include:

  • Transportation infrastructure is in a greater state of disrepair. 
  • Regional economy becomes less competitive.
  • Protection for natural resources and climate change resilience decline.
  • Quality of life comes at a higher price.
  • In 2050, not all communities can cope with a decline in federal and state revenues. While higher capacity communities have sufficient resources to continue providing desired public services for their residents, lower capacity communities struggle to make ends meet. The Chicago region is already one of the most stratified regions in the U.S. by income, race, and ethnicity, and the disproportionate impacts of this future widens the gap. A greater reliance on fees and fines would have a greater impact on households with fixed or limited incomes. High quality jobs, good schools, and other amenities could be increasingly concentrated in higher capacity communities, which would create greater difficulty for lower-income families to climb the economic ladder.

Strategies to face this future

CMAP has collected more details about this future and strategies that can be taken now to prepare in the Constrained Resources memo. A few strategies include:

  • Increase efficiency of existing infrastrastructure 
  • Modernize transportation system funding for the future
  • Promote governance strategies that maximize use of limited resources
  • Increase capacity of all communities
  • Strengthen disinvested and economically disconnected areas
  • Prioritize development decisions that make the best use of public resources
  • Reform tax policies
  • Implement additional revenues from all sectors


CMAP wants to hear from you about this future. Make your voice heard by:
  • Registering for "Doing More with Less in 2050" -- an Alternative Futures Forum Series event scheduled for August, 15, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the Libertyville Civic Center, 135, W. Church St., Libertyville. 
  • Attending an ON TO 2050 workshop in your community. Email to arrange or attend a workshop.
  • Weighing in on Twitter @ONTO2050 with the hashtag #2050BigIdeas, or on Facebook at
  • Visiting one of two dozen interactive kiosks at public locations across the region. 
  • Share ways to get involved with your network with our Partner Toolkit.
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