Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat in 1955 to a white man is celebrated as a defining act of the civil rights movement. Decades later, groups throughout the country honor the spirit of Parks’ activism in fighting racial segregation on her birthday, February 4, for national Transit Equity Day.
The day is meant to highlight why local and federal officials need to support equitable, accessible, and sustainable public transportation. This year’s Transit Equity Day is extra significant. It comes amid a global public health crisis that has tested the resiliency of cities throughout the country and raised new questions about the future of public transit.
A pandemic that has paused the traditional commute for so many in northeastern Illinois provides a meaningful opportunity for our region’s leaders to rethink how our public transportation system can better serve residents, regardless of income, age, ability, or race.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is working with partners across our seven counties to develop a visionary mobility strategy. We want to support an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, sustain the public transit network, and mitigate a likely rebound in congestion. Our plans are meant to improve the ways public transit supports all riders, from traditional office commuters to residents running errands.
We also hope to build off our ongoing work in communities throughout northeastern Illinois. Previous CMAP research has shown outcomes for residents in economically disconnected areas tend to lag behind the region overall, with longer commutes and higher unemployment.
To better address these needs, CMAP is collaborating on numerous community projects designed to make public transit easier to access in our region’s historically disinvested areas.
CMAP is working with Elevated Chicago, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), and other community groups to advance the Garfield Green Line South station on Chicago’s south side as a community asset. The project focuses on making equity a part of transit-oriented development that prioritizes the retention of residents and businesses and allows for more inclusive growth around transit.
Southwest of downtown Chicago, leaders and residents in Robbins are working with CMAP and other partners to address flooding issues in a way that spurs economic development and creates new opportunities for recreation. The project also looks to make land within a former floodplain available for new transit-oriented development near a park and the Robbins Metra station.
These projects show how we’re addressing ON TO 2050, the region’s long-range plan, and implementing the recommendation to leverage northeastern Illinois’ transportation network to promote inclusive growth.
When transportation seamlessly connects residents to economic opportunities and amenities, our entire region prospers. CMAP looks forward to the hard work that lies ahead to reshape public transportation into a system that serves all residents better.