For immediate release
CHICAGO — A new multi-year study released today by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) lays out a detailed strategy and foundational groundwork for regional leaders to use when tackling the looming transit funding crisis.
The Mobility Recovery report, available on CMAP’s website, includes recommendations to reimagine mobility and ensure a stronger multimodal system that can ease congestion, sustain transit, and better support the region. CMAP developed the report in partnership with more than 20 local governments, transportation providers, transit advocates, and other organizations in northeastern Illinois.
“The pandemic has created new challenges for northeastern Illinois’ transportation system and intensified many longstanding disparities,” CMAP Executive Director Erin Aleman said. “The Mobility Recovery report provides a blueprint to help people and goods move through our region sustainably and equitably for decades to come.”
In the years since the pandemic began, the region saw transit ridership drop and truck traffic increase. The prevalence of remote work, meanwhile, rose exponentially with congestion and trips closer to home happening more frequently.
The region’s transit systems continued to serve as an essential lifeline for the more than 250,000 riders who relied on transit each day during the worst of the pandemic. But with changes to ridership and emergency funding support expiring, the region’s transit providers now face an expected annual operating budget shortfall of $730 million by 2026 simply to return to pre-pandemic service levels.
Key findings from the report include:
Remote work is here to stay. Coming out of the pandemic, between 13 and 23 percent of all workers in the region could work from home instead of commuting to a workplace, on an average weekday. That’s up significantly from 6 to 8 percent pre-COVID.
60 percent of regional employees have jobs that don’t include remote work as a typical option. Those jobs are concentrated in industries like transportation, manufacturing, and health care, and require better access to transit services.
More residents are making travel decisions around their home, leading to more interest in biking, walking, and rolling.
Transit ridership remains below pre-COVID levels, having only returned to 60 percent of its ridership since mid-2020 due to telework and other factors.
Truck traffic — and its impacts on air quality and health — has increased. The region needs to balance the impacts and benefits accelerated by increased e-commerce and freight activity.
The Mobility Recovery project tracked these trends and others over the past two years to better understand how our region’s transportation needs evolved during the pandemic and identified numerous strategies for improvement.
The report focuses on three key areas for our region to address post-pandemic, including:
Investing in a stronger and more financially secure transit system: Faster and more reliable bus service, a more integrated and affordable transportation system, and new revenues for transit.
Enabling expanded travel by safe and active modes: Infrastructure that increases the safety and attractiveness of active and sustainable modes, as well as updating development regulations and land use to reflect changing travel demand.
Balancing the benefits and impacts of e-commerce and other freight activity: Accelerating the electrification of freight systems and working with employers to increase options for employees’ commutes.
The Mobility Recovery project emerged from a request by northeastern Illinois’ seven County Board Chairs and the City of Chicago’s COVID-19 Task Force, with guidance from the region’s transportation agencies, transit service providers, counties, municipalities, the CMAP Board, and civic and advocacy organizations like the Transportation Equity Network.
The Mobility Recovery report also provides a foundation for CMAP’s work in the coming year. The Illinois General Assembly asked CMAP, in coordination with the RTA, to develop a plan of action for northeastern Illinois’ transit system, so that it remains reliable, accessible, and financially sustainable. That report is due to the legislature in January 2024.
Stephen Di Benedetto, senior communications specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org.