CMAP Executive Director Erin Aleman shares how the My Daily Travel survey can help planners and policymakers address disparities and increase access to opportunity in northeastern Illinois.
Last year, my dad retired from UPS after 30 years. Although the number of packages he delivered grew over the years, he always made his job about people. An important lesson I learned from him is this key question: How can infrastructure create a better quality of life for our residents?
That was top of mind for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) during our recent deep dive into the My Daily Travel survey. CMAP’s pre-pandemic household travel survey from 2019 involved 12,000 respondents and captured how residents throughout the region’s seven counties move about each day.
Our four new policy briefs show inequities in the region’s transportation system, and share important findings to help our communities address mobility barriers for residents of color and residents with low income. Here are four key insights that planners and policymakers should know.
Black travelers face the longest journeys
Black residents traveled longer to reach work, grocery stores, and doctors. They also start experiencing these longer trips at a young age.
According to My Daily Travel, Black elementary and middle school students on average took 23 minutes to travel to school, compared to 14 to 18 minutes for other children. This may be the result of many factors, but where people live, and the location of jobs, food, education, and health care, remain a major contributor.
Past CMAP research has shown that just 9 percent of residents on Chicago’s south and west sides have jobs near their home. For city residents living in areas with greater economic opportunities, 72 percent are employed near where they live.
My Daily Travel also revealed that Black travelers were more likely to take transit than other residents. Prioritized investments can make the journeys of residents who depend on transit easier.
Transit plays a crucial role in health care access
My Daily Travel showed how invaluable transit service is to households without a vehicle. Across the region, these households made up 51 percent of all personal health care trips that used transit. Households with only one vehicle accounted for 42 percent of trips.
This finding from My Daily Travel reinforces why transit is critical to an inclusive and thriving region. Transit offers an affordable means for residents to reach their jobs as well as access health care. Stronger investments in transit also would better serve the needs of residents who can’t afford a car.
Remote work gains popularity
Even before the pandemic, an increasing number of northeastern Illinois workers were working remotely. Overall, 14 percent of all employed residents reported working from home at least once a week in 2019.
But this trend varied by age, income, and race and ethnicity. Residents with lower income, Black residents, and Latino residents, in particular, were the least likely to have the opportunity work from home. This is in line with past CMAP research, which found that essential workers during the pandemic disproportionately were employees of color and employees with low income who often took transit outside of peak travel times.
Policymakers must be mindful of changes in travel demand as the region considers how best to adapt our communities and central business districts to new and emerging ways of traveling for work post-pandemic.
Micromobility emerges in northeastern Illinois
Ridesharing services offered by companies like Uber and Lyft represented hundreds of thousands of daily trips in 2019. Bike-share systems like Divvy also served thousands of riders each day. Simply put, these transportation modes are becoming more common in northeastern Illinois. Users rely on them to get to work, to see friends, to go to school, and more.
Bedford Park in southwest Cook County recently showed how regional collaboration can help communities meet these new demands.
Local officials there worked with the Regional Transportation Authority and Cook County to launch Connect2Work, a program that helps workers find reliable transportation connections. Through a mobile app, users can find the fastest available public transit route and free shuttle rides during rush hour. The program also offers discounts for late-night and last-mile rides.
Through innovative planning like we’ve seen in Bedford Park and elsewhere, the region can support more multimodal trips and encourage sustainable forms of travel.
To support an inclusive and thriving region, we need only turn to ON TO 2050, the region’s long-range plan. Prioritized investments can better connect marginalized communities in northeastern Illinois to employment centers, schools, and other quality-of-life destinations. Stronger support for regional transit can help make that service more reliable and accessible while better serving residents who depend on it.
As we begin to recover from the pandemic, public officials can use this unprecedented time to reimagine the ways people access opportunities in the region. Our economy and vitality grow stronger when our transportation system works better for everyone. ON TO 2050 provides a roadmap to achieve these goals, but we only can accomplish that vision by addressing today’s challenges.
Turning challenges into opportunities is what planners do, and together we can help our residents get to where they need to go, safely and reliably, in the coming years.