There is a growing civic discussion about the importance of a high-quality transit system to the long-term economic health and competitiveness of the region. Calls for transit reform have echoed across Chicagoland and focused a spotlight on the ways our current transit system is failing. The continued attention to transit has created a window of opportunity for a campaign that takes advantage of current public sentiment to win a significant new investment in public transit.
It’s not only transit itself, but what transit does that we’re currently missing out on:
- Transit spurs urban development, but Chicago is the only large-system region where development grew faster outside of transit zones than within.
- Transit enhances residential real estate value. Residential sales prices for properties located near transit are healthier and more resilient than in the broader metropolitan region.
- Transit reduces the cost of living by lowering transportation costs, which are a typical household’s second-largest expenditure.
- Transit means faster commutes, which means more productive time and less absenteeism/tardiness.
- Transit improves regional reputation. Chicago is ranked 21st out of the top 51 real estate markets by PricewaterhouseCoopers Emerging Trends in Real Estate. We have not been in the top 20 for the past several years. This leads to money bypassing Chicago.
- Transit provides expanded job access for the region’s residents who don’t have or can’t afford cars
It is these benefits, and others, that give transit a high return on public investment, with greater and more immediate economic development rewards.
Other Economic benefits:
- Transit spending stimulates the local economy. Transit is a huge business enterprise that employs thousands of people whose benefits are spread and multiplied across the region’s economy.
- Transit is vital to community building. Investing in transit slows the pace of sprawl, creates compact, walkable communities, revitalizes our downtown, and locates employers and workers closer to each other.
- Transit spending is a commitment to our global economic status. Globalization has created a more densely populated urban work center, which must be supported by reliable transit. If we want to compete with cities around the world, we must improve and expand the outdated system that we have today.
- Transit investment by Chicago area taxpayers would be generously rewarded by the boost to the region’s economy. The investments are for the transit system, but the benefits are for the entire economy and everyone who lives here. Investing in transit is too good of a deal for us to pass up.
- Failure to maintain our transit system will do immediate harm to the region’s commuters and economy. If we don’t adequately maintain transit service, it will cost the region’s businesses and households over $2 billion annually. By 2020, transit ridership would decline by 11 percent, a loss of 187,000 riders every weekday. These trips would shift to Chicago area roads, which already have the second most congested and longest “rush hours” in the nation.
- Cook County is currently under-investing in transit. An additional $2.5 billion in capital is needed each year just to maintain the existing transit system.
- Public policies need to be aligned so transit can be the rational choice for everyone. Current Illinois tax policies do the opposite – they favor driving cars over riding transit. Increases in transit fares have outpaced the rate of inflation, while the gas tax and tolls have not even kept up with inflation.
- To maintain and develop our global position, we should be growing transit services, not reducing them. More money, better organization and policies that prioritize transit will enable the Chicago region to maximize the economic benefit of transit and, in turn, enhance the economy of Illinois.
Other Environmental benefits:
- If the typical two-adult, two-car household completely eliminated one of its cars and switched to public transportation, their annual CO2 production would be reduced by 30%.
- Subway and metro systems, like the CTA and Metra, produce 76% fewer greenhouse gas emissions per mile traveled as compared to a typical private vehicle. A rail car only has to be 19% full of passengers to surpass the efficiency of a car.
- Increasing access to public transportation will increase its ridership, which will eliminate even more cars from the road and increase the rail system’s efficiency, keeping more CO2 out of the atmosphere.