Shared Path 2030: draft and final 2003 Regional Transportation Plan for Northeast Illinois

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Transit and Parking Committee and the HPKCC website,
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Transit home. Regional and Beyond

For the past two years, the Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS, now become Regional Planning Board), the official transportation planning and project qualifying body for the region, and its allied regional needs research group Northern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC) researched transportation needs and feasibilities and solicited ideas and proposals from service providers, study and advocacy groups, and citizens and community groups concerning the next Regional Transportation Plan (RTP).

The region has 24,000 road miles, 288 rapid transit miles, 1189 commuter rail miles100 transit vehicles, 1516 bike path miles.

The program is constrained by provisions from legislation and administrative rules from Washington. These include mandates that the current system be first maintained, that all programs be strategically integrated and meant to satisfy sound projections of needs and objectives, including satisfaction of equity and public input (on both of which CATS/now Regional Planning Board was given warning citations during the last federal review), and contribution to fulfilling air quality, congestion mitigation, and reduction of dependence upon/creation of alternatives to alternative to automobiles and creating shared use facilities (as for bikes). Some of these guidelines are under attack in Congress.

The recommendations are also constrained by likelihood of funding and feasibility/timeframe evaluations and whether a project meets a combination of objectives and needs. For example, around $61 billion will be available to maintain and improve the system between 2004 and 2030: $47 for existing, $9 for new and $3 for freight, arterial, bus, bicycle, and pedestrian systems. Much also depends on how much, for what and how the federal and state government appropriate.

CATS held regional outreach meetings and open houses, formed focus groups and task forces, met with a variety of advocacy groups (CNT, MPO, NCBG...), and broadcast multiple times on WJYS a program on the choices and what had been suggested. Comments could be submitted in person, via two phone options, mail, e-mail, or an on-line comment form. At open house 71 forms were turned in, 59 and 39 calls came in via 1-800 and hotline, 191 letters, 123 faxes, 135 e-mails, 18 on-line for a total of 636 formal comments that can be viewed on, on CD or at Regional Planning Board.

CATS released the Draft Recommendations in July 2003, for a one-month public comment period in August-Sept. 2, including an open house and a hearing by Northeast Illinois Planning Commission. Final drafts were approved October 9 by the Policy Committee. See a rough listing and discussion in Regional and Beyond. One feature is recommendation that every project consider means of shared use, including for bicycles. A copy of the final publicity publication and CD Rom is in the Conference Office.

Critiques: CNT and some others say there is still too much emphasis on highway building. (Some of this is from constraints built into the laws.) Friends of the Parks weighed in with the following recommendations:

What you'll see in the plan: [See listing of recommendations in Regional page.]


What's in it for the Southeast Corridor: a big boost for Metra Electric upgrade proposals (Gray Line, SECRET):

The principal recommendation for southeast would be improvements for Metra Electric (in the privileged 2nd or "quick turnaround" tier) with connection at the south to various "Southeast Service" proposal giving service to I-80 Illiana suburbs and a future Peotone airport. Go to Needs and News for links to descriptions of Gray Line (the place-holder recommendation) and SECRET. The south-extension part is really in a "study corridor" with several alternate proposals.

The plan description of proposed Metra Electric improvements and extension: (pp. 142-143)

"The initial proposal is to upgrade infrastructure and service levels. The proposal includes relocation of the present facilities at 18th Street and Welden Yard that currently service Metra Electric trains during the daytime layover. The present facility has long been overcrowded and outmoded, so an entirely new facility suitable for present needs and potential expansion will be requires. The proposal also includes consideration of alternative urban rail service levels. Improved local community access, increased frequencies and off-peak service, as well as service and fare coordination with other transit services, are expected to increase demand and better serve local needs.

"Increased accessibility of this line from downtown Chicago to South Chicago and Blue Island is expected to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality as well as promote local neighborhood economic development.""The proposal also includes an 8-mile extension of Metra Electric District Line between University Park and the proposed South Suburban Airport. This improvement is expected to provide transit access to jobs at and near the airport, plus express passenger transport to and from downtown Chicago and intermediate locations.

"A possible inter-city rail service to Kankakee has been proposed for this line and is under study by Kankakee's Metropolitan Planning Organization.

"Extending this line has moderate natural resource impact potential due to its location in agricultural areas in south Cook and northeast Will counties."

What's in it for the Southeast Corridor otherwise? Almost all the gains for us would be in better connections and service at a distance, for example in and around the central hub including (among those given the highest grades) Circle Line and more stations on the Green Line. Also, new intermediate distance service and transfer hubs, and new or express service to and beyond O'Hare/Northwest suburbs and Midway.

Focus of the 2030 RTP (drawn from CATS 2030 publications)

Integrated strategies

  1. Maintain the existing system: repair, rebuild, operate
  2. Improve how the system works/system efficiency: ensure transportation compatibility with land uses, provide affordable transportation choices, improve freight movement
  3. Sustain the region's vision and values: sound nature and environment, economic development, social equity, community development, public health and safety

Intent, Scope, constraints, intent

What commenters discussed and said they want the plan to provide
  1. Affordable transportation choices
  2. Better efficiencies (and less often:)
  3. Protect environment,
  4. Compatibility with local land uses, desires,
  5. Good management and operation

Weighing in also were NIPC with its Common Ground policy study, Metropolis 2020, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology:

  1. More public transit service
  2. Integrate the public transit system
  3. Better linkages between transportation and land use
  4. More bike and pedestrian options,
  5. Maintain what exists and expand it before resorting to new projects
  6. Improve existing roads and intersections
  7. Serve seniors and persons with disabilities better
  8. Improve freight capacity

At CATS meetings, people agreed with the CATS focus objectives (except those who doubted reliable forecasts are possible or thought planning around existence of a Peotone Airport is premature). Some wished to see added:

Final draft comment winnowing:

A wide range of official and public participants partook in well-advertized development of the Plan, although many still found public involvement insufficient or in many cases ignored.

Common themes heard in comment:


Chosen as means to goals and objectives (maintain-sustain-improve) for the draft recommendations:

From the July, 203 CATS 2030 Reporter and 2004 final publication

Preliminary Plan Recommendations people asked for or emphasized

See the list, and how to access details, in Regional.


Additional or modified in the final 2004 document:

Intent, Scope, constraints

Identifying challenges and setting goals

Future regional scenarios were evaluated in light of socioeconomic, environmental justice and environmental sensitivity considerations.

Four scenarios were studied to pick principles from each:

1) Service-intensive (non-capital): improving the benefits from existing and providing for quick-adjustments-- transit-oriented development, ITS communications, intermodal, transit/bike/walk, electronic payment and fare coordination and piggybacking

2) System-intensive (strategic change low capital): ITS, shared-use/HOV

3) System additions to increase capacity (but not all are more roadways or rail lines)

4) System expansion (fundamentally change how travelers use the system and use of the land)

Regional strategies

Regardless of the pace of adoption of any strategy, the goal is "multimodal balance" and "socioeconomic equity." The strategies are divided into "Community and environmental" and "Management and operation."
The former encourages a variety of choices, improvements that support existing and planned land uses, encouraging compact and contextual land development, connecting to greenways, and protecting wetlands, groundwater, and habitats.
The latter integrates and coordinates facilities and service for performance, maximizes intelligent systems, and takes a broad view of safety and security.

Linking people with fewer long and lesser trips. Context-sensitive solutions: safety, minimal disruption, balancing conserving local values and improved access and mobility.

Strategic Regional Systems (emphasizing shared use linkage) Each is given a set of guidelines.

Major capital projects- yes/no criteria

Financial considerations