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Increasing mobility through enhanced transit connectivity.
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    The Chicago metropolitan area has one of the most extensive public transit systems in the United States, yet there are many places in the region where people do not have convenient access to transit service. To address that deficiency, this paper identifies practical ways to give more travel options to people in areas that are underserved by transit, including people who are unable to own or rent a car or have physical limitations that prevent them from driving. People who live without a car in underserved areas may have to rely on others for rides or find ways to patch together inconvenient and time-consuming transit trips. The fortunate ones may find jobs and shops within walking distance. Lacking that, they can’t access jobs and other opportunities and help grow the economy. If the Chicago region is to be a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, it must enable everyone to fully access those opportunities. The research for this paper has been guided by this goal: everyone in the Chicago area should have integrated, ubiquitous and affordable mobility options, while public and private resources are used efficiently and effectively toward that end. It is understood that current transit funding is not even adequate to maintain the existing system, much less expand transit to all of the areas that are underserved. Lacking an extraordinary new public commitment, funding will not be sufficient to add all of the new transit lines or bus service expansions listed in the region’s comprehensive plan. While limited funding is a major challenge, it can also stimulate creative approaches to enhance mobility without major capital investments. With that in mind, this paper identifies innovative uses of technology, partnerships, tailored services, policies and organizational steps that might be practically applied to enable more people to move about easily and efficiently without needing to own a car. It considers methods of connecting and improving transit that have been successful in other places, and ways to make the most of new and emerging technology-enabled services. This paper builds upon previous Urban Transportation Center research that analyzed transit service availability and accessibility to employment. It is also supported by work on accessibility by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), which in 2014 identified “transit deserts” where inadequate transit service limits access to jobs, with particularly hard impacts on lower income residents. The sections that follow include, first, an overview of transit challenges in the Chicago area. That is followed by a review of the changing world of transit in the region, including some public transit innovations, emerging technology, rideshare services and the possible impact of autonomous vehicles. Then there is a discussion of good ideas from other places that might be beneficial if implemented in the Chicago area. Finally, several policies and actions are presented that could help achieve mobility for all. Among them is a proposal to turn our transit organizations into mobility agencies to more fully address the region’s mobility needs.
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