An interactive website devoted to the good, the bad, and the much needed of the Chicago area's transportation network launched today. It was created by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, or CMAP, the official regional planning organization for northeastern Illinois.
CMAP says the new site is not only meant to be informative but also a call to action on the part of everyone who uses or oversees the region's roads, bridges, trains and buses.
A bumpy ride on a Chicago street, a bridge that's considered structurally deficient, a freight train that adds long minutes to motorists waiting for it to go by - all are part of the Chicago region's transportation network, and all need some level of serious attention, mostly through investments.
“The truth is that making these investments just isn’t free. Having better roads, having better bridges – it’s something that we have to pay for,” said Jesse Elam of CMAP.
The new interactive website, created by CMAP, goes into details that never before have been so easily accessible to the commuters and motorists who use the seven county transportation network throughout northeastern Illinois. But the point of all that detail is to try to get everyone on board.
“We want to make sure that there’s a level of understanding out there about some of the needs that we have, the very real needs that we have in terms of congestion, in terms of pavement, bridge conditions, and so forth,” said Elam. “We think that once those needs are well understood, the members of the public and elected officials will see the need to reinvest in the system.”
The website documents all kinds of data along the area's nearly 30,000 miles of roadway. Wondered what the congestion is like at any time of day along one of the major arteries around the region? A few clicks and you'll find out. What's the pavement quality in any of the seven counties? It's now at your fingertips. And, if you suspect that your commute has gotten longer over the years, the site will confirm your suspicions.
For the record, the freight train crossing at South Morgan Street and 40th Avenue causes the most delays to motorists. And a little less than 10 percent of the bridges in the Chicago region are considered structurally deficient -- an improvement from about 10 years ago.
CMAP’s site also lays out the number of passengers using CTA and Metra trains at any given of time of day.
CMAP says one of the areas of most concern is funding for the area’s public transportation systems. According to the RTA, it needs more than $33 billion to both maintain current service and address a long backlog of major capital projects.
And CMAP says that funding is urgent if public transit is to get cars off the road, speed up commutes, and improve air quality.
But how to fund it?
“You start with the motor field tax or the gas tax. That has not been increased at the federal level or state level for more than 20 years,” said Elam. “In the meantime, the purchasing power of those taxes has declined by something like 30 percent.”
Watch more from Elam below.
It might be a tough sell, but CMAP hopes visitors to its site will agree that it might cost more if already pricey investments are not made soon.