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2024 City of Chicago Policy Agenda

Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is an independent planning organization working to address regional built environment issues through a racial and economic justice lens. Our goal is a thriving Chicago region for all residents. To this end, MPC’s work focuses on creating Thriving Communities, Equitable Infrastructure and Just Public Systems. This framework captures the vision we seek to advance through collaborative policy development and advocacy. 
MPC advocates for policies and practices that advance racial and economic justice in our communities, infrastructure, and public systems. Below are the policy priorities for the City of Chicago. View the the policy priorities for the state of Illinois here.

Thriving Communities

All communities should have the resources needed to thrive, including accessible and affordable housing, healthy and resilient neighborhoods and community-centered planning and engagement. Policies below support inclusive growth, jobs, housing and neighborhoods and community wealth building. MPC will continue to support legislation that expands affordable housing supply through preservation strategies and new production and protects vulnerable residents from unnecessary displacement. These policies also mitigate historic harms and improve public health and environmental outcomes in BIPOC communities.

Encourage land use practices and policies that protect environmental and human health, and promote resilience
  • Revise existing industrial corridor development. Many of Chicago’s land use and zoning policies were enacted decades ago, prior to the integration of practices for meaningful community engagement. As a result, many industrial developments undermine health, community, and connectivity. The City needs to implement community-driven industrial corridor planning that prioritizes human health, environmental health, and economic development opportunities. As part of this process, the City should adopt strategic planning for the equitable placement of transportation, distribution and logistics facilities.
  • Implement the actions and recommendations from the Cumulative Impact Assessment and Environmental Justice Action Plans. Developed by a collaborative process, and released in fall 2023, the Cumulative Impacts Assessment provides data and visualization to identify areas of Chicago vulnerable to environmental pollution. Simultaneously, Environmental Justice Action Plans were rolled-out across City departments. MPC supports the implementation of the Cumulative Impact Assessment and the Action Plans. As part of next steps, progress should be actively evaluated to ensure that the City is accountable to advancing these plans.
  • Collaboratively update the Calumet Area Land Use Plan and the Calumet Design Guidelines. MPC supports the Department of Planning and Development’s initiative and consultative process to revise critical land use and guidelines around site development in the Calumet. As part of the process, community partners, residents, landowners, and other stakeholders will be engaged to strategize on how to mitigate threats to environmental and public health and promote sustainability and resiliency.

Equitable Infrastructure   

Public and private investments need to adopt inclusive development standards and support sustainable infrastructure for all communities. These policies increase the use of performance-based methods to guide infrastructure funding. Policies must also increase the amount of public and private investments in historically disinvested communities.     

Reduce the harms of existing transportation infrastructure

Proactively pursue federal funding to implement restorative projects. The historical harms of large highway and transportation infrastructure are still felt today. MPC’s Reconnecting Communities report highlighted potential ways to mitigate harms, remove especially damaging infrastructure, and create positive transportation spaces. MPC supports the City of Chicago’s 2023 application for US DOT Reconnecting Communities funding to implement community-led ideas and looks forward to additional future grant applications and project development.

Ensure equitable operation of transit – now and into the future
  • Implement Bus Rapid Transit. The city seeks to incentivize development along bus corridors via the 2022 Equitable Transit Oriented Development (ETOD ordinance. It is critical that bus frequency, accessibility, and speed are improved to ensure transit is an attractive and dependable option for residents so they can reduce car ownership. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) offers an ideal solution: buses in dedicated lanes can operate at nearly the same trip speeds as CTA rail and be built for a fraction of the cost. CTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) should implement high-speed, high-quality bus service on priority corridors defined in the Better Streets for Buses Plan.
  • Improve transit experience to boost transit ridership. The City must work with transit operators to ensure transit riders feel safe and comfortable and that transit is the most attractive option to get around. This will mean collaboration among city agencies to proactively address a range of social service and other needs that can negatively impact transit riders. All transit agencies serving Chicago (CTA, Pace and Metra) must work toward offering higher levels of bus and train frequency — at least as much service as available in 2019 — so that riders can depend on transit for their trips. CTA must prioritize hiring to ensure it has the staff to run all the service scheduled.
Protect the health of Chicago residents by ensuring reliable, safe drinking water

Accelerate equitable lead service line replacement. After decades of inaction, the City of Chicago in 2021 initiated a lead service line replacement program informed by a detailed plan. Yet the program has made scant progress. MPC supports adoption of a citywide target of at least 16,000 replacements per year accompanied by robust community engagement.

Reduce flooding by investing equitably in green and gray infrastructure

Fund and formalize stormwater credit trading. Stormwater credit trading leverages private developer dollars to build flooding solutions using a mix of modern and traditional infrastructure in disinvested communities. MPC supports action by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to expand its existing credit trading pilot and fund permanent staff to help the program succeed.

Make public incentives work for every community

Prioritize equitable investment. Equity should be at the center of how development is supported across the city. Public financial incentives using bonds and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) can and should be part of the solution to ensure under-invested communities have good jobs, access to amenities, affordable housing, retail and entertainment. MPC advocates for developing and tracking equity outcomes in a transparent and effective way. Additionally, incentive use must be aligned with priority criteria, the application process must be streamlined, and communication and funding support, and accountability must be improved.

Just Public Systems    

The public sector needs tools and internal capacity to transform inequitable systems. Additionally, government processes and structures may need to be transformed to make them more transparent and fairer for all. These policies lead to codified structures, government policies and programs that advance racial equity and inclusion, sustainability, and civic participation. These policies also increase community stakeholder representation that impacts government decisions.     

Strengthen standards for citywide and neighborhood planning
  • Reform zoning, permitting, and financial incentive processes in Chicago to increase equitable development. Equitable development faces challenges in permitting, financial incentive use, and zoning and land use. Both short- and long-term solutions are needed to ensure that development in Chicago is streamlined, efficient, and centers equity. MPC supports the City’s initiative to reform development processes and will provide research and advocate for implementable solutions.
  • Plan sustainably for Chicago’s Rivers. Through the River Ecology and Governance Task Force, MPC and partners in the government, civic, community, and academic sectors collaborate to advance planning policies and practices across Chicago’s riverfronts that promote the health of communities and ecological systems. MPC supports the completion of the Chicago Department of Transportation’s River Edge Access Study, ongoing integration of development reviews in the Planned Development process and will help facilitate the exploration of a more complete model of governance for the Chicago River system.
Strengthen department capacity to plan for and cultivate thriving communities
  • Staff up at CDOT to accelerate transit and bike/walk planning and project implementation. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is understaffed to plan for and implement sustainable modes of transportation. Without increased staff planning and project management capacity, Chicago will struggle to meet many of its transportation and climate goals. The city should invest resources in more transportation planners who can help design and think systemically about bike, walk, and transit projects, to improve access to affordable, equitable, healthy transportation as well as implement transportation goals in the Climate Action Plan.
  • Strengthen the Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (ETOD) Ordinance. Chicago has adopted ambitious policy measures to incentivize equitable development near transit stations across the City. These policies can be strengthened further to enable increased density near transit stations and preserve existing affordable housing projects. Alongside Elevated Chicago and community partners, MPC will advocate for strengthening the ordinance to develop stronger communities.
  • Ensure dedicated resources to promote Equitable Transit-Oriented Development in the City. To ensure the full implementation of the ETOD ordinance, the city should invest resources to continue technical assistance for ETOD projects and adequately staff departments to work collaboratively and coordinate transit-oriented development projects throughout the development process.


View 2024 State of Illinois Policy Agenda