Residents across metropolitan Chicago’s seven counties tend to share consistent priorities for the region’s future: more transit options, compact land development, reduced energy and water consumption, and more parks and open space, according to data compiled by Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).

“That is the message from more than 20,000 participants during the 2009 ‘Invent the Future’ phase of public input to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP),” said CMAP in a prepared statement.

CMAP is combining this input with the agency’s strategy research to begin finalizing GO TO 2040, the official comprehensive plan that will guide development and infrastructure decisions across the region for decades to come. CMAP is the comprehensive regional planning organization for the northeastern Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. By state and federal law, CMAP is responsible for producing the region’s official, integrated plan for land use and transportation.

From May to September, “Invent the Future” participants answered questions about how they think the region should plan to accommodate an additional 2.8 million new residents projected by 2040. CMAP summarized the participants’ preferences as follows:

  • Growth – Respondents want moderately higher densities in development, with development focused in community and metropolitan centers. Fifty-five percent of the participants support moderately compact growth, with 20 percent supporting highly compact growth and 15 percent supporting current patterns of growth. Sixty-nine percent prefer for new development to occur in medium-size communities and larger metropolitan centers.
  • Transit – Respondents support higher levels of investment in transit and alternative modes of transportation. Seventy-seven percent wanted a significant increase in transit investments to build the capacity of the existing system, which includes Metra, Pace, and the Chicago Transit Authority. Most participants support or strongly support alternative modes of transportation, while only nine percent want to maintain the current mix and one percent of respondents favor driving.
  • Sustainability – Respondents want greater emphasis on environmental programs and policies. When asked how the region should manage natural resources in the future, about 62 percent wanted to maximize conservation programs and an additional 28 percent supported their expansion.

Road investments are one area where the public response was equivocal, according to CMAP. Forty percent of respondents want a moderate increase to improve the road network and add some capacity, while 30 percent call for minimum investment to repair existing roads without increasing capacity of the existing network. The remaining 30 percent want a significant increase in investment to improve the road network and add considerable capacity, the data showed.

“The role of highway expansion in solving congestion continues to be an issue where there is significant disagreement,” said CMAP executive director Randy Blankenhorn. “People clearly value quality of life, and traffic congestion is viewed as a detriment by nearly everyone. But I believe the mixed response regarding investment in roads reflects the view held by many that adding roadway capacity can worsen, rather than ease, traffic congestion. It’s significant, however, that 70 percent of the participants want at least a moderate increase in road investment.”

Nearly 1,500 residents participated at 57 two-hour workshops across the seven-county region, including one in Evanston, and hundreds more were reached through abbreviated presentations.

CMAP says the GO TO 2040 planning campaign will develop and implement strategies to shape the region’s transportation system and development patterns, while also addressing the natural environment, economic development, housing, education, human services, and other factors shaping quality of life. See and for more information.