Transportation Systems and Equity in Chicago, Illinois


Chicago, Illinois boasts the second-largest public transportation system in the nation, second only to New York City. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, its degree of reliability has fallen significantly. Late or missing buses and trains are all too frequent, with statistics showing as few as 50% of scheduled train arrivals at times. This has resulted in rising crime, and disproportionate impacts in lower-income neighborhoods, leaving many stranded at stops for unknown measures of time. Despite continuous development by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Chicago’s main urban public transportation provider, ridership has been on a steep decline in recent years, likely due to the aforementioned concerns. Those who can afford it opt for individual vehicle travel, resulting in carbon emissions growing faster in the Chicago metro area than the city’s population. This rise in pollution threatens the health of vulnerable populations and contributes to the issue of climate change. In our analysis of this issue, we have determined that an investment in both the reliability and infrastructure of the system is one of the most equitable ways to address both the social and environmental concerns associated with transportation in the city. Specifically, we propose establishing priority bus lanes, improving live tracking data of vehicles, enhancing CTA employment incentives, extending bus lanes to underserved areas, and implementing a congestion charge in the city. Through CTA data reports, research papers, and the research of outside organizations such as Commuters Take Action, we have determined appropriate funding sources and engaged in a cost-benefit analysis that pertains to both monetary costs and socio-environmental costs. Finally, we will engage in an analysis to measure the benefits of our proposed solutions with problems that Chicago is currently facing, which might occur as a result of the implementation of our solutions.