How residents feel about northeastern Illinois

Children playing on swings in a playground and an adult pushing

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) latest public opinion survey of northeastern Illinois reveals residents’ attitudes toward key quality-of-life issues — including transportation, the economy, and climate — and identifies successes and challenges across the region. 

CMAP conducted the State of the Region survey to better understand the priorities and experiences of community members and see how ON TO 2050, the region’s long-range plan, can address the most pressing issues. 

Overview 

Residents in northeastern Illinois value many of the region’s assets — particularly access to open space, transportation, and good jobs — but are increasingly concerned about economic issues, according to the 2023 survey. 

While public opinion on most measures has remained largely consistent since the last survey in 2021, residents are increasing worried about affordable housing, personal finances, and other economic issues. This isn’t unique to the region: the survey reflects a time of growing economic uncertainty, inflation concerns, and other issues affecting households across the country. 

In the survey, most northeastern Illinois residents say their neighborhood and town, village, or city is heading in the “right direction.” But they are more critical of metropolitan Chicago and Illinois. 

Residents also showed support for more equitable transportation investments, regional collaboration, and local action on climate change. 

Transportation

Residents want to see improvements to transportation infrastructure and transit services — and they see the value in employing these equitably. 

Findings include:

Access 

  • 69 percent are satisfied with their ability to get to the places they need to go on a regular basis. 
  • Residents use a variety of transportation methods, but most (86 percent) are car dependent. 
  • Most transit riders (88 percent) would be at least somewhat impacted if their typical transportation option were no longer available — with 40 percent saying they would be significantly impacted and would no longer have any transportation option. 

Equity 

  • 90 percent of residents support investing infrastructure dollars in communities with the greatest needs. 
  • More white and Asian residents say that it is easy for them to travel to shops, restaurants, and groceries, compared to Black and Hispanic residents. 
  • 43 percent of Asian residents say they regularly use public transportation, compared to 38 percent of Black residents, 25 percent of Hispanic residents, and 19 percent of white residents. 

Improvements 

  • Residents are less united on the best way to address traffic congestion: The top answer was investing in public transit (51 percent), followed closely by investing in widening roads (42 percent). 
  • Transit riders say the most valuable improvements would be: more frequent service during the day; faster and more reliable bus service; reduced fares for travelers with limited income; discounted fares when transferring between CTA, Metra, and Pace; and more transit options within walking distance of work and home. 

Economy

Many residents are facing significant economic pressures. Residents’ confidence across various aspects of their economic future has declined — particularly when it comes to housing costs. 

Findings include: 

  • 74 percent are worried and uncertain about their housing costs. And 24 percent are very dissatisfied with access to housing they can afford — a jump from just 15 percent in 2021. 
  • 83 percent are worried and uncertain about the economy. 
  • 54 percent are worried and uncertain about the vibrancy of local downtowns. 
  • But 63 percent are confident and optimistic about their employment. 
  • And 56 percent are satisfied with their access to good jobs. 
  • Residents increasingly support regional collaboration: 67 percent say local governments working together more across county, city, township, or village borders to develop jobs, transportation, and housing would have a positive impact — compared to 63 percent in 2021. 

Climate 

Climate change is showing a clear impact on communities, and most residents think local governments should be doing more. 

Findings include: 

  • Two in three residents believe they have experienced at least some type of impact from climate change. The most common: damage to infrastructure from extreme weather (32 percent) and increased flooding of roadways (31 percent) and properties (28 percent). 
  • 63 percent rate the parks, recreation, and open space in their community as high-quality. 
  • Black residents report the highest rate of dissatisfaction when it comes to access to open space and air and water quality. 
  • A majority of residents say local governments can do more to address the effect of climate change on their communities, including reducing air pollution (54 percent), addressing the inequitable impacts of extreme weather events (54 percent), protecting infrastructure (53 percent), and preventing and reducing damage from floods (50 percent). 
  • 77 percent say that the regional transit system (CTA, Metra, and Pace) is important in supporting efforts to improve climate and air quality. 

Methodology 

The public opinion survey, completed by 2,213 residents in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties, was conducted by Embold Research in January 2023. 

Respondents were recruited via social media and text message. The survey was weighted so that the sample is representative of the region, including age, gender, education, county population, and race/ethnicity. The modeled margin of error is 3.1 percent.