Prioritizing sidewalk investment near transit supports a more accessible transportation system

Key takeaways

  • The new CMAP sidewalk inventory can be used to identify areas where sidewalk additions are most needed in order to improve pedestrian access to transit. 
  • Sidewalks can have the biggest impact when they connect transit with existing amenities and in areas with significant population or employment.
  • In all six counties, communities have the opportunity to improve sidewalks near Metra stations.
  • On the CTA system, the greatest impact can be achieved through targeted and prioritized investment near rail stations with high job density and where existing infrastructure caters to vehicles rather than pedestrians.

Sidewalk inventory supports data driven investment decisions

CMAP’s regional sidewalk inventory offers the first opportunity to comprehensively analyze sidewalk availability near transit in northeastern Illinois. 

Making transit more competitive is a key recommendation in the region’s long-range plan, ON TO 2050. Increasing transit ridership improves air quality by reducing the number of vehicles on the road, reduces highway congestion, and connects people to jobs, education, entertainment, and other amenities. In addition, public transit access is especially crucial for those who cannot drive or do not have access to a car. Ensuring that riders can safely access bus stops and train stations on foot is a critical way the region can make transit safer and more competitive with other modes. 

CMAP looked at sidewalk availability within one half mile radius of each rail station in northeastern Illinois. (One half mile is a common measure for the distance people are willing to walk to a transit station and is the standard distance used for transit-oriented development policies.) Opportunities to improve sidewalk availability were found near Metra stations in all six counties of metropolitan Chicago as well as CTA stations with high job density nearby and where existing infrastructure caters to cars rather than pedestrians. Further use of this data can guide sidewalk investments that connect transit with existing amenities in areas with significant population or employment. 

Understanding gaps in the pedestrian network near transit will help municipal, county, and transit planners understand where pedestrians have difficulty reaching transit. Combining this information with other data such as area density, ridership levels, or safety data, can ensure that capital improvements are made where they can be most impactful within each community. The construction of sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities, in addition to updating local plans, zoning codes and development regulations to promote density and walkability near transit, can bolster ridership and improve the pedestrian experience.