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A vision for Evanston’s future

More public transportation, more alternative energy and more concentrated growth — that’s the vision of Evanston residents and officials who attended a regional development workshop on Thursday.


More public transportation, more alternative energy and more concentrated growth — that’s the vision of Evanston residents and officials who attended a regional development workshop on Thursday.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency holds workshops around the region to gauge how community members want municipalities to handle the 35 percent population growth it says the region will experience in the next thirty years.

The additional 2.8 million people would raise the population of the region, which includes the seven counties around Chicago, to 11 million.

“What does that look like?” CMAP Associate Planner Drew Williams-Clark said. “It’s about like the city of Chicago parachuting onto the region.”

The projected growth is not particularly fast when compared to other regions in the country. The U.S. Census Bureau expects national population to also increase by 30 percent by 2040.

Nevertheless, the region is projected to grow at least twice as fast as it did since 2000, according to data from the bureau.

“Where are they going to live?” Williams-Clark said. “How are they going to get to work or play? How are we going to manage our water supply?”

The 40 attendants of Thursday’s workshop had a few opinions themselves on such issues.

CMAP officials took their votes on six topics of urban development and compiled a single development scenario based on which options for each topic received the most votes, then compared this scenario to current circumstances and explained the ramifications of the chosen options.

This is what attendants’ scenario ultimately looked like:

Development Density: Moderately Compact Growth. Municipalities build a mix of spacious, detached homes, houses on smaller lots and apartments.
Development Location: Community and Metro. The region actively aims toward building homes in community centers in both suburbs and cities instead of having no plan at all or concentrating development in cities.
Road Network: Minimum Maintenance. The region makes does nothing to improve the road network or capacity.
Transit System: Significant Increase. The region improves bus and train networks and add capacity.
Transportation Policy: Strongly Favor Alternatives. The region improves facilities for transit, walking and biking, while focusing less on parking and making parking more expensive.
Resource Policy: Maximize Programs. The region focuses on preserving natural resources and minimizing environmental impacts.

CMAP lacks the authority to dictate how municipalities use their land. Instead, it offers consultation to municipalities looking to move toward its regional vision and decides which capital projects receive some of the $2 billion in federal grant money that funnels through the agency, CMAP Senior Policy Analyst Brett Baden said.

To Al Hunter, an urban sociology professor at Northwestern University, organizations like CMAP don’t have enough power.

“I always wish that regional plan commissions had more authority, if you will, to be able to actually implement and not simply recommend urban development,” he said. “Sometimes you do have to trade off your own individual parochial kind of interests for a larger collective good.”

Regardless, Hunter said he’s a little skeptical of the model CMAP uses to show the consequences of each development choice. “It creates what I would say a kind of psuedo-precision and a scientism,” he said.

Those who did not make the meeting can find more information on CMAP’s website. They can also create a scenario on CMAP’s site and submit it for their consideration, a feature that has garnered 4,000 respondents so far, Williams-Clark said.

Two commissions, one for land use planning and the other for transportation planning, merged to form CMAP in 2005.

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