Chicago, IL
United States

Enhancing walkability initiatives to make communities more walkable based on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial justice movement; promoting mobility, cohesion, access to jobs and services, and transit ridership in Chicago's equitable transit-oriented development policy.

Seven community-based partner organizations in Chicago are leading two-year walkability initiatives to make communities more walkable by improving community infrastructure and promoting streets with safe pathways, green spaces, and places to walk and bike in the half-mile radius around seven public transit stations. Supported by the City of Chicago Department of Public Health, this work is being coordinated by the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago (PHIMC) in partnership with Elevated Chicago, a collaborative that uses the built environment near transit hubs to promote opportunity, equitable development, and community connection. The first year of these initiatives ended in 2019, and Black and Latinx residents in these historically disinvested-in and rapidly gentrifying communities are facing new challenges to walkability, mobility and health equity resulting from COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability, over-policing, and physical damage from post-protest looting. Elevated Chicago will collaborate with PHIMC and the Institute for Housing Studies (IHS) at DePaul University to enhance current initiatives to make communities more walkable and respond to lessons learned in 2020. Black and Latinx residents in the dramatically affected South Side and West Side will reassess how walkable their communities are.

The above initiatives, which focus on safety, physical activity, and social connectedness, are the foundation for these efforts to increase equity and investment and make communities more walkable. To gather new data, the seven participating community organizations will convene to address how COVID-19 and racial justice protests altered their communities’ physical landscapes and health-related needs, and two will conduct new assessments of how walkable the communities are. The Institute for Housing Studies will help identify opportunities for investments that (1) promote resident-defined walkability, mobility, cohesion, access to jobs and services, and transit ridership, and (2) focus on essential workers, youth and seniors, public space, and equitable recovery and investments. The data are intended for Elevated Chicago’s Leadership Council, which includes City of Chicago agencies responsible for planning neighborhood design, whose teams often struggle to integrate data and experiences from residents into planning and policy decisions. Elevated Chicago and its partner organizations will provide the Leadership Council with a data framework and clear recommendations that can inform decisions about community infrastructure and public transit investments and guide a new comprehensive City of Chicago comprehensive development plan.

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