Connecting Cook County: A Call to Action
Corresponding Author: John Yonan, Cook County
Presented By: Maria Choca Urban, Cook County
Connecting Cook County, Cook County, Illinois’ Long Range Transportation Plan, is a call to action. The first plan of its kind for the County in more than 70 years, emphasizes using transportation to spur economic development, prioritizes alternative transportation modes, and promotes equal access to opportunities. This framework promotes the strategic partnerships and investments essential to a stronger economy and more livable communities.
In order to ensure both the vision and the ultimate goals were truly aligned with the economic and residential needs of the County, the project team utilized a broad array of channels that fostered: continuous public involvement from the start of the planning process to its completion (and beyond); diverse participation that included communities and populations often under-represented in similar initiatives; and a broad understanding of the plan at its various stages.
The County regularly reached over 1,000 people through e-communications and newsletters and engaged numerous people on social media. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle created a video to encourage input and participation, which was aired at four traditional public meetings and on the website. Survey kiosks in strategic locations throughout the County and the plan website also generated heightened participation in the planning process by facilitating over 3,000 survey responses during the plan’s needs assessment phase. Media outlets garnered additional attention and outreach for the plan producing over 128 news articles on various plan elements. The County used the public’s input to shape the plan’s priorities.
In addition to the traditional Program and Technical Committees, the County took the extra step to include non-traditional advisors, such as minority leaders, labor representatives, and heads of economic development organizations, on their Advisory Committee. Cook County also convened a national peer review committee to make sure future, national trends and innovative practices were considered.
Public involvement laid the foundation for the County to take bold action to adopt the five plan recommendations: prioritize transit and other transportation alternatives; support the region’s role as North America’s freight capital; promote equal access to opportunities; maintain and modernize what already exists; and increase investments in transportation.