Job creation is accelerated near transit

Central cities as magnets

Since 2009, Chicago has experienced an influx of suburban companies relocating or adding a satellite offices to the central business district. The trend doesn’t look like it will slow down any time soon with companies desiring to capture young talent and achieve a live-work-play environment for their employees.[2]

Transit-accessible locations outperform on job growth

From 2005 to 2015, the Chicago metropolitan region added about 334,000 jobs, a growth rate of nearly 9 percent. About half of those new jobs are located within a half-mile of a CTA or Metra station, and 60 percent of them are in areas with high-quality transit service.[1] Table 1 shows that areas close to stations grew jobs at a much faster rate than the regional average. Areas within a quarter-mile—a five-minute walk—of a CTA ‘L’ or Metra station, grew by 20 percent, more than twice the regional rate. Conversely, areas further than a half-mile from rail grew two percent slower than the regional average.

Table 1: Job growth is higher near transit

Job Growth by Proximity to a Rail Station, 7-county region (Source: 2015 LEHD Census)
Rail station proximity Total jobs, 2005
Total jobs, 2015 % change
All locations 3,765,878 4,099,751 8.87%
1/4 mile or less 730,485 873,335 19.56%
1/2 mile or less
1,209,222 1,371,901 13.45%
More than 1/2 mile 2,556,656 2,727,850 6.7%

Commercial development is accelerating in transit-oriented areas

Commercial construction is another indicator that the region’s economy is growing near transit. While construction rates are closely tied to broader economic conditions, the past 10 years show a clear trend that has been rapidly strengthening since 2014. Increasingly, commercial construction is happening within a half-mile or less of a CTA ‘L’ or Metra station. In 2017, 85 percent of all commercial construction happened in this relatively miniscule area as shown in figure 1. While there are many factors motivating a developer’s decision to build, the market has a clear preference for locations near transit.

Figure 1: Commercial reconstruction ramps up near transit

(Source: CoStar)

This transit-friendly trend also goes beyond commercial construction. Figure 2 shows all permits issued in the City of Chicago for new construction or renovation valued at $100,000 or more. Areas closest to rail transit have consistently attracted more investment. The same is also true if bus service is included.

Figure 2: Chicago reconstruction near transit is most attractive

Number of issued permits valued at $100k or more for new construction or renovation in the City of Chicago by proximity to rail transit. (Source: City of Chicago)
  1. Transit Availability Index
  2. Cushman and Wakefield, 2018

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