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Transportation

Transit Oriented Development Revitalizes Chicago Neighborhood

"In development work, there is no such thing as a cookie cutter,” says Trinette Britt-Reid, a consultant at Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation in Garfield Park on Chicago’s West Side. Garfield Park is an older urban community within the Chicago Empowerment Zone, an area torn by riots in the 1960s and weakened by decades of declining population, abandoned properties, poverty, crime, and drugs.

For more than 20 years, Bethel has executed a variety of community development projects in this neighborhood—affordable housing, commercial industrial development, employment services—and also brought in health and human services, including daycare. Since the mid-1990s, acting with several partners in the public and private sectors, Bethel has taken a transit-oriented development approach, building on an unexpected neighborhood asset: an elevated train stop (or “the El,” as Chicagoans call their venerable rail transit system). Bethel wants to make the El station an anchor for area revitalization efforts.

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Federal Money--Local Jobs

The local hiring language in SAFETEA-LU was championed jointly by the Transportation Equity Network, the Gamaliel Foundation, Representatives Millender-McDonald and Costello, and Senators Bond and Obama. The new law directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to let communities create their own agreements around local and minority hiring.  This allows communities to create local jobs by directly accessing the $286 billion SAFETEA-LU funds. Benefits of Local Hiring Agreements:

  • Local communities have more control over how their tax money is spent. 
  • Residents around highway and transit projects get access to the living wage jobs that these massive projects create. 
  • Welfare, jail, and other poverty-related costs to the community are reduced because more residents have living wage jobs. 
  • Job benefits are more equitably distributed throughout the region, rather than being concentrated in a few high-growth suburban corridors.
  • The unemployed, underemployed, and people of color are given the opportunity to move into construction careers. 

Community groups can pass their own local hiring ordinances on highway and transit money at the city council, county council, or state legislative levels. They should identify their best partners and create a strategy that moves toward a regional agreement.

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