Tipping Point: Reverse commuters add to traffic congestion - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Tipping Point: Reverse commuters add to congestion between city, suburbs

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Growing congestion and the trend of people and businesses moving closer to the city are creating unique and profound concerns that have Chicago suburbs at the tipping point.

But an urban re-invention is currently taking place outside city limits.

Traffic on the expressways and arterial roads around Chicago pose a growing problem for suburbs that are trying to keep or attract young professionals.

Michael Ou commutes to Deerfield from Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood. He gave up on driving and now uses public transportation.

"The total commute was usually around an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the traffic," Ou told FOX 32 News. "But at the time I was also driving an SUV. The gas costs were really ridiculous."

Ou, like many younger workers, wants to live in the city but found a good suburban job. So he does the reverse commute for now. Since it still takes him an hour and a half to get to work on the train and bus, Ou is considering a move to the suburbs. Others in his shoes might move to a new job instead.

The American Public Transportation Association found that by 2040, more of Deerfield's young professionals will choose to live and work closer to Chicago because of increased congestion in the suburbs.

That's based on another study by The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning that projects the number of Deerfield commuters, during peak rush hour, is expected to increase by 52 percent by 2040.

Several major corporations made the commute simpler for their employees in the last three years, when they moved out of the suburbs and into downtown Chicago.

Motorola Mobility left Libertyville and moved 3,000 employees into the Merchandise Mart. United-Continental moved an operations center from Elk Grove Village into the Willis Tower. United moved its corporate headquarters downtown years earlier.

In Deerfield, major employers have opted for a different approach, providing a shuttle service coordinated by the Transportation Management Association of Lake-Cook.

"The number one thing that it does is allow them to attract and retain quality employees. Employers are looking for quality employees," TMA of Lake-Cook Executive Director Bill Baltutis said. "But many of the Millennials live in the city. They have good job skills, but many of the jobs are out here in many cases, so that allows them to do that."

About 40 companies are using their own money to help subsidize the Shuttle Bug service in conjunction with Pace and Metra. It runs between the Metra stations and the businesses, allowing workers to use public transportation to reach Deerfield and avoid congestion.

Chad Gates is among the many reverse commuters who ride the shuttle every day. He said he wouldn't have taken the job he has now if not for the shuttle service, since city life in Chicago was what helped him decide to relocate.

"You don't move to Chicago to live in the suburbs," Gates said. "I'm from out of state, so it was a big deal for me to live in the city. But a great opportunity was in the suburbs, so I took it."

Other suburban communities are looking for ways to reduce congestion and improve people's ability to get to and from work through a concept called Transit Oriented Development. Kathy Tholin is the CEO of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a transit think tank in Chicago.

"It's not all about transit," Tholin said. "It's about how we develop the rest of the region, what decisions do we make today about where to build the next housing and what decisions do we make about where to bring businesses."

A new apartment and shopping complex right next to the Metra station in Orland Park is a prime example of how communities are coordinating development and public transit. Sheri Fassl is one of the many residents who moved into the building because of its proximity to the train station.

"I actually came from downtown. I used to walk and now I take the train. It's just really convenient," Fassl told FOX 32. "Being able to get back down there without a car, at that point, was very important to me. If I would have moved somewhere else it would not have been as easy or possible at all."

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