Public-Private Collaboration Expands Commuter Options and Connects Employees, Public to Oak Brook via Elmhurst Metra Station

RTA, the Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Oak Brook offer Chariot to serve suburban businesses

The Regional Transportation Authority of Northeastern Illinois (RTA), the Village of Oak Brook, the Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce, and Chariot have teamed up to launch a new weekday microtransit shuttle route to connect commuters from the Metra station in Elmhurst to 10 commercial properties along and near Commerce Drive in Oak Brook. Acting in its role as community connector, the Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce identified and engaged 10 multi-tenant properties in a densely populated area, allowing local companies and their employees to jointly benefit from the RTA and properties’ investment in the project.

The pilot is a first-of-its-kind public-private engagement with a microtransit company in the RTA region. The project uses Chariot’s service to address the first- and last-mile commuter challenge and leverages the support of local employers who wish to offer more transportation options for their employees. Rides are provided both to and from the 10 properties and the Metra station.

The 14-passenger Ford Transit vans are outfitted with free WiFi and driven by Chariot’s W-2 employee drivers. Users can reserve a seat up to 45 minutes in advance on the day of their ride via the iOS or Android app and meet their Chariot outside the Elmhurst Metra station or outside the properties for a ride to the Metra station. 

“At Chariot, one of our major initiatives is to work with transit agencies, businesses and organizations to create commuting solutions that connect residents with nearby rail and bus stations,” said Chariot CEO Dan Grossman. “We’re looking forward to helping area employees and the local community easily get around the Oak Brook area, and becoming another sustainable transportation option people can rely on in the region.”

Tenants in the participating Oak Brook properties ride for free, and other passengers can ride for the price of $6.30 per ride. 10-ride passes are also available for $58 (a $5 discount), and new riders may use the promo code “oakbrookfreeweek” for a free week of Chariot rides.

“We are always looking for innovative new ways to eliminate barriers to transit ridership,” said Leanne Redden, RTA Executive Director. “This pilot is an opportunity to work with a microtransit provider to allow riders to get to jobs in a community near, but without a Metra station. The project uses tools that were not available even a few years ago, with a greater flexibility to respond to riders and businesses needs and lower public investment, than expanding the current ‘fixed route’ transit system.”

The pilot program is scheduled to run for up to two years. In the first year, 80 percent of the funds will come from RTA, and 20 percent from participating property owners. In the second year, each party will be responsible for 50 percent of the cost. 

“Attracting and retaining top talent within our community is a primary focus of the Chamber’s programming,” said Susan Lindquist, Board Chair of the Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce and Chief Talent Officer at BCS Financial. “Expanding that pipeline through access to mass transit and innovative commuting solutions will further fuel the economic growth of our members. Many of our member companies are closely connected to the City of Chicago, through their employees, clients or multiple corporate locations. The shuttle enhances the strength of those relationships.” 

The first rider was Sandro Plamp, an energy efficiency engineer who heard about the service while he accepted a position in Oak Brook and was determining how he would commute to his new job.

“I don’t own a car and I am used to relying on public transit to get around,” said Sandro. “This service really expanded my possibilities for employment. The Metra – Chariot combination for my commute is reliable and extremely comfortable.  It is also very flexible if I need to stay late or come in early for meetings, and it is a great value.”

Millennial workers aged 18-34 make up about a third of the region’s workforce. They are multimodal and increasingly not as interested in getting their drivers’ licenses. 2016 data from Governing Magazine show that 28 percent of households in the city of Chicago have no car.

“Partnering with our businesses and other government entities promotes the economic development, stability and sustainability of our workforce,” said Oak Brook Village Manager Rick Ginex. “For Oak Brook to remain competitive and well serve its over 60,000 daily employees, we must provide a transportation system to bring a highly skilled workforce from the surrounding suburbs and the Chicago metro area. This pilot program provides a great additional commuting tool to the Village.”

About the RTA

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is the transit agency charged with regional financial oversight, funding, and transit planning for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace bus and ADA paratransit. The system provides more than two million trips each weekday on the RTA region’s transit system in six counties with 7,200 transit route miles throughout Northeastern Illinois.  The Agency also provides customer services including online and telephone travel planning assistance and travel training for seniors and people with disabilities.  For more information, visit 

About Chariot

Chariot is reinventing transportation with a microtransit solution that is fast, reliable and affordable for people living in today’s cities. Riders can easily reserve a seat on a Chariot via the iOS or Android app, and hop on one of the company’s 14-passenger Ford Transit vehicles operated by friendly, professional employee drivers. After launching in San Francisco in 2014, the company participated in Y Combinator’s Winter 2015 class and was acquired in September 2016 by Ford Smart Mobility to serve as the cornerstone for its global shuttle services business. Chariot runs more than 100 daily routes serving San Francisco, New York, Austin, Seattle, Columbus and London. For more information, visit 

About the Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)6 business association governed by a board of directors comprised of executives from Greater Oak Brook companies representing a wide range of industries: small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, hospitality and retail businesses, technology companies, commercial real estate firms, and more. The related Greater Oak Brook Chamber Economic Development Partnership is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that brings Oak Brook and Oakbrook Terrace businesses and government together to understand and address the economic needs of the Oak Brook area. The EDP conducts research, gathers and analyzes data, publishes information, and coordinates activities on behalf of Oak Brook and Oakbrook Terrace to attract and retain businesses and employees, support commercial revitalization efforts and transportation and infrastructure improvements, and attract and retain a skilled workforce. For more information visit and


Choose DuPage Economic Indicators Report

Mid-Year Economic Indicators Show DuPage County Remains a Regional Leader in Unemployment, Job Creation and Average Salary

DuPage County boasts lowest unemployment rate in region; average annual salary more than $61,000 

The 2018 Second Quarter Economic Indicators Report shows DuPage County remains a powerhouse in the region for economic growth. Mid-year data confirms DuPage County’s unemployment rates dropped to 2.6 percent – the lowest unemployment rate in the region and third lowest in Illinois. DuPage County is setting the standard by illustrating what a strong economy looks like, as well as proving itself to be an ideal location for businesses and job seekers looking to build and grow in a booming community.

2018 Mid-Year Report Highlights:

  • DuPage County consistently maintains the lowest unemployment rate in the region, falling from 4.2 percent in the first quarter to 2.6 percent; lower than both the State of Illinois (3.5 percent) and United States (3.6 percent). 
  • DuPage County’s current top job opportunities include positions in computers and mathematics, management, office and administrative support, business and financial operations, sales, transportation and material moving, and healthcare practitioners and technical operations. 
  • Industrial vacancy rates decreased from 5.5 percent to 5.2 percent; while the office vacancy rate dropped from 15.3 in the first quarter to 14.7 percent.
  • The current average annual salary in DuPage County is approximately $61,501 – higher than both the state ($56,136) and national ($53,893) averages.

DuPage County houses nearly 75,000 businesses representing 657,919 jobs across a variety of industries. Employment data indicates current top industries based on employment include healthcare and social assistance (74,715 jobs), professional, scientific and technical services (63,483 jobs), retail trade (62,185 jobs), admin/support/waste management and remediation services (59,337 jobs) and manufacturing (56,652 jobs).   

“DuPage County is home to nearly 75,000 businesses that are taking advantage of our highly educated and skilled workforce,” said John Carpenter, president and CEO of Choose DuPage. “Together, these companies represent a variety of diverse industries and employers who are establishing, and advancing their businesses within DuPage County, because of our dynamic business domain. DuPage offers an abundance of high-paying job opportunities—the date proves the time to make a move to DuPage County is now.”


Western Access O'Hare

Don’t reinvent wheel on western access to O’Hare

Letter to the Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business

Letter published by Crain’s Chicago Business, July 13, 2018, view here.

A June 18 Crain’s Chicago Business editorial (“Better late than never at O’Hare“) lauded the recent agreement between the Illinois Tollway and the Canadian Pacific Railway, clearing the way for building a western access to O’Hare. Choose DuPage Economic Development Alliance and DuPage County officials share in celebrating the clearing of this final hurdle, but respectfully challenge the notion this agreement means planners must look at the entire project anew.

Certainly, market conditions have changed since the concept of Western Access O’Hare was first discussed. However, it’s important to recognize the planning and growth that have already taken place along O’Hare’s western corridor.

The project began with an addition of nearly 50 expressway lane-miles. By converting Thorndale Avenue into a limited-access, four-lane highway, it has created an extension to the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway, opening the opportunity to build a bypass that connects I-90 and I-294. The new I-390 tollway that opened last fall is part of the western access effort that will eventually connect to O’Hare, creating a western access point to the airport—a project vital to our region, and especially DuPage County.

Communities within 3 miles of western access have identified more than 30 planning areas where they are seeking to incentivize with development, or redevelopment, in the hopes of modernizing and diversifying economic sections. These plans include a downtown revitalization effort for Bensenville and Wood Dale, as well as Elk Grove industrial park modernizations.

Since 2014, the Choose DuPage Economic Development Alliance has worked with the Illinois Tollway and regional public- and private-sector leaders to establish the Western Access O’Hare Corridor as a premier global business location. According to the Elgin-O’Hare Western Bypass Advisory Council, the economic benefits of this project include the creation of 65,000 jobs by 2040; 13,450 jobs will be created annually in the region during construction. Travel delays will be reduced, saving an estimated $145 million annually by 2040, in addition to an expected increase of local tax revenues of $29 million annually.

As our region builds the foundation for successful development along the western suburbs bordering O’Hare, DuPage County continues to thrive, maintaining the lowest unemployment rate in the Chicago area and declining industrial vacancy rates. We would like to take this opportunity to invite the public and business community stakeholders to visit and see firsthand the ongoing progress associated with western access that is creating jobs and opportunity today.

Chairman, DuPage County Board

President and CEO, Choose DuPage Economic Development Alliance

Breakfast with the Chairman

Breakfast with the Chairman

Technology & innovation in the office space, and how to stay competitive in today’s marketplace

Leaders in real estate and development gathered on Thursday, June 20 at a breakfast hosted by Choose DuPage and DuPage County Board Chairman, Dan Cronin for a lively discussion about how changing technology and innovation impact businesses’ office space needs. Business representatives around the table talked about the many ways DuPage County workplaces are evolving to embrace these “offices of the future.” The discussion was led by Paul O’Connor of Hamilton Partners

“DuPage County’s real estate market has evolved tremendously in recent years,” said Chairman Cronin. “In order to continue driving economic development, we need to ensure we are meeting the needs of today’s market. Ultimately, we hope that by having collaborative discussions like this, we can develop creative solutions to remain competitive.” 

The discussion was largely focused on: trends in office spaces and meeting the needs of today’s workforce; the competitive landscape, and how to remain an attractive market; and creative solutions to solving transportation needs.

Trends in Office Spaces & Meeting the Needs of Today’s Workforce

Diana Riekse of CBRE shared CBRE’s recent report: New Workplace Strategies for an Evolving Workforce. Key highlights of the report include:

  • 79% of businesses say space use is a top priority.
  • 86% of corporate real estate executives say that tenants are adapting the workplace for more collaboration and less cost. 
  • Today, unassigned seating makes up 51% of workplaces. In three years, it is expected to reach almost 75%.
  • Amenities are the #1 thing employees care about in their workplace. 
  • 64% of tenants are seeking amenities like hospitality and concierge services. 
  • The top amenity that employees want today (79%) are bike racks.

Linda Sloan of Shared Use Mobility Center said, “I work in a shared workspace with many millennials. As I’ve gotten to know these younger professionals, I’ve found that they work very hard, but their whole world is different than the one I started in – a conventional office space with a hierarchy of people. Millennials are very entrepreneurial, they like flat work structures with opportunity for collaboration, and open work spaces.” 

Ray Warner of Franklin Partners, who is re-developing the former OfficeMax headquarters in Naperville, said, “We feel that by raising the bar in the amenity class, it will give tenants an alternative asset to consider when choosing the location of their corporate headquarters. What has been missing [in this market] are the things that attract millennials and companies that are trying to re-brand their vision.”

The Competitive Landscape & How to Remain an Attractive Market

The group discussed the need for owners to re-invest in their buildings in order to continue attracting tenants to this market. “I think if there is one area I would creatively focus on, it is incentivizing tenants to sign longer-term leases. That can be hard, but that is what can transform an asset,” said Dan Deuter, CBRE. “When tenants are willing to make long-term commitments, the level of investment into the building is higher.”

They agreed that nationally, there is a perception among investors that companies are moving away from the suburbs to go downtown. Dan Hession of Morgan Harbor shared an alternative perspective, “Not everyone is going downtown. We just completed the new HubGroup headquarters in Oak Brook and they wanted to stay in DuPage County. They have a long history in DuPage, and this is where their workforce is located.”

The consensus of the group was—in order to remain an attractive market, DuPage County needs creative solutions and collaboration.


Creative Solutions to Solving Transportation Needs

According to CBRE’s Chicago Suburban Office Market Overview, parking ratios have become an increased sticking point within the suburban market as tenants continue to seek improved efficiency and collaboration through historically high-density levels. The higher market vacancy figures among suburban product is in part due to the lack of necessary parking to meet increased tenant demands.

More and more, young professionals are seeking alternatives to driving to work, and the suburban office market needs to find solutions to the first-mile & last-mile commute problem. This occurs when distances between transit stations and centers of employment are too great to walk. 

“You need to think very regionally—both within the County and outside its borders, about your network of transportation and how to fill those gaps,” said Linda Sloan. 

John Carpenter, President & CEO of Choose DuPage said, “we need transportation solutions to be accessible and simple. This means incorporating low (or no) -tech solutions like walking, mid-tech solutions like biking, and high-tech solutions like electric vehicles.”

Diana Riekse concluded the meeting by saying “Not only our buildings, but also our communities, need to have the amenities people want today. And the only way for this to come to fruition is through collaboration between public- and private-sector leaders.”