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Tipping Point: Public transit in the Chicago suburbs

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

One of the greatest frustrations for those living or working in the suburbs is the commute.

For some people it can add up to two hours a day, each way.

Studies indicate in the next three decades this problem could reach a tipping point.

FOX 32's Craig Wall reports on the issue of suburban survival, and how it depends on smarter approaches to transit.

For suburbs, this type of development, and solutions like the Shuttle Bug, can provide multiple benefits, including reducing the number of vehicles on roadways and with it pollution.

Also, it also makes good sense for employers and employees.

During rush hour, traffic on the expressways around Chicago often moves at a snail's pace due to heavy congestion.

A situation that poses a growing problem for suburbs that are trying to keep or attract young professionals.

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

Michael Ou currently does the reverse commute to Deerfield, but it still takes an hour and a half.

A recent transit study found that because of increasing congestion many of Deerfield's young professionals will choose to live and work closer to Chicago by 2040.

To help with commuting concerns, about 40 major employers around the Deerfield area provide a shuttle service to help employees avoid driving on busy arterials, like Lake-Cook Road, and instead take public transportation to work.

"The number one thing that it does, it allows them to attract and retain quality employees, employers are looking for quality employees, 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," Executive Director of Transportation Management Association of Lake Cook, Bill Baltutis, said.

Chad Gates is among the many reverse commuters who rides the shuttle every day.

When asked if he would take the job without the shuttle service, Gates said,"I wouldn't have done this job, no, definitely not. I'd probably still be looking for something in the city, this made it super convenient."

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.

"It's not all about transit, it's about how we develop the rest of the region, what decisions do we make today about where to build the next housing, what decisions do we make about where to bring businesses," CEO of Center for Neighborhood Technology, Kathryn Tholin, said.

In Orland Park, a new apartment and shopping complex right next to the Metra station is a prime example of how suburbs are coordinating development and public transit.

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

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