Summer road work, Southwest surge and stadium synergy among 2022 transportation predictions

  • Southwest Airlines is predicted to expand its footprint at O'Hare International Airport in 2022.

      Southwest Airlines is predicted to expand its footprint at O'Hare International Airport in 2022. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, March 2021

  • Experts predict financial troubles for Metra if ridership stays flat in 2022.

      Experts predict financial troubles for Metra if ridership stays flat in 2022. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, March 2020

 
 
Posted12/27/2021 5:30 AM

An underdog will continue its rise at O'Hare International Airport. A day of reckoning will come for transit if riders stay away. And, a construction windfall will mean sharing our summer commutes with bulldozers.

Two experts on planes, trains and automobiles have consulted their crystal balls and now share predictions for 2022.

 

On aviation, "Southwest Airlines will vigorously expand at O'Hare, building upon its relatively small operations at the airport today," DePaul University Professor Joseph Schwieterman said.

Meanwhile, "American and United Airlines will continue to shift away from traditionally business-oriented routes, such as services to New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., in favor of popular leisure routes, particularly Arizona, Florida, Mexico and Nevada," noted Schwieterman, director of DePaul's Chaddick Institute for Modern Development.

On trains and buses, "I foresee a major fiscal crisis looming for public transit," warned Northwestern University Professor Ian Savage, an economist.

The problem stems from a windfall of federal dollars that's been propping up transit agencies after COVID-19 decimated commuting and fares.

"Eventually, emergency funding of operating subsidies will end, and there will be a day of reckoning leading to fare increases and service cuts," Savage said. "I think Metra is in a very precarious situation if work patterns do not revert to those before the pandemic."

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Meanwhile, Schwieterman expects that "serious consideration will be given once again to having fast trains link O'Hare and downtown, primarily using existing railroad rights of way rather than CTA rapid transit routes."

On roads in 2022, "I see a debate next year locally about safety. Especially concerning how we deal with excessive speed, and how we design our urban spaces for motorized traffic to coexist with pedestrians and cyclists," Savage said.

"Enforcement of speed through cameras and traffic stops has been, rightly, questioned on the basis of both equity and effectiveness. Perhaps we need to think of how we design local streets and suburban arterial roads to encourage more moderate speeds."

And, this summer and fall "expressway construction dollars made available by the new federal infrastructure bill will create more headaches for motorists," Schwieterman explained, "although the long-term payoff will exceed the short-term pain."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Savage said logistics and supply chain industries took "a beating in 2021."

"In part this has been due to a spike in demand for consumer goods coupled with production interruptions earlier in the pandemic," he said. "I would expect these problems to continue through the summer of 2022 at least.

"Chicago is heavily dependent on West Coast ports, so we have a lot at stake in resolving efficiency and capacity on the West Coast. But this really depends on how the economy does."

Schwieterman sees a bright outlook for electric vehicles.

"With the recent rise in fuel prices and state gas-tax increase, and a dramatic expansion in charging stations, electric vehicles will finally gain a foothold among middle-income households in the suburbs," Schwieterman projected. "More people will purchase EVs entirely due to the out-of-pocket savings in gasoline cost."

Schwieterman also looked ahead to a possible Bears stadium deal at Arlington Park.

"Debate will intensify about the long-range planning to support a Chicago Bears stadium in Arlington Heights," he said, and that includes how to get millions of people to the suburbs safely and efficiently.

Finally, the Daily Herald's transportation seers predict additional drama at the Illinois tollway involving a power struggle with leaders, an intensifying debate over the proposed merger of the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railways, and continuing angst for airline workers from mask scofflaws.

Got a 2022 transportation prediction? Drop an email to mpyke@dailyherald.com.

You should know

The Chicago Transit Authority continues its New Year's Eve free rides tradition from 10 p.m. on Friday through 4 a.m. Saturday.

One more thing

Not to be outshone, Metra is also letting riders hop on without charge the night of New Year's Eve starting at 6 p.m.

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