Commutation Time Zones (1956)

One strength of Burnham and Bennett’s 1909 Plan of Chicago was that it encompassed both city and region. As the field of planning developed in the twentieth century, city planning and regional planning diverged, as new entities formed to specifically address the rapidly changing built environment beyond city centers. The Regional Planning Association, formed in 1923, brought together planners who believed the future of American life lay not in the city (seen as decaying and resistant to change) but in rapidly growing suburban areas, where planning had the opportunity to rationalize the way new communities were built and functioned.

Daniel Burnham Jr., and Robert Kingery, an engineer with an independent Regional Planning Association established in 1923, spent decades working on a regionally focused sequel to the 1909 Plan. Finally published in 1956, it took the planning of the Chicago metropolitan area in a more practical but less aesthetically oriented direction. Chapters concerned such issues as industrial location; population trends; land use; automobile, rail, water, and air transportation; water supply and sanitation; parks, forests, and recreation; and legal affairs and legislation. making use of aerial photos and maps of infrastructure and other relevant patterns, patterns which clearly showed a metropolitan footprint reaching far beyond the boundaries of Chicago-proper.

This particular map, appearing opposite the land-use chapter, engages many of the issues raised in the 1956 Planning the Region. “Occupied areas—residential, commercial, industrial” appear in dark blue and spread out from the city center along existing commuter rail lines, with colors to illustrate commuting times to the central business district in the Loop. The finger-like nature of the map clearly communicates that development should be concentrated along these corridors in order to benefit from transportation access to downtown. This would leave areas in between the corridors to be zoned for parks, recreation, and other “public uses” that a healthy and stable metropolitan population and economy was understood to require. Indeed, a “Finger Plan” would later be proposed along these same outlines in 1968.



Chicago Plan Commission. Preliminary Comprehensive Plan of the City of Chicago: A Generalized Presentation of the Physical Elements of the City Plan Designed for a Population of 3,800,000 by 1965. Chicago: Chicago Plan Commission, 1946.;view=2up;seq=8

Crane, Jr. and Jacob L. “Regional Planning in Illinois.” Illinois Municipal Review 2, no. 3 (July 1923): 152.

Keating, Ann Durkin, Chicagoland: City and Suburbs in the Railroad Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Schwieterman, Joseph P. and Alan P. Mammoser. Beyond Burnham: An Illustrated History of Planning for the Chicago Region. Lake Forest, IL: Lake Forest College Press, 2009.

“Commutation Time Zones,” in Daniel H. Burnham, Jr. and Robert Kingery, Planning the Region of Chicago (Chicago: Chicago Regional Planning Association, 1956), p. 66. The Newberry Library, folio W 999 .134