Potential Distribution of Population—1990 (1968)

A year after publication of the 1956 Planning the Region of Chicago, the Illinois General Assembly established the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC), effectively institutionalizing Daniel Burnham, Jr. and Robert Kingery’s independent and poorly-funded Regional Planning Association. While small municipalities could not hope to address such questions as “economic health,” an “attractive, healthful, and convenient environment,” and “optimum use of natural resources,” a state-sponsored regional commission ostensibly could.

This map, from the NIPC’s 1968 Comprehensive General Plan for the Development of the Northeastern Illinois Counties Area, projects the growth in population in the Chicago metropolitan region between 1970 and 1990, formalizing the “Finger Plan” that had been suggested by the Regional Planning Association in 1956. Recognizing that the automobile created many demands on the region, planners hoped that density would be greatest along commuter rail lines.

But the NIPC’s plan failed to win much support in Illinois political circles. State leaders rejected the NIPC’s bid to replace a rival, state-sponsored planning agency, the Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS), to become the region’s official “metropolitan planning organization” (MPO). Designation as an MPO came with control over federal highway planning in the region. CATS had completed a 1962 study relying on state-of-the art traffic surveys, and its automobile-centric planning had little interest in NIPC’s Finger Plan, or in containing suburban development. In the Chicago region, as in others metropolitan areas during the mid-twentieth century, the car took center stage and dominated regional planning.



City of Chicago, Department of Public Works. Chicago Public Works: A History. Chicago: Rand McNally and Company, 1973.

“The Corridor Concept: A Study Carried Out by Second Year Graduate Students in the Department of Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana, 1967-1968.”  Urbana: University of Illinois Department of Urban Planning, 1968.

Keating, Ann Durkin. Building Chicago: Suburban Developers and the Creation of a Divided Metropolis. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1988.

Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, The Comprehensive General Plan for the Development of the Northeastern Illinois Counties Area: A Regional Armature (A Supporting Framework) for the Future. Chicago: Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission and United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1968. https://datahub.cmap.illinois.gov/dataset/c8bca1bc-39e1-4b06-9b5e-ed35fc...

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.



Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. https://datahub.cmap.illinois.gov/

“Illustration A: Potential Distribution of Population—1990,” in The Comprehensive General Plan for the Development of the Northeastern Illinois Counties Area (Chicago: Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, 1968). University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Q. 711.3 N8133C