The history of Transport Chicago dates back to 1986, when the first conference, then known as the Metropolitan Conference on Public Transportation Research (MCPTR), was held. The conference's founders recognized the importance of knowledge-sharing within the transportation community, and wanted to host an event that would be easily accessible for researchers and practitioners based in the Chicago area. Since its beginning, the conference has been organized by a volunteer committee.

The conference was sponsored by the University of Chicago from 1986 to 1988, and by the University of Illinois at Chicago from 1989 to 1992. The MCPTR was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 1993, and has become financially self-sustaining. Over the years, the conference program has evolved to include an increasing number of practice-oriented presentations and coverage of a broader range of transport modes. The “Transport Chicago” name was adopted in 2000 to reflect the conference’s expansion in scope.

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