The Community Planning program encourages applicants to undertake a balanced, coordinated and integrated approach to community and transit planning that benefits local communities while maximizing the use of the RTA transit system and advancing the goals and objectives of the Regional Transit Strategic Plan and CMAP’s GO TO 2040 Plan. Projects must be in areas with existing transit service.  Eligible projects include:

Planning Focused:

  • Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) plans
  • Corridor, subregional plans

Implementation Focused:  

  • TOD Zoning code updates
  • TOD developer discussion panels
  • Transit Neighborhood Mobility Improvement Plans
  • Special Funding Districts
  • Innovative implementation projects

Please note that Community Planning funds are for planning and early implementation purposes only. Capital, engineering, operating, staffing, land acquisition or equipment costs are not eligible. Acceptance of projects is dependent on funding availability. A local match is not required for some small scale implementation projects. Larger planning projects such as TOD plans and corridor plans will require some local match. Match requirements are based on the economic and demographic characteristics of the area served, with lower match rates for smaller communities and those with lower tax bases or median incomes. Match rates range from 5%-20%. Applicants will be notified if a local match will be needed prior to project approval. Individual "not to exceed" project budgets are set by the RTA during the project development process. Project budgets should not be included as part of your application submittal.

PLANNING FOCUSED

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Plans
TOD plans are based on the basic tenets of transit-oriented development; mixed land uses, higher residential densities, and pedestrian-friendly environments. These plans produce recommendations for an appropriate mix of land uses and transportation improvements to support increased transit ridership within a ¼- to ½- mile radius of a rail station, major bus station, or along a major bus corridor. They also address urban design elements, including streetscape improvements, and recommend multi-modal mobility improvements to and within the station area. Emphasis should be placed on an equitable planning process, the identification of the health benefits of implementing TOD plan recommendations, and an in-depth understanding of the parking utilization in the study area. If your community has an existing TOD plan, but it is more than ten years old or out of touch with current market realities or best planning practices, the RTA will work with you to update the plan with a focus on updating the market assessment, development program and implementation strategies. More information on TOD is found on the RTA’s Transit-Oriented Development Page. Examples include completed TOD plans for Bartlett and Lombard.

Eligible Projects 2                       

Corridor, or Subregional Plans

These plans create recommendations for improved transit opportunities by identifying options to enhance local mobility or improved access within a specific study area. Access improvement plans identify ways to improve multi-modal access to existing or planned transit routes and facilities and identify opportunities to enhance transit-related infrastructure. Possible improvements investigated include amenities such as sidewalks, bus shelters, bus pads, and multimodal transit centers, as well as roadway improvements to reduce traffic congestion. Multimodal access and circulation, and/or way-finding and signage, may be addressed. These plans also typically include land use, zoning, and development components to spur economic development within the study area. These plans can also identify options to solve the "last-mile problem" for reverse commuters by recommending improved connections among the transit services used by reverse commuters, such as Pace Vanpools or community transit services, and identifying increased roles that employers can take to improve transit opportunities within the study area. The Harlem Avenue Corridor Study and the Ridgeland Avenue Corridor Study are good examples of completed projects.

IMPLEMENTATION FOCUSED

Zoning Code Updates

Clearly-defined land control regulations minimize uncertainty for developers. They can also streamline development review processes while promoting the community’s goals for design, form, and character. Additionally, ordinance updates can minimize administrative confusion by outlining all standards, requirements, and guidelines in a user-friendly, easily understood manner. The RTA will work with local government staff to create land use controls and review processes near transit services that make investment in the community more attractive to potential developers and residents seeking to improve their property. The project team will assess the current regulations and existing conditions in each chosen community and deliver a revised zoning ordinance, unified development ordinance (UDO), or other appropriate land control document. Zoning updates can be completed for a specific TOD station-area or transit corridor. More information on approaches to revising zoning for a TOD area can be found in the RTA’s TOD and Zoning Report, and sample TOD zoning code updates can be found in Brookfield and Winthrop Harbor.

Developer Discussion Panels
Developers bring a realistic outlook to the future of the real estate market. Facilitating discussions early in the redevelopment of a parcel will allow the community and potential developers to outline needs, goals and incentives while working together to utilize land to its highest and best use. For municipalities that have adopted long-range land use plans or have participated in a corridor plan with identified opportunity sites, but have had difficulty connecting with the development community, assistance will be provided to solicit guidance and advice from development experts through a half-day discussion panel. This panel discusses the development climate and potential strategies to prepare for and attract development to specific sites in a TOD station-area or along a transit corridor. Multiple bordering municipalities along a corridor that has been studied may apply jointly for a discussion panel. Additionally, if a community owns and controls a development-ready parcel of property, RTA staff can assist with the preparation of an RFP.   Examples of summary reports from previous developer discussion panels are available for Des Plaines and River Grove.

Developer Discussion Panels 3

Transit Neighborhood Mobility Improvement Plans
These plans help municipalities identify ways to improve access to existing transit bus routes and rail stations for residents and commuters in a targeted neighborhood or station area. For these plans, RTA staff will work with the local applicant and other agencies to examine existing modes of access to the transit station and develop recommendations for improvement. Possible improvements include pedestrian amenities such as sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signal heads, bus shelters, bus stop pads, benches, wayfinding signage, etc. Other recommendations could include the implementation of additional modes to further advance connectivity, particularly in suburban settings, to transit stops and stations, such as offering bike share, carpool, car share, and discounted ride share programs to the residents. The plan will include an implementation strategy that prioritizes and suggests phasing for the recommendations. These plans can be used as a basis for grant applications to pay for recommended improvements. Further information on pedestrian access improvement plans is found in the Making Way Access to Transit Guide. Sample completed plans are found in LaGrange, Aurora and Robbins.

Aurora transit 4 WEB

Special Funding Districts
In order to transform the ideas from a TOD plan into reality, municipalities often establish economic development funding districts. This usually includes creating a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district, Special Service Area (SSA), or Business Improvement District (BID) within the plan’s study area. These tools are a great way to help finance the implementation of completed plans including transit infrastructure investment. The RTA will help municipalities with planning for these districts in their community by first identifying the type of district that best implements the recommendations of their plan. Consultant tasks then will include assisting the municipality with a full plan for the district including the identification of potential revenues and eligible expenses within the district. Final steps will include assistance with proposing an ordinance to enact the district and completing the public process required for ordinance adoption.

Innovative Implementation Projects

Implementation projects are the main focus of the Community Planning program. While the primary types of implementation projects are outlined in this section, the RTA recognizes that applicants may have different implementation needs that will help move an adopted plan forward.  The RTA is open to taking on new, innovative implementation projects through this program that can improve transit access and increase ridership of existing commuters, reverse commuters, older adults and occasional riders.  If you have an idea for an implementation project that is not listed here, please contact the RTA to discuss before submitting an application.