Contact

Transportation Tuesday webinar explores centering the transit-dependent in TOD

June 10, 2022

Transportation Tuesday Blog Banner Post June 07

Transit-oriented development (TOD) has successfully brought a mixture of residential, commercial, office, and public uses to transit station areas. How has the sustained decline of public transit ridership brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way planners, developers, and community groups think about TOD?

In the first webinar of the RTA’s four-part Transportation Tuesday Series, the panel, with representatives from Auburn Gresham, Skokie, Harvey, Highwood, and Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), discussed this question and more. Moderated by RTA senior planner Alex Waltz, the panel explored the importance of continued development near transit through an equity lens.



The conversation kicked off with an RTA data overview of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on ridership in the region. The findings from the data revealed that while there was a steady decrease in transit riders, these patterns were not uniform across modes of transportation and locations.

“In Chicago, neighborhoods with higher shares of residents of color—such as largely Black and Hispanic residents on the city’s South and West sides—retained far more ridership at their 'L' stations than those in communities where white families predominate,” Waltz said.

The panel’s discussion centered around four topics: the community’s preferences for transit and land use, community engagement in TOD projects, the equitable distribution of TOD benefits, and investment interest and gentrification.

How have you changed the way you approach transit-oriented development since the COVID-19 pandemic began?

Carlos Nelson, CEO of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, explained that prioritization has shifted to educating the residents on TOD. Nelson noted that while public transportation acts as a “great equalizer,” the successful integration of TOD in the neighborhood is dependent on addressing safe, comfortable access to transit.

For the city of Harvey, Director of Economic Development Nicholas Greifer noted that since the pandemic, efforts are being redirected to heavily focus on TOD. The city recently adopted a new TOD plan, developed with the RTA’s Community Planning department, that focuses on investment in the city’s transit infrastructure, improved connections for riders, and transformed public spaces.

Among the panelists, there was a strong consensus that while transit ridership has declined, TOD is a critical tool necessary for economic recovery and to address issues such as residential proximity to schools, restaurants, shops, and other amenities.

How do you describe TOD projects? What are residential concerns about new TOD projects?

Across the board, the panelists agreed that community engagement is critical to having a successful TOD project. Molly Ekerdt, Vice President of POAH Chicago, said they conduct a survey before starting a development project and participate in robust community engagement throughout the process. Nelson said residents on the South Side are concerned about the trustworthiness of developers because of the disinvestment they’ve experienced. To build trust, the City, planning agencies, and developers need to not only include the community, but see community members as leaders on these projects.

Panelists said that gentrification and displacement are often major resident concerns around TOD projects.

“The ‘G word,’ as we would call it, that conversation is held quite a bit,” Nelson said. “We certainly feel that when the redevelopment is done from inside out—by local developers, local [community development corporations], not-for-profits—that community ownership model is the way to stem the tide.”

Which types of developments do residents seem most interested in?

Scott Coren, City Manager of Highwood, said it’s important to strike a balance with TODs between what type of development is popular and what type of development is needed by the community. For example, small-scale retail is popular among residents, but the reality is that brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to be successful.

Carrie Haberstich, AICP, Planning Supervisor for the Village of Skokie, said residents aren’t necessarily concerned about or opposed to density, but there is often concern over building height. Getting the community on board with tall, dense buildings requires effective engagement.

Nelson said through the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation quality of life planning process, residents expressed a desire for more healthy living resources, access to healthy food, and financial stability. A Healthy Lifestyle Hub will open in the neighborhood in July and will meet many of these needs.

While it seemed possible that the sustained decrease in transit ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic would render TOD irrelevant, in reality TOD is still highly desired from an equity and economic development perspective. And although ridership declined across the region’s transit services, it declined less in communities of color, indicating that centering the transit-dependent in TOD is more important than ever—and that there is interest among planners, economic development experts, and community advocates to do just that.

Transportation Tuesday takes place every Tuesday in June. The webinar is free, but registration is required. Learn more about future events, and register to attend here.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

* indicates required
Type your email address here
What emails would you like to receive from the RTA
Tagged in: Chicago | Community Planning | COVID-19 | CTA | Equity | Metra | Pace | RTA | TOD

Related Articles

RTA Transit GHG Inventory blog Improved public transit is key to reducing transportation emissions

A new greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory shows reducing transportation emissions and meeting our regional climate goals requires getting more people riding publi...

November 2, 2022
Engagement update survey results blog banner 1 Strategic plan engagement sheds light on value of transit, add your voice to survey open now

Engagement with a wide spectrum of audiences has been a key component of development of the next Regional Transit Strategic Plan. The RTA is considering voic...

October 17, 2022
Engagement header RTA engages with riders at community events, publishes survey to hear from you on future of transit

More than a year into development of the next regional transit strategic plan, the RTA is continuing to engage with new audiences about the future of transit...

September 8, 2022
Zoning Blog Pace Central Harlem Ave Corridor Plan 1 RTA begins work on new zoning projects to encourage transit-friendly policies

Updates to a community’s zoning code can encourage new transit-oriented development. So far in 2022, the RTA has begun work on several new zoning projects in...

July 14, 2022
Implementation Blog Banner 1110x545 1 Explore 2021 RTA Local Planning projects and successes in interactive implementation report

Every year, the RTA’s Local Planning department assists local governments throughout northeastern Illinois on projects that build on the strength of the regi...

July 14, 2022
Transportation Tuesday Blog Banner Post June 28 Transportation Tuesday Recap: Accessing Transportation Data in the Chicagoland Region

The RTA's Mapping and Statistics website (RTAMS) and CMAP's Data Hub are two open data resources in the Chicagoland area that help experts make informed data...

July 1, 2022
RTA
CTA
Metra
Pace
Copyright © 2022 Regional Transportation Authority. All Rights Reserved.