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Community planning

The RTA Community Planning program provides funding and technical assistance to local governments to help foster the growth of sustainable, equitable, walkable, and transit-friendly communities. Since 1998, we have completed more than 200 projects. Read the latest success stories in the 2022 Implementation Report.

The 2024 Call for Projects is open now. APPLY HERE.

2024 Call for Projects Open Now

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in partnership with  the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is hosting a call for communities to apply for technical assistance, a resource tailored to help them prosper in the years ahead. CMAP is the regional planning organization for northeastern Illinois, serving Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties. 

While the CMAP and RTA have separate technical assistance programs, both agencies offer the same online application for applicants to use during the joint call for projects.

This coordinated approach allows CMAP and RTA to offer planning and implementation assistance to an expanded base of eligible applicants. We’re able to align all efforts with ON TO 2050, the comprehensive plan for northeastern Illinois, as well as Transit is the Answer, the recently updated regional transit strategic plan.

How to apply

The call for projects for technical assistance is currently open and will close at noon on March 22, 2024



The purpose of the CMAP Technical Assistance and RTA Community Planning programs is to assist communities with planning and implementation, provide them interagency expertise that can build up their capacity, and help them better leverage the region’s transit network.

Thematic priorities

When evaluating applications, CMAP and the RTA will consider the following thematic priorities. Does the proposed project:

  • Achieve the goals associated with the sought-after type of assistance
  • Strengthen planning capacity in communities with disadvantaged populations
  • Provide assistance on emerging topics, challenges, and innovations to achieve RTA’s strategic plan vision of a safe, reliable, accessible public transportation that connects people with opportunity, advances equity, and combats climate change.
  • Increase community empowerment and equitable engagement
  • Implement previously developed local plans
  • Facilitate collaboration across jurisdictions

Timeline for 2024 call



February 26, 2024

Application period opens

March 22, 2024

Application period closes at 12 noon

April thru May 2024

CMAP and RTA review applications

Early June 2024

Awardees announced

RTA and CMAP will review applications through three phases, including:

Phase 1

Initial applications are submitted during this phase. Once the application period closes, CMAP and the RTA then determine which agency will evaluate each application. CMAP evaluates initial applications for projects that will be managed by CMAP and the RTA evaluates applications for transit-related projects that will be managed by the RTA.

Phase 2

During this phase, CMAP selects a limited number of applications for follow-up interviews to gather and evaluate additional information before selecting projects. CMAP anticipates these interviews will take place between April 2 and April 12. The RTA will conduct follow-up interviews with all applicants applying for transit-related technical assistance.

Phase 3

CMAP and the RTA refine applications and determine the final list of project awards.

Project Types

What types of assistance does the RTA provide?

Below is a list of the eligible types of RTA assistance available through the current call for projects.

Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Plans

Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Plans (eTOD) are based on the basic tenets of transit-oriented development, with mixed land uses, higher residential densities, and pedestrian friendly environments. eTOD plans move beyond traditional TOD plans by ensuring an equitable planning process that listens to the voices of all those impacted, considers a range of diverse housing types with a focus on affordability and including a focus on racial equity. These plans produce recommendations for an appropriate mix of land uses and transportation improvements to support increased transit ridership within a quarter- to half-mile radius of a rail station or major bus station. They also address urban design elements, including streetscape improvements, and recommend multi modal mobility improvements to and within the station area. Emphasis is placed on an equitable planning process, encouraging improved or increased access to both housing and jobs near transit, the identification of the health benefits of implementing TOD plan recommendations, and an in-depth understanding of the parking utilization in the study area.

Transit Corridor Plans

Transit-specific corridor plans develop recommendations for transit-served corridors to enhance local mobility, and further advance transit-supportive land use and development guidelines along the corridor or study area. These plans can identify ways to improve multi-modal access to existing or planned transit routes and facilities and identify opportunities to enhance transit-related infrastructure. Transit-focused plans can also identify options to improve "last-mile" and non-traditional commuter needs by recommending improved connections among the transit services used by reverse commuters, and by identifying increased roles that employers can take to improve transit opportunities within the study area. Planning for vulnerable populations, identifying innovative ways to include economically disconnected residents, and/or studying areas that have experienced disinvestment is highly encouraged. The RTA encourages transit corridor plans to be multi-jurisdictional and have a study area that crosses through two or more adjoining municipalities.

Neighborhood Mobility Hubs and Mobility Improvement Plans

Municipalities and transit riders are increasingly searching for multi-modal ways to travel with seamless connections between modes. Creating a regional network of bus and mobility hubs could also balance out the downtown Chicago focus of the region’s rail system, keeping transit competitive as travel patterns continue its shift since 2020. Municipalities can work towards that end by examining the feasibility of Mobility Hubs at key transit areas and creating conceptual Mobility Hub site plans at transit hubs. Doing so brings multiple modes of transportation together, encourages seamless multi-modal travel and promotes the use of active and micro modes of travel. Municipalities can also plan to widen bicycle lanes and pedestrian sidewalks, re-think roadway rights of way, and restrict vehicular speeds. Identifying these improvements in areas served by transit will further support access to transit.

Curb Management Studies

As people use shared rides more often and continue to shop virtually, the need to rethink parking and curb management in urban areas, especially along bus routes and near rail stations, continues. The RTA will partner with local governments to study curb space in transit served areas to understand utilization and demand. Results will then inform our partners on strategies to manage high demand curb space, which could include zones for various uses, shared-use zones depending on time of day and strategies to better facilitate bus passenger stops.

Special Financing Districts

The RTA will assist transit-served municipalities with planning for a special funding district in their community, such as a tax increment finance district, special service area, and business development district. Funding generated from these districts/areas can be used to implement recommendations from municipal plans.

Developer Dialogues

RTA assistance, in partnership with the Urban Land Institute, will be provided to solicit guidance and advice from development experts through a half-day discussion panel. Panelists and municipal leaders discuss the development climate and potential strategies to prepare for and attract development in a specific subarea, along a corridor, or at a specific site. These sessions most commonly take place after a planning study, such as an eTOD plan, has been completed, but can also occur during the larger planning process.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Zoning Code Updates

The RTA will assist local government staff to create development standards and review processes that make investment in the community more attractive to potential developers, business owners, and residents seeking to improve their property. The project team will assess the current regulations and existing conditions in the community and deliver a revised zoning ordinance, subdivision ordinance, unified development ordinance, overlay district, or other appropriate document.

Transit Station Activation Projects – A NEW RTA Pilot Project for 2024

To support implementation of Transit Is The Answer and the RTA’s Safety and Security Summit, the 2024 call for projects will pilot a new category, Transit Station Activations. Under this category funding will be made available to cover the costs related to rail station and bus stop activation projects and activities aimed at bringing a temporary, increased presence of people to transit stations and stops as a solution to real or perceived public safety concerns. It is envisioned these projects and activities will be simple, short-term actions occurring for a few hours over the course of 1-2 days that will bring residents, transit riders and visitors to the area to experience the activation project. Read more about this new type of assistance from RTA.

What types of assistance does CMAP provide?

Below are descriptions for the ten types of CMAP assistance, including thematic priorities and specific communities encouraged to apply, available during the 2024 call for projects. To help communities identify which type of CMAP assistance is ideal for their priorities, view this flow chart.

ADA self-evaluation and transition plans

Creating communities that are not just compliant, but fully accessible to all and aware of accessibility challenges and the benefits of accessibility.

CMAP will work with local governments to develop a plan that complies with the Title II obligations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This assistance type involves developing a self-evaluation of non-compliant transportation assets, helping communities identify improvements that can make sidewalks, crosswalks, curb ramps, and landings easier to navigate. CMAP will also encourage local staff to go beyond their legal mandates and integrate key principles of universal design into their planning processes.

All communities are eligible and encouraged to apply.

Bicycle and pedestrian plans

Cultivating innovative approaches that implement the principles of ON TO 2050, identify networks for safe travel for all, and prepare communities for various implementation funding sources.

Local governments interested in creating a plan that identifies improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians may want to consider this type of assistance. Projects awarded will receive planning support for intersections, transit stations and transfer points, signage and signalization, streetscapes and furnishings, route planning and infrastructure, as well as ADA accessibility.

While all communities are eligible and encouraged to apply, communities in cohorts 3 and 4 will receive priority consideration when evaluating applications for bicycle and pedestrian planning assistance.

Capital improvement plans

Cultivating innovative approaches that implement the principles of ON TO 2050 and support data-driven, transparent capital improvement planning and prepare communities for greater plan implementation success.

Under this assistance type, CMAP will support local governments by evaluating existing capital planning processes, providing recommendations and training that can help develop a transparent, strategic and successful planning process, and working with the community to create a multi-year capital improvement plan (CIP).

While all communities are eligible and encouraged to apply, communities in cohorts 3 and 4 will receive priority consideration when evaluating applications for capital improvement planning assistance.

Corridor plans

Cultivating innovative approaches that implement the principles of ON TO 2050 and interweave roadway safety improvements, inclusive economic growth, and regional housing needs.

CMAP will work with local governments to develop a plan that addresses transportation and other improvements in a neighborhood, business district, corridor, riverfront, or other focus areas. Under this offering, CMAP also will help develop goals for improvement, propose specific projects to address the goals, and create a strategy to implement recommendations.

All communities are eligible and encouraged to apply.

Grant readiness

Cultivating innovative approaches that implement the principles of ON TO 2050 and prepare communities to prioritize projects, apply for grants, and successfully manage external funding.

CMAP will help local governments secure additional resources and funding opportunities under this assistance type. Municipalities will receive support to prepare for grant opportunities, establish consensus on priority transportation projects, identify the next steps for implementation, and receive resources to seek out and manage grant funding.

While all communities are eligible and encouraged to apply, communities in cohorts 3 and 4 will receive priority consideration when evaluating applications for grant readiness assistance.

Housing and jobs study - AHPAA

Cultivating innovative approaches that implement the principles of ON TO 2050 and plan for the housing needs that will support a robust and inclusive regional economy.

In December 2023, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) released its determination of which communities are non-exempt under the Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act. Non-exempt communities are required prepare an affordable housing plan and submit it to IHDA. CMAP will work with these communities to prepare the required plan. Extensive community outreach will underpin the plan, particularly the identification of one of three local housing goals specified in the Act. CMAP also will encourage the community to go beyond the minimum mandates and consider the relationship between jobs, transportation, and housing needs.

While all communities are eligible and encouraged to apply, communities in cohorts 1 and 2 will receive priority consideration when evaluating applications for housing and jobs study assistance.

NEXT Program (plan implementation assistance)

Cultivating innovative approaches that implement the principles of ON TO 2050 and support communities capacity to organize plan implementation efforts and achieve plan goals.

Local governments seeking to take the next steps toward achieving the outcomes outlined in local plans, including past CMAP and RTA plans, should consider applying for the NEXT Program. CMAP will work with communities to prioritize improvements, develop an action plan, and assist them with executing the plan.

While all communities are eligible and encouraged to apply, communities in cohorts 3 and 4 will receive priority consideration when evaluating applications for NEXT program assistance.

Pavement management plans

Cultivating innovative approaches that implement the principles of ON TO 2050 and accelerate adoption of infrastructure improvements, particularly evidence-based tools to make transportation investment decisions.

Communities interested in the most cost-effective way to address pavement needs and achieve prioritized pavement condition targets should consider CMAP’s pavement management plan. Projects awarded through this offering will receive support from an engineering firm, selected by CMAP, to create a document that emphasizes the importance of pavement preservation, describes the current condition of pavement, evaluates cost, and uses the results to develop a capital plan.

All communities are eligible and encouraged to apply.

Site planning pilot

Cultivating innovative approaches that implement the principles of ON TO 2050 and supports market and fiscal feasibility when planning for the use or reuse of sites that leverage the existing transportation network.

In this assistance type, CMAP will work with local governments to develop a subarea site plan for an infill site or sites in cohort 1 or 2 communities, incorporating the ON TO 2050 principles of resilience, inclusive growth, and prioritized investment into the land planning process. Studying the underutilized infill site will determine how redevelopment could and should leverage the existing transportation network; attract inclusive investment and development; broaden diversity in housing choices; enhance the usability of the public right-of-way by non-vehicular modes; expand transportation connections to key destinations; increase roadway safety for all modes; expand community empowerment and equitable engagement; and provide an action plan to implement plan recommendations.

While all communities are eligible and encouraged to apply, communities in cohorts 1 and 2 will receive priority consideration when evaluating applications for site planning pilot assistance.

Link to final flow chart 

Frequently asked questions


Is CMAP offering comprehensive planning assistance this year?

Each year, CMAP reconsiders the types of assistance offered based on regional needs and opportunities, as well as funding constraints. Through ongoing conversations with communities, CMAP continues to hear about many different planning needs. And we’ve listened. CMAP’s technical assistance types cover many different things this year, including two new project types: site planning and housing and jobs studies. As a result, CMAP is not offering comprehensive planning assistance at this time. Please contact Jonathan Burch with any questions.

Who is funding these programs?

Funding for this program comes from a combination of federal, state, local, and foundation funds which is administered by CMAP and the RTA.

Can I preview the application questions before submitting an application online?

A PDF copy of the application is available to view the questions before submitting an application. Applicants can also save a draft of their application by clicking “save and resume later”.

What types of projects have CMAP and the RTA worked on in the past?

See a summary and details of projects awarded in 2023. Please visit CMAP’s website, RTA’s website, and RTAMS to learn more about previously funded plans.

Can I apply for more than one type of assistance?

You may apply for more than one type of assistance by completing a separate application form.


What projects are NOT eligible?

Funds available through these programs are for planning and implementation purposes only. Project phases, such as land acquisition, engineering, or capital investment, cannot be funded through these programs. Additionally, this program does not offer funds for staff time. Any financial commitment from CMAP or the RTA is dedicated to hiring external contractors/consultants, or providing CMAP or RTA staff assistance. This year’s program focuses on creating local plans and building local governments’ capacity.

The one exception is RTA’s Transit Station Activation Projects, which will provide funding for temporary rail station and bus stop activation projects. Read more about this new type of assistance from RTA.

Who is eligible to apply for assistance?

Local governments (municipalities and counties) throughout northeastern Illinois, Chicago community areas, and non-governmental organizations that partner with communities are also eligible to apply for CMAP assistance in the 2024 call for projects. The RTA will accept applications from local governments and from the transit service boards (CTA, Pace, and Metra).

What is a community cohort and how is it determined?

Community cohorts are established by grouping communities throughout the CMAP region based on four factors — total population, median household income, tax base per capita, and the percent of the population located in an economically disconnected or disinvested area. CMAP uses the most recent data available to update the list of community cohorts each year. Learn more about the tool and the methodology used for determining cohort designations and see a list of the FY23 community cohorts.


I submitted an application by the March 22 due date. What are the next steps and how are projects selected?

An overall timeline is outlined above. CMAP and the RTA will begin reviewing applications immediately after the close of the application period at noon March 22. Once the initial applications are evaluated, applicants may be contacted to provide further information via a survey and/or an interview. Applicants will be notified by the appropriate agency regarding final selections and subsequent steps for projects admitted into the program will depend on which agency funds the project.

How will projects be evaluated?

CMAP will select projects based on its thematic priorities and on the resources available. Once the initial applications are evaluated, an applicant may be contacted to provide further information via a survey and/or an interview.

Potential projects are reviewed by CMAP staff, partner technical assistance providers, countywide departments of transportation, planning directors, applicable transit service board(s), and the Illinois Department of Transportation for funding eligibility. Additionally, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and the Chicago Department of Transportation also will review potential projects within the city of Chicago.

The RTA will evaluate transit-related projects based on agency priorities, the goals of the regional transit strategic plan, and on the vision of the on-going regional transit strategic plan update, which is a “safe, reliable, accessible public transportation that connects people with opportunity, advances equity, and combats climate change.” The RTA will select projects based on the amount of resources available. Potential transit-related projects are reviewed by RTA staff, partner technical assistance providers, transit service boards, and other coordinating agencies as needed. Applicants to the RTA will be contacted to provide further information via an interview. The RTA also will prioritize applicants from cohorts 3 and 4, but communities from all cohorts are welcome to apply.

How many projects will the agencies select this year?

CMAP and the RTA have limited resources for these programs, and not all applications will be selected. Historically, CMAP and the RTA have selected less than 40 percent of the applications received. Please review the application materials for more information on the approximate number of applications that will be selected for each type of assistance offered by CMAP.

Are transit service boards (CTA, Metra, and Pace) involved in transit-related projects?

Each transit agency that may be potentially impacted by a study is invited to participate in the planning process. Additionally, it may be appropriate to involve CMAP in an RTA-led project, and vice versa. Applicants are encouraged to coordinate project applications with the impacted transit service board(s) by emailing a brief description of their project to the appropriate service board contact listed below.


Samual Smith


Daniel Thomas


David Tomzik

Who are the partner technical assistance providers that help review potential projects?

CMAP and the RTA regularly partner with several technical assistance providers on projects, including Active Transportation Alliance, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Chicago Community Trust, Elevated Energy, Illinois Housing Development Authority, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, Metropolitan Planning Council, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Openlands, and the Urban Land Institute.

Project awards and initiation

What is the anticipated timeframe for projects to begin?

Project development begins once a project is selected. RTA and CMAP’s goal is to initiate most of the projects by the summer and fall of 2024.

Who is responsible for managing the project?

A CMAP or RTA staff member or representative will be assigned to each project to assist with project development and management. The local partner will be responsible for overall project management. Administrative and invoicing responsibilities will vary, depending on the assigned funding agency (CMAP or RTA) and procurement method selected.

What type of agreement needs to be signed before a project begins?

CMAP and the RTA require an intergovernmental agreement to be signed and, if a program contribution is required, a resolution to be approved before starting projects.

What is a program contribution?

In 2015, CMAP established a policy to require a program contribution for assistance. This financial contribution has helped demonstrate local commitment and increased local ownership of the projects. To provide transparency, predictability, and consistency in the program contribution amounts, the schedule of "Program Contributions by Project Type" may be revised and republished from time to time as deemed necessary.

The RTA requires a local match, which also is based on community cohort, for larger projects. The match is waived for smaller implementation projects.

Is a program contribution required?

A contribution for projects selected by CMAP depends on the type and community cohort of the proposal. Contributions are not required for all projects. Learn more about the program contribution and see a schedule of CMAP’s program contribution amounts.

The RTA will require a local match for larger planning projects ranging from 5-20%, based on the CMAP community cohorts. The local match is waived for smaller implementation projects.

Will applicants need to pay the program contribution when submitting their application?

No. Applicants are not required to pay the program contribution when applying. CMAP expects applicants to have the program contribution available once a project starts. The due date of a program contribution will be negotiated as part of the intergovernmental agreement with selected applicants. CMAP and the RTA are flexible with project start dates and can work around local budget cycles. In most cases, the RTA will invoice for program contribution payments once a project completes.

How do CMAP and the RTA decide whether to provide selected communities with staff assistance, consultant assistance, or other types of assistance?

During the project review and evaluation process, staff may contact applicants to gain a better understanding of their project. After selection, the agencies confirm with the project sponsors whether the project will be accomplished through assigning staff time, providing a grant, conducting a consultant selection process led by CMAP or RTA, or other options.

Who do I contact if I still have questions?

Please contact us by using or You also can contact Jonathan Burch or Michael Horsting directly with any questions.

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Icon Community Planning rv

RTA Announces 2023 Community Planning Program of Projects

Six new projects chosen from among 11 applications submitted to the RTA’s Community Planning Program, described below.

Since 1998, the RTA’s Community Planning program has provided funding and technical assistance for transit-oriented planning and implementation initiatives with local partners throughout the six-county service area. The goal is to foster the growth of sustainable, equitable, walkable, and transit-friendly communities around transit assets by encouraging transit-supportive land uses and infrastructure. The program aids local economic development by increasing equitable access to employment centers and amenities to serve the constantly evolving needs of our diverse population. 

Eligible activities for applicants to the 2023 program include transit-oriented development (TOD) plans, transit corridor plans, TOD zoning code updates, TOD developer dialogues, mobility hub and transit neighborhood mobility improvement plans, plans to develop special funding districts in transit areas, and curb management studies.


Project Type

Project Description

Des Plaines

Developer Dialogue

The City requests a Developer Dialogue be convened to assist its efforts with attracting transit- oriented development (TOD) at the intersection of Lee and Oakton Streets, as identified in the 2019 Des Plaines Comprehensive Plan. The goal of the developer discussion is to provide direct insight to local public officials and landowners on the current market for development within the study area and ways in which the City can attract reinvestment adjacent to the Pace Pulse Dempster Line stations.


Mobility Hub

Equiticity, and independent nonprofit 501(c)(3), requests assistance to advance development of a community mobility center in Bronzeville, near the 51st Street Green Line station. The RTA will assist with identifying community perceptions of existing public transit; with understanding transportation’s impact on environment & personal wellbeing; with gauging the receptivity to climate-friendly mobility modes, gauging the demand for shared bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters & e-vehicles, and with obtaining feedback on design and implementation of the hub and its services.


Special Financing District

The City requests assistance with establishing a special financing district to implement recommendations contained in the Downtown Station-Area Master Plan. An existing Special Service Area (SSA) is in place but set to expire in 2023. The RTA will assist the City to determine whether to extend and expand the scope of the SSA and/or create a different funding source, funding generated from which would work to implement plan recommendations.


TOD Plan

The City requests assistance to develop a TOD plan for areas of downtown adjacent to the Joliet Gateway Center, a hub for Amtrak, Metra and Pace services. The goals of the TOD plan are to create housing opportunities adjacent to public transportation that are not currently available in the downtown; increase ridership on existing public transportation routes; spur new investment in the adjacent neighborhood, including underutilized commercial buildings on Washington Street; utilize existing city-owned parking lots for shared parking opportunities; transition publicly owned land into the private sector to generate property tax revenues; and increase and stabilize property values in the immediate area.


Mobility and TOD Plan

The Village requests RTA assistance to complete a Mobility Improvement and TOD Action Plan in transit served areas of the Village. The study area includes the 138th Street corridor, Riverdale and Ivanhoe Metra Station areas, S. Halsted Street and S. Indiana Ave. The planning efforts will also incorporate special considerations for current ADA specific infrastructure needs and outline funding opportunities the Village can pursue. The goals for this study include creating specific steps to improve access to all modes of transit within the Village, enhancing safety for residents of all abilities, identifying transit-oriented development opportunities, and creating a guide to secure implementation funding for the Village.

University Park

Special Financing District

The Village of University Park requests assistance with identifying a financial strategy to implement the recommendations contained in their newly completed TOD Plan. The RTA will assist the Village with analyzing the plan recommendations, reviewing funding and financing options to spur investment, and recommend a financial strategy that will position the Village for future development at the University Park Metra station.

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