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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 2021 Implementation Report.

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2022 Call for Projects

The most recent Call for Projects, held jointly with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, closed on October 14. Selected projects will be announced in early 2023. 

To learn more about the types of projects selected in the 2022 Call for Projects, read a memo.

A Metra train with a railroad crossing signal and sign and a dense development across the street.

What types of assistance does the RTA provide?

New projects selected as part of the 2023 Program will be supported by enhanced efforts to obtain as much engagement with residents and community stakeholders as possible. Community engagement efforts for 2023 projects will be guided by new inclusive and equitable strategies developed by the RTA. To decrease barriers to community engagement among residents in moderate to very high need communities and optimize our efforts for creating a plan with the most benefit to the community, residents and the transit system, compensation for time and expenses will be made available to some community members. This will help remove barriers to participating in the planning process for some community members whose voices and opinions are important, but who may not have otherwise been able to participate due to transportation expenses, childcare or family responsibilities or work obligations.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) plans

TOD plans are based on the basic tenets of transit-oriented development, with 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 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. The types of plans accepted in 2023 are described below.

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 transit’s future comeback.

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 along bus corridors 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 financing 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 transit-oriented development, corridor, or other 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.

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.

Contact Michael Horsting (horstingm@rtachicago.org) with any questions.

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