2023 Regional Transit Strategic Plan

Since adoption of the last Regional Transit Strategic Plan, Invest in Transit, the COVID-19 pandemic led to dramatic impacts on transit ridership and funding. 

In October 2020, RTA staff outlined a Three-Step COVID Recovery Strategy. The first two steps focused on near-term decisions that were confronting the RTA Board in late 2020 and early 2021 to pass a budget and sustain critical transit during the first waves of the pandemic. The third step of the recovery strategy, to “Engage in Strategic Recovery Planning,” is an opportunity for the RTA to set a longer-term vision with an update of the regional transit strategic plan that will have an outlook of 2023 and beyond. Priorities the RTA identified as important during recovery – funding, service, and transparency – will continue to lead our efforts during the strategic planning process. 

Timeline and process 

Collaborative development of a new strategic direction for the region’s transit system will occur over three phases and include a Strategic Planning track, a Financial Planning track, and a Communications and Engagement track, shown below. 

The Financial Planning process will include 2022 and 2023 budget development while also conducting longer-term financial planning culminating with a 10-Year Financial Plan to accompany the Strategic Plan. The purpose of this task is to proactively prepare the region and decision-makers for future actions that may need to be taken to ensure financial sustainability of transit when the federal relief dollars are expended.  

The Strategic Planning track will provide a forum for the RTA Board and stakeholders to set a new vision for the transit system; to identify the capital projects and other supporting elements needed to achieve that vision; and to have insightful conversations about the trade-offs between visionary ideals and funding realities. The purpose of this task is to develop a new Regional Transit Strategic Plan that outlines a shared vision of priorities for the transit systems in 2023 and beyond.  

The Communications and Engagement track will ensure that the RTA Board, stakeholders, and the public remain informed about the process, have opportunities to engage, and are made aware of outcomes. The track will include educational materials, means for providing input, and promotion of RTA’s activities so that all interested parties are invited and encouraged to participate fully.  

How to get involved 

From September-December 2021, the RTA will kick off initial engagement activities to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing our region’s transit system. The engagement effort, called Making a Plan, will include multiple initiatives to engage and collaborate with the agency’s close audiences and the public. Activities in this initial stage will include a series of guest speakers at upcoming RTA Board of Directors meetings, a public survey, small stakeholder workshops, and a guest blog series on the RTA blog, Connections. There will be more opportunities for engagement throughout plan development in 2022 as well and comments are always welcome at communications@rtachicago.org

Latest updates on the strategic plan 

Subscribe to the Regional Transit Update e-newsletter for regular updates on the 2023 Regional Transit Strategic Plan or read recent updates below. 

November 2021
In November, the RTA hosted a public forum called "Emerging from Crisis Wiser, Reimagining Regional Transit" with the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois-Chicago as part of its Fall Seminar Series. Panelists with local and national perspectives discussed the challenges and opportunities facing public transit.

The RTA also launched a Strategic Planning Public Survey to gather feedback on priorities in strategic plan development. Everyone is encouraged to take, and share, the survey.

The guest blog series continued with posts from:

  • Audrey Wennink, Director of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Council
  • Kate Lowe, Associate Professor, University of Illinois-Chicago

October 2021
At its October meeting, the RTA Board of Directors heard from Benjamin de la Peña, CEO of the Chicago-based Shared-Use Mobility Center, and Jody Holton, Assistant General Manager, Planning at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority or SEPTA, about transit system adaptation, or changes the transit system can make to adapt to the evolving needs of riders.

The guest blog series also continued with posts from:

  • Olatunji Oboi Reed, President & CEO, The Equiticity Racial Equity Movement, and Co-Chair, Transportation Equity Network
  • Edith Makra, Director of Environmental Initiatives, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus
  • Tom Kotarac, Senior Vice President Transportation & Infrastructure. Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago 
  • Ya-Ting Liu, Director of Government Affairs & Policy, Via Transportation
  • John Loper, Chief Transportation Planner, DuPage County Division of Transportation  

September 2021
At its September meeting, the RTA Board of Directors heard from  Debra Shore, Commissioner on the Board of the Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and Tanya Adams, Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity and Community Relations and Equity Manager at WSP USA. Both speakers highlighted the importance of engagement, outreach, equity, and inclusion in the strategic plan process.

The RTA launched a guest blog series to share their voices including posts from:

August 2021
At its August meeting, the RTA Board of Directors kicked off the 2023 Regional Transit Strategic Plan with a workshop to discuss key themes for the successor to Invest in Transit.