Access to Transit Program

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2022 Call for Projects now closed, projects under evaluation

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is now evaluating applications submitted to the 2022 Call for Projects. The RTA selects new Access to Transit projects via a competitive application process that considers projects’ adherence to program criteria, as detailed below. 

Contact Michael Horsting, Manager of Local Planning, at horstingm@rtachicago.org with any questions about the program or see the timeline for project selection below.

2022 Call for Projects Timeline

 

About the Program

The RTA launched the Access to Transit program in 2012 to support small-scale capital projects that improve pedestrians’ and bicyclists’ access to public transportation. For certain project types, the program leverages RTA and local funding with federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) funding to help implement recommendations from planning studies completed through the RTA Community Planning program or the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program. To date, the program has funded 37 projects in municipalities throughout the region for a total investment of roughly $22.5 million in Federal, RTA, and local funds. Detailed information on past projects is available on RTAMS.org.

Investing in pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure near transit provides several benefits for both local communities and the RTA system, such as:

  • Increased transit ridership, which helps reduce congestion and vehicle emissions
  • Better first and last mile connections that make it safer and easier for riders to get to and from transit service
  • Lower demand for commuter parking
  • Pedestrian friendly neighborhoods that promote public health through active transportation
  • Support for transit-oriented development by fostering active, walkable places

The RTA selects Access to Transit projects through a competitive process according to the criteria detailed below, consistent with CMAQ program requirements.

For applicants seeking Phase II engineering and construction funding, RTA staff combine all selected projects into a single CMAQ application. Project funding is contingent on the application being approved to the FFY2024-28 CMAQ program, which is finalized in the fall of 2023. If CMAQ funding is approved, projects are transferred to their respective sponsors who are then responsible for implementation. Applicants seeking only Phase I engineering will receive funding directly from the RTA and will not be included in the combined CMAQ application.

Eligible Applicants

The Access to Transit program is open to municipalities and counties that have completed, or are in the process of completing, a planning or implementation project through either the RTA Community Planning program, the CMAP LTA Program, or other community planning efforts. The plans should specifically recommend bicycle and/or pedestrian access improvements to transit. This includes communities that have participated in corridor studies as a partner. Applicants seeking only Phase I engineering can submit projects from any adopted plan, including those outside of the RTA and CMAP programs. Applicants must have CTA, Metra, or Pace service in their community and be located within the RTA’s six-county service area (Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane, Will).

Eligible Projects

There are two types of eligible projects in the Access to Transit program. Category A includes Phase II engineering and construction for small-scale, bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements that are based on recommendations from Community Planning or LTA studies with transit-related components. Category B includes only Phase I engineering for small-scale, bike and pedestrian improvements as described under Category A. Projects should generally be based on recommendations from a previous plan. Unlike Category A, acceptable plans for Category B applicants include those completed outside of the RTA Community Planning and CMAP Local Technical Assistance programs.

Category A: Bicycle and Pedestrian Accessibility

Eligible projects must be able to demonstrate the ability to increase ridership, improve access to existing transit services, and contribute to reduced vehicle emissions. The RTA may request that applicants revise their proposals after submittal in order to align with CMAQ program requirements. Projects related to commuter parking are not eligible for funding unless parking changes are needed in the context of improved pedestrian, bicycle, and transit facilities.

The following list of improvements are eligible for Access to Transit Category A projects, either individually or combined:

  • ADA accessibility improvements, crosswalks, pedestrian signal heads, sidewalk connections, wayfinding signage
  • Bicycle infrastructure (lane striping, protected lane construction, parking, etc.)
  • Bus stop infrastructure, rail station warming shelters
  • Other innovative projects that support small-scale access improvements

Funding Guidelines for Category A

  • Project budget must be no greater than $1 million and no less than $150,000.
  • For most projects, the 20% local match required by CMAQ will be shared equally by the RTA and the applicant, with each covering 10% of the total project cost.
  • The RTA may provide the full 20% local match for communities that are smaller and/or have lower tax bases or median incomes based on the economic and demographic characteristics of the area served. Eligible applicants may contact the RTA to determine if they qualify for this exemption.
  • Phase I engineering must be funded by the applicant as it is not an eligible expense for Category A funding.

Phase I Engineering Requirements for Category A

Applications for Category A projects will be accepted if Phase I engineering is complete or preliminary planning is complete and the project can move immediately into Phase I engineering. Phase I engineering must begin immediately after the RTA confirms that the project has been selected to the Access to Transit program, with a goal of obtaining Phase I approval by the CMAQ application deadline (see Program Timeline for more details).  Applicants will be removed from the RTA Access to Transit Program if Phase I Engineering is not completed by March 2023.

Phase I engineering is required to be completed in a manner that preserves eligibility for federal funding. This requires the work to be completed by local government staff or by a consulting firm hired under a Qualification Based Selection (QBS) process. These requirements are available in the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Bureau of Local Roads Manual (Chapter 5, Section 5.06) available for download on the IDOT website.

Category B: Phase I Engineering of Bicycle and Pedestrian Accessibility

In order to address a frequent barrier to securing funding and completing projects, the RTA will accept applications for Phase I engineering from municipalities of high need. Under Category B, eligible applicants can be awarded full reimbursement of the cost associated with developing Phase I engineering for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Projects must be acceptable improvements as defined under Category A. Funding is allocated exclusively for municipalities with lower tax bases or median incomes based on the economic and demographic characteristics of the area served. Additionally, completed Category B projects may be considered for future funding opportunities through Access to Transit Category A funding.

Funding Guidelines for Category B  

  • Project budget must be no greater than $55,000 and no less than $5,000.
  • Category B applicants seeking only Phase I engineering will receive funding directly from the RTA and will not be included in the combined CMAQ application with Category A applicants.

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2020 Selected Projects

The following projects were selected by the RTA from the 2020 Access to Transit Call for Projects.

Category A 

COMMUNITY PROJECT TYPE DESCRIPTION
Calumet Park Phase II Engineering & Construction: Bicycle Improvements – Metra Proposed improvements include creating a bike boulevard on 124th Street from Halstead to Ashland Avenue, with pavement markings indicating prioritized bicycle use and signage clarifying cyclists wayfinding. Additional improvements include installation of one-block of new sidewalk to fill the last sidewalk gap on 124th Street and installation of ADA accessible ramps at intersection of 124th and Laflin St.
Evanston Phase II Engineering & Construction: Bus Stop Improvements – CTA & Pace As part of the conversion of bus stops from flagged to posted stops, ADA compliant bus stop pads are required. Shelters, pedestrian signals, truncated domes, and new and replaced sidewalk will further enhance the new bus stops. Shelters are proposed for stops with 20 average daily boardings.
Franklin Park Phase II Engineering & Construction: Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements – Metra & Pace Improvements include constructing bicycle and pedestrian improvements along two corridors in the community. An east-west bicycle route and a north-south pedestrian route, linking two Metra stations and three Pace Bus routes to the three industrial areas in the Village. The bike network will include a combination of eight-foot multi-use paths, on road sharrows, on road dedicated bike lanes, and the upgrading of existing paths. The proposed sidewalk improvements on 25th Avenue provide safe connections from the downtown train stations to the southern industrial area without interruption of missing sidewalk pieces. This will also hold true for the employees taking the PACE 303 bus.
Hoffman Estates Phase II Engineering & Construction: Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements – Pace Improvements will include constructing a new off-road path on the north side of Central Road from the existing Paul Douglas Forest Preserve path system to the Pace Park-n-Ride at Barrington Road. The path will be ten feet wide located generally along the north right of way of Central Road.  Destination and distance signing along with traffic controls for intersection and driveway crossings are included. Signal upgrades and modifications at the Central Road / Huntington Boulevard intersection will be made for bicycle and pedestrian users.
Northbrook Phase II Engineering & Construction: Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements – Metra Improvements include new shared lane markings allowing the Village to implement low-cost recommendations from its Master Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.  This includes installation of covered bike parking and wayfinding at the Northbrook Metra station.
Prospect Heights Phase II Engineering & Construction: Pedestrian Improvements – Metra & Pace Improvements include constructing a sidewalk on the east side of Wolf Road which will run north from the Prospect Heights Metra Commuter Station to Willow Road. This will make the connection to a previous phase of the multi-use path on Wolf Rd. that goes north from Willow Rd to Palatine Rd. The project also includes pedestrian signals at Camp McDonald Road.

Recommended Category B Applications

COMMUNITY PROJECT TYPE DESCRIPTION
Berkeley Phase I Engineering: Sidewalk Improvements - Pace Phase I engineering for sidewalk network improvements to provide access from residential neighborhoods south of St. Charles Road to Pace Bus Route 313 along Lee Boulevard, Morris Avenue, Rohde Avenue, Spencer Avenue, and Jerele Blvd.
Harvard Phase I Engineering: Sidewalk Improvements – Metra & Pace Phase I engineering for pedestrian access improvements along US Rte. 14, Ill Rte. 173, Marengo Road, and Ayer Street. This project focuses on providing new sidewalks, ADA improvements, crosswalks, and a Pace Bus shelter. Improvements will better connect residents to the Harvard Metra Station and the 808 Pace Bus.
Sauk Village Phase I Engineering: Sidewalk and Intersection Improvements – Pace Phase I engineering for sidewalk, crosswalk, and other intersection improvements along Sauk Trail and Torrence Avenue. These improvements will fill sidewalk gaps,  ADA and safety related improvements at key intersections and along the Pace Bus Route 358.
University Park Phase I Engineering: Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements – Metra Phase I engineering for a side path that will connect the University park Metra Station to the I-57 Industrial Corridor. This project will create a multimodal connection between transit and a growing employment center and make it easier and safe for workers to access jobs via transit.

 

The following table shows the timeline for evaluating, funding, and implementing projects. Scroll down this page for eligibility requirements.

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Project Examples

Brookfield

Completed in 2020, the Village of Brookfield, using Access to Transit funds, installed 24 covered bicycle racks at the Congress Park Metra Station and 12 such racks at the Brookfield Metra Station. These stations have some of the highest active transportation use among all stations on the BNSF line. These improvements will increase bike parking availability (a need identified in the Village’s 2020 Master Plan), leverage Brookfield's existing bicycle facilities, and improve multi-modal access to the Village’s Metra stations.   

New covered bicycle parking at the Brookfield station provides better access to Metra’s BNSF line.

Chicago Ridge

Completed in 2021, the Village of Chicago Ridge, using Access to Transit funds, installed an improved pedestrian crossing on Ridgeland Ave to better connect the Chicago Ridge Metra station with the east side of the corridor. This was a recommendation from The Ridgeland Avenue Corridor Plan, a multi-modal corridor plan for Ridgeland Avenue from 79th Street to 135th Street in the communities of Burbank, Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge, Worth, Alsip, and Palos Heights, completed through the RTA’s Community Planning program. The improvements include high visibility crosswalks, a landscaped pedestrian refuge, signage and pedestrian gates at the railroad crossing.

A high visibility crosswalk with pedestrian refuge provides a safer crossing of Ridgeland Avenue to the Chicago Ridge Metra station and to Pace bus service.

 

Richton Park

Completed in 2020, the Village of Richton Park, using Access to Transit funds, installed pedestrian infrastructure along Sauk Trail, providing improved safety and accessibility in their Town Center for people walking to and from transit services. Project improvements include crosswalks, sidewalk connectors and ADA accessibility improvements in close proximity to the Richton Park Metra station and along Pace Route 362. This project was based on recommendations from the Village Comprehensive Plan completed in 2014.

Improved sidewalks with curb ramps and tactile warnings along with high visibility crosswalks provide improved pedestrian access to the Richton Park Metra station.