Access to Transit Program

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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.

2022 Selected Projects

The following projects were selected by the RTA from the 2022 Access to Transit Call for Projects.

Category A* 

COMMUNITY PROJECT TYPE DESCRIPTION
Bellwood Phase II Engineering & Construction: Pedestrian Access Improvements – Metra & Pace The Village of Bellwood will construct curb ramp improvements to comply with ADA standards in 21 locations within the Village. Improvements will include removing and replacing sidewalk sections, curbs and curb ramps, adjusting frames/grates to meet final grade, and restoring pavement areas. Locations focus on those areas traveled by residents to access the Metra Bellwood station and Pace bus stops within the Village.
Berkeley Phase II Engineering & Construction: Pedestrian Access Improvements – Pace The Village of Berkeley will complete gaps in the sidewalk network to improve access from residential neighborhoods south of St. Charles Road to Pace Route 313. Currently an incomplete sidewalk network along Lee Boulevard and Rohde Avenue makes it unsafe for pedestrians to access Route 313. 
Cary Phase II Engineering & Construction: Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Improvements – Metra The Village of Cary is constructing Depot Plaza in downtown Cary adjacent to the Cary Metra station. Improvements in the open-air plaza include covered parking for bicyclists, shelter for benches for people waiting for the MCRide bus service, ride sharing, taxis, and outbound Metra service, and modifications to the sidewalk to increase walkability and improve pedestrian safety.
Elburn Phase II Engineering & Construction: Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Improvements and Wayfinding – Metra The Village of Elburn will construct three projects to better connect the downtown business district, an existing residential neighborhood, and the Elburn Metra station for people who are walking and using a bicycle. The projects include (1) Completing the sidewalk network in the southeast quadrant of downtown including a new pedestrian crossing of the railroad tracks on First Street. (2) Intersection improvements to pedestrian crossings at Route 47 and downtown cross streets.(3) Installation of wayfinding signs to enhance connectivity between Metra Station and downtown Elburn.
Harvard Phase II Engineering & Construction: Pedestrian Access Improvements – Metra and Pace The City of Harvard will construct pedestrian access improvements along Marengo Road, from Illinois Route 173 to Ayer Street, and on Ayer Street, from Marengo Road to E. Park Street, to better connect residents to the Harvard Metra Station and Pace Route 808. The project will include new sidewalks, ADA crosswalks, and a passenger waiting shelter at the northwest corner of Ayer Street and E. Washington Street.
Plainfield Phase II Engineering & Construction: Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Improvements and Wayfinding – Pace The Village of Plainfield will construct a 0.6 mile extension of a 10' wide shared-use path along the south side of 143rd Street from Van Dyke Road to Wallin Drive to better connect Pace Bus' Plainfield Park-n-Ride and downtown Plainfield with residential developments to the west. Wayfinding signage to the Plainfield Park-n-Ride and downtown Plainfield will be included along the route. 

*These Category A projects will move forward only if the RTA successfully obtains federal CMAQ funding in 2023. See the timeline below for more information. 

Category B

COMMUNITY PROJECT TYPE DESCRIPTION
Ford Heights Phase I Engineering: Pedestrian Access Improvements – Pace The Village of Ford Heights will conduct a Phase I Engineering study to improve the sidewalk network and install ADA-compliant crosswalks at key intersections surrounding the Pace Route 357. The project would improve access to bus services and expand the sidewalk network within the proposed New Town Center. The project would include 7,000 linear feet of new sidewalk, installing 10 ADA-compliant intersections, and new infrastructure at bus stops.
Harvard Phase I Engineering: Pedestrian Access Improvements – Metra and Pace The City of Harvard will conduct a Phase I Engineering study of pedestrian access improvements along Illinois Route 173. The project would provide new sidewalks, ADA improvements, and pedestrian access over Mokeler Creek, to better connect residents to the Harvard Metra Station and Pace Route 808.
Harvey Phase I Engineering: Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Improvements, Wayfinding, and Transit Infrastructure – Metra and Pace The City of Harvey will conduct a Phase I Engineering study of proposed transit access improvements along Broadway Avenue in downtown Harvey. Improvements would include bus stop improvements including passenger waiting shelters, wayfinding signage, sidewalk connections, ADA compliant crosswalks, and new on-road facilities for bicyclists. These improvements will better provide access from downtown Harvey to the new Pace Harvey Transportation Center and the Harvey Metra station. 
Maywood Phase I Engineering: Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Improvements, Wayfinding – Metra and Pace The Village of Maywood will conduct a Phase I Engineering study of proposed improvements along 5th Avenue and Main Street. The improvements would include a covered bicycle shelter at the Maywood Metra station and passenger waiting shelters at two Pace bus stops on 5th Avenue. The project would also include ADA compliant crosswalks and  wayfinding signage through the project area directing people to the Metra station. 

 

2022 Call for Projects Timeline

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

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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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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.