Community Planning

The RTA Community Planning program offers technical assistance and funding to local governments and intergovernmental organizations to address local planning needs that intersect public transportation and land use. Through this assistance the RTA encourages municipalities in the region to use an equitable approach in developing walkable and more sustainable communities near transit stations and along transit corridors. 

See details of more than 200 projects on RTAMS. Read the most recent Community Planning implementation report or click the buttons below to learn more.

Implementation Transit Oriented Development

Apply now: Call for Projects open through October 14

The RTA, in partnership with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), are hosting their annual call for communities to apply for technical assistance and help them prosper in the years ahead. RTA is the oversight, funding, and regional planning agency for the transit service boards (Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace). CMAP is the regional planning organization for northeastern Illinois. 

APPLY NOW

While the RTA and CMAP have separate Community Planning and Technical Assistance programs, both agencies are offering the same online application for applicants to use during the joint call for projects, which runs from September 26 through October 14.

This coordinated approach allows the RTA and CMAP to offer planning and implementation assistance to an expanded base of eligible applicants. We’re able to align all efforts with Invest in Transit, the regional transit strategic plan, ON TO 2050, the comprehensive plan for northeastern Illinois, and emerging goals from the 2023 Regional Transit Strategic Plan currently in development. Learn more about the Call for Projects below or in the following video.

How to apply

The application is available now through Google Forms. The deadline to apply is noon Thursday, October 14. Interested applicants also can request a PDF copy of the application to view the questions before submitting. If you would like assistance with filling out an application over the phone, please email applications@cmap.illinois.gov.

Overview

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

Thematic priorities

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

  • Strengthen planning capacity in communities with disadvantaged populations
  • Cultivate innovative approaches that implement the principles of ON TO 2050 and prepare communities for funding available under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
    • Approaches should focus on improving a transportation system so that it works better for everyone (i.e. improved travel safety, increased and better-connected options for bicyclists and pedestrians, and easier access for people with disabilities).
  • Provide assistance on emerging topics, challenges, and innovations to achieve the RTA’s Strategic Plan vision of:
    • 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 call

Date

Action

September 26

Application opens at noon

October 14

Application closes at noon

October – November

 RTA and CMAP review applications and contact applicants with additional questions

December – January

 Project selection and award

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

  • Phase 1: Initial applications are submitted during this phase. Once the application period closes, the RTA and CMAP then determine which agency will evaluate each application. The RTA evaluates applications for transit-related projects that will be managed by the RTA, and CMAP evaluates initial applications for projects that will be managed by CMAP.
  • Phase 2: During this phase, the RTA will conduct follow-up interviews with all applicants applying for transit-related technical assistance. CMAP selects a limited number of applications for follow-up interviews to gather and evaluate additional information before selecting projects.
  • Phase 3: The RTA and CMAP refine applications and determine the final list of project awards.

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.

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

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.

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.

What types of assistance does CMAP provide?

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

ADA self-evaluation and transition plan

CMAP will work with local governments to develop a plan that complies with the Title II obligations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. CMAP will support local governments in developing a self-evaluation of non-compliant assets and a plan to update those assets. CMAP will also help integrate principles of universal design into the planning process.

Bicycle and pedestrian plan

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

Capital improvement planning

Under this offering, CMAP will support local governments by evaluating existing capital planning processes and providing recommendations that can help develop a transparent, strategic, impactful, and successful capital improvement plan (CIP). 

Corridor plan

CMAP will work with local governments to develop a plan that addresses transportation and other improvements in a neighborhood, business district, corridor, riverfront, or another focus area. 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.

Grant readiness

CMAP will help local governments secure additional resources and opportunities under this offering. Municipalities receive technical assistance 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. 

NEXT Program (plan implementation assistance)

Local governments wanting to take the next steps toward achieving the outcomes outlined in local plans, including past CMAP and RTA plans, may want to 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.

Pavement management plan

Communities looking to find the most cost-effective way to address pavement needs and achieve prioritized pavement condition targets may be interested in 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 information to develop a capital plan.

Transportation safety planning

CMAP will work with local governments to create an analysis of safety-related issues for pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and all other modes within corridors, intersections or at a community-wide level. This analysis will look at crash histories, perceived safety concerns and barriers or gaps in networks that inhibit mobility. Community-wide safety plans, called Safety Action Plans, will include recommendations to improve safety through design, policy, education and awareness. Safety Action Plans will include most or all the necessary components for communities to qualify for the USDOT’s Safe Streets for All grant program, should the program be funded as planned.

Truck routing and community study

CMAP’s ONTO 2050 plan recommends strategies to maintain the region’s status as North America’s freight hub, while balancing community concerns and the economic benefits of freight. As such, the focus of truck routing and community studies is to address challenges regarding livability and freight, while maintaining the economic advantages of the freight industry. The goal of the studies is to achieve balance between truck traffic and routing, natural and cultural resources, residential neighborhoods, and other sensitive areas. These are planning-level studies that include a larger, multi-municipality sub-regional area. The deliverables of this project provide recommendations and guidance for individual communities and government agencies to enact regarding suggested truck routes and strategies for mitigating impacts of truck traffic.

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.

During conversations with communities this past summer, CMAP heard from many that they are interested in accessing resources available under IIJA. And we’ve listened. CMAP’s technical assistance types this year are focused on preparing communities to access IIJA funding. As a result, CMAP is not offering comprehensive planning assistance at this time. CMAP is eager to talk with communities about their local issues and ON TO 2050 implementation, and how CMAP’s technical assistance offerings address both topics. Please contact Jonathan Burch at jburch@cmap.illinois.gov with any questions.

Who is funding these programs?

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

Can I preview the application questions before submitting on Google Forms?

PDF copy of the application is available now, if you would like to view the questions before submitting an application.

Who is eligible to apply for assistance?

The RTA will accept applications from local governments in the six-county Northeastern Illinois region and from the transit service boards. Local governments (municipalities and counties) throughout northeastern Illinois, Chicago community areas and non-governmental organizations that partner with communities in Chicago are eligible to apply for CMAP assistance.

What is a program contribution?

In 2015, CMAP established a policy to require a program contribution for planning 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.

In a similar manner, the RTA requires a local match, which also is based on community cohort, for larger projects. But the match is waived for smaller implementation projects. 

Is a program contribution required?

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.

A contribution for projects selected by CMAP depends on the type, size, and community cohort of the proposal. This year, program contributions will not be required for certain CMAP project types, including capital improvement planning, grant readiness, the NEXT Program, and transportation safety planning. Learn more about the program contribution and see a schedule of CMAP’s program contribution amounts.

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 FY22 community cohorts.

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

No. Applicants are not required to pay the program contribution when submitting an application. In most cases, the RTA will invoice for program contribution payments once a project completes. 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.

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

See the eligible project types for 2022. Please visit the  RTA’s website,  RTAMS, and CMAP’s website 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.

How many projects will the agencies select this year?

The RTA and CMAP have limited resources for these programs, and not all applications will be selected. Historically, the RTA and CMAP 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.

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, are not intended to be pursued through these programs. Additionally, this program does not offer funds for staff time. Any financial commitment from the RTA or CMAP is dedicated to hiring external contractors/consultants, or providing RTA or CMAP staff assistance. This year’s program focuses on creating local plans and ordinances, building local governments’ capacity, and implementing previously created technical assistance plans.

How will projects be evaluated?

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.

CMAP will evaluate projects based on its thematic priorities and will select projects based on the amount of 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.

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

CTA

Samuel Smith

SSmith4@transitchicago.com

Metra

Daniel Thomas

dthomas@metrarr.com

Pace

David Tomzik

david.tomzik@pacebus.com[HM5] 

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

The RTA and CMAP 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.

Who is responsible for managing the project?

An RTA or CMAP 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 (RTA or CMAP) and procurement method selected.

I submitted an application by the October 14 due date. What are the next steps and how are projects selected?

An overall timeline is outlined above. The RTA and CMAP will begin reviewing applications immediately after the close of the application period at noon October 14. 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.

What is the anticipated timeframe for projects to begin?

Project development begins once a project is selected. The RTA and CMAP’s goal is to initiate most of the projects by the summer and fall of 2023, but some projects could start earlier than that.

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

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

How do the RTA and CMAP 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 the RTA or CMAP, or other options.

Who do I contact if I still have questions? 

Please contact us by using applications@rtachicago.org or applications@cmap.illinois.gov. You  also can contact Michael Horsting (horstingm@rtachicago.org) or Jonathan Burch (jburch@cmap.illinois.gov) directly with any questions.


2022 RTA Community Planning Program of Projects

At its February 2022 meeting, the RTA Board of Directors accepted seven projects for the Community Planning Program, described below. The projects were chosen from among 16 applications submitted during a Call for Project held October 8-28, 2021. The applications were vetted by a project selection team composed of staff from the RTA which interviewed applicants and obtained feedback from the RTA Service Boards (CTA, Metra, and Pace) as well as other partners and technical assistance providers. 

Selected projects are described below or in a memo.

Applicant 

Project Type 

Project Description 

Cary 

Developer Discussion Panel 

 

The RTA will convene a half-day developer discussion workshop with Village of Cary officials to provide enhanced development recommendations from a panel of private sector developers. The discussion will be focused on three key areas in the downtown core as identified in the recently completed Cary Downtown Strategic Plan. The goal of the developer discussion is to provide direct insight to local public officials and Village staff on the current market for development within the downtown area and ways in which the Village can attract reinvestment.  The panel will build upon directives of the recently adopted Downtown Strategic Plan. 

Cicero 

Developer Discussion Panel 

The RTA will convene a half-day developer discussion workshop with the Town of Cicero officials to provide enhanced development recommendations from a panel of private sector developers. The discussion will be focused on the former Town Hall building located on 50th Ave and 26th St., and nearby surrounding areas close to the Cicero Metra station. The goals of the developer discussion are to expand on recommendations of the Cicero Connections Plan and the Cicero Comprehensive Plan and provide a development strategy to Town officials for the former Cicero Town Hall property adjacent to the Cicero Metra Station.  

Homewood 

TOD Plan 

The RTA will assist the Village of Homewood to prepare a transit-oriented development plan for downtown Homewood and areas surrounding the Metra and Amtrak Homewood station. Leveraging the ongoing station renovations, the goals of the planning study include identifiying strategies to attract investment and development, retain existing character/historic preservation and increase access to transit services in the downtown. With a locally-driven planning vision, the Village hopes to continue to foster population growth, identify new uses for vacant buildings, increase transit ridership and increase the downtown population. 

LaGrange 

TOD Plan 

The RTA will assist the Village of LaGrange to update their current transit-oriented development plan adopted in 2005. By updating this plan, the Village seeks to address current construction market dynamics,  changes in the retail industry, and changing commuting habits  to poise the community to take advantage of future redevelopment opportunities. In particular, the Village seeks to invite redevelopment on the West End, which has seen no new development since 2005.  The proposed study area encompasses the Central Business District of La Grange, the West End Business District, and other properties within less than one quarter mile from each Metra Station in La Grange. 

Pace Suburban Bus 

Corridor Study 

The RTA will assist Pace with preparing a corridor study of the far South Halsted Ave. corridor between the Pace/Metra Harvey Transportation Center and the Pace Chicago Heights Terminal. Goals of the study are to increase transportation resilience, encourage transit oriented development (TOD), improve pedestrian accessibility, sidewalks, crosswalks, access to developments, and connectivity. The study includes coordination with Harvey, South Holland, East Hazel Crest, Homewood, Glenwood and Chicago Heights.  The study will include strategies to prepare the corridor for Pace Pulse service, improve corridor accessibility and identify future high frequency service station locations.

Richton Park 

TOD Plan 

The RTA will assist the Village of Richton Park to update their current transit-oriented development plan (TOD), covering the 1/2 mile area surrounding the Richton Park Metra station. The goals for the project are to update, consolidate, and refresh the current TOD plan (adopted in 2004) with updated recommendations, imagery and graphics. The plan will also address a modernized strategy to increase density near the Metra station and offer more housing options, especially for residents who are becoming empty nesters and wish to age in place. The updated plan will focus on ways to retain existing character, historic presevation, and create an appealing aesthetic for the community. 

Sauk Village  

Corridor Study 

 

The RTA will assist the Village of Sauk Villege to prepare a corridor study focused on both Sauk Trail (from Cottage Grove to Burnham Avenue) and Torrence Avenue (from Sauk Trail to US 30). The goals of the study include developing strategies to improve pedestrian safety, access to transit services, attracting investment and development and addressing the primary safety challenges of bicycle and pedestrian facilities, speeding and crashes.