The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), in partnership with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), hosted a call for communities to apply for technical assistance in October 2021. The 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, serving Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties.
While the RTA and CMAP have separate technical assistance programs, both agencies offered the same online application for applicants to use during the agencies’ joint 2022 Call for Projects. Through this coordination, RTA and CMAP offer planning and implementation assistance to an expanded base of eligible applicants. Both agencies also provide interagency expertise, technical assistance, and capacity. We’re able to align all efforts with Invest in Transit, the regional transit strategic plan, and ON TO 2050, the comprehensive plan for northeastern Illinois.
Watch a video or scroll down to learn more about the Call for Projects, types of assistance offered, timeline, and frequently asked questions.
Eligible types of RTA assistance
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 ¼- to ½- 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 should also be 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, 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 solve the "last-mile problem" for reverse commuters by recommending improved connections among the transit services used by reverse commuters and 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.
Special Funding Districts
The RTA will assist transit-served municipalities with planning for a special funding 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 Discussion Panels
RTA assistance, in partnership with the Urban Land Institute (ULI), will be provided to solicit guidance and advice from development experts through a half-day discussion panel. Panel members 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 (UDO), overlay district, or other appropriate document.
Transit Neighborhood Mobility Improvement Plans
COVID has temporarily decreased the comfort level of many people using transit, some searching for other ways to travel that may offer a greater sense of safety, such as walking and biking. Opportunity exists to plan for continued use of personal mobility in the long term and prepare for increased walking and biking in transit served areas. The RTA will assist municipalities to identify tactical mobility improvements for the long-term by widening bicycle lanes and pedestrian sidewalks, keeping closed sections of roadway for added outdoor use on a more permanent basis, restricting vehicular speeds and building individual micro-mobility options. Identifying these improvements in areas served by transit will work together to keep transit service competitive in the changing transportation market.
Curb Management Studies
As people use shared rides more often and shop from home, the COVID pandemic has further exacerbated the need to rethink parking and curb management in urban areas, especially along bus routes and near rail stations. 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, the use of which varies depending on time of day and strategies to better facilitate bus passenger stops.
Eligible types of CMAP assistance
Bicycle and pedestrian plans
Local governments interested in creating a plan to address non-motorized transportation needs may want to consider this type of CMAP technical assistance. Projects awarded through this offering will receive planning support for route planning and infrastructure, intersections, stations and transfer points, signage and signalization, streetscapes and furnishings, and accessibility. It is anticipated that up to three projects could be awarded.
Capital Improvement Programming (CIP)
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 Program (CIP). It is anticipated that up to six projects could be awarded for this offering.
Communities looking to establish a long-term vision and provide a policy framework to achieve that vision may be interested in CMAP’s comprehensive planning assistance. Typically a two-year process, comprehensive planning involves the public and community stakeholders in conversations about challenges, opportunities, priorities, and aspirations for a community’s future. It is anticipated that up to two projects could be awarded.
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. It is anticipated that up to 10 projects could be awarded.
Homes for a Changing Region
In partnership with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and Metropolitan Planning Council, CMAP will assist local governments through Homes for a Changing Region with developing long-term housing policy plans. This technical assistance offering helps communities chart future demand and supply trends for housing. Long-term housing policy plans aim to create a balanced mix of housing, serve current and future populations, and enhance livability.
Local Road Safety plans
CMAP will work with local governments to create an existing conditions report, recommend policy actions, and develop an implementation plan that can lead to a community or neighborhood-wide local road safety plan. The process for these plans involves robust engagement with community members and discussions on how best to address the four key aspects of multimodal traffic safety — engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency services. It is anticipated that up to two projects could be awarded.
Neighborhood plans (City of Chicago)
Under this offering, CMAP’s partners in the City of Chicago receive assistance with developing plans that address transportation system and other improvements in neighborhoods. CMAP will help develop goals for improvement, propose specific projects to meet those goals, and create an implementation strategy. It is anticipated that up to two projects could be awarded.
Local governments wanting to take the next steps toward achieving the outcomes outlined in their existing Local Technical Assistance plans may want to consider the NEXT Program offering. CMAP will work with communities to prioritize improvements, develop an action plan, and assist them with executing the plan. It is anticipated that up to four projects could be awarded.
Pavement Management plans
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.
ROI (Resource-Opportunity-Impact) Program
CMAP will help local governments secure additional resources and opportunities under the ROI 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. It is anticipated that up to six projects could be awarded.
Technical assistance overview
The purpose of the RTA and CMAP technical assistance programs are to support communities by offering planning and implementation assistance, providing interagency expertise, leverage the region’s transit network, and building local government capacity. This work will align with the regional transit strategic plan, Invest in Transit, and the comprehensive plan for the region, ON TO 2050.
When evaluating applications, 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 with a focus on:
- A transportation system that works better for everyone with improved travel safety, increased and better-connected bicycle and pedestrian mobility options, and improved access for people with disabilities.
- A robust regional economy with increased inclusive growth through economic strategies that are coordinated and implemented, as well as strategies that expand traded clusters critical to the region's growth and lead to more diverse housing choices.
- A transportation network that is more resilient against the effects of flooding and other extreme weather through strategic investment decisions.
- Increase community empowerment and equitable engagement
- Implement previously developed local plans
- Facilitate collaboration across jurisdictions
2022 Call for Projects F.A.Q.
1. 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.
2. Who is eligible to apply for assistance?
The RTA will accept applications from local governments and from the transit Service Boards. Local governments (municipalities and counties) throughout northeastern Illinois, Chicago Community Areas, and non-governmental organizations that partner with City of Chicago communities are eligible to apply for CMAP assistance in the 2022 Call for Projects.
3. Is a local contribution required?
The RTA will require a local match for larger projects, such as TOD plans and corridor studies, following the contribution amounts based on the CMAP Community Cohorts. The local match is waived for smaller, implementation projects, such as developer discussion panels and TOD zoning code updates.
Local contribution for CMAP projects depends on the type, size, and Community Cohort of the project proposed. This year, local contributions will not be required for certain CMAP project types, including Capital Improvement Programming (CIP), Homes for a Changing Region plans, local road safety plans, NEXT program, and Resource, Opportunity, Impact (ROI) program. Please click here for more information and a schedule of CMAP’s local contribution amounts.
4. 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. The tool and the methodology used for determining cohort designations can be found here. A list of the FY21 Community Cohorts can be found here.
5. What is a local contribution?
In 2015, CMAP established a policy to require a local 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 local contribution amounts, the schedule of "Local 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 is also based on Community Cohort, for larger projects, but it is waived for smaller, implementation projects.
6. Will applicants need to pay the local contribution when submitting their application?
No, applicants are not required to pay the local contribution when submitting an application. CMAP expects applicants to have the local contribution available once a project starts. The exact date the local contribution is due will be negotiated as part of the intergovernmental agreement. CMAP and the RTA are flexible with project start dates and can work around local budget cycles. In most cases, the RTA will invoice for local contribution payments once a project completes.
7. What types of projects have CMAP and the RTA worked on in the past?
Please visit CMAP’s website and the RTA’s website and RTAMS to learn more about previously funded plans. Eligible project types for 2022 can be found above.
8. 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.
9.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, both agencies 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.
10. 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 CMAP or the RTA is dedicated to hiring external contractors/consultants or providing CMAP or RTA staff assistance. The 2022 program focuses on creating local plans and ordinances, building local governments’ capacity, and implementing previously created technical assistance plans.
11. How will projects be evaluated?
The RTA will evaluate transit-related projects based on agency priorities, goals of Invest in Transit, and will select projects based on the amount of resources available. Potential 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 re-review potential projects within the City of Chicago.
12. 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 contacts.
13. Who are the partner technical assistance providers mentioned in the “How will projects be evaluated” FAQ above?
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.
14. Who is responsible for managing the project?
A 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.
15. I submitted an application by the October 28 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 on October 28 at noon. 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.
16. What is the anticipated timeframe for projects to begin?
Project development begins once a project is selected. RTA and CMAP’s goal is to initiate most of the projects by the summer and fall of 2022 but some could start earlier.
17. 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 local contribution is required a resolution to be approved before starting projects.
18. How do CMAP and the RTA 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 CMAP or RTA, or other options.