Public transit is an irreplaceable piece of the region’s mobility network that supports a thriving, resilient region. The RTA builds on the strength of transit through regional strategic planning as well as local planning, which includes the agency’s Community Planning and Access to Transit programs, providing funding and technical assistance for local governments across northeastern Illinois to plan for pedestrian friendly, multi-modal, equitable, and accessible communities.
The RTA recently published its 2021 Local Planning Implementation Story Map, an interactive report of 24 RTA-supported projects around the region that are starting soon, in progress, or recently completed.
The report includes details on 14 Community Planning projects accepted through competitive application processes in 2020 and 2021 through a joint application with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) Local Technical Assistance program. These projects range from writing zoning code updates, developing transit-oriented development (TOD) plans, evaluating, and attracting development potential near transit amenities often in city-owned or vacant land, and developing curbside management and micro mobility infrastructure. For example, the RTA is working with the DuPage County Department of Transportation in developing its first county-wide mobility plan.
The implementation report also highlights the success of the Jefferson Park Station Area Plan, including the construction of an affordable housing and TOD project on the northwest side of Chicago. This project has 75 units of affordable housing for veterans and older adults near transit that are expected to be fully occupied by the end of 2021. In the summer of 2021, the RTA and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) worked with the 45th Ward to conduct a half-day Developer Discussion Panel, which brought a panel of development experts into the community to offer short and long-term strategies for future development projects in the community.
Other projects focused more closely on communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the Albany Park Mobility and Curb Management Plan. The pandemic brought an increase in online ordering and delivery service, which created more demand for limited curb space in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago. The plan will focus on strategies for managing curb space sought after by transit riders, passenger drop-offs / pick-ups and package delivery drivers, expanding pedestrian and shared space amenities to present a more pleasant experience for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders along Kimball and Lawrence Avenues as well as introducing new micro-mobility infrastructure and device parking to advance first and last-mile connectivity near the CTA’s Kimball Brown Line station.
The implementation report also highlights 10 Access to Transit projects which prioritize filling gaps between transit riders and transit facilities, creating safer and more efficient connections while also improving the rider experience. For example, a project selected in University Park, a village south of Chicago mostly in Will County with a small portion in Cook County, will complete Phase I engineering for a shared-use 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, making it easier and safer for workers to access jobs via transit.
Overall, the projects included in the implementation report show progress toward the goals of Invest in Transit, the RTA’s regional strategic transit plan adopted in 2018. Moving forward, the RTA will continue to assist communities around the region in tackling immediate and emerging planning issues.