What is Transit Oriented Development?

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the RTA’s Community Planning program, and the RTA’s involvement in community planning as it relates to public transportation and transit-supportive land use. As we celebrate throughout the year, I want to highlight different aspects of the program that help encourage transit use in our region.

This month I’ll talk about transit-oriented development, or TOD, which is a pattern of development that encourages a mixture of housing, office, retail, and other civic amenities integrated into a walkable environment located within a half-mile of a train station or bus stop.   The RTA supports Transit-Oriented Development as one of the best ways to connect our customers to the regional transit system. TOD helps to optimize land-use development near transit stations and transit corridors, encourage local economic development, as well as enhance access to regional employment, shopping, and civic destinations.

The RTA’s Community Planning program provides funding as well as technical assistance to municipalities in support of transit-oriented development planning projects and “next step” tasks necessary to turn a TOD plan into a “brick and mortar” project.  Since 1998 the RTA has helped municipalities across the six county region with developing TOD plans, updating zoning codes in their TOD areas as well as connecting them with the developer community. The program is funded using a combination of RTA, local and federal funding sources.

Here are the many benefits of placing development and redevelopment near transit:

We’ve had some great TOD success stories:

Orland Park: The Village constructed and opened a new Metra station at 143rd Street in April, 2007. Service was also doubled on the SW Service line at the same time and saw a 20% increase in ridership. The Village also updated their zoning ordinance to include transit-supportive regulations. The area now includes two residential and commercial complexes, a Mariano’s grocery store and the University of Chicago outpatient medical facility. Just last year the Village announced more development around the Metra station that will feature a mixed use building anchored by a luxury cinema and restaurants.

Elmhurst: This TOD plan has fostered significant redevelopment of residential, commercial and retail uses in the downtown area. In 2010, the City completed construction of three parking decks to serve downtown patrons and Metra commuters. In 2016, the City constructed a residential rental complex that included retail space and a public event plaza. That same year, Elmhurst approved another mixed-use development that began construction in 2017.

Wheeling: In 2009 the Village constructed a new Village Hall per a recommendation in the TOD plan. A year earlier, the Village acquired the 11-acre Wickes furniture site just north/northeast of the Metra station. The site is now being developed as the new Town Center envisioned in the plan. The project features high-end apartments and CMX, a first-run dinner theater, and restaurants ranging from fast-casual to elegant dining. The Town Center is expected to open in summer of 2018.

Recently, a luxury, multi-family development called Northgate Crossings, located within walking distance of the Wheeling Metra station, was completed in fall of 2016. This project was designed to appeal to young professionals, empty nesters and corporate transferees interested in a walkable, transit-served suburban location near dining and entertainment.

There’s plenty of examples of TOD in our region. The RTA has developed a great interactive map for you to check out what’s going on in your community!