Equitable Transit-Oriented Development - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Equitable Transit-Oriented Development


The city should support development near transit that considers market context, leverages city resources to increase public benefit and considers the needs of local stakeholders. The city’s newly amended transit-oriented development (TOD) ordinance added a number of high ridership bus routes. Many of these routes are along critical commercial corridors that have languished from lack of investment and poor infrastructure inadequate to support transit demand.  A key component of the ordinance change is the creation of an Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Implementation Plan. This plan calls for the city to develop recommendations for implementing TOD by applying a place-based approach that considers market realities and address such issues as access to affordable housing and commercial spaces, targeted investment in communities of color and appropriate levels of density and parking that meets local needs and fit the neighborhood context. The city should utilize the implementation plan to guide the development of TOD projects and to test innovative models that layer incentives with other programs.

The TOD Ordinance has become a powerful force influencing dense, pedestrian-oriented development throughout Chicago. However, the distribution of development reveals disparities in growth patterns and development attraction between neighborhoods on the North and Northwest Side and neighborhoods on the South and West Side, reinforcing existing racial inequities.  In disinvested areas, we have failed to prioritize areas near transit as opportunities to leverage multiple resources for community-driven development. In gentrifying markets, the need for more protections to mitigate residential and small business displacement remains.  An equity focused framework is needed to enhance the TOD ordinance so it can be a tool that will work across all Chicago neighborhoods.

Recommendation: Evaluation Framework for eTOD

The eTOD Implementation Plan will recommend performance measures the city will use to evaluate the impacts of the TOD Ordinance on an ongoing basis and establish a requirement for public-facing reporting on the performance measures (e.g. annual report). Performance measures will be developed by the eTOD working group and significant opportunities for public input and feedback should be incorporated into the process.

Recommendation: Strategy and Pilots

The eTOD Implementation Plan will recommend changes to the existing TOD Ordinance and the existing incentive structure. Recommendations will focus on how to increase the amount of affordable housing provided on-site in TOD projects, ensure the right amount of parking with TOD projects, support mixed-use development, and incorporate transportation demand management into the Ordinance. Recommendations will also suggest uniform standards for determining transit-served areas where the ordinance applies, and strategies to incorporate more flexibility into the accompanying incentives to better respond to different market conditions across Chicago.

Pilot areas will be identified where the recommended changes to the TOD Ordinance can be tested and coordinated with significant community engagement and involvement. Pilot areas should represent a mix of development contexts and be selected based on the ability for strategic stacking of incentives as well and presence of strong local partners to help steward the pilot process.


100 Day Actions
  • Appoint a TOD Coordinator within the Mayor’s Office to serve as the primary point of contact regarding the TOD program and coordinate work across all relevant city departments involved in the program.
  • Commit to a minimum of two pilot projects where taskforce recommendations can be tested and measured.
  • Commit to prioritize time and resources of city departments involved towards the completion of the eTOD implementation plan by July 2020
First Year Actions and Goals
  • Finalize eTOD Implementation Plan
  • Launch demonstration pilots in different markets
  • Socialize eTOD Implementation Plan across city to inform future TOD projects
First Term Goals
  • Complete demonstration pilots with process documented and evaluation underway to track immediate and long-term outcomes with an equity framework.
  • Revisit TOD Ordinance to determine need for additional changes based on lessons learned from assessment and pilot projects.

Additional Considerations

Why the time is right

In January, the City Council approved an amended ordinance which starts the 18 month period for the city to complete the assessment and implementation plan.  A cross sector working group that includes the core city agencies, community based organizations and research, transit and policy change experts with a focus on equitable TOD has been working together since November 2018 to support the expansion of incentives as well as pursuing strategies that support equitable outcomes across Chicago neighborhoods.

What it will take

Mayor’s Office, DPD, DOH, CTA, CDOT, CDPH, MPC, Elevated Chicago, CNT and leaders working on TOD from impacted communities.  Zoning Committee and City Council support is necessary for any additional changes to the ordinance language.

Alignment with other Initiatives and Priorities of City or Partners
  • 5 year housing plan
  • Alignment with Neighborhood Opportunity Zone and Thrive Zone
  • Alignment with city’s priorities for new development and disposition of land near the transit served areas
  • Recommendations of the Mayor’s Transportation & Mobility Task Force Resilient Chicago recommendations for neighborhood targeted investment

This page can be found online at http://www.metroplanning.org/multimedia/publication/906

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Chicago, Ill. 60603
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