Since 2013, the City of Chicago has been encouraging compact, mixed-use transit-oriented development (TOD) near CTA and Metra rail stations. This development model can create additional community benefits such as increased transit ridership and more walkable communities, both of which reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, while also promoting public health and adding to the City’s tax base.
Through a series of ordinances, first adopted by City Council in 2013 and then amended in 2015 and 2019, Chicago is evolving its approach to TOD. To date, this approach has been voluntary, allowing willing developers of sites near transit to reduce parking, increase height and density, and design projects to increase walkability and affordability. The January 2019 TOD ordinance amendment included an explicit equity focus and expanded TOD policy provisions to include property near several high-frequency bus corridors as well as extended the incentives to the densest residential zones, which had been previously excluded.
Importantly, the 2019 Ordinance also requires the City to evaluate the performance of recent TOD projects and recommend revisions to the TOD provisions where appropriate. This 2020 eTOD Policy Plan fulfills that requirement. It captures findings from recent quantitative analysis and stakeholder engagement. The Plan also proposes a roadmap for City actions over the next three years to advance racial equity, community wealth building, climate resilience and public health goals through equitable Transit-Oriented Development (eTOD).
Equitable TOD (eTOD) is development that enables all people regardless of income, race, ethnicity, age, gender, immigration status or ability to experience the benefits of dense, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development near transit hubs. eTOD elevates and prioritizes investments and policies that close the socioeconomic gaps between neighborhoods that are predominately people of color and those that are majority white. eTOD projects and processes elevate community voice in decision making processes and in realizing community-focused benefits such as affordable housing, public health, strong local businesses, and environmental sustainability, to name a few. When centered on racial inclusion and community wealth building, eTOD can be a driver of positive transformation for more vibrant, prosperous, and resilient neighborhoods connected to opportunities throughout the city and region.