The current Access to Transit call for projects closed on August 31st. The timeline below outlines the next steps in the process of evaluating, funding and implementing projects.
|September - October||Application review and selection; all applicants notified|
|October - November||Selected applicants initiate Phase I Engineering, if not already underway.|
|January||CMAQ Program Call for Projects Released|
|January - February||RTA staff prepares CMAQ application|
|March||RTA Submits CMAQ Application on behalf of selected applicants|
|August||Recommended CMAQ Program of Projects released for Public Comment|
|October||CMAQ Program of Projects Finalized|
|January||If CMAQ application is selected, CMAP transfers project sponsorship from the RTA to applicants; RTA enters into IGA’s with communities, as necessary.|
|February||Access to Transit Improvement Program projects initiated|
About the Program
The RTA launched the Access to Transit program in 2012 to provide funding for small-scale capital projects that improve access to the regional transit system for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The program leverages RTA and local funds with federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) funding to help implement recommendations from planning studies completed through the RTA’s Community Planning program or CMAP’S Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program.
To date, the Access to Transit program has funded projects in 22 communities throughout the region for a total investment of roughly $10 million in Federal, RTA and local funds. Detailed information on past projects is available on RTAMS.org.
Investing in pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure around transit provides a number of benefits for both local communities and the RTA system, such as:
- Increased transit ridership, which helps reduce congestion and vehicle emissions
- Better first and last mile connections that make it safer and easier for riders to get to and from transit service
- Lower demand for commuter parking
- Pedestrian friendly neighborhoods that promote public health through active transportation
- Support for transit-oriented development by fostering active, walkable places
The RTA selects Access to Transit projects via a competitive process according to program criteria, as detailed in a later section, and CMAQ requirements. RTA staff then combines the selected projects into a single CMAQ application. Project funding is contingent upon approval of the RTA's application to the the FY2020-24 CMAQ program, which is finalized in the fall of 2019. If CMAQ funding is approved, project sponsorships are transferred from the RTA back to the applicants, who are then responsible for implementation. Back to top
The Access to Transit program is open to municipalities and counties that have completed, or are in the process of completing, a planning or implementation project through either the RTA’s Community Planning program or the CMAP’s LTA Program. This includes communities that have participated in corridor studies as a partner. Additionally, municipalities participating in the RTA’s Interagency Signage program are eligible to apply. Applicants must have CTA, Metra or Pace service in their community and be located within the RTA’s six-county service area (Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane, Will).
Eligible projects include small-scale, bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements that are based on recommendations from Community Planning or LTA studies with transit-related components. Eligible projects must be able to demonstrate the ability to increase ridership, improve access to existing transit services and contribute to reduced vehicle emissions. Furthermore, the RTA may request that applicants revise their proposals after submittal in order to align with CMAQ program requirements.
The following list of improvements are eligible for Access to Transit projects, either individually or combined:
|ADA accessibility improvements||Crosswalks|
|Bus stop infrastructure||Bicycle infrastructure|
|Pedestrian signal heads||Rail station warming shelters|
|Sidewalk connections||Wayfinding signage|
The RTA will also consider other projects not specifically listed, provided they are CMAQ-eligible and directly benefit transit access. Back to top
Funding guidelines for the Access to Transit program are as follows:
- Project budgets must be no greater than $1 million and no less than $150,000.
- With most projects, the 20% local match required by the CMAQ program will be equally shared between the RTA and the applicant, with each contributing 10% of the total project budget.
- The RTA may provide the full 20% match rate for smaller communities and those with lower tax bases or median incomes based on the economic and demographic characteristics of the area served. Eligible applicants may contact the RTA to determine if they qualify for this exemption.
- If required, Phase I engineering must be funded by the applicant as it is not eligible for CMAQ funding.
Phase I Engineering
To apply to Access to Transit, applicants must complete basic planning for proposed projects to establish a design concept and estimated budget, so the project is ready to begin the Phase I Engineering process (if needed). Applicants must also show support for the project from local staff and elected officials via a letter of support.
It is important to note that if Phase I Engineering is required, the applicant is responsible for initiating this work immediately after the RTA confirms the projects selected to the Access to Transit program, with a goal of obtaining Phase I approval by the CMAQ application deadline in early March 2019 (see Program Timeline for more details).
If Phase I Engineering is required, it should be completed in a manner that preserves eligibility for federal funding. These requirements are available in the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Bureau of Local Roads Manual (Chapter 5, Section 5.06) available for download on the IDOT website. Back to top
Project Selection Process
RTA staff and representatives from CMAP and the Service Boards (CTA, Metra and Pace) will review applications. Applications will first be screened for eligibility and then selected based on the project’s readiness, ability to increase ridership, local support, and Service Board support.
If a project is selected for the Access to Transit program and approved for CMAQ funding, the project sponsorship is transferred from the RTA to the applicant. The project sponsor is then responsible for working with IDOT or the FTA (depending on the type of improvements) to oversee the project to completion.
The RTA requires all project sponsors to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that confirms the local match funding arrangement and the program standards. Project sponsors are reimbursed by the RTA for the predetermined local match contribution, either in stages over the course of the project or in full at the end of the project, provided the project sponsors submit the necessary supporting documentation.
The City of Palos Heights received funding through Access to Transit to improve access to Pace Routes #383 and #386, as recommended in the Harlem Avenue Corridor Plan, which was funded through the RTA’s Community Planning program. The project consists of new sidewalks, crosswalk striping and countdown pedestrian signals at several locations along Harlem and Ridgeland Avenues. Pace Routes #383 and #386 serve a number of important destinations, such as Midway Airport, CTA and Metra rail stations, Toyota Park, and several major employers and shopping centers.
A new crosswalk at Harlem Avenue in Palos Heights provides better access to Pace's South Harlem route
The City of Rolling Meadows received funding through Access to Transit to improve pedestrian connectivity along a two-mile stretch of Golf Road, which is home to several major employers and served by three Pace fixed routes: #208, #575 and #606. By installing crosswalks, sidewalks, countdown pedestrian signals, and concrete pads for bus shelters, access between bus stops and office parks on this busy corridor has greatly improved, encouraging more employees to commute by transit. The project is based on recommendations in the Golf Road Transit and Pedestrian Mobility Study, completed with RTA Community Planning assistance.
A sidewalk and crosswalk along a two-mile section of Golf Road in Rolling Meadows that is served by three Pace bus routes
The Village of Mount Prospect was awarded funding through Access to Transit to construct concrete pads, bike racks and covered shelters at three locations that added roughly 60 new bicycle parking spaces at the Mount Prospect Metra station on the UP Northwest line, which is also served by Pace Routes #234 and #694. The shelters feature solar-powered lighting and have been popular among bicyclists since opening in the fall of 2017. This project was based on recommendations from the Mount Prospect Downtown Implementation Plan that the Village completed with assistance from the RTA’s Community Planning program.
A new bicycle parking shelter on Prospect Avenue in Mount Prospect next to the Metra station platforms