Community Planning Call for Planning Assistance


RTA and CMAP accepting applications January 20 through February 3

Each year the RTA Community Planning program partners with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program for a joint application for planning assistance. Applicants can fill out one simple online application to be considered for both programs.

Aside from its impacts on transit, the COVID-19 pandemic has strained the capacity of local governments like never before. The 2021 Call for Projects will open from January 20 through February 3 with a special focus on high need and very high need communities. Learn more about how to apply, types of projects, and the timeline for selection below.

How to apply

Fill out the online application between January 20 and February 3. The application should take only a few minutes. If you have any questions when applying, see the Frequently Asked Questions, or contact Michael Horsting ( or Lilly Neppl (

Watch a video to learn more about the project types, described below, and application process.

Who should apply?

Local governments and municipalities within the six county RTA region (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will).

2021 Call for Projects Timeline

January 20 – Call opens

February 3 – Call closes

February 15 – March 15 – Application review and applicant follow-up

March 17-31 – Public comment period

April 15 – Selected applications announced

What types of projects is RTA looking for?

The RTA will accept project applications in four categories for the 2021 Call for Projects, described below. To learn more about the type of projects CMAP will accept, visit their website.

Zoning Code Updates: Clearly defined development regulations are a key implementation step to forward the vision established by local plans and policies. They also minimize uncertainty for applicants by streamlining administrative requirements and development review processes while promoting the community’s goals for design, form, and character. CMAP and/or the RTA will work with local government staff to create development standards and review processes that make investment in the community more attractive to potential developers, business owners, and residents seeking to improve their property. The project team will assess the current regulations and existing conditions in each chosen community and deliver a revised zoning ordinance, subdivision ordinance, unified development ordinance (UDO), overlay district, or other appropriate document. Zoning updates can be completed for an entire municipality, sub-area, for a specific TOD (transit oriented development) area, or for a specific section of the ordinance. Examples of TOD zoning code updates include Brookfield, Bartlett and Winthrop Harbor. More information on approaches to revising zoning for a TOD area can be found in the RTA’s TOD and Zoning Report.

Developer Discussion Panels: Developers bring a realistic outlook to the future of the real estate market. Facilitating discussions early in the redevelopment of a parcel will allow the community and potential developers to outline needs, goals, and incentives while working together to utilize land to its highest and best use. For municipalities that have adopted long-range land use plans or have participated in a corridor plan with identified opportunity sites, but have had difficulty connecting with the development community, assistance will be provided to solicit guidance and advice from development experts through a half-day discussion panel. Additionally, with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic still unfolding, many local partners from earlier program years may need to amend their strategy in attracting developers to their TOD areas due to new social norms and development strategies. This panel discusses the development climate and potential strategies to prepare for and attract development in a specific subarea, corridor, or specific site. Multiple bordering municipalities along a corridor that has been studied may apply jointly for a discussion panel. Additionally, if a community owns and controls a development-ready parcel of property, RTA and/or CMAP staff can assist with the preparation of a request for proposal (RFP). Examples of summary reports from previous developer discussion panels are available for Des Plaines, River Grove, and Richmond.

Special Funding Districts: To transform the ideas from their TOD plan into reality, municipalities often establish economic development funding districts. This frequently includes creating a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district, Special Service Area (SSA), or Business Improvement District (BID) within the plan’s study area. These tools are a great way to help finance the implementation of completed plans. The COVID-19 pandemic stretched the capacity of many municipalities and small businesses districts further than before, some working hard to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, and civil unrest, with decreased human and financial resources. These funding tools can be a way to help finance economic development initiatives recommended in completed plans including costs of job training, retraining, advanced vocational education or career education, including but not limited to courses in occupational, semi-technical or technical fields leading directly to employment. The RTA will help municipalities with planning for these districts/areas in their community with the type of district that best implements the recommendations of their plan. Consultant tasks will include assisting the municipality with proposing an ordinance to enact the district and with completing the public process required for ordinance adoption.

Active Mobility and Curb Management Plans: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to even more online shopping with delivery options while, at least temporarily, decreased the comfort level of many people using transit. Many people are now searching for other ways to travel that may offer a greater sense of safety, such as walking and biking. Opportunity exists to plan for continued use of personal mobility in the long term and prepare for increased walking and biking in transit served areas. The RTA will assist communities with identifying tactical mobility improvements for the long-term such as widening bicycle lanes and pedestrian sidewalks. Additional assistance will be offered to identify curb and travel lane management strategies such as dedicated delivery zones, micro mobility parking areas, keeping closed sections of roadway for added outdoor use on a more permanent basis, restricting vehicular speeds and building individual micro-mobility alternatives. Identifying these improvements in areas served by transit will further support transit’s future comeback.