Chicago launches equitable transit-oriented development pilot program

June 21, 2021
The program will support up to 10 community-driven ETOD proposals through microgrants.

A plan developed during the past two years to cultivate citywide equitable transit-oriented development in Chicago, officially launched as a pilot program on June 18.

Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot says the launch of the Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (ETOD) Pilot Program will support community-driven projects that promote healthy, affordable and accessible development near transit. The pilot program supports the implementation of the City of Chicago’s recently adopted ETOD Policy Plan.

"The ETOD Pilot Program is our city's latest equity-focused and inclusion-driven effort that will aid in the revitalization of neighborhoods and leverage the incredible infrastructure assets they possess—CTA, Metra and Pace—to make them as vibrant, safe and sustainable as possible," said Mayor Lightfoot. "Everyone in Chicago deserves to live in healthy, walkable neighborhoods with access to transportation options that not only connect them to opportunities in every corner of Chicago but enhance their quality of life overall.”

The pilot program was developed in partnership with Elevated Chicago, Enterprise Community Partners and members of the City’s ETOD Working Group to support up to 10 community-driven ETOD proposals. The $135,000-pilot program will select projects through an open and transparent two-round application process. A selection committee of city staff, community groups, developers and other experts will review and identify pilots. Applications will open on Tuesday, June 22nd and are available at

Once selected, pilot projects will receive micro-grants to enhance equity-focused components in their proposals. Projects with a community ownership component will be eligible for larger grants of $20,000. ETOD pilots will also receive technical assistance from city departments and local partners, such as initial project planning, assistance in resolving administrative hurdles and help in securing additional forms of financing.

“For far too long, aspects of development have left communities behind,” said Chicago Alderman Harry Osterman, Chairman of the Housing & Real Estate Committee. “Bringing ETOD to Chicago will build wealth and equity through policies and investments that bring meaningful change to the city’s development framework in all communities.”

The ETOD plan, which was adopted by the Chicago Plan Commission on June 17, includes goals to drive investment in transit-oriented projects on the South, West, and Southwest sides while also preventing displacement and promoting affordability in the North and Northwest sides of the city.

The three-part ETOD Plan offers a roadmap of policies, incentives and investments, that the city believes will mitigate the effects of housing segregation, build community wealth, improve climate resiliency and improve the overall health of residents. The plan’s core strategies include capacity building with prioritization of land near transit routes for ETOD project, policymaking where the city will explore updates to current zoning code to promote ETOD and citywide planning that will ensure Mayor Lightfoot’s commitment to neighborhood growth and vibrancy incorporate ETOD concepts and best practices.

The three strategies were developed in response to core themes and trends identified by multiple city agencies and private partners during the past two years. Previous data analysis identified that TOD-eligible development sites near rail stations that have not been improved are 40 percent more likely to be in areas with Black and Brown populations. They also indicated that TOD-related construction between 2012 and 2017 typically resulted in the decrease of Black residents and an increase of white residents on adjacent blocks.

Chicago’s TOD policies allow projects at transit-served locations to eliminate parking and add density, which fosters more walkable, vibrant and convenient neighborhoods. Since the city’s first TOD policies were implemented in 2013, approximately 90 percent of the 220 qualifying projects have been downtown or on the North and Northwest sides While those communities should still benefit from ETOD efforts, the policy plan will address the lack of TOD in other neighborhoods, protect existing residents from displacement, expand housing opportunities, and ensure inclusive economic growth.

“The benefits of living near public transportation, from walkable pedestrian-friendly spaces and access to jobs and other amenities, are amenities that all Chicagoans deserve to have in every neighborhood,” said Department of Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara.

About the Author

Mass Transit Staff Report

Stories under this byline were produced through a team effort by the editorial staff of Mass Transit. 

To learn more about our team, click here

If you have a story idea, let us know by emailing [email protected]. Please review our contributor guidelines found here