Transit-oriented development expansion gets boost under Emanuel’s new budget

The mayor is putting money behind his plan to relax parking rules for developers near bus lines

A CTA bus and Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Credit: Getty Images and Chicago Transit Authority)
A CTA bus and Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Credit: Getty Images and Chicago Transit Authority)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is throwing financial support behind his plan to expand the city’s transit-oriented development rules for projects near major CTA bus lines.

Emanuel’s final budget as mayor calls for spending $5 million to support the rules change along the Chicago Avenue and 79th Street bus routes, according to Curbed.

Approved in 2013 and expanded two years later, Chicago’s transit-oriented development ordinance allows those building within a half-mile of CTA and Metra rail stations to skirt the traditional one-to-one ratio of parking spaces to units.

That would allow developers to include more residential units in their projects.

Since 2015, developers have seized on the ordinance to waive almost all car parking for some apartment buildings in high-traffic areas, especially along the Blue Line in Bucktown and Logan Square.

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When Emanuel announced the plan to expand the program to major bus lines in June, developers welcomed the news.

Transit-oriented development zones also allow the construction of buildings with higher floor-area ratios, letting them fit more units on a given property. But the lower parking requirements are where the true savings come from, developers said.

The bus lines selected by the city have high ridership — the No. 66 Chicago Avenue line had 6.9 million riders in 2017, and No. 79 79th Street route had 7.8 million. Emanuel’s proposed budget line item would pay for improvements to bus stops and crosswalks, designated bus lanes, new pavement and signs, better bus stop locations and curb extensions.

The city also is considering Western Avenue, Ashland Avenue and other bus lines with high ridership as potential areas for the program

The plan to change the transit-oriented development rule officially will be introduced to the City Council in December. [Curbed] — John O’Brien