TOD Studio Course Teams Draft Blueprints for CTA Rapid Transit Station Development

Effective urban planning requires a mastery of design, an understanding of public policy procedures and a strong grasp of both real estate markets and project financing. CUPPA masters students participating in a class that concentrates on transit oriented development (TOD) are using these skill sets and others to provide recommendations on how to improve the immediate communities near two Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) rapid transit stations.

Ald. Toni Foukes (center) met with students and community members.

Ald. Toni Foukes (center) met with students and community members.

Through the Topics in Urban Planning and Policy: Transit Oriented Development Studio course two student teams will combine in-class studies with field work in order to develop recommendations for their respective TOD sites.

One team will focus on CTA 63rd/Ashland station on the Green Line in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, and the other team will concentrate on the Linden station on the Purple Line in north suburban Wilmette.

“For the students, the TOD studio class is a great opportunity to get hands-on experience in the real world with real world pressures,” said Visiting Program Director Jim Keene, who conducts the class with fellow adjunct instructor Tom Bothen. “They get feedback on the community and market framework of their proposals.”

The studio course, which meets Friday afternoons, is funded by the CTA and the Regional Transportation Authority and managed by the Urban Transportation Center. It’s offered through the CUPPA Department of Urban Planning and Policy.

The TOD studio class and instructors outside the 63rd/Ashland station.

The TOD studio class and instructors outside the 63rd/Ashland station.

Field work began in late January and included meetings with elected officials, economic development organizations and business and community leaders. In Englewood, the students and their advisers met at the office of 16th Ward Alderman Toni Foulkes to get insight from CTA officials and business owners. The visit to Wilmette was organized by John Adler, the director of community development for the village, and included participation by trustees and a representative from the Chamber of Commerce.

Keene said the student teams for each TOD site will prepare a market analysis, analyze each site’s physical constraints and conduct quantitative and anecdotal research through meetings with landlords, small business owners and representatives from community organizations.

This data is merged with information collected from online sources and will be used to prepare TOD recommendations – which includes formal drawings of project proposals – delivered later in the semester to a team from the CTA.

TOD students and instructors near the Linden Purple Line station.

TOD students and instructors near the Linden Purple Line station.

According to Keene, it takes a wide range of skills to prepare an effective TOD plan. “Our class this semester includes a great cross-section of U.S. and international students,” he noted. “We have students with great design skills and others who are urban planning undergraduate majors. The diversity of the skill sets is a key factor behind the success of the TOD studio.”

The UIC TOD Studio  course debuted in 2015. That year the class studied the Red Line Wilson Avenue station, which recently underwent a $200 million reconstruction. Recommendations included a proposal for joint development between the CTA and the nearby Truman College, an analysis of housing in the diverse Uptown neighborhood and ways to better utilize the physical spaces under the Red Line elevated tracks.

Renderings of proposed improvements to the Wilson Red Line Station.

Renderings of proposed improvements to the Wilson Red Line Station.

Keene pointed out two other positive outcomes from the 2015 class: One student is working part-time to advance the project with Uptown United, a community development organization, and another landed a full-time transportation planning position in San Francisco with a global engineering/design firm after graduation.

“His new employer said that this kind of transit oriented development planning is exactly what we want you to do,” Keene added.


Wilmette Life Article

On February 2, the Wilmette Life published an article on the work underway by student team working on plans for the CTA Linden Avenue Purple Line station.  Read the article from reporter Kathy Routliffe.

Streetsblog Chicago Article

Writer John Greenfield of Streetsblog Chicago addressed plans underway in the Uptown neighborhood to reclaim space under the CTA Wilson Avenue Red Line station in a March 14 post.  Click here to read the article.

Chicago Tribune Article

Plans initiated by the 2015 TOD Studio class for re-purposing the land under the Wilson Avenue Red Line were referenced in a March 25 article by transportation writer Mary Wisniewski that was published in the main section of the Chicago Tribune. Click here to read the article.