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“Builders of the Cultural Present” mural in South Shore, Chicago

How ETOD benefits Black and Brown neighborhoods 


Take a walk around Chicago. It’s easy to see the differences created by investments downtown and on the North Side compared to lack of investments on the South and West Sides where most of the city’s Black and Brown residents live.  

In neighborhoods like Chatham, Garfield Park, Lawndale, and Washington Heights, segregation and disinvestment are historic and pervasive. It can seem easier to find a vacant lot than a grocery store or a place to shop. 

Community members have long called for more investment and development in their neighborhoods. But what should that development look like? And what, how, and where should things be built? 

A concept called E-T-O-D, or equitable transit-oriented development, offers a framework for how to approach development in all neighborhoods and throughout the city. In short, ETOD simply means building housing, businesses, and other amenities near public transit, making it faster and easier to get around on the bus or train. With an emphasis on equity, ETOD also builds community input and ownership into the development process.  

Transit-oriented development is more common downtown and on the North Side than in Black and Brown communities on the South and West Sides. But Elevated Chicago is working to change that. 

Read on for three key ways that ETOD can benefit Black and Brown neighborhoods. (Yes, even yours!) 

Reason 1: ETOD creates more housing options and amenities right in your neighborhood

Many neighbors have access to grocery stores, restaurants, cultural spaces and coffee shops right in their neighborhoods. But these amenities are often missing from Black and Brown neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. ETOD can help change that.  

When residential and commercial spaces for people and businesses are near public transit, new amenities follow. More people in a community means more amenities, and nearby transit makes it faster and easier to get around.  

With an intentional community-driven process, communities can ensure that what gets built meets the needs of current residents and help shield against unintended consequences like displacement of long-time residents. 

Reason 2: ETOD reduces the cost of living for many households and builds wealth in our communities

Woodlawn Station, a mixed-housing ETOD near the Cottage Grove Green Line station
Woodlawn Station, a mixed-housing ETOD near the Cottage Grove Green Line station

Let’s face it: Cars are expensive! But many of us drive them because we don’t have another reliable way to get around.

By building near transit, ETOD makes it faster and easier to get to and from home, work, church, and other places on public transportation, helping reduce both the need to drive and the costs associated with it, like gas and maintenance. That means families will have more money left over to spend on other things like groceries, medications, and housing costs.

Importantly, building housing and businesses near public transit also leads to quicker, easier, and greater access to jobs, which means greater incomes for households overall.

AllTransit tool from Center for Neighborhood Technology
AllTransit tool from Center for Neighborhood Technology

The AllTransit™ Metrics tool from the Center for Neighborhood Technology allows you to see the number of jobs that are accessible within a 30-minute transit trip from any neighborhood, zip code or address in the city. Here are a few examples of what a Chicagoan’s access to jobs will be, depending on where they live: 

  • Washington Park, South Side, 60621 zip code: 216,000 jobs 
  • North Lawndale, West Side, 60623 zip code: 526,100 jobs 
  • Streeterville, Near North Side, 60611 zip code: 954,600 jobs 
  • Lakeview, North Side, 60614 zip code: 966,800 jobs 

As you can see, there are nearly 4.5 times more jobs available in a 30-minute transit trip when commuting from Lakeview compared to Washington Park, and almost 2 times more jobs when commuting from Lakeview compared to North Lawndale. These wide disparities in job accessibility exist for other South and West Side neighborhoods as well. 

ETOD can help change that, bringing greater economic stability for households in our communities.  And with an intentional approach to including Black and Brown developers and vendors in the development process, ETOD can also help build wealth in our communities. 

Reason 3: ETOD helps address climate and environmental issues, which disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities

“What is a rain garden?” table at 2022 Homan Square Nature of Resilience festival
“What is a rain garden?” table at 2022 Homan Square Nature of Resilience festival

Like many other systemic disparities, environmental and climate-related issues like air pollution disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities. Consequently, Black and Brown residents in Chicago struggle more with health issues like asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses.  

Predominantly Black neighborhoods like South Shore, Greater Grand Crossing, and Chatham also bear the burden of flooding caused by changing climate patterns and rising lake levels, which themselves are accelerated by growing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Transportation accounts for nearly 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. annually according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the largest percentage of any sector of the economy. But public transit is a significantly greener form of transportation than driving. Transportation by rail, for example, accounts for 28 times less greenhouse gas emissions than transportation by car. 

By getting people out of their cars and onto buses and trains, ETOD helps to reduce pollution, ensuring cleaner air and healthier environments for all to live, work, and play. 

What this information means for you, and where to learn more about ETOD

ETOD Resources page on
ETOD Resources page on

ETOD is for every neighborhood! But it has particular benefits for Black and Brown communities where it is often missing.  

From creating greater, easier, and faster access to jobs and amenities like grocery stores and shops, to reducing cost of living and building wealth, to ensuring greener and healthier communities, ETOD has so much to offer. And it should be our blueprint for how we build a more equitable Chicago for all, regardless of who you are or where you live. 

To learn more about ETOD, and to find tips on how to talk to your neighbors about supporting ETOD, visit our Resources page. We also encourage you to share this article on social media as a conversation starter in your community.