Let us face it…people are moving away (literally) from the idea of suburbs. Many Americans, especially young people, want to live where they can easily get to work, and have access to local hotspots and businesses. Therefore the idea of transit-oriented development (TOD) is very appealing because development near a transit station offers a mix of housing, employment, retail, and transportation choices.
“TOD is development located within a quarter-to half-mile radius of a transit station that offers housing, employment, shopping, and transportation choices within a neighborhood or business district.” (EPA, Office of Sustainable Communities Smart Growth Program, in a report called “Infrastructure Financing Options for Transit-Oriented Development”.
Accessibility to public transit can lower household costs for families by giving them an alternative to driving, and it can give people more access to jobs throughout the region.
Young people are driving less
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released a study last week that said nearly 70 percent of millennials, people 18 to 34, use multiple travel options several times a week. Though car-sharing, bike-sharing, walking, and car ownership all contribute to the multi-modal transportation network, public transportation is ranked highest as the best mode to connect to all other modes, according to 54 percent of the millennials polled. Another report released last week said that the average American between ages 16 and 34 drove 23 percent less in 2009 than in 2001. This means that many young people want to live near transit stations and local businesses, thus providing many great opportunities to build around transit. It seems that they prefer to live in “walkable”, urban settings, in stark contrast to past generations who desired to live in suburbs.
Property near transit more likely to retain value
The recent recession caused housing prices to drop significantly, but property close to mass transit lines did not take nearly as much of a hit. APTA released a study in March 2013 that analyzed how well residential properties (in five regions of the country) located near transit maintained their value as compared to residential properties without transit access between 2006 and 2011. On average, properties located within one-half mile of high-frequency public transportation service performed 42% better in holding their value than the region as a whole. In San Francisco, public transit area homes values performed 37 percent better than the region. Also, those living near to public transit had access to more jobs–in San Francisco, it was found that living close to public transit provided access to three times more jobs per square mile than other areas of the region.
Environmental sustainability/Community development
Where we choose to develop can directly and indirectly affect the environment and community. People who live in neighborhoods that are far from public transportation often rely on cars for transportation, thus contributing to increased greenhouse gases and pollution. TOD districts feature streets designed to make walking and biking practical, making it easier for those who live in the area to get around the region. Other environmental benefits of TOD include land and resource conservation, and improved water and air quality.
If cities really want to get TOD going in their communities, then there should be some financial incentives in place to encourage development. The city of Fremont has a campaign called “Think Fremont” to encourage development in the Warm Springs area of Fremont, where there will be a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station built there by 2015. Across the country, there are state, regional, and local programs that fund TOD plans–the organization Reconnecting America provides information about these programs. For example, the California Department of Transportation provides Community-Based Transportation Planning Grants.
Good luck with TOD!