By: GB Arrington, GB Place Making, Portland, OR, April 14, 2016
An urban revolution is sweeping across North America at transit stations and major bus stops. Driven by shifting real estate preferences more and more people are making housing choices and businesses are increasingly locating high value jobs in transit accessible locations. In a phrase it’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD).
Just like a roller coaster in a mountain does not make Disneyland, development next to transit alone does not make a TOD. When TOD is done well it seeks to align transit investments with a series of projects consistent with the community’s vision for how it wants to grow. TOD is a collection of complementary things. TOD is a district, a community that has been shaped by transit in terms of: greater density than the community average with less parking, an active public realm with a mix of uses and housing choices, and a very walkable place where the car has been tamed.
“We love living the TOD lifestyle– a lifestyle that also puts money back into our pockets”
For me TOD is very personal – my wife Cathy and I live in a TOD. And I’ve shaped my career helping governments plan, enable and implement TOD’s long before there was a TOD acronym. Cathy and I are part of a growing national market of Baby Boomers and Millennials who have been voting with our feet to live, play and work in a TOD.
Like a majority of Americans we prefer to live in a walkable compact community with a mix of housing choices, close to shops, parks and public transit. [i]
We love living the TOD lifestyle, a lifestyle that also puts money back into our pockets –
- We are healthier. We walk more and can easily walk to what we need – the grocery store, shops, movies, restaurants, bars and parks.
- We have more disposable income. As a one-car family we don’t need to spend as much on transportation. The average household spends 19% of their budget on transportation. Those with access to good transit like us spend only 9% of their household budget on transportation.[ii]
- Our home is worth more. Locations next to transit can enjoy increases in land values by as much as 50% in comparison to locations away from transit stops.
- We have less traffic to deal with. TOD housing generates 50% less auto traffic than conventional housing.[iii]
Cities are tapping into TOD’s transformative power
Transit works like irrigation to reshape and revitalize our communities. Cities around the world have learned how to tap the transformative power of linking transit and land use.
Cities are using TOD to:
- Hasten the implementation of their local plans
- Catalyze economic development and rejuvenation
- Advance the delivery of mixed income housing
Denver is a case in point. Local cities in the Denver region have adopted plans to encourage TOD at virtually every RTD station. Along the RTD system over 30,000 new housing units and 26 million square feet of government and commercial space have been built or are underway since voters passed FasTracks in November 2004. Denver Union Station has shepherded a new transit-oriented downtown neighborhood. The opening of five new rapid transit lines in 2016 and nearly 30 new stations points to the inevitability of more and more TOD.[iv]
The Portland Streetcar is another shining example. Since 1998 the corridor within ¼ mile of the streetcar has increased in market value by $11.63 billion.[v]
People are willing to pay more to live and work near transit. Consider Washington, DC. Washingtonians in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County pay a 40% rent premium to live within walking distance of a Metro stop.[vi] And Metro stops are by far and away the preferred location for new office buildings – 84% of new office construction in 2013 was close to a Metro station.[vii]
More transit riders at a lower cost
For transit agencies TOD’s mean more riders at a lower cost. TOD’s create new transit friendly destinations. The most successful transit stops are surrounded not by parking lots but by housing and businesses within walking distance.
Experience from transit agencies is clear:
- TOD’s generate new riders at a lower cost per rider
- TOD’s help transit riders by creating new opportunities at stations to live, work, shop and play
- TOD’s create new revenue opportunities for transit agencies.
- TOD’s broaden support for transit by tapping into its city shaping power
“The most successful transit stops are surrounded not by parking lots but by housing and businesses within walking distance.”
Changing transit parking into transit-oriented communities is a way for transit agencies to shape growth and generate revenues. Portland, Boston, Seattle, Atlanta and Denver are examples of agencies that have replaced transit parking with TODs.
Most transit trips are taken to get to work. But work trips are just between 18 and 21% of all travel. For transit agencies the big TOD ridership pay-off is attracting riders that use transit for work plus many of their other travel needs throughout the day.
At an individual transit station, TOD can increase ridership by 20 to 40 percent, and up to five percent overall at the regional level. People who live in a TOD are five times more likely to commute by transit than other residents.[viii]
Like the Chinese saying Qiān lĭ zhī xíng, shĭ yú zú xià – A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, transformational change takes time and stick-to-itiveness. It should be of no surprise that some of the most livable cities in North America – Vancouver, BC; Portland, Oregon and Washington, DC – have each spent decades transforming themselves into vibrant TOD cities. It is a journey worth taking. Whether you bring the perspective of a city, a transit agency, a developer / investor or a community leader, TOD brings a multitude of proven benefits and opportunities. Join us at Rail~Volution and take the next step in your journey.
GB Arrington is one of the world’s most respected innovators in Transit Oriented Development (TOD). GB specializes in TOD and linking the design of transit to enable development. He and his wife, Cathy live in a TOD in Portland, Oregon. GB is one of the founders of the Rail~Volution conference.
Learn more about transit oriented development in our Transit-Oriented Development 101 session in the R~chives.
[ii] Livable Communities Act of 2009 https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/111/s1619/text
[iv] RTD, 2014 Transit-Oriented Development Status Report, undated Denver RTD
[viii] TCRP 128