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Encouraging Public Transportation Through Effective Land Use Actions

Examines land use tools and transportation management approaches for encouraging the use of public transportation


This document is a companion to Metro's Transportation Service Guidelines, which describes the conditions for establishing and evaluating new and existing transportation services, and the Metro Transportation Facility Design Guidelines, which provides information on the standards used by Metro in the design of transit and ridesharing facilities. It provides information for local planning staffs on the effects of land use decisions on public transportation service and provides guidelines for the private sector on how to design new projects to be compatible with public transportation. A short summary of each section and its objectives can be found on pages vii-xi.

Coordination between land use and public transportation should occur at the following levels in the land use planning process: 1) comprehensive plan policies, 2) zoning ordinances, and 3) the environmental review and building/site plan review process. Since funds for public transportation services are limited, there needs to be a better under standing of what factors are involved in distributing these services and what actions local communities can take to promote conditions which can support higher service levels. At the federal level, the Urban Mass Transportation Administration has called upon local jurisdictions and the private sector to assume a greater role in the provision of public transportation services. Consequently, a need exists for local jurisdictions and the private sector to assist Metro in developing markets for transit and ridesharing as well as establish street networks that allow reasonably direct transit service to local communities. 

Benefits to transit and ridesharing from closer coordination between public transportation and land use planning are:

  • Higher transit ridership and auto occupancy;
  • Lower transit operating costs;
  • Improved access for transit vehicles; and
  • Increased financial support for public transportation through public-private sector partnerships.

Local jurisdictions benefit through:

  • Reduced demand on roadway capacity;
  • Improved access to activity centers and greater mobility for residents;
  • Reduced parking needs; and
  • A more pedestrian-oriented environment.

Benefits that can be realized by the private sector when public transportation is considered in the initial design stages of a new project include:

  • Reduced parking needs, which translate into cost savings;
  • Greater marketability of the project;
  • Fewer delays in the development review process, with attendant cost savings;
  • Increased chance of project approval.

There are also benefits to the public. These include:

  • Higher levels and quality of service within a fixed budget;
  • More transportation options; and
  • Environmental benefits.

This manual will examine some of the most effective land use tools and transportation management approaches that have been developed to enhance the use of public transportation. We will also evaluate their impact and suggest how local governments and the private sector might incorporate such programs into the land use planning process.