We all remember being a child on what seemed like an endless journey to grandma’s house or the Grand Canyon and asking “Are we there yet?” In America’s cities and towns, we are having one of those “Are we there yet?” moments — although it seems the GPS is malfunctioning and we have lost the ability to chart a course toward our future.
What does “there” look like? How will we know when we are “there”? What are the critical investments we need to make in order to strengthen our regional economies and ensure that America remains globally competitive? What are the attributes of communities and regions that help the people who live and work there succeed? How can we ensure that every child – regardless of what zip code they are born into or the color of their skin — has access to opportunities to improve their lives and contribute to America’s prosperity?
America is confronting serious issues in this second decade of the 21st century: The gap…
Transit oriented development has been a large part of Boston’s growth since the earliest horse-drawn railways. In fact, we live in a uniquely transit-oriented region, where 25% of housing units and 37% of employment is within a half-mile of a rapid transit or commuter rail station. Now Metro Boston is experiencing a new wave of growth near transit, with hundreds of residential and commercial developments underway and more on the horizon. Cities and towns are creating station area plans and updated zoning to unlock development potential; the MBTA is accepting proposals for major developments on prime T-owned parcels; state agencies are using transit proximity as a criteria for prioritizing infrastructure or housing resources; and the development community is finding a strong market for residential and commercial space near the T.
There are good reasons for this burgeoning interest in Transit Oriented Development (TOD.) New growth near transit stations can help…
TCRP Report 153: Guidelines for Providing Access to Public Transportation Stations provides a process and spreadsheet-based tool for effectively planning for access to high capacity transit stations, including commuter rail, heavy rail, light rail, bus rapid transit (BRT), and ferry. The report is accompanied by a CD that includes the station access planning spreadsheet tool that allows trade-off analyses among the various access modes (automobile, transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and transit-oriented development) for different station types. The potential effectiveness of transit-oriented development opportunities to increase transit ridership is also assessed.
This report and accompanying materials are intended to aid the many groups involved in planning, developing, and improving access to high capacity transit stations, including public transportation and highway agencies, planners, developers, and…
High unemployment rates and slow employment growth continue to threaten our economy. Once-successful sectors are in decline. Even the workplace itself is in transition. New technologies and ways of working have disrupted everything from the speed of a typical product cycle to the amount of real estate a company needs.
In recent decades, some cities have seen their urban centers lose population density, as residents spread farther out to suburbs and exurbs. Others have kept populous downtowns even as their environs have grown. Population density in general has economic advantages, so one might wonder whether a loss of density, which may be a symptom of negative economic shocks, could amplify those shocks. This paper looks at four decades of census data and show that growing cities have maintained dense urban centers, while shrinking cities have not. There are reasons to think that loss of population density at the core of the city could be particularly damaging to productivity. If this is the case, there could be productivity gains from policies aimed at reversing that trend.
It is broadly accepted that fairly dense urban development is an essential feature of a successful public transit system. However going beyond this generality to specific guidelines on where, when, and by how much to increase urban densities is never easy. This paper investigates the relationship between transit and urban densities in the United States from multiple perspectives. While empirical evidence suggests that recent-generation rail investments in the U.S. have in many instances conferred net social benefits, considerable skepticism remains, particularly among the more vocal critics of American transit policy. All sides agree that increasing urban densities will place public transit on firmer financial footing. Our analysis suggests that light-rail systems need around 30 people per gross acre around stations and heavy rail systems need 50 percent higher densities than this to place them in the top one-quarter of cost-effective rail investments in the U.S. The…
Why This Book?
The importance of Planning for TOD at the regional Scale
Transit-Oriented Development, or TOD, is typically understood to be a mix of housing, retail and/or commercial development and amenities — referred to as “mixed-use development” — in a walkable neighborhood with high-quality public transportation. To learn the basics of TOD, see the first book in this series, TOD 101: Why TOD and Why Now?
Building successful TOD requires thinking beyond the individual station and understanding the role each neighborhood and station area plays in the regional network of transit-oriented places. It also requires an understanding of the real estate market, major employment centers, and travel patterns in the region. Regional planning for successful TOD projects is really about the coordination of existing plans for growth, transit, housing and jobs, as well as programs and policies at all levels of government.
Coordinating all these TOD…
This paper outlines a methodology that assesses urbanity in three dimensions (density, diversity, and design) and creates a combined scorecard that weights each dimension according to its influence on transit usage and walkability. Using no proprietary methods, this approach can be repeated by any individual or local government with GIS software and basic internet access. The resulting measurements can be used by communities to assess what types of investments and regulatory changes are necessary to create more transit and pedestrian-friendly communities.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has gained attention as a potentially cost-effective form of highcapacity public transportation. This is particularly the case in small to medium-size cities that do not have high enough densities or serious enough peak-period traffic congestion to justify fairly expensive fixed-guideway transit investments. BRT is widely embraced for providing potential rail-like services at a fraction of the cost (Wright, 2011). This study explores possibilities for advancing BRT systems and associated higher density land development in the Central Valley of California. It uses photo-simulations and stakeholder reactions to visual images to gauge public attitudes toward what would be a fairly radical transformation of urban environments in traditionally car-oriented settings. Due to the comparatively low development densities found in the Central Valley relative to California’s larger metropolitan areas, the kinds of transformations that would be needed to…
Historically, many regional transit systems were designed in a “hub and spoke” pattern, focusing on moving residents from relatively low-density residential communities to a single high-density employment center – typically the region’s historic central business district (CBD). In general, these systems have worked well for those workers with jobs in central cities. The effectiveness of this kind of system hinges directly on the density of the jobs co-located in close proximity to each other and within a short distance of transit stations.
Although CBDs and downtowns remain important regional employment locations, American cities have experienced significant decentralization over the last 60 years, as job centers have shifted from urban downtowns to suburban communities. This “employment sprawl” has helped to generate much of the traffic congestion experienced across regions today, contributing to over 100 billion dollars in lost time and fuel every…