In case you missed it, the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University dropped a bombshell of a report about Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) back in October. Key finding:
"Rising incomes in some gentrifying [Transit-Rich Neighborhoods] may be accompanied by an increase in wealthier households who are more likely to own and use private vehicles, and less likely to use transit for commuting, than lower-income households."Ironically, they found that enhancing transit infrastructure can actually make ridership go down (and car ownership up) in the neighborhood it serves. That's a puzzling dilemma that deserves some attention.
TOD advocates have understood for a while that infrastructure and design need to be carefully coordinated to produce successful results. Just plop down a new station without changing any of the zoning codes in advance, and you're guaranteed to end up with a park and ride lot surrounded by much of the same 20th century stuff. There's transit, and there's development, but the orientation part is missing entirely.
Back in 2003, Patrick Seigman published a handy and oft-cited TOD checklist,"Is it Really TOD?"
"A true TOD will include most of the following:But is there anything missing?
- The transit-oriented development lies within a five-minute walk of the transit stop, or about a quarter-mile from stop to edge. For major stations offering access to frequent high-speed service this catchment area may be extended to the measure of a 10-minute walk.
- A balanced mix of uses generates 24-hour ridership. There are places to work, to live, to learn, to relax and to shop for daily needs.
- A place-based zoning code generates buildings that shape and define memorable streets, squares, and plazas, while allowing uses to change easily over time.
- The average block perimeter is limited to no more than 1,350 feet. This generates a fine-grained network of streets, dispersing traffic and allowing for the creation of quiet and intimate thoroughfares.
- Minimum parking requirements are abolished.
- Maximum parking requirements are instituted: For every 1,000 workers, no more than 500 spaces and as few as 10 spaces are provided.
- Parking costs are "unbundled," and full market rates are charged for all parking spaces. The exception may be validated parking for shoppers.
- Major stops provide BikeStations, offering free attended bicycle parking, repairs, and rentals. At minor stops, secure and fully enclosed bicycle parking is provided.
- Transit service is fast, frequent, reliable, and comfortable, with a headway of 15 minutes or less.
- Roadway space is allocated and traffic signals timed primarily for the convenience of walkers and cyclists.
- Automobile level-of-service standards are met through congestion pricing measures, or disregarded entirely.
- Traffic is calmed, with roads designed to limit speed to 30 mph on major streets and 20 mph on lesser streets."
We're seeing that having a mix of incomes is not just a bonus policy goal, but something woven into the success of a TOD on it's own terms. On the one hand, attracting the professional class is realistically the only way to generate the capital needed to spur substantial redevelopment. But the service-sector workers are the ones who are more likely to forgo car ownership, use transit more frequently, and actually walk to work in that cool, mixed-use cafe. Both the urban design features the architects want and the return on investment the transit planners want depend on a healthy mix of incomes.
Many cities now seek to capture some of the value generated by their public infrastructure investment into land-banked supported affordable housing. Groups like Denver's Urban Land Conservancy carefully anticipate any market changes along transit corridors and grab some of the land before it becomes prohibitively expensive. Then innovative housing models, such as community land trusts, can be used to hold down the value of the land to a level affordable to low- to moderate-income households indefinitely. When these units are built they'll be doubly affordable, in both housing and transportation costs for the residents.
"Density, Diversity, and Design" is still the operative catchphrase, as long as by diversity we mean the people as well as the structures and uses.