Transit-Oriented Development News
Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Rail transit anchors downtowns and neighborhoods in communities throughout Chicago’s northern suburbs and across the region, but many of these communities are falling behind in creating mixed-income transit-oriented development. This guidebook offers case studies, policy recommendations, and public participation tools to help suburbs build affordable, accessible housing around transit.
Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is typically defined as compact, higher-density, mixed-use development within a half mile or ten-minute walk of a transit station. TOD increases location efﬁciency by providing a good mix of housing, jobs, retail and recreational choices.
Why is TOD Important?
TOD allows households to live in neighborhoods where they can walk, bike, or take transit to get around.
With transportation the second-highest household expense after housing, living near transit makes it easier for people to forego the high cost of auto ownership.TOD not only benefits new and existing residents, but also businesses, transit agencies, local governments, merchants, and developers.
Community benefits of TOD include:
- Greater sense of community and of place
- More sustainable and efﬁcient use of land, energy, and resources
- Less reliance on cars, resulting in lower gas consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
- Reduced household spending on transportation
- Increased foot trafﬁc for local businesses
- Increased property values which can be leveraged for future development
- Improved public health through increased walking and biking
- Opportunities for mixed-income housing
- Expanded transit ridership
- Lower public expenditures on roads, water and sewer infrastructure, and police and fire protection
Quickly growing demographic groups are helping to fuel the demand for TOD. Households that are over 50, non-family, and/or ethnically diverse have historically shown a preference for higher-density housing near transit. Among Millennials, a preference for active lifestyles that don’t require driving, proximity to restaurants and other urban amenities, and a desire to use smartphone technology while commuting should help sustain demand for the foreseeable future.
Although TOD has been proven to help support transit and aid in community revitalization, there are often barriers that impede the creation of TODs.
Zoning may be prohibitive, obtaining financing can be difficult, and structured parking – although a more efficient use of land – is more expensive than surface parking. Additionally, current residents may resist land use changes. A strategic approach to implementing TOD can help to remove these obstacles. When communities target their land use, transportation, housing, and economic development investments towards transit-served areas, they can encourage TOD.
Effective strategies and tools to spur TOD include:
- Land assembly
- Mixed-use zoning and density bonuses
- Reduced parking requirements
- Transfer of Development Rights programs
- Expedited approval for developers
- Value capture and business improvement districts
- Targeted Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and HOME investments
- Participatory community planning
- Small business incubators
- Public markets
Affordable Housing near Transit Will Help California Combat Climate Change
CNT research helped make the case that building affordable housing near transit can significantly reduce harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution from auto emissions. In 2014, the State of California decided to devote billions of dollars in new cap-and-trade revenue to fund projects intended to further curb climate impacts. In addition to investments in high-speed rail and public transit, millions of dollars will support affordable transit-oriented development (TOD).
The program is expected to raise $5 billion dollars a year by the end of the decade. In the meantime, California legislators wrestled with the question of what to do with the early revenues. CNT was asked to contribute research and analysis that quantifies the climate benefits of constructing affordable housing units near public transit. Working with the California Housing Partnership Corporation (CHPC) and TransForm, a statewide transit advocacy group, CNT calculated reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) for five different income groups living in three types of locations. CHPC and TransForm used the VMT data to compute related reductions in GHG emissions from personal vehicle use. They found that investing 10% of cap-and-trade proceeds in affordable TOD housing would cut VMT by over 100 million miles in just three years. In 55 years (the estimated life of the to-be-constructed housing), VMT would be reduced by 5.7 billion miles and GHG emissions would be cut by more than 1.58 million metric tons.
On June 15, 2014, the California State Legislature approved a spending plan that includes an initial $65 million for development of affordable homes near transit, with other funds earmarked for construction and operation of high-speed rail lines, as well as for public transit. Going forward, a full 10% of cap-and-trade revenue will be allocated to help struggling California families live closer to transit, jobs, and other amenities.
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Transit-Oriented Development Rating Systems
The Center for Transit Oriented Development (CTOD) – a partnership between the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Reconnecting America, and Strategic Economics – and the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University collaborated to produce a “rating system” to help planners, policymakers, community groups and municipal officials make better decisions about equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) planning and projects. The eTOD Score is an assessment tool designed to facilitate a better understanding of which transit-rich neighborhoods and which specific projects proposed for those neighborhoods are “the right kind” of equitable TOD.
This rating system is designed to identify neighborhoods and districts with built, social, and transit attributes that reduce driving, encourage higher transit ridership, and promote transit equity and accessibility. By providing a specific definition of high-performing, equitable TOD, this system can be used to catalyze and direct rapid policy change in support of both specific development projects and broader initiatives intended to plan or improve transit-rich neighborhoods.
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Visit our publications library for CNT’s research on transit-oriented development.
Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Cook County Revenue Stream Could Leverage Billions for Improvement + Expansion
CHICAGO, April 3, 2014 – Two leading, Chicago-based transit advocates announced a plan today to secure Cook County’s largest investment in new public transit infrastructure since 1947. The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and the Active Transportation Alliance were joined by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane at the launch of the Transit Future campaign.
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Monday, March 31st, 2014
Statement from Kathryn Tholin, CEO
Today, I joined my fourteen fellow members of the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force in unanimously approving and delivering to Governor Quinn a series of recommendations to improve our regional transit system.
Our report details a mixed history of advances and missed opportunities, of good intentions and poor executions, of leadership and mismanagement. However, the most important takeaways from the Task Force report are not things that happened in the past, or the current state of the transit system. We must learn from history and understand our present situation, yes, but our focus should be on how we can take what we know and use it to shape the future of transit in our region.
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Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
Vacant. Abandoned. Blighted. Words that have pervaded the American vernacular as cities strive not to be defined by them. In the twentieth century, when steam and labor gave way to thought and machines, neighborhoods at the heart of industry slid into decline. Their stresses worsened after the financial crash of 2008, as homes were left barren by foreclosure. In the hardest-hit neighborhoods, solutions to the rise in unused space and the drop in safety that often went with it seemed few and far between.
Cleveland skyline (Photo by digipixguy/Flickr Creative Commons License)
Like many historic American cities, Cleveland faces the challenge of sparking renewal in the shadow of its booming industrial past. The city’s Kinsman neighborhood, once dense with homes for industrial workers, has been vacated to the point of feeling almost rural. That degree of empty space within city limits is usually seen as a liability, but residents and environmental advocates have begun using the open land as a blank canvas for agricultural innovation. Lots that once housed homes have been plowed, planted, and transformed into orchards and farmland.
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Thursday, October 24th, 2013
In honor of our 35th anniversary, CNT staff compiled stories about our 35 most game-changing innovations. People, Places + Progress chronicles CNT’s growth in capacity, reputation, and impact. From the construction of solar greenhouses to grow vegetables in what we now call “food deserts” to the development of revolutionary energy efficiency programs. From the Location Efficient Mortgage® to the Surface Transportation Policy Project. From driving the concept and business of car sharing to shattering the traditional view of housing affordability (hint: it’s the transportation costs!). From the Green Line to green dry cleaning to the Green TIME Zone, CNT has reimagined how our cities can become more sustainable and prosperous for everyone.
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
35 Facts for CNT’s 35 Years: Each week we’ll expand on one fun fact. Enjoy!
#31 Green TIME Zone
In the same 1914 poem that dubbed Chicago the “City of Big Shoulders,” Carl Sandburg also identified the city as a “Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler.” If Chicago’s meteoric rise from backwater settlement to global metropolis could be attributed to one single thing, it would very likely be the railroads. Maps of the American railway system reveal a tangled web of train lines converging in northeastern Illinois, transporting goods and passengers to and through Chicagoland. Over time, communities sprouted along these freight lines, especially in what would eventually become Chicago’s southern suburbs.
These communities grew in the nineteenth century around both commuter rail, transporting workers to downtown jobs, and freight rail, which allowed industrial centers to flourish. After decades of prosperity, the area nicknamed “the Southland” began to decline as people moved to newer suburbs. Farmland was paved over, and unused industrial land decayed into brownfields. Despite the downturn, however, the region’s principal economic asset remained. Freightliners continued to pass through the southern suburbs in their cross-country transport of goods.
We, and our long-time partners at the South Suburban Mayors and Mangers Association (SSMMA), wondered how capturing the value of freight traffic could bring prosperity back to the Southland. We spent years researching transit-oriented development (TOD) and other options for the Southland, and eventually the Green TIME Zone was born.
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Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
Downtown Chicago near the Adams/Wabash L station
Few American cities enjoy Chicago’s dynamic mix of high quality transit and walkable neighborhoods. But despite having the second-largest transit system in the country, Chicago has seen a steady decline over the past decade in development around its transit stations. The Chicago region lags far behind its peers, such as New York, Boston, and the San Francisco Bay Area, in capturing new development around transit stations and lowering the cost of transportation. Last Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a move towards remedying this shortcoming, introducing an ordinance that would create a special transit-oriented development (TOD) overlay in the city of Chicago. Although it corrects regulations that require parking and constrain development within walking distance of Chicago’s rail system, the ordinance doesn’t go far enough to help Chicago catch up.
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Monday, June 24th, 2013
A new EPA report details why transit-oriented development (TOD)—areas designed to maximize accessibility and use of public transit—is beneficial to residents and the greater environment. Faced with an estimated 42-percent rise in population in the United States between 2010 and 2050, metropolitan centers around the country will soon see their population dynamics change. Already, almost every city in the country has had significant expansion in land area since 1950. Chicago is no exception: by 2040, the region will see an estimated 25-percent increase to approximately eleven million residents. With such population growth comes a need for more and better transportation options for residents and commuters.
The environmental price of urban sprawl and highway construction is often the destruction of key ecosystems like wetlands and streams, which provide homes to important species and benefits like clean water and recreational activities to people living nearby. Encouraging development in areas that are already urbanized, known as infill development, spares ecosystems and the services they provide. This is a major advantage of TOD—by designing attractive and easily navigable urban areas, people will be more willing to live in the city center instead of the surrounding suburban communities. The savings they experience in shorter, easier commutes and more convenient neighborhoods translate to savings for fragile and significant ecosystems.
In Chicago, an estimated 67 percent of the population growth expected by 2040 will be infill development. As a result, Chicago has a prime opportunity to undertake significant TOD projects to serve these new households, which would create construction jobs and reinvigorate disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Transit-oriented development translates to long-term economic and environmental benefits as well. In general, residents of areas with high population density tend to drive less. Doubling an area’s population density could reduce its residents’ vehicle use by five to twelve percent. Designing communities specifically to encourage public transit use, as with TOD, can create an even bigger impact: residents of areas with TOD are two to five times more likely to use transit for their commutes and general travels than residents of areas without TOD.
Residents and the environment both benefit from improved transit.
- Drivers will face less congestion as fewer cars will be on the road.
- All residents, especially those with respiratory health concerns, will benefit from improved air quality.
- Fewer greenhouse gases from vehicle fuel combustion will enter the atmosphere, aiding in the fight against climate change.
- Residents without cars will be able to travel to previously inaccessible job markets and recreational activities.
- An extended transit network will create quick and reliable ways for those already living in suburban communities to commute to work or experience the city without depending on a car, saving them money on gas and time in traffic.
Investing in transit-oriented development now will create cities that are equipped to handle the coming population rise without severely harming important natural resources
Monday, June 3rd, 2013
When communities grow compactly, close to jobs and along transit routes, households have greater choice between affordable communities in which to live, increased employment opportunities close to home, and multiple transportation options connecting the two. However, several decades of fragmented regional planning in the Chicago region de-emphasized this connection between housing, transportation choice, and economic development in favor of increased highway capacity and continued suburban expansion. Cheap oil reinforced the illusion of growth for decades, but surging energy prices raised transportation costs and exposed household pocketbooks and municipal budgets to the true cost of sprawl.
To address this challenge, CNT proposed, in Prospering in Place, that the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) establish Priority Development Areas (PDAs) that align investments in transportation, housing, and economic development across public agencies in regional activity centers.
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