Transit-Oriented Development News

CNT Launches Bold Vision, Campaign to Fund Transit

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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Task Force Report Can Shape the Future of Transit

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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Cleveland’s Climate Future

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.

FlickrCC - digipixguy

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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People, Places + Progress: Celebrating 35 Years of Community Innovation

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.


Celebrating 35 Years: Green TIME Zone

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

Morgue-31In 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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Mind the Gap: Chicago’s Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Downtown Chicago near the Adams/Wabash L station

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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New EPA Report Highlights Benefits of Transit-Oriented Development

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


Priority Development Areas in Chicago Will Redefine Economic Development as Investment in Place

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

When housing and job growth occur in communities with transportation options, households have more options to live, work, get around in affordable communities.

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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Transit-Oriented Development in the Chicago Region: Efficient and Resilient Communities for the 21st Century

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

In Transit-Oriented Development in the Chicago Region: Efficient and Resilient Communities for the 21st Century, CNT researchers evaluated the dynamics of the Chicago Region’s 367 fixed Metra and CTA rail stations and station areas between 2000 and 2010. Using the National TOD Database, a first-of-its-kind web tool developed by CNT that provides access to comprehensive information about more than 4,000 transit zones across the United States, researchers identified the transit zones that performed well: those that anchored vital, walkable communities that possess an affordable, high quality of life with minimal impact on the environment. While Chicago made significant investments in TOD during that time period, researchers found that peer cities (based on extensive transit system size) had more successful development of transit zones. Six case studies. Five recommendations.


Thinking Outside the Lines: CNT and King County Metro Develop Pioneering Residential Parking Calculator

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

RSP logoKing County Metro Transit, the public transportation administration agency for King County, Washington (which includes Seattle), recently released the Right Size Parking Calculator website, an innovative new tool that allows users to view estimated parking use in the context of a specific site for multi-family developments. The calculator was developed in collaboration with CNT, with grant support from the Federal Highway Administration’s Value Pricing Program.

The announcement came at a ULI Northwest luncheon headlined by Donald Shoup, who discussed the art and science of parking.

King County was interested in developing a tool that could be used to achieve a more balanced approach to parking for the region. Outdated parking requirements have led to parking supply that is not reflective of actual demand, which can have a direct impact on a jurisdiction’s ability to create compact, healthy communities.

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