Transportation + Community Development

Photo: EMBARQ BRASIL via Flickr Creative Commons

Strong communities are built around a diverse transportation network that connects people with jobs, schools, retail shops, and more. Our work makes public transit more convenient, destinations more walkable, and housing more affordable.

Transportation + Community Development at CNT

For four decades, we’ve been an innovator in building sustainable communities. Compact, transit-oriented development (TOD) offers the opportunity to build economically vibrant neighborhoods and capitalize on trends to reduce car ownership, lower transportation costs, and achieve regional sustainability goals.

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.

TOD Implementation

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

Our research, tools, and policy initiatives have helped shift development patterns in communities across the country. We empower local leaders, developers, and investors to create the kinds of diverse housing and transportation options that resilient cities need.

How does this affect you? Our work has shown that:

  • The combined costs of housing and transportation give a more complete assessment of affordability than housing costs alone as demonstrated by our H+T Affordability Index.
  • Where you live has a bigger impact on transportation costs than the number of people in your household or your income.
  • Places with access to services, walkable destinations, extensive and frequent transit, access to jobs, and density have lower household transportation costs.
  • Creating neighborhoods with affordable housing and transportation costs requires multiple and targeted strategies and coordination within and across government agencies and the private sector.
  • Underdeveloped areas surrounding transit stations present an opportunity to create new affordable and diverse neighborhoods and avoid “transit deserts.”
  • Residential real estate sales prices for properties located near transit are healthier and more resilient than in broader metropolitan regions.

To learn more about CNT’s work in Transportation and Community Development, take a look at our projects, tools and resources on this page.

Featured Projects + Tools

“Having worked with the Center for Neighborhood Technology for about half of its existence, I can attest that it has been one of the most consistently innovative nonprofits in the country. In this urban century, CNT’s insistent focus on a sustainability rooted in community engagement and place is vital.”

Hank Dittmar
Chief Executive, The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment

Research + Further Reading

Income, Location Efficiency, and VMT: Affordable Housing as a Climate Strategy

Gregory L. Newmark Ph.D and Peter M. Haas Ph.D
July 14, 2015

This paper combines detailed travel-survey, transit-service, and land-use data to estimate a model for predicting the role of income and location efficiency in reducing household vehicle-miles traveled (VMT). The research then applies this model to census data collected in the most transit-rich areas of California. The research finds strong justification for California’s current support of location-efficient affordable housing as a strategy to reduce VMT and mitigate climate change.


Lakeview Transit-Oriented Development: Housing + Transportation Trends

CNT + Lakeview Chamber of Commerce
April 28, 2015

We collaborated with the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce on a report supporting greater transit-oriented development (TOD) activity in the Lakeview neighborhood. The paper found the number of households in the neighborhood on the decline, despite millions of dollars in development activity in the 2000s – perhaps because zoning makes TOD practically impossible in most areas. The report also found that while new TOD development has been proposed in the neighborhood, the lack of parking has been a contentious issue even though the rate of car ownership has fallen 6 percent and nearly one-third of Lakeview households own no car at all. We will continue to work with organizations like the Lakeview Chamber to accelerate TOD throughout the Chicago region.


Quality of Life, (e)Quality of Place

by CNT and Open Communities
January 15, 2015

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.


Transit Deserts in Cook County

by CNT
July 10, 2014

The Chicago region's hub-and-spoke transit system leaves many people stranded in the gaps. About 10% of Cook County's residents live in transit deserts, leaving them with restricted mobility and limited access to all of the region's jobs and amenities.


Charter for the New Urbanism

Chapter by Jacky Grimshaw
May 31, 2013

This pioneering guide, the first edition of which was released in 1999, illustrates how the Congress for the New Urbanism works to change the practices and standards of urban design and development to support healthy regions and diverse, complete neighborhoods. CNT Vice President Jacky Grimshaw contributed a chapter on developing in a way that preserves environmental resources, economic investment, and social fabric.