Transit-Oriented Development
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What the Future Can Be – The Principles of Transit-Oriented Development

I am often asked by property owners, business operators and colleagues what makes TOD different from other development. While they may have heard the phrase “Live, Work, Play” and the more current iteration of “Live, Work, Play, Eat and Shop” aka LWPES, they don’t necessarily know what that means in terms of real world application. One of my preferred responses is quite simple – TOD is about fulfilling the basic needs and desires of modern society within a vibrant, active and compact geographic area.

This is facilitated by a variety of transportation options e.g. walking, bike share, bus, rail and auto. Think about a day in a neighborhood shaped by TOD principles. On your walk to the station you drop Fluffy at doggie daycare, take Lucy to pre-school, leave your clothes at the dry cleaner and get a cup of coffee. On your way home you pick up some dinner, the clean clothes, Lucy and Fluffy. After dinner you are enjoying the rooftop garden while listening to a mini-concert in the courtyard below. It just so happens that the music school is located in your building and so is the music teacher who occupies a live-work space on the ground floor. In fact, your fitness studio and vitamin shop are in your building while your dentist, beauty salon and grocery store (they deliver!) are an easy walk. In some ways neighborhoods shaped by TOD strongly resemble older urban neighborhoods before the automobile, suburbs and strip malls became the norm.

To really understand the power of TOD, it’s important to understand the underlying principles or philosophy, if you will. One of the best descriptions of these principles comes from the Transit Oriented Development Institute.

The following 10 principles are general guidelines for planning TOD districts and neighborhoods. Densities, details, and design vary project by project depending on many factors including location, context, availability of redevelopment property, surrounding development, etc.

These 10 principles are a starting point for further work preparing specific local development plans working with the community.

  1. Put stations in locations with highest ridership potential and development opportunities
  2. Designate 1/2 mile radius around station as higher density, mixed-use, walkable development
  3. Create range of densities with highest at station, tapering down to existing neighborhoods
  4. Design station site for seamless pedestrian connections to surrounding development
  5. Create public plaza directly fronting one or more sides of the station building
  6. Create retail and cafe streets leading to station entrances along main pedestrian connections
  7. Reduce parking at station, site a block or two away, direct pedestrian flow along retail streets
  8. Enhance multi-modal connections, making transfers easy, direct, and comfortable
  9. Incorporate bikeshare, a comprehensive bikeway network, and large ride-in bike parking areas
  10. Use station as catalyst for major redevelopment of area and great place making around station

A couple of these jumped out at me. One was #7, which calls for putting parking a block or two away from the station. The clear intent here is to activate the streets and provide foot traffic to the businesses along the path.

Our TOD group’s focus is on Principle #10 “Use station as catalyst for major redevelopment of area and great place making around station”,  we know that redevelopment around the station areas is critical to the success of the rail system and a singular opportunity to create a more human, sustainable and connected lifestyle now and for the future.

It’s also instructive to look at TOD in other locales. From New York City to Seattle, TOD is changing the way we live. Here are some interesting examples:

Hudson Yards (NYC)  – this phenomenal project is a powerful demonstration of a public private partnership (PPP). The City of New York gave a 99-year ground lease to the master developer who is responsible for developing the area, adding transit stops and creating millions of square feet of modern residential and commercial space. While the scale is large, the principles are the same.

Lindbergh Center (Atlanta)  – Another example of a PPP with the master developer leasing the land from the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and creating a from-the-ground-up TOD project.

Orenco Station (Hillsboro, Oregon) – a case study of TOD applied in a suburban setting. Orenco Station has been around for more than 10 years which means there are reports and studies about quality of life, ridership and the overall satisfaction of residents.

In a future article I will discuss the vital importance for our community to embrace the power of the PPP. In my opinion, this will be a critical component to realizing the quality of life and connectivity that the rail project and TOD promises.

This entry was posted in: Transit-Oriented Development
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Project Lead for the Colliers Hawaii Transit-Oriented Development Group. The Honolulu Rail Transit project is underway and the time is now to work together to ensure that we have thriving communities that promote health, opportunity and sustainability for everyone. Now is the time to communicate and connect our visions for the future while working to make them happen.

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