By Nicole McCleary, AICP
TransPro Project Manager
When mid-century suburban sprawl gutted United States city neighborhoods, the shift of residents away from urban cores, caused transit use to plummet. Decades later, blighted urban corridors, traffic congestion due to car-dependent commuters, and other deleterious remnants of suburban sprawl are being reversed by Transit-Oriented Development (TOD).
Transit leaders today are sparking a sprawl of their own – based in TOD – to re-establish vibrant neighborhoods with robust networks of streets, sidewalks, and bicycle paths with convenient access to transit stations.
Successful TOD breathes life into urban corridors and creates a domino effect of community value.
By its very nature, TOD done right boosts community and economic activity, while expanding transit demand. Anchored by a public transit hub, TOD projects uniquely manage land use to further establish or create “sense of place” environments for equitable mixed-use and walkable streetscapes. TOD intentionally results in desirable community value perks like:
- Reduced traffic congestion and carbon emissions
- Improved access to vibrant mixed-use communities for living, work, and recreation
- New housing starts
Effective TOD “sprawl” requires a high level of planning – both strategically and financially. Whether an urban, regional, or suburban TOD project, it is essential for transit customers and community stakeholders to be involved in planning and vision work long before a shovel goes into the ground. Based on our many years of experience in survey work, we know there are valuable insights to be gained by customers, and their input helps create truly successful TOD endeavors. Many project grants and funding resources are incumbent upon community engagement for a reason. Those living in the area have a pulse on what the area needs.
A great example of TOD done right can be found in Charlotte, NC where TOD is designed to encourage the development of moderate to high-intensity, mixed-use urban neighborhoods near transit stations. People can live, work, shop, dine and enjoy cultural/recreational opportunities and a range of mobility choices with easy access between the city’s uptown and midtown neighborhoods.
Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) has prioritized TOD projects through the formation of a separate non-profit organization (Ride KC Development Corporation). The corporation’s mission is to champion mixed-used development that will bring transit demand to the heart of downtown Kansas City along with office space, retail and dining venues, and affordable housing. The corporation, which is currently collaborating with partners on several multi-million-dollar TOD initiatives, also established its own evaluation criteria, a move certain to fast-track efforts to identify future TOD projects, development partners, and funding resources.