What is Transit Oriented Development?

October 11, 2007 10 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville explains what our own transit authority can't: Transit Oriented Development.

Is It Really TOD? (Patrick Siegman, in Tumlin and Millard-Ball, 2003)

What’s the difference between a true transit-oriented development, which will deliver promised social and economic benefits, and a transit-adjacent development? A true TOD will include most of the following:

• The transit-oriented development lies within a five-minute walk of the transit stop, or about a quarter-mile from stop to edge. For major stations offering access to frequent high-speed service this catchment area may be extended to the measure of a 10-minute walk.

• A balanced mix of uses generates 24-hour ridership. There are places to work, to live, to learn, to relax and to shop for daily needs.

• A place-based zoning code generates buildings that shape and define memorable streets, squares, and plazas, while allowing uses to change easily over time.

• The average block perimeter is limited to no more than 1,350 feet. This generates a fine-grained network of streets, dispersing traffic and allowing for the creation of quiet and intimate thoroughfares.

• Minimum parking requirements are abolished.

• Maximum parking requirements are instituted: For every 1,000 workers, no more than 500 spaces and as few as 10 spaces are provided.

• Parking costs are “unbundled,” and full market rates are charged for all parking spaces. The exception may be validated parking for shoppers.

• Major stops provide BikeStations, offering free attended bicycle parking, repairs, and rentals. At minor stops, secure and fully enclosed bicycle parking is provided.

• Transit service is fast, frequent, reliable, and comfortable, with a headway of 15 minutes or less.

• Roadway space is allocated and traffic signals timed primarily for the convenience of walkers and cyclists.

• Automobile level-of-service standards are met through congestion pricing measures, or disregarded entirely.

• Traffic is calmed, with roads designed to limit speed to 30 mph on major streets and 20 mph on lesser streets.



Transit-Adjacent Development (TAD):

A TAD is a development that is in close proximity to transit, but with a design that has not been significantly influenced by it. This is in contrast to TOD, where transit is a central design feature.


Applying the terminology and design aspects locally


1. Kings Avenue Station

Kings Avenue Station is a great urban infill project, but despite JTA's claims, its not a good example of "Transit Oriented Development".  Here's why...


The Kings Avenue Station site is located just South of I-95 (highlighted in red).  The Kings Avenue Skyway station is located North of I-95.  Although the nearby parking garage is attached to the Skyway by a two block long elevated sidewalk, there's nothing special about the location, design, or use that centers this development around transit. 

This is what one would call a "Transit ADJACENT Development", due to it being located near a transit stop.  In reality, it's no more of a TOD than Morton's Steakhouse, BB's or Riverplace Tower.


2. Laura Street Business Center

This project has been billed as the second "TOD" for downtown.  However, like the first, it has no more to do with the nearby skyway station than the FCCJ Campus or First Baptist Church properties located next door.


The project's site development plan shows that it has no relation whatsoever with the Rosa Parks/FCCJ Skyway station next door.  Instead of embracing transit and incorporating its activities into the design, it completely ignores it and focuses on State and Union Streets.  While it's great to get rid of surface parking lots, this project would classify, once again, as a "Transit ADJACENT Development".


So What is Transit ORIENTED Development?


3. Emeryville Station Plaza

The largest difference between this project and our local "TODs" is the fact that transit becomes the central element of the development's design, as opposed to being conveniently located nearby. 


All in all, Emeryville Station Plaza consists of 450,000 square feet of office space, 30,000 square feet of retail and 101 condominiums, with a rail station in the center connecting the development's users to major cities in the metropolitan area.


Why should we care?

Because we're being sold a bill of goods.  As many communities have proven, Transit Oriented Developments can transform large sections of neighborhoods.  Unfortunately, according to Professor Graham Currie's Strengths and Weakness of Bus in Relation to Transit Oriented Development ( http://patrec.org/conferences/TODJuly2005/papers/Currie Paper V1.3.pdf ), its proven that little is known about the impacts of Bus TOD's (BTOD) and that BRT does not have as long a record in spurring TODs, as rail (section 3.13 Track Record). 

It also goes on to say that its more difficult to implement successful BTODs in America then Rail TOD's (RTOD), thus BTOD's require an extra layer of sound planning and strong local leadership and intervention. (section 3.5 Industry TOD Capabilities).  In Jacksonville, we fall short in this category, meaning we're already starting at a disadvantage with an unproven theory (Bus Transit Oriented Development).

French Creek Center in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania is an example of a true "Transit Oriented Development".  This development is the infusion of an entire neighborhood, centered around a proposed commuter rail stop, on what was once an abandoned iron and steel mill.  A site that was once a poster child for the post-industrial age of the Rust Belt now becomes some of the most valuable property in the community. 

Until Jacksonville's city and transit planners understand and embrace the concept of a true TOD, our community won't see developments like this, which can revive neighborhoods, such as the Northside, from blight and stagnation to economic powerhouses.  Instead, that potential will continue to be overlooked by smaller "transit ADJACENT developments" that fill up a block, as opposed to an entire district.