Transit Oriented Development

IN BRIEF

Many of us live, work and access services in multiple communities. In a rural place like Vermont, driving is the most convenient and dependable transportation option. According to an American Association of Retired Persons’ report, 90 percent of Vermonters say they usually drive to their destinations, and 69 percent say they are on the road daily. In communities with increased public transportation options, people depend less on cars and become more physically active. Transit-oriented development, where commercial space, housing, services, and job opportunities are all sited close to public transportation, makes this possible.

SUMMARY

Transit oriented development is characterized by compact, mixed-use development within walking distance of transit stations or stops. The transit stations or stops – such as a historically rehabilitated train station or a covered haven designed to complement the neighborhood – are prominent features of town centers and can be weaved throughout the community, creating attractive, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly villages. With good connectivity and walkability, transit oriented development promotes active lifestyles and minimizes the need for cars.

Transit oriented development can provide numerous benefits for residents. Greater walkability and connectivity provides opportunities to easily fit physical activity into daily life resulting in improved health. With boosted transit ridership, there are shorter waits and more destinations are financially feasible. With increased public transit options, people will drive less, and reduce their maintenance costs. If people rely solely on public transportation, personal spending can be reduced by as much as $7,500 per year. Fewer cars on the road reduces traffic congestion and keeps the air cleaner, making neighborhoods safer and more pleasant. Together, this makes for an enhanced sense of place in the community and healthier, happier residents.

TRANSPORTATION COSTS $$Transportation is the second only to housing as one of largest expenditures for the average American household. In 2008, the average U.S. family spent 18% of their household expenditures on transportation, compared with 2% spent on education and 6% on health care, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Transit oriented development is an advantageous and economical choise, especially for rural communities. It reduces the need to build roads outside of the city center and keeps services, maintenance and infrastructure more compact and efficient. In rural Vermont, creating transit stations as a community feature is not always feasible. But main street communities have traditionally enjoyed a compact street design that facilitates walkable, bikeable access to a transportation hub. By establishing solid bus systems, communities can provide a foundation for the future of light rail systems and other similar transportation modes.

Smaller communities can develop with transportation in mind. Communities should look to increase density, brownfield redevelopment, and infill development, and also develop a partnership with their local transit providers. Consider how transit fits into each new development project and ensure proximity to stops and stations. Town development should widen mobility options particularly along routes with most movement. Add transit hubs and develop transit routes along the most active areas and near public buildings. Determining a mix of housing options in these areas can also provide a variety of housing types and price points.

Strategies to Consider
  • Increasing density makes transit accessible to more people and reduces costs by centralizing ridership.
  • Including mixed-use zones in transit oriented development makes services more accessible and provides developers with more options.
  • Linking neighborhoods with stops along sidewalks and pathways increases the familiarity and appeal of use.
  • Careful planning of a transit station or stop allows for changes in transportation modes over time.
  • Late night and early morning public transportation is safe and more desirable when developed in a central and well-populated area.
  • Carefully managed parking encourages visits to town centers and promotes activity and transit use.
  • Provide special amenities to encourage more people to cycle. For example, bike stations with bike repair, parking and rentals make cycling more attractive. At minimum, provide full-enclosure bike parking at stations and stops.
  • Introduce traffic calming measures to encourage people to walk and cycle, making them more likely to use public transit.

Communities should create a unified vision for an attractive town center and integrate transit and land use planning. Policy makers can adopt zoning overlays that provide density bonuses. Furthermore, property taxes, development fees and utility rates can be structured to reflect the lower public service costs of clustered, infill development.

Related Issues

Community Design
Housing For All
Health and Land Use
Physical Activity and Mobility Options
Transportation and Energy Use

Related Tools

Complete Streets
Mixed Use Development

Resources

Transit Oriented Development for Chittenden County.