Defining Clear Standards for Transit-Oriented Development

Vienna Town Center Plan

» A new report attempts to quantify the relative merits of development near transit. What value can this tool bring for planners?

Transportation and land use are inextricably linked. Building a new rail line may expand development; new development may expand use of a rail line. The direct connection between the two makes differentiating between cause and effect difficult to measure. Transportation planners frequently make the argument that a new investment will produce new riders, for example, but whether those riders would have come anyway is not a simple question to answer. There is no counter-factual.

Nevertheless, planners have invested decades of considerable work in the pursuit of transit-oriented development (TOD), under the presumption that clustering new housing, offices, and retail will result in rising transit use and, in turn, reduce pollution, cut down on congestion, and improve quality of life. There remains some controversy about the effectiveness of TOD investments

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Where There Were Once Many Lines Planned, Just One Opens in Miami

MIA Metrorail Station

» The failure of a local sales tax to produce revenues as expected should dampen excitement around the latest extension of Miami’s Metrorail system.

Last week, Georgia voters overwhelmingly denied the passage of the T-SPLOST referendum, which, among other things, would have provided $7.2 billion for transportation over the next ten years to the Atlanta region thanks to income from a 1¢ sales tax. About half of that funding would have gone to public transit operations and expansion; in the city of Atlanta itself, the program would have paid for the beginning of work on the Beltline transit corridor, a light rail line to Emory University, several BRT lines, and a MARTA heavy rail extension. Voters were clearly unconvinced of the value of the transportation investments, were motivated by anti-tax sentiment, and felt that the projects would not benefit them directly. The result may be decades of increasing

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In an Atlanta Desperate for More Transit Options, New Rail Plans for Eastern Suburbs

Atlanta-2012-Update

» After considerable disagreement over the value of funding rail extensions to Southern DeKalb County, the MARTA transit agency board endorses the project — despite a lack of funding.

Solving regional disagreements in the Atlanta way, apparently, means making sure that anyone who makes a loud enough stink gets a piece of an expanding pie. Even if the pie isn’t expanding.

The Atlanta Region Commission (ARC) is already fighting to convince a skeptical electorate of the necessity of increasing the local sales tax to pay for transportation improvement projects — an issue that will be put before voters on July 31. The Transportation Investment Act (TIA) would raise the sales tax across regional counties by 1% over the course of 10 years. ARC’s announced list of priority investments would bring new rail and bus links throughout the region thanks to more than $8.5 billion expected to be raised

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In the Atlanta Region, Disagreements about Investment Priorities Spur Discord Over a Planned Transit Tax

MARTA

» DeKalb County NAACP announces intention to attempt to thwart passage of transit tax this summer.

Getting the residents of the 10-county Atlanta region to agree on anything was always going to be a difficult effort. The newest controversy about which projects to fund with a new sales tax there raises questions about what to do when a lot of money is available for transit — but there isn’t enough for every proposed project.

Back in 1971, when MARTA was formed to run Atlanta’s new federally funded rail system, the agency — and its dedicated funding stream — were restricted to  Fulton and DeKalb Counties, which surround the City of Atlanta and which sit at the center of the region. At the time, those counties represented about 70% of the region’s population of 1.5 million, so restricting adequate public transportation in those areas was perhaps an acceptable compromise in an area of

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In Atlanta and Seattle, Hope for Better Transit Through Referendums

Seattle Streetcar

» Recognizing the limitations of federal  aid, local leaders in Atlanta and Seattle propose tax increases or additional fees to improve the quality of their transit networks.

Despite the skepticism about the importance of government spending now enthralling Washington on both sides of the aisle, the perceived value of investing local resources in public facilities such as new transit lines seems only to be ramping up.

Take Atlanta and Seattle, sitting at the helm of the nation’s 9th and 15th-largest metropolitan areas, respectively. In the first, a regional initiative supported by political and business leaders across a ten-county area will advance a 1% sales tax to the ballot next November. Over half of the billions in locally raised funds is proposed to be transferred to transit capital and operational programs. In the second, an enthusiastic mayor is articulating a grand, citywide strategy to bring high-quality transit to his city as quickly as possible. If approved

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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