» Coupling real estate investment with the construction of new transit lines is the future, but the conditions need to be right.
Public development and ownership of the transportation system in the United States provided some broad, important social benefits that would not have been possible had our governments left it in the hands of the private sector. The downfall of the public transit and rail industries between the 1930s and 1970s throughout the country (itself partly a consequence of government investment in roads) was due to the fact that those services were no longer profitable. Government intervention through takeover of bankrupt lines kept those services operating and ensured the continuing existence of what is truly an essential public service in our major metropolitan areas.
Yet with the governments takeover of transit services, our regions lost a powerful skill that private transportation providers a century ago used well: Connecting new development with transit investments. The history of
Continue reading How broadly applicable is the All Aboard Florida development strategy? »
» 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
Continue reading Defining Clear Standards for Transit-Oriented Development »
» Streetcar projects promise new development along their rights-of-way. But cities must allow new transit-oriented buildings to be built nearby. A look at St. Louis and Portland.
In the United States, streetcars have assumed a dramatic new prominence, in part because of increasing federal support. In dozens of cities, new lines are under construction, funded, or in planning thanks to local political leadership that recognizes the benefits of such investments in relatively cheap new rail lines. While streetcars are typically not the most efficient mobility providers — compared to light rail lines and often even buses, they are slower and more likely to be caught in traffic — they are promoted as development tools. Streetcars, it is said, will bring new construction and the densification of districts that are served by the new rail lines.
But streetcars alone aren’t enough to spur construction of residential and commercial buildings in neighborhoods with
Continue reading Don’t Forget the Zoning »
» A review of twenty one metropolitan areas shows that most are seeing an increasing percentage of their population growth — or a decreasing percentage of their loss — in their core counties.
Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual population estimates for counties as of July 2011. These data provide significant insight into changing population trends in the United States, and the results offer considerable support for the argument that the country’s growth is moving back into its cities, at least to some degree.
National coverage of the data release focused on the fact that the data showed a significant drop in residents moving to exurban counties at the edge of metropolitan areas. The massive creation of housing at the far reaches of regions appears to have slowed to a trickle, and even the movement of the population from Northeastern and Midwest metropolitan areas to Southern and Western areas
Continue reading In New Census Data, An Improved Outlook For Core Counties »
» Ryan Avent’s The Gated City provides insight into the workings of the urban economy, but its proposals to increase the supply of housing in the country’s biggest cities are unreasonable.
Ryan Avent’s new book, The Gated City, provides one of the most readable summaries of urban economics available; for that alone, the book is more than worth its low price. In highlighting the work of Edward Glaeser among others, this author shows how the density of metropolitan regions can play an essential role in increasing the productivity of workers and expand the economy in general. It is Avent’s quite plausible thesis that the great American suburbanization of the past fifty years contributed to the economic circumstances in which we now find ourselves — with an economy seemingly incapable of growth — because of an inability (or unwillingness) to cash in on the benefits of urban density, which encourages higher
Continue reading Dismantling Democracy to Fight NIMBYism »