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June 22, 2009

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APTA RAIL CONFERENCE COVERAGE

Transit-Oriented Development: Defined by Green Stewardship
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Transit-oriented development (TOD) refers to a number of policies intended to bring together residential, business, and retail spaces in proximity to a public transportation station or hub.  As presented by experts from throughout North America at a June 16 session, however, that broad definition covered many different techniques for planning and economic development.

G.B. Arrington, co-chair of the APTA Land Use and Economic Development Subcommittee and principal practice leader with Parsons Brinckerhoff, gave a presentation on the Tysons Corner redevelopment project in Northern Virginia as well as moderated the session.

According to Arrington, Tysons Corner—located halfway between Washington, DC, and Dulles International Airport—is “arguably America’s largest TOD project” and “the original edge city, an example of sprawl on steroids.” The Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (Metro) plans to open four new Metrorail stations in the area by 2013 as part of a plan to transform an office and shopping region into a walkable, mixed-use downtown area.

“When we started with the process, the questions were: where do we put the growth? How do we want to go? What can we do to make TOD work?” Arrington said.

Within the Tysons plan, 95 percent of new growth will be located within a three-minute walk of transit, either Metro or a proposed shuttle service, he noted. Another change from the current overbuilt area will be the addition of 160 acres of new parks and more than 80,000 new residential units.

“When we’re done transforming Tysons, it will be one of the 10 largest downtowns in the U.S.,” Arrington stated. “It will be a place where people want to live, defined by green stewardship: the civic heart of Northern Virginia.”

Curvie Hawkins Jr., director of planning for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) in Fort Worth, TX, and Tim Baldwin, AICP, vice president of URS Corporation, reported on The T’s plans for commuter rail on a southwest-to-northwest corridor running from southwest Fort Worth and the north end of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Service is scheduled to begin in 2013, operating on existing freight rail lines.

Hawkins emphasized the role of the five affected jurisdictions in the planning process. When the line enters service, he said, it will help The T cope with ongoing population growth: the region gained 185,000 residents—equal to the population of Salt Lake City—between 2000 and 2009, and both population and county employment are projected to climb 41 percent by 2030.

“The new line will focus on serving activity centers rather than the traditional commuter,” he added. The line will cover Texas Christian University, the Medical District, downtown Fort Worth, the city’s Stockyards district, and the city of Grapevine en route to the airport.

“Our purpose,” Baldwin added, “was not to dictate land use decisions or tell cities how to develop around stations. We wanted to work with the corridor cities to explore their TOD potential—if they wanted it. Our aim was to increase long-term ridership.”

Art Washuta, regional vice president for AECOM, and Brad Smid, an employee of the city of Edmonton, AB, spoke about the ongoing expansion of light rail in the city, which began with a 6.9-kilometer line in 1978. When the newest extension opens in April 2010, Edmonton will have 20.5 km of light rail.

Washuta explained that Edmonton, the oil capital of Canada, has only 3,000 people per square mile; in contrast, Chicago has 13,000 people per square mile.

Heather Tabbert, AICP, program manager, special programs, for Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), described how transit overseen by her agency serves about eight million residents in a six-county area. RTA has four major TOD-related initiatives: planning programs, a regional working group, implementation action items, and a White Paper on value capture strategies.

The key elements in all of RTA’s local TOD studies must be realistic and implementable, said Tabbert. They must incorporate residential, office, and retail market analysis, and be developed with the help of the public.

Another region considering TOD is the South Coast area near Boston, which includes 31 cities and towns. Kristina Egan, South Coast rail manager for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation, noted plans are underway for a commuter rail corridor in that region.

“The rail line will provide mobility benefits, and also job access benefits,” she said. “It will give residents of this area access to the strong job market in the Boston area, while also creating jobs closer to home.”

 

G.B. Arrington, standing left, moderates the June 16 session on TOD challenges and opportunities. Panelists include, seated from left, Curvie Hawkins Jr., Tim Baldwin, Heather Tabbert, and Kristina Egan. Not shown are Art Washuta and Brad Smid.
Photo by Brian Oh



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