Transit Oriented Development

Strategies to Promote Vibrant Communities

Maryland could strengthen its efforts to control sprawl and provide a high quality of life for the state's residents by encouraging more transit-oriented development near rail stations.

Maryland could strengthen its efforts to control sprawl and provide a high quality of life for the state’s residents by encouraging more transit-oriented development near rail stations.

Transit-oriented development (TOD) – characterized by residential units alongside or above stores, restaurants, and offices and a design that allows residents to choose between walking, driving, or riding transit – offers an attractive alternative to sprawling residential suburbs and mega-malls that are accessible only by car.

TOD is valuable to individuals, developers, and local governments. For example, a study that reviewed the value of bulidings solely by their proximity to rail stations found that office buildings in Dallas located close to rail stations increased in taxable value by 25 percent from 1997 to 2001, compared to a 12 percent increase for comparable properties farther away.

Focusing shops, offices, parks, and homes within walking distance of rail stations provides significant returns, including urban revitalization, improved quality of life, and an increased tax base. Cities across the country have tapped into the potential of their rail systems by promoting transit-oriented development.

– Arlington, Virginia siezed the opportunity presented by construction of two Metro rail lines in 1980 to revitalize commercial areas and neighborhoods. By locating rail stations in existing neighborhoods, zoning the surrounding area for high-intensity use, an creating a separate identity for each station, Arlington has increased in population by 26 percent countywide and collects one-third of its property tax revenue from the 7 percent of its land that is near rail stations.

– Coordination by the transit agency and state, county, and local governments in Portland, Oregon, to promote TOD has led to $3 billion in development next to both urban and suburban rail stations. Property tax exemptions and low requirements for providing parking have also helped to encourage TOD.

– Rail-oriented development in the Dallas region has been spurred by tax increment financing and impact fee waivers offered by the city of Plano and by an effort by Dallas Area Rapid Transit to simplify coordination between the transit agency, local governments, and developers.

Maryland has many opportunites for constructing TOD in both urban and suburban settings.

– Prince George’s County has room to accomodate new residents and businesses: over 3,000 acres of land within half a mile of Metro stations is currently undeveloped or under-developed.

– The Baltimore region has 46 rail stations, twenty of which currently offer parking. That space could be developed to some more intensive use with parking incorporated into the project.

-Adding rail lines or extending existing systems would add rail stations around which to focus development. In Baltimore, the proposed system expansion would create over 60 more stations. The Inner Purple Line near Washington, D.C. would add at least seven stations, and the Corridor Cities Transitway could add more.

Taking advantage of the potential of transit-oriendted development in Maryland will require focused effort by local governments, the state, and transit agencies.

Local governments should begin by creating a TOD coordinator position, someone who will help direct the efforts of the multiple agencies that are involved in TOD projects and aid developers with the many hurdles present in a mixed residential and retail infill development. In addition, local governments should:

– Include TOD visions and zoning in all long-term growth plans and establish programs to coordinate development and support TOD-serving improvements.

– Reach out to communities to help them recognize the many forms that TOD can take to fit community characteristics and incorporate neighborhood feedback about capturing the greatest benefit from TOD.

– Request, and take advantage of, expertise and resources available from the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), which has a broad range of tools to support growth in transit station areas and to help communites achieve appropriate and beneficial development. MDOT’s tools range from supporting streetscape improvements on state highways to planning TOD and implementation strategies.

Transit agencies should:

– Facilitiate acquisition of sufficient developable land around rail stops by leasing transit agency-owned land, by helping developers consolidate small parcels or by creating a partnership of all the property owners who would be involved in a development.

– Minimize the impact of the parking constructed to serve a rail station. When parking structures are needed to replace surface spaces lost to redevelopment, transit agencies should ensure that parking facilities are integrated into the overall TOD plan, support pedestrian access, and enhance the project’s overall value, and should keep parking construction costs low by requiring the minimum number of spaces and promoting shared use of parking space by commuters, residents, and shoppers.

– Consider the TOD potential of station locations when planning the route of future rail lines.

The state should:

– Build on MDOT’s demonstrated capabilities in promoting local TOD-supportive initiatives by expanding resources available to promote TOD at existing stations and help communities build successful projects.

– Strongly support the Priority Places Strategy, which designates sites within priority funding areas to receive focused state attention and resources to spur development. In selecting Priority Places from candidate locations, the Maryland Department of Planning should give priority to applications that have TOD elemetns.

– Commit to locating all state offices, whether in leased or purchased buildings, at transit-accessible sites as existing leases expire.

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