TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN JOB LOCATION.

Author:Nelson, Arthur C.
 
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TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction 1080 I. TODs and Job Attraction 1084 II. Analytic Approach 1087 III. Light Rail Transit Job Location Results 1091 IV. Bus Rapid Transit Job Location Results 1094 V. Streetcar Transit Job Location Results 1097 Conclusion 1099 INTRODUCTION

Between 2015 and 2050, more than two-thirds of all nonresidential development will be redeveloped or otherwise repurposed. (1) Outside most of the largest metropolitan areas, such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C., fixed-guideway transit systems in the U.S. are in their infancy. As existing systems are expanded and new ones added, it is important for transit system decision-makers to assure that transit investments generate economically and politically acceptable rates of return.

As this large-scale redevelopment unfolds, consider transportation trends of the past century. Urban America's transportation systems were transformed during the twentieth century. At the turn of the twentieth century, streetcars, horses, and walking dominated personal transportation. (2) Only America's largest cities, such as Boston, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, had heavy-rail or subway systems. (3) Automobiles were expensive and not accessible to the mass market. (4) Between the middle 1910s and middle 1920s, the cost of automobiles dropped precipitously through assembly line production efficiencies, but even through the Second World War, much of urban America depended on public transit to get around. Many larger cities also saw the rise of long-distance commuter rail systems allowing some affluent workers to live in rural Pennsylvania, for example, and commute through New Jersey to Manhattan, New York City. (5) However, America's transportation systems and landscape changed after World War II. America transitioned from an urban nation to a suburban nation, where the automobile supplanted public transit as the chief means of mobility, as shown in Figure 1. (6) This transformation fueled the phenomenon known as "urban sprawl." (7)

This figure shows the change in transit ridership, population, and automobile ownership relative to 1925. The five trends (population, automobile registrations, streetcar/light rail, rapid rail transit, and bus ridership) now are presented as ratios to their 1925 levels. For example, in 1950, bus ridership was about six times its level in 1925. On the other hand, by 1950, streetcar ridership had dropped to a fraction of its 1925 level. (9)

The last decades of the twentieth century into the first decades of the twenty-first century saw a subtle but important shift in Americans' preferences in transportation mode, mainly in their choice to use automobile or transit chosen for such destinations as work or shopping. This shift may or may not signal longer-term changes in urban development patterns. The shift is occasioned by the rise of several kinds of fixed-guide way transit ("FGT") systems outside America's largest metropolitan areas. They include light rail transit ("LRT"), bus rapid transit ("BRT"), and streetcar transit ("SCT") systems, among others. (10) Importantly, Figure 2 illustrates the growth in the use of FGT systems, and change in the vehicle miles traveled by automobiles, compared to population growth between 2003 and 2014. Between those years, America's population grew by nearly ten percent; however, the nation's total automobile miles traveled by all passengers grew by less than five percent, while the nation's total FGT miles traveled by all passengers grew by about thirty-three percent. (11) To be sure, more than eighty-eight percent of all personal miles traveled in the U.S. are still via automobile. (12) But the shift toward FGT use is noticeable.

The shift toward FGT use also signals important changes in the distribution of America's jobs and people. This Article explores the reasons for these changes by examining the change in total jobs and jobs by economic group attracted to transit-oriented developments ("TODs") from the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008 into the early years of recovery through 2011. The analysis presented in this Article is based on work sponsored by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities. (14)

Further, this Article analyzes several LRT, BRT, and SCT systems operating before the Great Recession to assess change in development outcomes with respect to those systems during and after the recession. LRT systems studied include those in the Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis, Portland (Oregon), Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Seattle metropolitan areas. (15) SCT systems evaluated include those located in the cities of Portland (Oregon), Tacoma, and Tampa. BRT systems assessed include those in the Cleveland, Eugene-Springfield, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake City metropolitan areas, and the Bronx in the New York City metropolitan area. (16) In sum, this Article presents new empirical research that should guide transit station area planning efforts to midcentury and beyond.

  1. TODs AND JOB ATTRACTION

    TODs are an old concept, but their application to shaping development patterns is fairly new. During the late nineteenth century, private development interests in partnership with local governments extended urban streetcars into suburbs, creating "streetcar suburbs." (17) These private developers assembled suburban land and financed streetcar extensions from cities to their newly planned suburban communities. (18) Within roughly one quarter to one half mile of a typical streetcar suburb station stood some convenience retail and service functions with nearby low-rise attached homes, surrounded by homes on detached lots. (19) Though subways were built in several eastern cities from the late nineteenth century into the middle of the twentieth, it was not until new subway systems were built in the Washington, D.C. and San Francisco Bay areas that public interest arose in using planning to guide development around transit stations, especially in the suburbs. For instance, during the 1960s and through the 1980s, Arlington, Virginia choreographed land use and facility plans to focus high-density housing, high-rise offices, and service activities within one quarter mile of metropolitan Washington, D.C.'s Metro rail system stations, which traversed the center of the county. This was called the "bull's-eye" approach to metro rail transit station area planning. (20)

    It was not until the early 1990s when the role of transit station area planning in shaping metropolitan development patterns was appreciated fully. Pioneering thinking was advanced by Peter Calthorpe, who arguably coined the term TOD. He defined a TOD as a "mixed-use community within an average 2,000-foot walking distance of a transit stop and core commercial area. TODs mix residential, retail, office, open space, and public uses in a walkable environment, making it convenient for residents and employees to travel by transit, bicycle, foot, or car." (21) Moreover, to Calthorpe, TODs represent a reversal of history especially since the end of the Second World War. He wrote, "[t]he principles [for TODs] may seem radical and familiar at the same time. Making such changes would reverse forty years of planning that put cars ahead of pedestrians, put private space before public, put segregation and isolation of uses before integrated diversity." (22) TOD planning has evolved considerably over the past quarter-century. The concept is now extended to LRT and BRT systems, as well as streetcars serving infill and redevelopment areas, and the occasional commuter rail station. (23) Increasingly, TOD planning often extends to one half mile and beyond.

    The question that planners must confront is how TODs should influence development. Literature shows that cities and the metropolitan areas around them are formed and grow in large part by creating agglomeration economies. (24) Technically, the term means increased production within a specified geographical area resulting in a decline in average cost. (25) As more firms in related sectors cluster together, productivity increases and costs of production fall. These economies can spill over into complementary sectors, thereby creating even more jobs. (26) Cities can become ever larger as economies of agglomeration are exploited. (27) Transportation improvements make it possible to reduce transportation times, increasing the size of market areas and the effective size of industrial clusters. But congestion can result if traffic expands because of agglomeration effects, thereby exceeding transportation facility with resulting decreases in worker productivity. (28) Highway projects have been shown to induce this negative change in metropolitan form, and at a net cost to society. (29) Because firm location follows residential relocation, changes in firm location may not be temporally traceable to specific highway projects. (30) However, if one presumes the urban rent curve to be a proxy for accessibility, any transportation improvement having a metropolitan-area effect will increase land values near those improvements and perhaps lower it in places with less accessibility such as distant suburbs and exurbs. Thus, firm location in a metropolitan area is a sort of slow-motion equilibrium assignment process. In a static or stagnant economy, any transportation improvement will just shuffle jobs (and housing) around. (31)

    More recent research shows that the degree of suburbanization significantly varies within metropolitan regions in accordance with variations in population de-concentration drivers, such as socioeconomic segregation, and sub-regional growth factors, such as suburban activity centers. (32) Thus, the preservation and creation of new agglomeration economies within metropolitan regions varies considerably and can be influenced by policy decisions such as transit investments....

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