December 9, 2014
Transit-Oriented Development No Panacea
The Government Accountability Office issued a report, Multiple Factors Influence Extent of Transit-Oriented Development. The GAO writes that
From 2004 to 2014, FTA [Federal Transit Administration] allocated $18.9 billion to build new or expanded transit systems through the Capital Investment Grant program. One of the key goals for many local governments when planning major capital-transit projects is to encourage transit-oriented development as a way to focus future regional population growth along transit corridors. Transit-oriented development is generally described as a compact and “walkable” neighborhood near transit with a mix of residential and commercial uses.
GAO was asked to examine transit-oriented development. This report addresses (1) the extent to which transit-oriented development has occurred near select transit lines that received federal funds and the factors and local policies that affect transit-oriented development, and (2) the extent to which FTA considers factors related to the potential for transit-oriented development when assessing proposed projects and the extent to which FTA’s assessment of these factors is consistent with the factors that local stakeholders told GAO affect a project’s results. To address these issues, GAO reviewed relevant literature and visited six federally funded case study transit projects in Baltimore, MD; Washington, DC; Charlotte, NC; Santa Clara County, CA; San Francisco, CA; and Houston, TX, selected for diversity in local programs, markets, and geography. During these visits, GAO met with stakeholders, such as local officials and developers. GAO also interviewed FTA officials. In commenting on a draft of this report, DOT noted FTA’s longstanding commitment to encourage transit-oriented development.
The GAO’s findings are quite mixed, but it did note that “many of the factors or local government policies that supported or hindered transit-oriented development are generally consistent with FTA’s summary assessment for economic development and land use.” Some promote transit-oriented design as a panacea for what ails American communities and others argue that we are too developed and too dispersed for it to make much of a difference in how we live and work. This report does not really move the debate one way or the other, but it does provide some interesting case studies that can help to inform the debate.| Permalink