By Scott Hansen, MDP Transportation Planning, & David Whitaker, AICP, MDP Communications
Owning a parcel near transit can open a wealth of development opportunities. Yet, how to achieve the most benefits from those locations can be a challenge. Transit-oriented development (TOD) is not any type of growth occurring near transit station. Instead, TOD features a well-designed and relatively high intensity of mixed land uses within a comfortable walk of a rail or bus transit station.
The 2011 report by the Center For Transit Oriented Development, “Rails to Real Estate: Development Patterns along Three New Transit Lines” indicated transit alone won’t create a strong market for compact, mixed-use development, but if a location has a good, walkable grid and enough people living along the line are seeking better access to jobs and services along the transit line, it can spur TOD activity.
What tools can landowners and developers use to assess TOD potential and assist its planning and implementation? In July, the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) introduced “Planning Tools for Transit Oriented Development,” a comprehensive online planning and implementation resource to support TOD efforts with data and success stories that can drive proposals and facilitate the development process. This new resource provides a one-stop shop for planners, developers, elected officials, residents and those looking to advance TOD in their jurisdictions.
The TOD website features a profile tool, a versatile, searchable data source that outlines and describes station area demographics, employment data, transit use, and land use and development projects, as well as TOD policies, programs and implementation efforts for each of the 108 rail transit stations in Maryland. For those
researching potential TOD sites, the profile tool provides detailed snapshots of conditions around each station, allowing users to explore development activity and conduct in-depth research about existing conditions around every Metro and MARC station in Maryland.
The TOD profile tool uses Maryland’s latest iMap version 2.0, which improves navigation and overall user experience. The scalable map varies from a statewide view to station level, available via an easy zoom tool with aerial, street-level and other views. Specific details are available for each station area, including any Census block group that touches the one-half mile buffer.
For each station, area MDP provides:
- Demographics (source: U.S. 2010 Census and 2008 – 2012 American Community Survey)
- Employment (source: US Census’ 2012 Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics)
- Station Ridership (source: Maryland Department of Transportation), Land Use and Zoning (source: Maryland Department of Planning’s Land Use and Generalized Zoning)
- Local TOD policies and regulations
- Map, including landmark features and bike trails (source: Maryland Department of Transportation)
When a user opens the tool, he or she will see a central Maryland view plus a left column displaying contents and a help function. Contents — transit stations, transit lines, boundaries for Sustainable Communities and Priority Funding Areas, bike trails, and land use/land cover — can be turned on or off. The transparency of the image can be adjusted as well.
Rounding out the TOD resource are summaries of best practices to support creative development projects. From Aberdeen’s downtown to Washington, D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, the best practice summaries describe how local officials and planners created – or are in the process of creating – an optimal environment for TOD.
The benefits of TOD go beyond getting people out of cars and onto transit. The best TOD makes better communities through great design, improves public health by increasing options for walking and cycling, maximizes return on public investment in transit, reduces air pollution and energy consumption, and promotes compact development on less land.
Planning Tools for Transit Oriented Development is the 30th installment in MDP’s Models & Guidelines series that educates local government officials and planners about managing Maryland’s growth.