Resources and Tools
On July 1, 2019, The Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) is announcing the official launch of an exciting new online tool designed to both assist professionals in the planning process around transit stations – transportation “nodes” or “activity centers” in industry lingo – as well as to take some of the guesswork out of development trends spurred by these planning efforts for groups such as real estate agents, developers, investors, and even prospective homebuyers.
The Transit Station Area Profile Tool (TSAPT) was developed by Planning in partnership with the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to take advantage of the wealth of available demographic, employment, land use, transit use, ridership, home sales, and other data from otherwise disparate sources. The TSAPT makes what would be an unwieldy amount of data more accessible and manipulable by a wide variety of stakeholders involved in different aspects and stages of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) activities. The tool also includes information about designated state, local, and regional TOD policies, programs, best practices, and current implementation efforts.
“The TSAPT makes researching potential TOD sites and TOD planning easier by providing detailed snapshots of various socio-economic planning conditions around every Metro, MARC and light rail station in Maryland, enabling users to explore and analyze information from a number of different data sources simultaneously,” says Scott Hansen, Transportation Planner and principal architect of the TSAPT.
Some of the sources of the data include: MTA and WMATA Transit Access and Egress and Survey data; MDP Land Use Land Cover data; Maryland Property View, Residential Sales data; American Community Survey data; Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) data; among others. Data source and methodology information is provided via hyperlinked pdf documents (in white text) at the bottom of each chart (when users click on any of the source titles, it will open a pdf file containing a description as well as additional links.)
The state of Maryland defines TOD as “dense, mixed-use, deliberately planned development within a half-mile of existing or planned transit stations that is designed to maximize the use of transit, walking and bicycling, and is supported by state and local government.”
TOD is a dynamic area of planning practice on the rise in Maryland and across the U.S., as it provides an opportunity to leverage smart growth strategies aimed at encouraging thoughtful economic development, reducing sprawl and maximizing the return on existing transit investment. Thus, TOD plans typically incorporate a variety of design elements and placemaking techniques to create communities that include: pedestrian-friendly or “walkable” communities including a healthy mix of different housing types; retail and commercial spaces and institutional anchors such as banks, libraries, colleges or universities and medical centers; and recreational and passive open spaces. All are centered around a rail station or,preferably a multi-modal transportation node or activity center.
Onscreen, users will find the map-driven TSAPT reveals a profile of each transit station in an easy-to-use dashboard interface. The image below represents what users will see when they arrive at the Transit Station Area Profile Tool for the first time — an interactive map of central Maryland’s rail network surrounded by several charts which respond to the location of interest a user selects on the map.
To be consistent with the state’s TOD boundary definition, the TSAPT uses a one-half-mile radius catchment area to capture socioeconomic and other data. The socioeconomic data captured within the radius is a combination of the data from each census tract that appears within it. which can vary considerably. The TSAPT is fundamentally a planning tool, thus if more detailed data is required for a community or individual neighborhoods, a user may need to narrow down to a finer level of detail. Planning will assist with any data inquiries as needed.
There are several ways to access information on the TSAPT. Users can type in a station name or address in the search bar located in the upper right-hand corner of the map; select a station or several stations through the filter icon in the upper left-hand corner of the map; or simply pan and zoom using their mouse.
For example, when a user zooms or selects the Branch Avenue Metro station in Prince George’s County, the station is highlighted on the map and the WMATA ridership, station access by mode, generalized zoning, and land use land cover charts populate with information.
Every station profile is organized into four categories; each having its own tab: Transit and Land Use, Socioeconomics, Employment, and Median Housing Sales Price. Users access the information by clicking the tab for one of these categories near the top of the page.
The TSAPT also features various map layers, such as Transit Lines and Station Locations, State Designated TOD Areas, Priority Funding Areas (PFAs), Opportunity Zones, Land Use and Land Cover, and Generalized Zoning, among others. When a layer is displayed in bright white text, that layer is visible on the map; when in gray, it is not visible for the selected area. Additional layers can be found by scrolling through the drop-down menu using the light gray scroll bar on the right.
In addition to the data-focused tabs and map layers, the Help tab provides answers to frequently asked questions and the Survey tab contains a brief survey to capture user feedback. The MDP’s Planning Tools for TOD tab links to Planning’s TOD webpage, and the Additional TOD Planning Resources tab links to TOD initiatives at MDOT and other TOD-related map applications.
While this article provides an introduction to the Transit Station Area Profile Tool; training aids, designed to help users get the most out of this planning resource, are under development. Also, be on the lookout soon for Planning’s first TSAPT training video. In the meantime, interested groups may also schedule in-person training sessions by contacting Transportation Planner Scott Hansen, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (410) 767-4611 with questions or feedback.
Check back next month for Part II on the TSAPT where we will highlight some more of its features and applicability to specific user groups in greater detail!
 Maryland Department of Transportation