by Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Development and Infrastructure Planner
with Scott Hansen, Transportation Planner
Last month, the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) announced the official launch of a new online tool, called the Transit Station Area Profile Tool (TSAPT). The TSAPT, developed in partnership with the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), is designed to assist both the planning community as well as a variety of stakeholders with an interest in development trends spurred by Transit Oriented Development (TOD) across the state.
This month we are taking a closer look at the types of data accessible via the TSAPT and how it might be used by potential developers and/or those interested in community-based development. We will examine the variety of information the TSAPT offers for two stations; the Odenton MARC station in Anne Arundel County; and the Westport light rail station in south Baltimore.
Let’s start with Odenton. After selecting the station on the statewide map, we access the Transit and Land Use tab toward the upper left corner of the page and type the name into the address bar (or by selecting the station on the map or selecting the station from the filter tool), and you will see the station located at the center of a one-half mile TOD catchment area represented by a purple circle (see image above).
Within the circle, two polygons outlined in red indicate MDOT designated TOD areas (see image below). It is important to note that not all station areas contain MDOT designated TOD areas (see sidebar below). Those that are already “built out” and/or have vibrant mixed-use communities around them, or otherwise are not suitable for further development, would not qualify for this designation.
Notice that the bar chart to the upper left of the page displays information about Station Access (the mode of transportation by which people are arriving at the station) and Station Egress (how they are leaving), by toggling back and forth between the two titles (circled below). Hovering over a bar in any of the charts reveals the values represented by each bar.
Next, notice that the bar chart at the center left of the screen displays average weekly Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) MARC Ridership data for the Odenton Station for the years 2011, 2015 and 2017 (see below). Note that there is no data displayed for WMATA Ridership, which would be displayed directly beneath the MTA MARC Ridership data, as the Odenton Station is served only by the MARC rail system.
Clicking on the More info hyperlink in the pop-up menu (circled on image above, to the right) will open Station Area Information for the Odenton station on Planning’s website (below). We can see that there are links to several local TOD policies (circled below) and plans that address TOD around the Odenton station, including the county’s 2009 comprehensive plan, called the Anne Arundel County General Development Plan, their 2003 Odenton Small Area Plan, and the relevant TOD plan, which in this case is the county’s 2016 Odenton Town Center Master Plan.
Consulting the Town Center Master plan, we learn that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was adopted by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Anne Arundel County, and a private developer consortium to redevelop publicly-owned land parcels surrounding the Odenton MARC Station.
A focus of the MOU is to replace “existing large surface parking lots with multi-level parking structures, providing additional parking capacity to meet future demand both for MARC ridership as well as the build out of the Town Center. By providing increased parking capacity in structures, this will also produce additional land area for redevelopment adjacent to the MARC Station, with the goal of creating a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use transit-oriented activity center that will serve as a centerpiece of the OTC Core.” This redevelopment initiative/strategy is known as the Odenton TOD Project.
Developers interested in working within designated TOD areas may also want to learn the types of land uses in the area. Staying on the Transit and Land Use tab, this information can be found in the bar chart directly beneath the map (see chart circled in red below).
Hovering over the bars for the Odenton station reveals, from left to right, the number of acres of low-, medium- and high-density residential land uses; followed by commercial, industrial and institutional land uses; and finally, forested land use. Not shown because there are none adjacent to the Odenton station, but available for other stations, are agricultural or wetlands acreage. Every chart can be maximized for more accessible viewing.
Developers and/or real estate agents may also be interested in Median Housing Sales Prices and various other Socioeconomic data, found on the third and fourth tabs at the top of the screen, respectively. Median housing sales prices for each station are shown as a vertical blue bar with the lowest sales prices to the left and the highest to the right. The number of stations displayed are controlled by a gray horizontal bar that is “pulled” to the right or left (see image above). In this case the gray bar has been pulled toward the right until the Odenton station appears as the vertical bar furthest to the right.
Hovering over the blue bar for Odenton reveals that the median sales price for census areas captured by and/or intersected by the one-half mile station catchment area was $327,957.50 in 2015 (see red arrow above). The median sales prices can be viewed in comparison to median incomes for the DC metro and Baltimore metro areas as indicated by the blue and purple horizontal lines (see red star above). Note: using the filter tool, one can also search for an individual station or compare multiple stations (see filter choices circled above).
Available socioeconomic data includes population by age, household type, household income, numbers of existing vacant housing units, and vehicles are owned by household, among other demographic indicators in and around the station. (User Tip: To access additional socioeconomic data, click on the white text above the chart, or in some cases where there is too much text and not enough room, click on the small down arrow.)
It is important to recall that socioeconomic data captured within the radius is a combination of data from each census tract that appears within that radius, which can vary considerably. Thus, it is only generally representative of what exists within the radius. The TSAPT is fundamentally a planning tool. If more detailed data is required for a community or individual neighborhoods, a user may need to drill down to a finer level of detail. Planning can and does assist with such data inquiries as needed.
Employment data for the Odenton station are summarized in the popup menu that is seen overtop the map of the station. Employment is expressed in terms of NAICS (North American Industrial Classification System) categories. If we hover over the tallest bar in the graph on the left side of the screen (shown below), we learn that the majority of people working in the census tracts captured by the TOD half-mile radius are employed within NAICS sector 54, which includes Professional, Scientific and Technical services. Again, if we click on the hyperlink beneath the bar chart, we are directed to a PDF document in which the sources of socioeconomic and employment data presented in the TSAPT are described along with additional hyperlinks to the original sources.
Returning to the Odenton TOD areas, we can calculate the approximate acreage of the surface parking lots that have been identified for redevelopment. To do this, we zoom in and use the area measuring tool: first click on Measurement (1), then click on the Area Tool (2) as seen on the image to the right. With the cursor, trace over the polygon, clicking at each vertex.
The area inside the polygon will then be shaded gray and the outline will change from red to blue. Doing this shows us that the smaller of the two lots is 6.69 acres in size. If we were developers potentially interested in the site, that gives us some idea of whether it might meet the space needs of our project.
Finally, if we wish to share the results of our inquiry, we can send the image via email, Facebook or Twitter or embed the app in a website by clicking on Share and making the appropriate selection (see image to the left).
The Odenton TOD is located in a suburban area, and development projects may require redevelopment of an existing parking lot or “gray field,” or perhaps development of a previously undeveloped open space or a “green field,” depending on local zoning and environmental regulations.
The types of spaces available for TOD or redevelopment around a more urban station, however, may be entirely comprised of “gray” or even “brownfields,” which are generally defined as former industrial or commercial sites where future use may be affected by either real or perceived environmental contamination (be sure to check out our article on Planning’s role in brownfield redevelopment in this issue of Planning Practice Wednesday).
Let’s look at the more urban, formerly industrial, Westport transit site in Baltimore for a further demonstration of the TSAPT’s capabilities. Without going through the same extensive exercise as we did with Odenton station, we can easily observe some key differences between the types of TOD opportunities presented at Westport as compared to Odenton.
The first and most obvious difference is the type of transit at Westport. Westport is served by an intra-city light rail system run by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) with stations that are closer together. Westport and its neighboring station to the south, Cherry Hill, are within half a mile of each other and therefore their half-mile catchment areas overlap, whereas Odenton is served by a regional rail commuter system with stations roughly six to eight miles apart.
Next, the Land Use Land Cover bar chart shows that the largest land use within the one-half mile radius around Westport station is industrial. This TOD area is also bounded on the east by the Middle Branch tributary of the Patapsco River, which indicates there may be unique considerations in terms of environmental contamination and/or restoration efforts. In fact, the second largest land use type is wetlands (the bar on the far right of the chart) which is greater even than residential land use (second bar from the left), despite the very dense pattern of row houses in the area.
When we click on More Info in the popup menu for Westport, again linking us to the Station Area Information webpage on Planning’s website, we learn the following about the large TOD project area that lies between the Westport station and the water’s edge: it is approximately 40 acres of what appears to be, from the aerial photo shown, one or more brownfield sites, and that as part of its history it was sold to Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Industries (founder of the Under Armor company) for $6 million in 2015 (red star on image at right).
Further, if we click on and review the various Local TOD Policies and Plans shown, we can see what the goals are for TOD redevelopment in the area. Specifically, the link for Community Plans takes us to the Baltimore City Planning Commission’s Middle Branch Master Plan, which deals with exactly that area of Baltimore City.
Even a quick review of the Middle Branch Master Plan reveals that TOD is a priority for the area. The opening statement under Transportation Opportunities states: “The Middle Branch, Cherry Hill and Westport are the only areas of the city directly accessible to both the waterfront and the light rail. Through Transit Oriented Development, there is a very real opportunity to establish an area where life without an automobile can be comfortable and convenient” Review of the other relevant plans and policies listed offers more detailed analyses and strategies for TOD across the city more broadly.
As with the Odenton example, it is possible to dig quite a bit deeper into the socioeconomic and physical attributes of an area around one of Maryland’s more than 120 local transit stations, in addition to the local policies and plans that guide development around them. As these examples demonstrate, the TSAPT is a very dynamic tool providing access to a wealth of information that is both relevant to, and manipulable by, a variety of user groups.
Because it is not practicable to cover all the features offered by the TSAPT in an article, Planning has created a frequently asked questions document and several video tutorials which can be found under the Help tab and also offers in-person training available upon request. Interested groups may 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 frequently, as we will cover any significant updates and alert readers to new tutorials or training opportunities in upcoming issues of Planning Practice Wednesday!