What Does Living ‘Close’ to Transit Really Mean?

Eric Jaffe | City Lab

Plans are underway to completely rebuild the Metro Center on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)The question of how far people will walk to reach a transit stop has a pretty significant impact on the shape of cities. American urban planners conventionally draw that line at about a half-mile. Some guidelines pull it back to a quarter-mile, while others adjust the distance for bus stops (typically a quarter-mile) and train stations (typically a half-mile), but the consensus holds that no one makes it farther than half a mile that on foot.

The impact of this thinking can be seen clearly in the planning rules a city creates for its transit-oriented development. Take two recent examples: Denver just started a fund to help finance properties built within a half-mile of light rail and a quarter-mile of good bus stops, and the town of Mamaroneck in metro New York just zoned for TOD within a quarter-mile of its commuter rail station. Even as such guidelines encourage urban growth, they also establish a hard edge for it.

New research, set to be presented Monday at the 94th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, suggests that some cities indeed might be selling their TOD footprint short. A study group led by planning scholar Arthur Nelson of the University of Arizona analyzed the impact that proximity to a light rail station had on office rents in metropolitan Dallas. They found that a quarter of the rent premium (“not a trivial amount,” they submit) extended nearly a mile away from transit. Read more

Texas A&M study finds ‘walkable’ communities improve health

Erin Mulvaney | BeyondChron

Rendering of a walkable community Beacon Island in League City.

Rendering of a walkable community Beacon Island in League City.

Want to be healthy? Like your neighbors? Drive less? A recent study from Texas A&M University suggests a “walkable” community means less driving, more physical activity and social interactions result when people live in a “pedestrian-oriented, activity-friendly development.”

These types of communities, the study’s authors conclude, could be considered “preventative” health care.

In “A Retrospective Study on Changes in Residents’ Physical Activities, Social Interactions, and Neighborhood Cohesion After Moving to a Walkable Community,” lead researcher A&M architecture professor Xuemei Zhu and co-authors Chanam Lee, professor of landscape architecture, Zhipeng Lu, architecture lecturer, George Mann, professor of architecture, and Ph.D. candidate Chia-Yuan Yu, studied a transit-oriented development called Mueller. Read more

Transit Oriented Development Critical to Florida’s Metropolitan Growth

James W. Shindell | The National Law Review

Plans are underway to completely rebuild the Metro Center on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)Urban Development: Faster Greener Commutes Key to Sustained City Growth, a report released in October 2014 by Cushman & Wakefield, provided insight into Transit Oriented Development as it explored “the consequences of rapid population growth in 10 major North American cities”—with Miami being one. The study found that the majority of these major cities’ workforce is burdened by challenging commutes and substantial congestion because of aging and insufficient infrastructure.

Developers and municipalities have recognized this direct impact on growth and, as a result, a rapidly growing portion of new commercial development has shifted to be strikingly more transit oriented. All Aboard Florida, a leader in this development, is seeking to connect South Florida’s tri-county area with each station (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach) being a vehicle to improve individuals’ transportation, while also serving as an engine for growth in its surrounding areas. Read more

11 Reasons Why Transit, Bikes & Walking Are Moving us to a Brighter Future

Jay Walljasper | BeyondChron

Plans are underway to completely rebuild the Metro Center on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)According to the pundits and prophets who dominate the media, the future of transportation is all figured out for us.  Cheaper gas prices mean we can still count on our private cars to take us everywhere we want to go in the years to come. The only big change down the road will be driverless autos, which will make long hours behind the wheel less boring and more productive.

But this everything-stays-the-same vision ignores some significant social developments. Americans have actually been driving less per-capita for the past decade, bucking a century-long trend of ever-increasing dependence on automobiles.

This startling turnaround is usually written off as a mere statistical blip caused by the great recession and $4 gas, both of which hit in 2008. But, in fact, the driving decline began several years before that.  (In light of these facts, The Federal Highway Administration recently reduced its forecast for the future growth from driving between 24-44 percent. This is after overestimating the actual rate of driving in 61 consecutive reports to Congress.) Read more

Apartments, innovation hub proposed for MBTA land

Dyke Hendrickson | Newburyport Daily News

Plans are underway to completely rebuild the Metro Center on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)A construction project that until recently was described as an apartment complex with some affordable units near the MBTA train line is emerging as a modern live-work innovation hub where professionals can make their careers as well as their homes.

Louis Minicucci, founder and president of MINCO Corp. of North Andover, spoke before the Affordable Housing Trust last night.

In a meeting that included members of the Housing Trust, the Planning Board and Mayor Donna Holaday, he outlined the plan that he proposes to launch: One Boston Way, Residences at Clipper City Innovation Hub.

It will offer “luxury apartments with modern design, amenities of a corporate office, great potential for company space, and the leisure of no commute to work.”

Though numbers could change, he indicated there would be about 80 units — 70 apartments and about 10 live-work spaces.

On the ground floor, there could be as much as 3,500 square feet of space for a business center that could “be used by a software engineer who meets an entrepreneur who gets to know a marketing executive.”

“This could be an excellent site for small businesses that could work in Newburyport, and get on the train to Boston when they needed to,” said the executive, who has built thousands of residential and business units on the North Shore over a four-decade career.

City officials had indicated that MINCO was considering 64 units with some retail, but his presentation outlined a more ambitions plan with a major business-office accent. Read more


A sustainable city is one that you love

Kelsey Wharton | Phys Org

Plans are underway to completely rebuild the Metro Center on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)Imagine walking through downtown Phoenix on a warm fall afternoon. Palm trees frame the clear blue sky as you pass brightly painted murals on the sides of buildings. The light rail passes with a friendly “ding, ding.” Down the perfectly parallel, flat streets you occasionally glimpse Camelback to the east.

Cut to a stroll through downtown Seattle. The air smells of the ocean and evergreens. A hot cup of coffee warms you against the autumn chill as you walk downhill toward the bustling Pike Place Market. People haggle noisily over goods from nearby farms. Beyond the market, you catch sight of twinkling boat lights and distant, snow-capped mountains.

Every city has its own “personality.” This is not only true of far-flung cities, like Phoenix and Seattle, but also of cities in close proximity, like Phoenix and Mesa. Where does a city’s unique character or sense of place come from? And how can understanding sense of place help us to create more sustainable cities? Read more



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