Residential, retail development should be fostered near bus and train lines

Lee D. Hoffman | The Connecticut Law Tribune

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Bicyclists make their way through Salt Lake City traffic. Officials are pushing to promote more walking and biking as the Wasatch Front population is predicted to double in coming decades.When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced his 30-year, $100 billion transportation plan for Connecticut, he gave the state a long overdue dose of Lipitor in an attempt to unclog the state’s constricted transportation arteries. While some may dispute the need for tolls or the propriety of the costs of the plan, there is no disputing that the governor has developed a transportation program whose breadth and scope has never before been seen in the region. In the wake of such a massive undertaking, it is time for the rest of Connecticut to follow his lead when it comes to transit-oriented development (TOD).

Starting in the 1950s and 1960s, much of the development that occurred was suburban-urban development, whereby individuals would work in cities, but live in the suburbs and commute to work. Recently, however, planners have noticed that individuals are dissatisfied with long commutes to work, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, demand for housing in transit zones is expected to double over the next 15 years. Along with housing, TOD calls for the development of retail and commercial spaces near such transit zones, to allow residents to easily get to restaurants and stores near where they live and work. By encouraging development along transit zones, TOD advocates hope to create more dense, livable and walkable communities. For TOD to be successful, however, it needs more than an infusion of state money; TOD also requires private investment.

Connecticut has already taken steps to foster TOD development. Before the governor announced his new plan, the CTFastrak bus line was well underway, as were plans for a new commuter rail line stretching from New Haven to Springfield. Last year, the state created a $15 million Transit Oriented Development Pre-Development and Acquisition Fund to provide financing and to encourage TOD along the paths of those two projects. Just last week, Malloy announced the appointment of Scott Jackson, the mayor of Hamden, as the undersecretary for intergovernmental policy. In that role, Jackson will be responsible for coordinating between state and municipal efforts (and funding) for a variety of projects, including TOD. Read more