Transit agencies struggle to bring back riders. U.S. to provide $1B to reconnect communities. CT advocates hope to correct the record on density and TOD. Japan invests in Bangladeshi transit.
Article of the Week
Does the White House Need a ‘Zoning Czar’?
Kriston Capps, Bloomberg, July 5, 2022
As the Biden administration tries to martial bipartisan support for policies that would increase the housing supply through multifamily housing development, its approach has largely relied on “carrot-and-stick” efforts to budge local governments away from their allegiance to single-family zoning codes. Although a national problem, the housing crisis is also hyper-local. Solutions to address the crisis will involve multiple agencies to bring reform. One solution, a federal zoning office, could work to fight the ills of exclusionary zoning—a racial justice concern and a regulatory burden that limits growth and opportunities—while also addressing political issues associated with zoning reform.
COVID-19 TOD News
UTAH—UTA to Reduce, Discontinue Bus Routes Due to Staffing Shortages, Shift in Ridership
Deborah Wilber, Standard-Examiner, July 6, 2022
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) is shorthanded and considering better transit options as it recovers from staffing reductions that followed the COVID-19 outbreak. Although UTA is actively recruiting and working to restore services, the agency will permanently reduce 11 routes operating in Weber and Davis Counties and discontinue 7 others. However, a new app-based UTA On Demand service that connects riders with other transit services and destinations in designated service areas will replace eliminated bus routes.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Uneven Recovery of Transportation Modes in Washington Region
Gaya Gupta, The Washington Post, July 2, 2022
Examination of the D.C. area’s travel patterns shows intense differences in ridership recovery rates between modes and geographies. Most dramatically, weekday ridership of Metrorail has only reached 38.1 percent of its pre-pandemic figures while Metrobus, attained 88.2 percent. Two area service providers have experienced a near total recovery: Capital Bikeshare is at 96.9 percent and air travel at Reagan National Airport has 95.2 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Changing work patterns among federal employees will likely continue to affect travel behavior in the area.
Transit Ridership: Not Expected to Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels This Decade
Phil Plotch, Eno Center for Transportation, July 1, 2022
Wrestling with fundamental shifts in workweek travel spurred on by the pandemic, major transit agencies across the United States predict that declines in ridership may be more permanent than originally understood. For example, after surveying employers, the Bay Area Council—a San Francisco civic organization—expects the average worker to travel to the office three times a week in 2024. Reportedly, this change in travel demand has proved easier for bus service to adapt to than rail, and undoubtedly defines the immediate future of American transit.
NJ TOD News
NY, NJ to Split Local Costs of Gateway Project’s First Phase
Spectrum News Staff, Spectrum News, July 6, 2022
The governors of New York and New Jersey have publicly announced an agreement to split the costs needed to fund the first phase of the much-anticipated Gateway Project. The Gateway Project is set to repair and revamp an existing Amtrak tunnel under the Hudson River and to construct an entirely new tunnel. Such an improvement would represent a major boon for the region’s travel and has direct economic implications that the governors aim to leverage to acquire federal funding for the project.
N.J.’S ‘Safe Passing’ Law to Protect Bikers, Pedestrians Faces Education Challenge
Larry Higgs, NJ.com, July 4, 2022
Following the recent adoption of the Safe Passing Law, next steps to ensure safer conditions on the road include educating the public. Safety organizations are actively working to communicate the message through social media and announcements by local police departments. The law mandates that motorists provide four feet of space to people sharing the road, such as cyclists and pedestrians. Violators of the Safe Passing Law are subject to fines.
MONTCLAIR—$87.1M Financing Arranged for New Jersey Multi-Housing Community
Jenna Sharp, JLL, June 21, 2022
JLL Capital Markets arranged $87.1 million in financing for Valley and Bloom, a six-story, twin-building, mixed-use community in Montclair. Valley and Bloom comprises 258 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, 19,812 sq. ft. of office space, and 19,921 sq. ft. of retail space. Located in the township’s central business district at 34 Valley Rd., the development is within one mile of two NJ TRANSIT commuter rail stations—the Walnut Street Station and the Bay Street Station.
Transit and Equity News
OREGON—Metro Seeks Applicants for Equitable Development Pilot Projects in The Southwest Corridor
Oregon Metro, July 8, 2022
As part of its work to extend a light rail line, Oregon Metro seeks to partner with local nonprofits to assure that its improvement plans are equitable, and that the agency has engaged with the local community. Up to $550,000 in grant funding will be used to facilitate a process that promotes equitable development that will provide varied housing choices, diverse jobs, learning opportunities for those jobs, and wages to support living within the Southwest Corridor
Pete Buttigieg Launches $1B Pilot to Build Racial Equity in America’s Roads
The Associated Press, NPR, June 30, 2022
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg launched the Reconnecting Communities program aimed at helping reconnect cities and neighborhoods racially segregated or bisected by highway projects. Cities and states can now apply for federal aid to be used over five years to help ameliorate damage caused when construction of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s bulldozed lower-income and Black communities. Of the $195 million released for competitive grants through the program this year, $50 million will be dedicated to communities to conduct planning studies.
Regional and National TOD News
Transit Advocacy Takes on the Housing Crisis
James Brasuell, Transit Center, July 7, 2022
Local transit advocates all over the country have decided to become involved with helping reduce the strains of the housing crisis through several concepts. The Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles (ACT-LA) helped get a real estate transfer tax on the ballot to fund homelessness programs, and Circulate San Diego and Pittsburghers for Public Transit are seeking land use reforms. These advocates are seeking a coalition to not just improve their local transit, but also improve ridership for their transit services.
The Business Case for Multimodal Transportation Planning
Todd Litman, Planetizen, July 6, 2022
Analysis by transportation researcher, Todd Litman, quantifies how investments in automobile transportation often prove relatively costly for societies and individuals and highlights the travel demands of those not well served by auto-centric infrastructure. Litman also demonstrates how property values rise in concert with improvements to walkability and transit access, supporting the position that transit-oriented development offers a more productive relationship between land use and transportation than development where cars are the primary mode of travel.
MARYLAND—Residential Complex Part of Transit-Oriented Development
Staff, The Washington Informer, July 6, 2022
The New Carrollton metro station is slated for a TOD project by the name of “The Margaux.” The Margaux is supported with financing that is part of Amazon’s commitment to provide affordable housing in the region. The project will comprise 291 units reserved for tenants earning 80 percent or less of the area’s median income.
NEW YORK—Yonkers Buying Bus Depot for New Riverfront Park
Peter Katz, West-Fair Online, July 6, 2022
Aiming to transform a bus depot by the Hudson River into a 3.8-acre waterfront park, the Yonkers City Council has approved $13 million for the purchase of parcels necessary to secure the site. With another $10 million in support from Westchester County for land purchase and development, officials state that they hope to regain public access to the river and establish a boat launch, playground, and green space, among other additions. This move is part of a wider 2020 TOD plan that seeks to improve quality of life for residents of the Ludlow section of the city.
Lonely Last Days in the Suburban Office Park
Emily Badger, The New York Times, July 5, 2022
As remote work has emptied office parks throughout the country, people are beginning to wonder what the future holds for these spaces. The buildings were the answer to the mighty urban tower, providing employees with ample space on a sprawling campus filled with trees and lawns. The shift will cause financial turmoil for multiple places as companies leave their leases and their employees have no reason to visit local downtowns. Some are seeking to activate these places again. New Jersey General Assembly Leader Louis Greenwald has offered a bill in the legislature that could allow these places to be repurposed as homes or smaller mixed-use spaces.
FLORIDA—St. Augustine Proposes Adding Mobility Zoning with Taller, Denser Projects, Commuter Rail
Sheldon Gardner, St. Augustine Record, July 4, 2022
Creating a “Mobility-Oriented Development” zoning classification, St. Augustine city officials seek to establish multifamily housing units within range of transit services. The expressed goal is to reduce automobile use and to facilitate transit and active mode travel within the Jacksonville metropolitan area. Property owner Broudy Bros. has proposed a project under the Mobility-Oriented Development classification to include a rail station, among other elements, on a commuter rail connection between St. Augustine and Jacksonville that is being considered by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.
PENNSYLVANIA—Bike Share Pittsburgh Is Donating 450 Retired Healthy Ride Bikes as Part of Recycle a Bicycle Program
Maliya Ellis, Post-Gazette, July 3, 2022
Repurposing hundreds of donated bicycles from a public bike-share program in Pittsburgh, local non-profits are participating in Bike Share Pittsburgh’s Recycle a Bicycle Program. The program seeks to ensure the retired bicycles are afforded to Pittsburgh communities that stand to most benefit from freer access to active mobility. One community group, Sankofa Village Community Garden and Farms, provides community members with free rentals of the donated bicycles on an honor system that is reportedly helping many Pittsburgh children to get around their neighborhood in a new way.
CONNECTICUT—Advocates Say Transit-Oriented Development Is Misunderstood. Their Walking Tours Aim to Change Minds
Camila Vallejo, Connecticut Public Radio, July 1, 2022
Housing and equity advocates have turned to walking tours to communicate the implications of proposed policy changes that could help support new transit-oriented development (TOD) in Connecticut. A recent event in Darien showcased multifamily and affordable housing units within a short walk of the Noroton Heights rail station. Following the defeat of a state bill that would have allowed housing at 15 units or more per acre within half a mile of a rail line or CTFastrak station, advocates hope to rewrite a narrative that misdefines TOD or affordable housing as towering structures and to dispel misconceptions on the types of housing that could be built with increased densities.
The Water Wars Come to the Suburbs
Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, June 29, 2022
As the megadrought continues in the American Southwest, many of the sprawling developments in places like the Foothills outside of Scottsdale, Arizona, are feeling the squeeze of the water shortages. Nearby cities are cutting off their trucked water deliveries to their surrounding suburbs. One solution for the hauled-water homes might be to form a Domestic Water Improvement District (DWID) but some fear that a new government entity could impose taxes or use the power of eminent domain to seize non-members’ wells, or place liens on private property.
International TOD News
INDIA—Pedestrian, Cycle-Friendly Roads to Come Up in Vijayawada
The New Indian Express July 8, 2022
In southeastern India, the City of Vijayawada has responded to a state-level push towards TOD with an action plan for nine of the city’s major roads. Promoting mixed land-use along mass transit corridors, officials say they aim to reduce travel by car. Vijayawada has reportedly already started constructing cycling infrastructure to improve active mobility access and will continue to expand this and other non-motorized travel options as it implements its TOD plan.
INDONESIA—UK Launches £9m Grant for Low-Carbon Transport in Indonesia
Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta Globe, July 5, 2022
The United Kingdom has announced it will provide $10.8 million in grants to Indonesia to assist in the nation’s transition to using lower carbon travel. The funding comes as the capital of Jakarta, with a population of over 10 million, looks to increase its share of public transport to 60 percent by 2030, while it continues to rapidly urbanize. The British grants reportedly will support projects such as the construction of transit-oriented development near light rail in Java.
BANGLADESH—Japan Funds Dhaka MRT Line 5 North through $US 984.6m Loan
Robert Preston, International Railway Journal, July 1, 2022
The Japan International Cooperation Agency, a humanitarian agency of the Japanese government, has fielded a $US 984.6m loan for the Mass Rapid Transit Line 5 North transit project in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. One of the densest cities on Earth, Dhaka stands to gain a new metro line that would have 13.5 km (roughly 8.4 miles) in underground rail alone from the project. This new line, by Dhaka Mass Transit, is scheduled to open in 2029 and have capacity for 400,000 daily passengers.
SINGAPORE—Ep 28: Singapore’s Public Housing with Chua Beng Huat (Podcast)
UCLA Housing Voice, June 29, 2022
Shane Philips and Paavo Monkkonen of UCLA’s Lewis Center of Regional Policy Studies spoke with Professor Chua Beng Huat about how Singapore operates its public housing program. Professor Chua Beng Huat is a Singaporean sociologist whose research interests include urban and housing policies, and the political economy of Singapore
EUROPE—More Flowers, Fewer Cars: The Rewilders Turning Parking Spaces into Parks
Alice Roberts, The Guardian, June 22, 2022
The concept of transforming parking spaces into “parklets” is gaining popularity across Europe as more towns and cities implement policies to reduce traffic and the number of cars on the streets. There is a global movement of urban rewilding, increasing biodiversity through these tiny green spaces. “Why, if you are a car owner, can you privatize a public space?” questions Leen Schelfhout, who created the first Citizen Garden—a patch of green on a parked hand cart—in Brussels.