America is short nearly 4 million homes. Routes return to MUNI. Hoboken Terminal area due for an upgrade. Chicago’s eTOD Ordinance draws discussion. Pedestrian deaths continue to rise nationally. How Free Transit worked out for Luxembourg.
Article of the Week
Housing Underproduction™ in the U.S. 2022
Up For Growth, July 14, 2022
As reported in NPR, NY Times, and Bloomberg, the United States is currently 3.8 million homes short of meeting its housing needs. While housing shortages have existed in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles for the past decade, since 2019 this scarcity has spread to mid-sized and smaller metropolitan areas like Pensacola, Albany, and Duluth. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to this situation by weakening supply chains and constricting the availability of labor necessary to build homes. This combination of events has resulted in rising rent and housing costs–key drivers of inflation. Additionally, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates to slow inflation, however, this makes mortgages more expensive. Up For Growth, a member network working to address housing shortage and affordability, recommends several policy actions to help increase housing availability, including zoning reform and municipal investment in housing production.
CALIFORNIA—Restoring Muni Service: Long Road Nears End as Riders, Advocates Cheer Route Returns
Jerold Chinn, SFBay, July 12, 2022
Disruptions in San Francisco’s Muni bus service due to COVID-19 are concluding, as closed routes are beginning to be reopened. Officials hail the move as necessary for full economic and climate recovery. However, changes to the L-Taraval bus route have invited criticism and the planned resumption of services has spurred debate despite its reported popularity among riders.
TEXAS—VIA Ridership Climbing with Fuel Costs Up and COVID Fears Down
VIAInfo, July 12, 2022
In contrast to more complex stories of ridership recovery playing out elsewhere across the country, in San Antonio, VIA Metropolitan Transit recorded its largest year-over-year increase this past April. Citing a greater than 20 percent increase from 2021 ridership figures, VIA officials highlight rising fuel costs and the agency’s commitment to affordable transit fares as factors supporting this dramatic recovery in ridership. As concerns over COVID wane and transportation costs grow, fare affordability may prove a key factor in drawing riders back to public transit.
HOBOKEN—Hoboken Approves Transit-Oriented Mixed-Use Project on the Waterfront
Devin Gannon, 6sqft, July 11, 2022
With a signature on the redevelopment agreement from Hoboken mayor Ravi Bhalla, the mixed-use development of Hoboken Connect is set to begin this fall. The mixed-use development will comprise upgrades to the Hoboken Terminal transit hub and a new bus terminal on Hudson Place. Private development on the site will include a 20-story office building with ground floor retail space and public open space, and a residential building comprising 389 housing units, of which 20 percent will be affordable. The State of New Jersey has committed $176 million in its FY23 fiscal budget to support the project.
The State of New Jersey’s Housing Market: We Need More
Tim Evans, NJ Future, July 11, 2022
At the 2022 State Planning and Redevelopment Conference, panelists have noted that the construction of affordable housing units in Mount Laurel has not been keeping pace with the needs of their community or of the state, more broadly. The panel representing public, private, and non-profit organizations involved with residential development spoke on “The State of Housing in New Jersey.” They discussed actions some municipalities have taken to make homes more affordable in New Jersey but indicated that more action is necessary to fully address housing affordability concerns in the Garden State.
NEW JERSEY—NJ Transit Receives Federal Grant to Study Newark Light Rail Modernization
Linda Lindner, ROINJ, July 13, 2022
Making use grants from the Federal Transit Administration’s Areas of Persistent Poverty program, a modernization study of Newark’s Light Rail has the backing necessary to launch. The study received a $519,750 federal grant that will assist NJ TRANSIT’s efforts to improve station design and accessibility for its riders with disabilities at four stations.
TEXAS—How Much Should It Cost to Ride Austin’s Light Rail?
Nathan Bernier, KUT, July 12, 2022
The light rail in Austin won’t open until 2029, but discussion on the price of fares and whether those prices will be equitable has already begun. Advocates for affordability expressed concern that fares higher than bus fares would cause split riders along economic and racial lines. Currently the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro) has in place different fares for rail and bus service, but the authority is scheduled to vote on an Equifare system that would reduce fare costs for lower income riders.
VIRGINIA—Public Transit Governing Boards Don’t Look Like Their Riders. A New State Study Could Be a Fix.
Wyatt Gordon, Virginia Mercury, July 12, 2022
In examining racial and gender compositions of major metro areas in Virginia and across the country, research from TransitCenter shows discrepancies between average riders and the boards of transit agencies. Often “transit agencies’ leadership teams are predominantly suburban White men,” despite riders skewing more as female, people of color, and urban. Addressing these divides and improving lines of communication between transit riders and the leadership among service providers may prove to become increasingly important as Virginia agencies seek to regain lost ridership in a post-pandemic world.
ILLINOIS—Proposed Ordinance Promotes Equitable Transit-Oriented Development
Erica Gunderson, WTTW, July 9, 2022
Elevated Chicago, a community-based coalition of institutional partners, community-based organizations, and advocates have proposed a “Connected Communities” ordinance that would remove barriers to constructing affordable housing near transit stations. These groups point towards inequities in transit access within the city; they cite how the vast majority of Chicago TOD built in the last decade has been concentrated in wealthier communities. The proposed ordinance, introduced to the City Council in June, seeks to promote affordable housing near transit hubs and provide other measures to help change these development patterns.
GEORGIA—Transit-Focused Development Progresses at Five More MARTA Stations
Josh Green, Urbanize Atlanta, July 14, 2022
Towards the termini of MARTA’s network, TOD is rising in Brookhaven, Bankhead, Holmes, Kensington, and Indian Creek. MARTA is activating system-owned land that has served as parking lots for decades. These developments have the potential to add thousands of units in one of America’s fastest growing (population and price wise) metropolitan areas.
NEW YORK—Funding for Penn Station Plan Could Fall $3 Billion Short, Report Says
Patrick McGeehan, the New York Times, July 13, 2022
A new report by researchers at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School finds that completion of the planned revitalization of New York Penn Station could prove more expensive than originally believed. The analysis claims that the improvement of the station will likely cost at least $7.5 billion, which is $3 billion more than the State of New York and its partners presently have allocated to the project. Note: This article may require a paid account to access.
NORTH CAROLINA—Charlotte’s New Development Plan Sparks Battle Over Single-family Zoning
David Larson, The Carolina Journal, July 13, 2022
Charlotte hosted a public forum for the second draft of its Universal Development Ordinance. This UDO is a meaningful change to the city’s zoning code. The update would allow, among other changes, three units on all residential lots. This zoning change has sparked a debate about how this alteration will affect the city, which is experiencing rising housing prices and smaller homes replaced by larger single-family houses.
TEXAS—Metro’s BRT line, Nation’s Possible Longest Single Bus Rapid Transit line, goes up for Debate
Dug Begley, Houston Chronicle, July 13, 2022
Houston is seeking public comment on what may become the longest single Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in the country. Looking to stitch together the atomized transit services of the infamously sprawling city, voters in November 2019 supported the “University Line” project by roughly 7 to 3. Concerns have been raised by those who point to the lower than predicted ridership rate of Houston’s only operating BRT line, the Silver Line. BRT supporters note that pandemic impacts obscure the true value of the Silver Line and believe it will only continue to benefit from expansions to the network, such as the University Line.
Bad Road Design Is Stoking the U.S. Pedestrian Death Crisis: Report
Eve Kessler, Streetblogs USA, July 12, 2022
Though the pandemic lessened trips made by car, pedestrian fatalities continued to rise in the United States, Smart Growth America notes. Increasingly, experts point to the country’s road design as the culprit for why the U.S. diverged from pedestrian and other safety trends found in other nations. Roadways in car-centric metro areas of the Sunbelt have few marked, signalized crosswalks and many high speed, arterial roads making their intersections especially lethal. Among other steps, the Smart Growth America report calls for faster data reporting by the national Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and for the federal government and others to prioritize safety over speed on American roads.
CALIFORNIA—California Transit Agencies Secure Millions in TIRCP Funding
Progressive Railroading, July 12, 2022
A regional partnership of transit providers is set to receive nearly $50 million in funding from the State of California. Organizations in Sacramento will receive most of the funds, which are to be used to transform one of its stations into the largest transit hub in Northern California, and bring TOD to the city. This funding blitz follows a $57 million investment in transit to expand rail service between San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
GEORGIA—Atlanta to Consider New Midtown, Downtown Parking Limits
Thomas Wheatley, Axios, July 12, 2022
City leaders in Atlanta have recently signaled a desire to reduce the amount of parking available. City Councilmember Jason Dozier proposed an ordinance that would institute lower parking maximums on developments. Citing that only five of 138 proposed developments would not meet the new requirement, Dozier and mobility advocates present the change as a moderate, necessary step to take in support of in-filling and improving Atlanta’s urban core.
VIRGINIA—In Arlington, advocates and critics of ‘missing middle’ housing face off
Teo Armus, Washington Post, July 11, 2022
In Arlington, county lawmakers are beginning to look towards removing single-family zoning and permitting more townhomes and duplexes. As D.C.’s housing crisis squeezes more people into suburban counties like Arlington, the need for housing grows in those places. Note: This article may require a paid account to access.
OREGON—In Portland, Oregon, the Paths to Homeownership Are Multiplying
Michael Andersen, Dwell, June 23, 2022
Answering the call for “missing middle housing,” Portland removed restrictions on building multi-family and accessory housing units on the same lots as existing homes. Planners and advocates point to the success of such experiments and the broader history of the American housing market to argue for the proliferation of this type of zoning reform nationwide. Changes in how federal chartered loan companies, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, recognize cash flow from these arrangements is expected to only increase investments into middle housing and hopefully stabilize hot housing markets in the decades to come.
CANADA—16-km-long Surrey-Langley Skytrain Extension Receives Full Provincial and Federal Approval
Kenneth Chan, Daily Hive, July 15, 2022
The federal and provincial governments of Canada approved the business case supporting the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project, which includes the extension of the current Expo Line from King George to Langley Centre, composing16 km of elevated rail and eight new stations. The project is projected to cost C$3.94 billion, with $1.306 billion from the federal government, C$2.476 billion from the provincial government, and C$228 million from TransLink and the City of Surrey. The project’s benefit-cost ratio (BCR) is 1.02, indicating that the project’s benefits are expected to exceed the cost. The proposal, according to Val van Den Broek, mayor of the City of Langley, will stimulate high-density, transit-oriented development while enhancing housing affordability.
CANADA—Le Moden: Construction Begins!
Bertone Development Corporation, Cision, July 14, 2022
Officials broke ground on Le Moden, a mixed-use, transit-oriented development in Ville-Marie East, Montreal. The project will feature two towers comprising 125 condominiums and ground floor commercial space. Located next to Frontenac Métro Station on the Green Line, a BIXI (bike share) station, numerous bus lines, and around the corner from the Médéric-Martin Park, the project will promote transit usage and active mobility.
INDIA—Delhi Ready to Get First-Ever 3 Coach Train Network
Gayathri Mani, the Indian Express, July 13, 2022
Aiming to connect Narela TOD projects to elsewhere in Delhi, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has planned to start a “three-car” Metro train service. For the corridor receiving this connection, the rail line represents a more intensive transit service than was anticipated under the original project plans.
The Big Idea: Should Cars be Banned from Cities?
Thalia Verkade and Marco te Brömmelstroet, The Guardian, July 11, 2022
Journalist Thalia Verkade and urban mobility expert Marco te Broemmelstroet recommend a review of how cities allocate space. Historically, most cities were not designed for automobiles and only over a brief period did the automobile enter into city space. Now places like Barcelona, Groningen, and cities in the United Kingdom are looking for ways to return roads to how they were once used, and to have roads serve as more than just a path for motorized vehicles.
LUXEMBOURG—One of Europe’s Smallest Nations Tries a Big Idea: Free Public Transit
Feargus O’Sullivan, Bloomberg CityLab, July 7, 2022
With the highest income per capita of any nation in the world, the European nation of Luxembourg is among the most auto dependent on the continent. Looking to curb this dependency on the car, a proposal for free public transit is gaining traction within the government. However, with nearly half of the country’s workforce residing outside of its borders, it is argued that the policy may not directly address the underlying travel patterns caused by Luxembourg’s built environment, economy, and unique geopolitical position.