Rezoning Map, 2017 Pulse Corridor Plan (top left); MTA Overnight Bus Service (middle left); Broad Street Station and Newark Light Rail (bottom left); Photo by Breno Assis on Unsplash (top right); Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, Texas (bottom right).
COVID-19 Related TOD News
In a Pandemic, Transportation Ushers in a New Age of Agile Experimentation
Tiffany Chu, Forbes, May 12, 2020
COVID-19 has pushed cities to quickly rethink transportation needs and to plan everything from pop-up bike lanes, temporary parklets, and transit recovery services to keep residents safe and moving. Lessons learned include: prioritize areas of greatest need to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on essential workers, communities of color, and low income populations; open not one street, but a thoughtful network so as to provide adequate space and facilitate usage; and embrace the temporary — think “pilot” or “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” — and implement, then review and adapt.
The Only Thing More Expensive Than Saving Transit is Not Saving Transit
Daniel Herriges, Strong Towns, May 11, 2020
As COVID-related budget shortages strain public transit systems all over the U.S., author Daniel Herriges challenges the position of some commenters who see nothing but difficulties in the post-pandemic period. Herriges points out that many of the problems that transit now faces stem from a model that requires public transit agencies to function like for-profit organizations, citing, in particular, their dependence on fare-based revenues and ridership. Instead of capitulating to investment in automobile-oriented parking and highway construction, Herriges advocates for compact 15-minute communities, mixed-use neighborhoods, and a more transit-conducive transportation network.
Metro Reopening Plan: More Trains, Buses Than Demand — But Full Service Won’t Return Until 2021
Jordan Pascale, WAMU, May 11, 2020
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced this week that Metro services will reopen with a three-phase plan to return to normal while keeping employees and riders safe on the transit system. From May through August, the transit agency will focus on stabilizing system operations with mandatory and enforced social distancing. It hopes to increase operations to employ 80 percent of its workforce and provide 80 percent of service capacity in the period from this September to February 2021, and implement full recovery by May 2021.
‘Whole New Crisis’: California Lawmakers Wrestle with Coronavirus on Top Of Housing Shortages
Alexei Koseff, The San Francisco Chronicle, May 9, 2020
California lawmakers and public officials deliberate the COVID-related issues complicating the state’s long-standing housing shortage. While legislative leaders have endorsed scaling back, others in both houses are still moving forward with major housing measures to increase residential density in the heavily suburban, car-dependent state. To anti-housing and anti-density forces using New York’s pandemic outbreak as fuel, San Francisco Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener says, “Housing density is not what spreads COVID-19. It’s lack of good government response.” Despite their commitment to the movement, California lawmakers may need stimulus funds from the federal government to push their initiatives forward.
Houston’s Transportation Planner: COVID Shows Streets Cannot Be Just for Commuting
Dug Begley, Houston Chronicle, May 8, 2020
An interview with the city’s first Chief Transportation Planner, David Fields, sheds some light on how the pandemic has changed Houston’s streets. With fewer cars on the road, more people are choosing to bike, run, take transit or use other forms of active transportation for short and recreational trips, and parking lots are being used for restaurant pick-up zones and play spaces. Fields ponders how cities can get the full use of streets, roads, and the transportation network by providing safe and comfortable facilities for road users such as cyclists, runners, and walkers. Free registration is required to access article.
Four Ways to Equitably Manage Public Transit Options in a Crisis
Richard Ezike and Christina Plerhoples Stacy, Urban Wire, May 8, 2020
Public transit agencies have had to make many decisions about the provision of safe and effective service during the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to in the post-pandemic period. Concerns about safety are compounded by concerns about equity. Urban Institute Senior Policy Associates, Richard Ezike and Christina Plerhoples Stacy, offer four recommendations to help ensure equitable service for transit riders: use need, not ridership, as a basis for deciding routes to keep and reopen; engage low-income and transit-dependent riders; maintain paratransit service; and explore creative alternatives to buses and trains.
Square Feet: Coronavirus Crisis Threatens Push for Denser Housing
Kevin Williams, New York Times, May 6, 2020
For decades, planners and housing activists have advocated for more transportation and denser housing in urban residential developments. Most experts and public officials believe that the coronavirus pandemic will not change the need for affordable transit-oriented housing, but developers may need to consider new multi-family design plans that minimize points of contact with other residents.
NJ TOD News
NJ Transit Awarded $1.4 Billion in CARES Act Funding
Fox 5 NY, May 15, 2020
On Friday, President Trump announced on Twitter that $1.4 billion in grant funds has been allocated to NJ TRANSIT to support its continued operations. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, ridership has dropped 90 percent and capacity has been limited to 50 percent to prevent transmission of the virus. On the same day, NJ TRANSIT’s board approved a $4.1 million contract for preliminary design work on the Penn Station New York Central Concourse Extension. The project, a partnership between NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak, will seek to improve pedestrian flow throughout Penn Station and provide additional access to Tracks 1-12 where NJ TRANSIT operates most of its trains.
Newark Downtown District: A Proud Pioneer of the City’s Redevelopment
Chuck O’ Donnell, TapInto.com, May 8, 2020
It has been 22 years since the inception of the Newark Downtown District (NDD), a special improvement district that continues to bring vibrancy and vitality to the city. The NDD comprises 110 blocks in the city’s downtown and spans the area between NJ TRANSIT Broad Street Station and Newark City Hall. The NDD focuses on maintaining the streets and coordinating programs throughout the year, drawing crowds and residents to summertime farmers markets, live music, and holiday events. CEO Anthony McMillan says that the NDD is constantly evolving to “consistently fulfill our core mission — to enhance the beauty and vitality of this very special downtown.”
Regional and National TOD News
CONNECTICUT—100 Apartments Planned for Main Street in Stratford
By Anna Bybee-Schier, Patch.com, May 15, 2020
Kaali-Nagy Properties plans to build a four-story residential building on Main Street in Stratford. The project, called The Village, will comprise 106 apartments, including studios and one- and two-bedroom units, and a total of 116 parking spaces. The site is located within Stratford’s transit-oriented development overlay district adjacent to the downtown train station. There are no plans for retail uses on the site, in part due to concerns about COVID-19. Stratford Town Planner Susmitha Attota says that the development will help meet the demand for rentals and provide an option for seniors looking to downsize.
Construction Finance Gets Harder to Secure Especially for Affordable Housing
Erika Morphy, GlobeStreet, May 15, 2020
According to Vice Chair and Managing Director of CBRE Brian Eisendrath, construction financing has become more difficult to secure. This tightening in financing is disproportionally affecting affording housing projects. These assets are often rented to tenants who lack significant cash reserves and delinquency rates during COVID-19 have increased. Free registration is required to access article.
CALIFORNIA—San Diego Approves First Local ‘Fast-Track’ Housing Project Under 2008 State Law
David Garrick, The San Diego Union-Tribune, May 14, 2020
The San Diego City Council recently voted unanimously that the Bay Park project, a 156-unit mixed use development proposed near a new trolley line in western Clairemont, meets all criteria of Senate Bill 375. The 2008 state law allows developers to bypass lengthy, and expensive, analysis usually required under the California Environmental Quality Act. Those criteria include locating within a half-mile of transit, using water efficiently, not reducing affordable housing, among others. This is the first use of the state law by the city and aligns with efforts to address its housing crisis by approving denser development near transit.
The project will need subsequent approval from the Council later this year. When completed, Bayview, will include 16 rent-restricted units and 40,000 sq. ft. of commercial space as well as 399 parking spaces to serve the needs of residents, visitors, and riders of the new trolley, which will connect Old Town to La Jolla and UC-San Diego. Construction is expected to be complete in summer 2022.
VIRGINIA—Pulse-Driven Rezonings Continue Along Broad St.
Jonathan Spiers, Richmond BIZSense, May 14, 2020
In Richmond, city planners are continuing work to implement changes to local zoning along the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) Pulse BRT line. In a third round of changes, attention will turn to an area north of Broad Street and the Fan District near the VCU & VUU Station. These changes follow recommendations set forth in the city’s 2017 Pulse Corridor Plan that guides development along the line. Projects proposed or planned for the area include a 90-unit condo building on Lombardy Street and a 168-unit, 12-story building at Lombardy and Broad Streets. The city anticipates that the rezonings may create up to $1 billion in assessed value over the next 20 years.
CALIFORNIA—Plan Unveiled for Seven-Story Apartment Building in Downtown Santa Rosa
Will Schmitt, The Press Democrat, May 11, 2020
Santa Rosa, a Sonoma County city located about 50 miles north of San Francisco, may soon gain a major addition to its downtown. The $50 million project, named 1 Santa Rosa for its address, would remake a long-vacant office building into 120 apartments (four will be affordable units) and a ground floor cafe. The building is located on a bus route that connects to the downtown transit mall, and is adjacent the Railroad Square rail station. Plans call for no onsite parking, but instead specify an agreement for 90 spaces in a nearby city-owned garage. A preliminary review hearing by the city’s Design Review Board is scheduled for May 21. The city also plans to host a virtual public meeting around the same date. City regulations were amended in 2017 and again in 2019, to speed the delivery of housing in the wake of wildfires and to reduce affordability requirements, respectively. The availability of opportunity zone funds was also cited as a factor supporting movement on the project at this time.
HAWAI’I—Residents Say Aloha to New Honolulu Development
Christine Serlin, Affordable Housing Finance, May 11, 2020
California-based EAH Housing and New York-based Bronx Pro Group have recently completed a $52.7 million project that brings 110 microunits to Honolulu’s Kaka’ako neighborhood. The formerly commercial and industrial area has been transitioning to residential in anticipation of a planned rail station. The site of the Nohona Hale project was a surface parking lot owned and leased to the developers by the Hawaii Community Development Authority. In February, residents began moving into the 285 sq. ft. units that include a wall-bed system as well as floor-to-ceiling window walls that slide open to private lanais. Rents range from $559 to $999, with 11 units geared toward households earning below 30 percent, and 99 units below 60 percent, of the AMI. The project includes no car parking, but offers bike and moped parking and space for surfboards. The project received financial support by way of 4 percent low-income housing tax credits and tax-exempt bonds.
International TOD News
INDONESIA—Jakarta’s Metro Rail Company Seeks to Work with Startups Via New Accelerator
Miguel Cordon, TechInAsia, May 15, 2020
MRT Jakarta, the government agency that runs Jakarta’s rapid transit systems, has launched a new initiative to increase revenue streams. Startups are invited to pioneer innovative products or services that can be commercialized in conjunction with the agency. Startups that are approved will have access to information about MRT Jakarta’s passengers, station facilities, vehicles, and TOD projects to develop solutions to mobility problems, and they may be offered long-term agreements should the projects be successful.