TOD Workshop in Hartford, Connecticut

Sujata was a featured speaker at a recent transit-oriented development (TOD) workshop in Hartford, Connecticut, focused on understanding the potential for development along new transit lines in the “Knowledge Corridor” region. The Knowledge Corridor will soon have a new bus rapid transit line linking New Britain to Hartford –set to open in a couple of years — and is also planning a commuter rail connection between Hartford and Springfield, Mass. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Capitol Region Council of Governments (the metropolitan planning organization for the Hartford region) and the Partnership for Strong Communities, a regional organization focused on affordable housing and equitable development. Other presenters included Stephanie Pollack, Associate Director of Research, Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, and David McCarthy of the Jonathan Rose Companies.

Sujata and David presented their ongoing market study for the Knowledge Corridor, which has found that there is a market for TOD in the region, particularly as “Millennial” workers enter the housing market. But given that the region’s projected population and household growth will be slow, and the real estate market fundamentals are still challenging, David and Sujata recommended that the state, region, and local governments begin by 1) making strategic investments along the transit corridors, including infrastructure improvements; and 2) targeting existing economic development dollars to TOD locations. Sujata highlighted the Cleveland Health Line as a promising example of a BRT corridor that leveraged its existing large anchor institutions, including universities and hospitals, to catalyze TOD. Because the Knowledge Corridor is rich in anchor institutions and major employers – many of them within the BRT and rail corridors – this could be a key strategy for moving forward with implementing TOD in the Hartford region.

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Incentivizing TOD: Case Studies of Regional Programs

One of the things I love about our work at Strategic Economics is that we’re exposed to the range of approaches that local jurisdictions and regional agencies across the country are taking to encourage transit-oriented development in their communities. In some cases, such as our series of case studies for the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) last year, we get to profile a few of the most innovative programs for our clients. Because the strategies and challenges illustrated in these case studies are relevant to a broad audience, I thought I’d use this blog post as an opportunity to share the report with Strategic Economics’ partners and friends.

The six case studies in the report describe the structure, funding and implementation of regional programs aimed at encouraging TOD. While the case studies focus on regional organizations, the roles of other actors—local jurisdictions, community groups and developers—are highlighted throughout.  Four of the programs are led by Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), one is a joint development program led by a transit agency and one is a regional collaborative of community-based nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. Key themes that emerged across the case studies include the need to advance TOD in a diversity of place types, trade-offs between planning and capital funding, and the importance of ongoing evaluation of program goals.

The programs profiled are:

The case studies were conducted as part of PSRC’s Growing Transit Communities (GTC) program, funded by a Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development . Over the next 20 years, the Puget Sound region will be investing $15 billion in light rail and other forms of public transit, creating a significant opportunities for TOD in new and existing station areas and other transit hubs. Other work conducted by Strategic Economics for GTC included a TOD market analysis, TOD housing and commercial demand estimates, and recommendations for promoting equitable development around transit.

Link to report on Incentivizing TOD: Case Studies of Regional Programs.

Jetsetting

The month of March has been busy one for us at Strategic Economics. We kicked things off with a staff retreat, started several new projects and our principals Dena, Nadine and Sujata traversed the country for convenings and project work in Boston, New Orleans, Washington DC and beyond!

Earlier this week, Nadine traveled to Boston, MA to speak at the Value Capture Forum: Innovative Strategies to Fund 21st Century Transportation. This forum, hosted by HNTB Corporation and Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) provided a space for attendees to develop and explore ideas related to value capture concepts. Specifically, it addressed how Value Capture can fund capital needs for new transportation and/or provide support for ongoing operations and maintenance. Nadine’s overview of Value Capture laid the groundwork for the day’s subsequent presentations on Value Capture in practice and the development of innovative funding and financing strategies. Looking forward, MAPC hopes to see forum attendees use their newly acquired Value Capture knowledge to garner greater public and political support for their projects and related economic strategies. MAPC’s forthcoming whitepaper will synthesize forum topics and present the ways value capture concepts can be used to help the region meet its transportation needs. Keep your eyes out for this resource, as it is sure to be a good one.

On the same day, just a few states Westward, Dena presented on Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and economic development to planners, policy makers and developers in the Lansing, MI region. Her speech was part of a longer-term effort led by the National Charrette Institute to help develop a unified vision for the Michigan/Grand River transit Corridor. Located in the Greater Lansing / Mid-Michigan region, the 19-mile corridor is a major artery through the region with great economic and revitalization potential.  The Corridor connects the State Capitol in Downtown Lansing with Sparrow Hospital, Michigan State University, and several key retail destinations.  In fact, jobs in this corridor comprise almost 40 percent of the region’s total jobs and closer to 50 percent of the region’s transit supportive jobs. Dena’s presentation included an introduction to TOD, a discussion of the relationship between transit and economic development, and a Q&A session (link to the video coming soon). Central to her overview were descriptions of how employment conditions in the Michigan/Grand River corridor make this an important employment spine for the region and an opportune place for enhanced transit.  The presentation set the stage for a more comprehensive charrette that will be happening in two parts.  The first part will take place in early May, and the second part will be in the fall.  This work is being funded by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission as part of their Sustainable Communities grant from HUD. Additional support comes from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.  For more information about the project go to http://migrand-charrette.com/

Future travel destinations for StratEconers include Anchorage, Alaska and Lakeworth, Florida. Until then, we are happy to have the office full and are enjoying the longer days.

Happy Spring everyone!

A Tropical Town Embracing TOD

When you think of Honolulu, Hawaii what comes to mind? Perhaps it is iconic images of sunshine, tropical fruits and sandy beaches, but as we’ve recently learned this state capital is also confronted with some less romantic realities, like heavily congested transit corridors and high energy costs. In efforts to remedy this situation, the state retained Strategic Economics and Smart Growth America (SGA) to identifying strategies, tools and resources that they can use to maximize the benefits of future rail investment in Honolulu and support the state’s future economic development and fiscal sustainability. The team’s report, “Leveraging State Agency Involvement in Transit-Oriented Development to Strengthen Hawaii’s Economy” is discussed in more detail here and available for download here, so check it out! We are pleased to see the how welcoming the state has been to TOD and sustainability (as evidenced by Governor’s New Day Plan) and are eager to see the application of our work in this unique market.

Opportunities for Change Along El Camino Real

Last week Dena was one of four guest participants on KQED’s morning show Forum…did you hear her? Throughout the hour long program, “”Re-Inventing El Camino Real”, Dena discussed the work that the firm is doing along the corridor and in partnership with regional transit planners, responded to issues raised by callers and articulated what the corridor’s transformation will look like and require. Check it out here!

How do you get to work?

This article by Richard Florida explores the different ways people reach their employment locations and what factors influence those decisions. Not surprisingly population density impacts commuters modes of transportation; people tend to take public transit more when their commute distance is longer, and college towns are full of bikers and walkers.

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