Last week I was at an interview for a potential real estate developer client who wanted transit-oriented development (TOD), but weren't sure he wanted transit. This was a progressive developer who wanted more density, a mix-of uses and walkability. How could it be he wasn't sure he wanted the planned transit line? Is it possible the developer had it right?
As it turns out the developer wasn't as wrong as you might think. In most communities across the United States one of the biggest problems with TOD is the "T." Developers figured out long ago the process of creating special places -– place making –- creates value by making places people want to come back to.
Transit agencies on the other hand have yet to learn this place making lesson. Transit managers are often content to design transit around parking for the automobile and bus stops. How transit fits into the community, how it behaves as a good neighbor or how it creates special places is a question rarely asked.
Based on our research and experience developer interest in TOD is at an all time high. Yet given the development hostile design of transit projects in most of the United States it might not be surprising developers might be reluctant to have transit as a neighbor.
If transit agencies want to avoid the "I want TOD, but I don't want transit" developer conundrum they are going to have to change transit. Transit managers need to design more of their transit stations to fit into the community and stop designing transit just for the automobile.