Does TOD Create More Traffic?

<p>In Boston, the MBTA and city planners are weighing the benefits and drawbacks of creating transit-oriented development along a major traffic corridor.</p>
June 17, 2008, 9am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"Can a development that adds scores of cars into an already congested area be 'smart growth?'

That is the question looming over a plan to add 700 units of housing and other buildings in a tight configuration around the Forest Hills rail and bus station in Jamaica Plain.

The Forest Hills project is the largest so-called transit-oriented development yet undertaken by the MBTA in the Boston area. Such smart-growth projects are densely packed, mixed-use complexes built atop or near transit stations - whether suburban commuter rail stops or city MBTA stations - and promoted as an antidote to sprawl, congestion, and other attendant ills of the automobile age."

Yet outside its identity as a transit hub, Forest Hills is also a major chokepoint for traffic crossing the city in multiple directions, as well for commuters who drive to the station. Congestion on the two constricted main roads is a given at many times of the week. Traffic studies conducted as part of the planning process show that during the morning rush hour, more than 1,200 vehicles pass the station on Hyde Park Avenue heading toward Boston - about the same volume of traffic on Beacon Street as it approaches Kenmore Square.

Now add to that not just hundreds of new residents, but office workers at new commercial properties within the development, as well as shoppers drawn by new retail offerings, and there is a danger the Forest Hills development will make congestion worse.

"This is the most complicated aspect of this," said John Dalzell, project manager of the Forest Hills project for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which spearheaded the planning process."

Thanks to Reconnecting America

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Published on Sunday, June 15, 2008 in The Boston Globe
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