How Zoning Might Make or Break New Streetcar Lines

As St. Louis and Portland speed along with new streetcar developments, Yonah Freemark considers how zoning may determine the success of one, and the failure of another.

Cities across the United States are looking to streetcars as development tools first, and transportation systems second. But, as The Transport Politic's Yonah Freemark reports, some cities are overlooking the need to modify zoning for parcels adjacent to streetcar stations to allow and incentivize the development they're hoping for.

Comparing new streetcar lines in Portland and St. Louis, some surprising differences emerge. On some of St. Louis' most transit-accessible lots, for example, "...buildings cannot exceed three stories or 45 to 50 feet," reports Freemark. "Meanwhile, non-pedestrian-oriented uses, such as drive-through restaurants, are allowed to be constructed. For residential buildings, developers are required to provide parking for one car per unit, and commercial structures over a size limit must provide parking as well."

For comparison, "[w]ith the densities allowed in Portland, significant new construction in the Eastside areas will be possible," says Freemark. Portland can also expect to see an increased downtown population and lower automobile usage, a result of the streetcar and relaxed zoning standards.

Full Story: Don’t Forget the Zoning

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