New Transit-Oriented Development Requirements for Boston-Area Transit Stations

Cities with commuter rail stops will have to accommodate higher-density housing or risk losing access to state resources and housing grants.

Read Time: 2 minutes

January 26, 2021, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Commuter Rail

Thirty-eight cities and towns served by MBTA trains have no high-density zoning near stations. | THONGCHAI.S / Shutterstock

Massachusetts' latest economic development bill includes a rule that requires municipalities served by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter trains to permit denser housing in at least one district within a half mile of a station. The measure is meant to create more housing near transit stations and alleviate greater Boston's growing housing crisis, according to an article Tim Logan. "The biggest barrier to building in Massachusetts is zoning and the lack of zoning for multifamily housing. People want walkable neighborhoods, and this will help us produce them," said Rachel Heller, CEO of the advocacy group Citizens Housing and Planning Association, in the article.

Some cities along the MBTA's rail lines with little or no land zoned for higher density protested the measure, insisting that local zoning decisions should stay in local hands. "Mandates from Beacon Hill are no way to build," said Massachusetts Municipal Association executive director Geoff Beckwith, adding: "New laws won’t work if they strip average citizens of their role and voice." State Senator Joe Boncore argues that the rule is a fair trade for access to state infrastructure and grants: "Suburban towns benefit from being on the regional transportation network, he said, so they should contribute to tackling the regional housing shortage."

The new rule is part of a package that includes "Housing Choice," another proposal aimed at reducing barriers to building denser housing by reducing the percent of votes needed to pass zoning changes.

Monday, January 11, 2021 in The Boston Globe

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Walkable, mixed-use neighborhood in Barcelona, Spain

Conspiracy Theorists Discover the 15-Minute City

USA Today debunks the false claim that the United Nations’ call for enabling 15-minute cities is a coded plan to institute ‘climate change lockdowns.’

February 8, 2023 - USA Today

Aerial view of MBTA commuter rail station in Concord, Massachusetts among green trees

Massachusetts Zoning Reform Law Reaches First Deadline

Cities and towns had until January 31 to submit their draft plans for rezoning areas near transit stations to comply with a new state law.

February 1, 2023 - Streetsblog Mass

Washington

Washington Could Legalize Single-Staircase Buildings

Supporters of ‘point access blocks,’ which are common in Europe and other parts of the world, say the design maximizes living space and lowers the cost of construction.

February 8 - The Urbanist

View of downtown San Francisco from top of windy street at sunset with Coit Tower in distance

San Francisco Housing Plan Gets State Approval

The city cleared a major hurdle as its housing plan, which paves the way for 82,000 new homes by 2030, is certified by the state.

February 8 - KALW

Green Line, Los Angeles

Rail Transit Plans Would Connect L.A.’s South Bay to the Regional Rail System

Two new transit extensions promise several new routes for South Bay residents to access the Los Angeles region’s transit system.

February 8 - The Source