SPRAWL ANTIDOTE - TRANSIT ORIENTED DESIGN AT LEVIN COLLEGE, CSU

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Sat, 02/24/2007 - 01:35.
   

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority on Thursday, February 22, 2007 sponsored a free presentation and discussion at the Maxine Levin College of Urban Affairs at CSU.  This presentation is another accomplishment in the Levin College’s public engagement efforts.  While Case used to benefit from the PR of such fora at  the Weatherhead Regional Economics Institute (REI), the termination of the REI programs by Case has CSU now benefiting from the hundreds of citizens attending the Levin College presentations. 

 

Jeffrey Tumlin, a principal in the San Francisco area transit consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard  made a one hour power point presentation on the headaches and benefits of TOD (transit oriented design).  Basically, TOD involves trying to balance light rail or bus line/station development with station parking, housing, and commercial building.  Because transit authorities seek two primary goals – increased rider ship and increased operating revenue - there are unique demands in the transit business which are not present with private commercial development.  For example, transit authorities (TA’s) do not like to sell the land under the real estate they offer for development, because a sale would terminate the revenue stream from the property.  This means the TA prefers to lease the land to the  developer .   Most developers find this arrangement unsatisfactory because banks will not offer mortgages for the development when title to the land cannot be held by the developer.  

 

The greatest challenge with development around transit stations involves parking spaces for automobiles.  According to Mr. Tumlin, automobiles are the dominant “species” here in the US – not homo sapiens. Parking around a station kills residential and commercial development, but if the parking is taken away, the transit users from the suburbs – who often have disproportionate political clout – will scream.  And providing parking spaces is extremely expensive – $51,000.00 per car – so adding parking around a station depletes the revenue stream from rider-ship, rather than improving the bottom line.   What improves the revenue is dense residential within  a quarter mile radius of the station.  Density of 30 units per acre is the minimum to make the numbers work.  Bicycles extend that radius beyond a mile.  So to improve rider ship, and improve revenue, TA's need to wine and dine pedestrians and bicyclists.

 

Pleasant transit waiting environments (bus stops) are also a critical issue with attracting rider-ship.   The  slalom  course  of  needed approvals  looks  like this power point slide of Mr. Tumlin's:

 

A dozen or so attendees offered questions and comments, with a comfortable dialogue between the panel members and the audience.  Carl Johnson, a Cleveland citizen, used the microphone to say "people don't use the transit to come to Cleveland because its pretty, they come into town to work."    "Can the transit not only develop housing and parking but also develop jobs - in alternative energy areas like solar and wind".   So I wasn’t the only one attending that thought that the RTA should invest in wind energy!

 

After Mr. Tumlin’s presentation, Maribeth Feke – the Director of Programming and Planning at the RTA presented an overview of what the RTA is doing to improve the Cleveland transit experience.  Other RTA officials and local planning officials discussed TOD at Lee and Chagrin in Shaker Heights and Lorain and W25th corridor in Cleveland, and EcoCity, Cleveland, and other locations.

 

The entire presentation was videotaped and will be available for download from CSU.   Listening to the 7 presenters it became clear that theirs is a tough sell – caught between commercial stakeholders who want oceans of parking around every station, and rider-ship and revenue and sustainability issues which demand dense housing and pedestrian preference.

 

 

My compliments to the RTA for organizing and funding this well attended (audience of 100+) presentation,  and to CSU for its hospitality - including coffee and bagels.

 

AttachmentSize
Jeffrey Tumlin - Transit Oriented Design consultant.JPG119.56 KB
Transit Oriented Design Levin panel speakers.JPG71.61 KB
Jeffrey Tumlin - Transit Oriented Design consultant's challenges.JPG80.68 KB