Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is a strategic, generally public/private, method for driving ridership and alleviating stress resulting from single occupant automobiles in certain metro areas. There are some CRITICAL right and wrongs when it comes to approaching a TOD opportunity and it is about redefining “highest and best use” for the real estate involved. Current and future values of easing the burden on transportation congestion is unequivocally apart of the financial equation and can often eclipse the cash remuneration provided to the public sector. What do we mean by this? All public entities are subject to procurement and disposition guidelines that protect the “taxpayer” who ultimately paid for the transit property. Many public entities apply their statutory disposition language to the process of evaluating a TOD public private partnership and this can “kill” the deal more often than not. In fact, the future value of an additional parking space dedicated to a commuter might be far more valuable than the land rent a project might fetch. Transit “property owners” must do four things well in order to accomplish a project that is great for all involved:
- Procurement Expectations- develop proper language for public private partnerships that limits the statutory interference to creating a great project. Ensure that increasing ridership and community “placemaking” is rightfully valued in the deal.
- Land Use– more often than not the zoning of the land under the transit facility is limited and is often industrial or commercial in nature. We advocate either a change or an overlay that provides for multiple uses and, equally important, an increase in density that can allow the coexistence of all that is needed to make the project successful and enhance ridership.
- Planning- in the early days of TOD the transit authority would follow a strict planning effort which tended to be a bit prescriptive with regard to the private development. A quality TOD is “demand based” in a fashion that is as close to real time as possible. The Private partner will bring their best to the table if they can drive the solution on an equal and even playing field. So a good transit partner will define ridership, multimodality and the needs that they believe exist based upon commuter trends but they will fully collaborate in the planning process.
- Bring the right opportunities to market at the right time- Planning ahead and anticipating demand throughout a transit system is crucial to TOD. How often is a transit agency waiting until a facility is over-subscribed before beginning the TOD solicitation process or they are not in lock step with the Transit Adjacent Development?
Members of the MCFA Team have solved these problems in the trenches. Understanding the mentality and goals of each party to the process allows us to attract the best and brightest, set proper expectations from the start, build enthusiasm, negotiate and oversee the creation of something great. A quality Transit Oriented Development does not have to be ambitious but can be an attractive living, working and commuting solution when executed well.