Metro needs more development at rail stations

John Mataya Transit Oriented Development Leave a Comment

“Creating more transit-oriented development  at Metrorail stations is a key strategy for resolving Metro’s funding gaps,” this according to Shyam Kannan, WMATA’s planning chief.  Speaking to the Transit Oriented Development Institute Conference convening this week in DC, Mr. Kannan explained that more development around the region’s stations will support Metro with increased ridership and revenue.  In recent years Metro has had to ask local and state governments to contribute more due to regular revenue shortfalls, but according to Mr. Kannan, there is an opportunity to address revenue challenges by thinking more about better use of Metro’s real estate adjacent to stations.

In addition to this new transit-oriented development (TOD), Kannan said that much of existing station area development would benefit from improved bike and pedestrian accessibility. Metro has been doing some great work on identifying where these opportunities exist.  Metro’s analysis on walksheds around rail station areas should be viewed by local and regional officials as an opportunity to increase access and boost revenue through increased ridership.  These solutions are relatively low-cost and include adding better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure around the station areas.  With more opportunities for people to walk to the metrorail station, more people will walk and Metro now has the data to prove it.  Local and regional officials should seize this opportunity to boost ridership and revenues.

The region would benefit substantially to having more development around Metro stations, particularly on the eastern side of the region. Many of these stations have enormous parking facilities, but little other development. Trains operating to these stations  – particularly those operating midday – are frequently empty, costing Metro a lot of money to serve a limited number of people. The region has struggled with low investment on the eastern side of the region for years, but today things are changing.  New more predictable development procedures and strong political leadership now exists in Prince George’s County to start tangible progress around transit-oriented development. New momentum is building for the region to be more aggressive about addressing these challenges.

Unlocking the Benefits of Transit-Oriented Development

“Today, making the case for transit-oriented development is becoming easier”, proclaimed LOCUS CEO Chris Leinberger. Leinberger served as one of the TOD Conference hosts and presented to the assembly his own research on Walkable Urban Places and TOD analysis from across the DC region. These make the economic case for strategic interventions to make TOD a reality.  Leinberger went on to say, “we understand the tools, the financial incentives, a predictable regulatory framework, the marketing and place management techniques, and public-private partnerships all play integral roles to creating great places and unlocking the full benefits of TOD.  We can and should be deploying these strategies strategically to yield the benefits to our local communities and our regional transit system.”

Showcasing TOD initiatives across metro DC

This week transit-oriented districts throughout the Metropolitan Washington were on full display as the Transit-Oriented Development Institute hosted their first ever conference. Organizers proclaimed the DC region as the “capital of transit oriented development” as they welcomed industry leaders and practitioners from across the country who have come together to exchange ideas, learn the latest TOD trends, and tour projects.

The first day of the conference started with a number of local and national experts discussing the Washington region’s TOD story and touting the economic benefits of TOD.  The Washington region has clearly been a leader and has lot to be proud of when it comes to TOD.  The region has successful examples of transit-oriented districts throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and is forging ahead with ambitious projects such as leveraging new transit investments to transform Tysons from its infamously snarled auto congestion into a walkable place.

While the Washington region has made great progress, there are still many opportunities and a strong regional case for further unlocking the benefits of transit-oriented development across the region.  Today, many of the of region’s transit stations, especially on the eastern side of the region, have not fully realized their development potential.  This is not only holding back local governments from harnessing the financial benefits of greater public revenue from TOD that can pour into better schools and public services, Shyam Kannan will be quick to remind us that this development lag also nixes an important funding source (fare box revenues) from the region’s premier transit system, Metro.

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