Transit-Oriented Developments Make a Difference in Job Location

By Nelson, Arthur C. | Fordham Urban Law Journal, August 2017 | Go to article overview

Transit-Oriented Developments Make a Difference in Job Location


Nelson, Arthur C., Fordham Urban Law Journal


TABLE OF CONTENTS  Introduction                                  1080 I. TODs and Job Attraction                    1084 II. Analytic Approach                         1087 III. Light Rail Transit Job Location Results  1091 IV. Bus Rapid Transit Job Location Results    1094 V. Streetcar Transit Job Location Results     1097 Conclusion                                    1099 

INTRODUCTION

Between 2015 and 2050, more than two-thirds of all nonresidential development will be redeveloped or otherwise repurposed. (1) Outside most of the largest metropolitan areas, such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C., fixed-guideway transit systems in the U.S. are in their infancy. As existing systems are expanded and new ones added, it is important for transit system decision-makers to assure that transit investments generate economically and politically acceptable rates of return.

As this large-scale redevelopment unfolds, consider transportation trends of the past century. Urban America's transportation systems were transformed during the twentieth century. At the turn of the twentieth century, streetcars, horses, and walking dominated personal transportation. (2) Only America's largest cities, such as Boston, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, had heavy-rail or subway systems. (3) Automobiles were expensive and not accessible to the mass market. (4) Between the middle 1910s and middle 1920s, the cost of automobiles dropped precipitously through assembly line production efficiencies, but even through the Second World War, much of urban America depended on public transit to get around. Many larger cities also saw the rise of long-distance commuter rail systems allowing some affluent workers to live in rural Pennsylvania, for example, and commute through New Jersey to Manhattan, New York City. (5) However, America's transportation systems and landscape changed after World War II. America transitioned from an urban nation to a suburban nation, where the automobile supplanted public transit as the chief means of mobility, as shown in Figure 1. (6) This transformation fueled the phenomenon known as "urban sprawl." (7)

This figure shows the change in transit ridership, population, and automobile ownership relative to 1925. The five trends (population, automobile registrations, streetcar/light rail, rapid rail transit, and bus ridership) now are presented as ratios to their 1925 levels. For example, in 1950, bus ridership was about six times its level in 1925. On the other hand, by 1950, streetcar ridership had dropped to a fraction of its 1925 level. (9)

The last decades of the twentieth century into the first decades of the twenty-first century saw a subtle but important shift in Americans' preferences in transportation mode, mainly in their choice to use automobile or transit chosen for such destinations as work or shopping. This shift may or may not signal longer-term changes in urban development patterns. The shift is occasioned by the rise of several kinds of fixed-guide way transit ("FGT") systems outside America's largest metropolitan areas. They include light rail transit ("LRT"), bus rapid transit ("BRT"), and streetcar transit ("SCT") systems, among others. (10) Importantly, Figure 2 illustrates the growth in the use of FGT systems, and change in the vehicle miles traveled by automobiles, compared to population growth between 2003 and 2014. Between those years, America's population grew by nearly ten percent; however, the nation's total automobile miles traveled by all passengers grew by less than five percent, while the nation's total FGT miles traveled by all passengers grew by about thirty-three percent. (11) To be sure, more than eighty-eight percent of all personal miles traveled in the U.S. are still via automobile. (12) But the shift toward FGT use is noticeable.

The shift toward FGT use also signals important changes in the distribution of America's jobs and people. …

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