Management & Operations

Putting TOD to work has multiple payoffs

Posted on February 1, 2002 by Frank Di Giacomo, publisher

Six hours. Six. That’s how long it took Tiger Woods to get through 18 holes during a recent PGA tournament. As any golfer knows, that’s an excruciatingly slow round, especially since the vast majority of your time is spent waiting. Being stuck in your car in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway has just about the same appeal as playing a six-hour round of golf on a Sunday afternoon. The difference is that many commuters fight rush-hour gridlock twice a day, five days a week. There are alternatives to the dreaded weekday commute. Carpooling can help to lighten the load, especially if you enjoy the company of your partner(s) and if there are designated lanes for high-occupancy vehicles. Telecommuting makes sense if you don’t need to be present in the workplace, but companies have not widely embraced this option. Moving closer to your office is another solution, but not always a feasible one. The TOD alternative As you might have already guessed, I’ve still got one more alternative: public transportation. Commuting by bus or rail can be the best alternative, if you have easy access to a bus stop or rail station, if the route is relatively direct and if the service is reliable. The growth of transit-oriented development (TOD) will help to expand the number of people who can effectively use public transportation to get to work and back. As Editor Steve Hirano points out in his article, “Hot Projects Highlight Rising Trend in Transit-Oriented Development," TOD is expanding housing availability as well as encouraging retail and office development along passenger rail corridors around the country. Some of these TOD projects have seen the construction of hundreds of dwelling units on transit-owned property. Not only does this development reduce sprawl but it also energizes the community, supporting local vendors and enhancing the tax base. In addition, “transit villages” built on transit-adjacent private property are springing up in major cities, helping to reduce traffic congestion and, in some cases, provide affordable housing to families that don’t own cars. Transit authorities, eager to supplement their base of regular customers, are working closely with city and regional officials to promote the development of these housing tracts. Corporate support grows Many companies are taking innovative steps to make public transportation part of their corporate culture. For example, BellSouth is consolidating nearly 75 Atlanta-area offices into just three business centers, all strategically located along rail lines operated by the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). BellSouth also created incentives for its employees to use public transportation, including the construction of four satellite parking lots at MARTA stations that will be dedicated to employees. And it’s not just rail that’s seeing transit-oriented development. In Ottawa, the success of a bus rapid transit (BRT) program has spurred transit-supportive development along the corridor. It’s only a matter of time before BRT programs in the U.S. achieve the sense of permanance that TOD requires. All of these types of developments are critical to what the industry calls smart growth. It’s smart because it takes best advantage of the public’s investment in mass transportation and alleviates the congestion on America’s highways. It’s smart because it can revitalize communities and showcase the advantages of public transportation. Now if we could just figure out a solution to slow play on the golf course. . .

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