It looks like the idea of taking a more corridor-based approach [PDF] to transit-oriented development is beginning to take hold. While planning for traditional transit-oriented development has focused on targeted investment around transit stations, planning for integrated transit corridors looks well beyond the station area. This presents an opportunity to spur development and investment in the oft-neglected neighborhoods that happen to fall between transit stations. But, as with all things, corridor planning presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges.
Let’s start with the promising aspects of corridor-centered planning. A growing body of research [PDF] points to the benefits of planning for multi-modal improvements along the length of transit corridors. Investment along the entire transit corridor provides an opportunity to attract a wider base of users. By investing in multi-modal improvements in close proximity to new transit investments, local governments have an opportunity to create development patterns that are more evenly distributed along the corridor. While traditional transit-oriented development focuses on creating walkable communities around transit stations, it turns out that creating walkable communities between transit stations also has the potential to attract significant investment.
Research by Mariela Alfonzo has shown that increasing connectivity and walkability, along with a host of other factors, accrues tangible economic benefits. By casting a wider net beyond the one- to two-mile radius around transit stations, communities have the potential to leverage planned transit investments.
In Charlotte, SC, voters approved $30 million to restore the city’s historic trolley. Of that amount, $20 million was used to improve corridor infrastructure and $10 million was dedicated to pedestrian improvements citywide, including a pedestrian path, benches, lighting, and landscaping along the length of the trolley line. The multi-modal improvements may be one reason why property values along the corridor have risen.
In Los Angeles, a recent report [PDF] by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute recommends a corridor-centered planning approach to increase connectivity to job centers, provide mixed-income housing, and to plan for employment-generating land uses.
This creates a lot of potential, but this larger framework also presents its own hurdles. In particular, the Center for Transit-Oriented Development notes that planning for transit corridors occurs on a more regional scale. That requires the coordination and input of multiple stakeholders who may not have aligned objectives. In addition, transit corridor planning works best when multiple station areas face similar opportunities and challenges. In areas where these corridors cut through a diverse region with varied local environments, coordinating investments on a corridor basis may prove difficult.
In spite of the challenges, it makes sense to take a more comprehensive approach to leverage planned transit investments. While planning for the areas surrounding transit stations will still remain an important part of fostering transit-oriented development, corridor-based planning efforts have the potential to create an integrated network of multi-modal, walkable communities.