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Transit Oriented Development

In: Other Topics

Submitted By wiredsky
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CRP 1017 Introduction to Community and Regional Planning
April 30, 2009

Growing environmental awareness and a renewed interest in city living, combined with the negative connotations of sprawl, has generated more interest in New Urbanism and its philosophies regarding growth and development. Transit-Oriented development, a specific New Urbanist transit village framework, prioritizes the 3-D’s—density, design and diversity. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is credited with ending government-sponsored inequality in the United States but “equality in transportation has been established in name only.” In urban areas in the United States, the best explanation for racial housing segregation is discrimination and prejudice against minorities.[1] Transit-Oriented Development aims to create lasting communities of mixed income, race and lifestyle and return populations to the city but must overcome discrimination and prejudice and sustain a variety of housing opportunities to avoid neighborhoods from relapsing into isolated poor enclaves scourging current cities.
Lack of access to public and private transportation networks limits millions of people from growth civically, socially and economically. Today consumer housing demand is very different from post World War II America. Condo sales are booming, 37% of all households want dense “modest” homes and 71% of older households want to live within walking distance of transit.[2] Postwar migration to the suburbs was not wholly based on race: “many middle-class families became suburbanites because older cities lacked the dream houses at affordable prices in good neighborhoods with good schools. Others went to the suburbs to flee high city taxes and low city politics or to live nearer new, suburban-based jobs.”[3] People had not recognized the progress of their cities, as they were becoming cleaner, safer and healthier with better transportation, housing and standards of living, and because, albeit because of indirect racial fear, whites had been displaced from the city, undeniably partially racially motivated hence the term “white flight.” Daniel Moynihan describes in “Crisis in the City:”
The appearance, as of a sudden, of large numbers of lower class Negroes in Northern cities has led many persons to assert that we are in the grip of a unique problem. …Only a limited number of Americans can see contemporary problems as a result of the malfunctioning of that system of economic and social relationships which are defined as urban. … The problem of objective evaluation of urban programs must become even greater, now that the Federal government is moving beyond its original concern (to improve the physical equipment of cities) towards an effort to improve the human beings who live in them. No one need be told that people are harder to rehabilitate than buildings, although we begin to learn that the process is expensive and frustrating in buildings as well. [4] In the 50’s and 60’s subsidized assistance and VHA or VA financing catapulted millions of families into a largely white only new suburbia. Even the new interstate highway system acted as an indirect subsidy, connecting commuters to inexpensive land. During the early 1960s, conversation concerning urban issues centered on the problems of metropolitan growth, but as the decade progressed urban issues became associated with issues of racial conflict. Minorities felt that, “Black labor built wealth for a white America—while their communities have been later used as dumping grounds for the negative externalities produced by industrialization.”[5] Low-income whites were granted access to the suburbs with assistance that minorities could not obtain instigated through redlining, racial steering and other discriminatory practices, building racial instead of economic barriers. As the suburbs multiplied and sprawled, funding was funneled to their new infrastructure instead of to the cities, leaving them to rot.
Cities emptied by white flight and the “American dream” idealization of the suburbs sub-sequentially surrounded by an exploding metropolis, had lessons to learn if they wanted to survive. As Philadelphia has discovered, a city needs to remain competitive with its suburbs and if it does not it will not retain enough of a tax base to supply its remaining citizens with the services they need and demand and will spiral into higher taxes, loss in even more population and more blight. The exodus to the suburbs countless cities experienced in decades after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and after improvements in public and private transportation (first the streetcar, later the automobile), has begun to show signs of reversal. The picturesque suburb has slowly devolved into development after development of McMansion’s—meant to wow, not to last—packed into tiny lots on wide disconnected streets, with huge walls blocking the serenity-turned-highway-strip-malls that surround. Gas prices add vehemence during the traffic jams and long commutes to the work, the highway full of cars and SUVs, each occupied by only one person, all going the same place. People miss walking to stores, knowing their kids are safe walking to friends because neighbors would look out for them, being able to hop on the streetcar to get downtown and many other amenities cookie-cutter sprawl does not offer. “A recent study by the Center for Transit Oriented Development found that more than 16 million households will want to live near transit by 2030.” Change is happening in response to these wishes—“communities have been designed as traditional towns within auto-oriented suburbs, but there are now many examples of successful compact, mixed use developments in suburban downtowns located on commuter lines.” Just as urban areas experienced blight, suburbs unable to evolve can, too: “a modest-cost suburban neighborhood can plunge into a depression when its residents lose either the means or will to maintain its quality.”[6]
Cities and suburbs in the United States are at a crossroads and urban planners across the world are working for solutions. “As planners viewed existing cities plagued by decay and new suburbs seemingly developed at random, they often dream of ‘doing it right next time.’ …The results have been ‘new town’ movements on various scales.”(108) In combination with market forces and public policy, “new towns” (or smart growth) are coming to life, often in the form of Transit-Oriented development. The Transit-Oriented development and its benefits—safety, density, access to transit, to name a few—is making a stand against sprawl. New Urbanists have been suggesting smart growth, Transit-oriented development and their desirable facets for years. “Improved mass transit systems and more TODs are crucial geographical components of making compact, mixed, and diverse urban environments more livable—that is, more diverse and more just urban spaces.”
Research led by Cervero, Calthorpe and other pioneers of TOD pinpointed and prioritized the 3-D’s—density, design and diversity.
How, exactly, do advocates of Transit-Oriented development expect to achieve this density, design and diversity? For starters,
Supporting this effort is the Livable Communities Initiative of the Federal Transit Administration, which is intended to enhance community life through innovations in mass transportation. It provides planning and implementation grants from ISTEA and other funds for projects that incorporate child care facilities.[7] In Philadelphia, groups like the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and PenTrans all work to bring all involved parties together to facilitate making Transit-Oriented development possible, as it is a combination of both public and private funding and infrastructure. Funding and design for a Transit-Oriented development is an issue only in the beginning, as once its built its built, but maintaining diversity and density in the area is an ongoing issue. Once an area is planned, it, like all neighborhoods, acts organically in its direction. Retaining populations and maintaining diversity and affordability (for at least a percentage of future residents) are issues that cannot be guaranteed without an ecumenical awareness.

[1] http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1272/is_n2623_v125/ai_19313494/
[2] Center for Transit Oriented Development; Reconnecting America; Center for Neighborhood Technology. "Hidden in Plain Sight: Capturing the Demand for Housing Near Transit." Reconnecting America. Center for Neighborhood Technology. Apr. 2009 <http://www.reconnectingamerica.org/public/show/hipsi>.
[3] Rusk, D. (1993, 1995). Cities without Suburbs (2nd Ed.): The Woodrow Wilson Center Press.
[4] Moynihan, D. P. (1967). Crisis in the city. The Massachusetts Review, 8(3), 492-498.
[5] Derrick, Muhammad, and Collins Chuck. "Race, Wealth and the Commons." Poverty & Race 163 (2007): 3-7.
[6] C., Johnson, William. Urban planning and politics. 2nd ed. Pg 106 Chicago: Planners P, 1997.
[7] C., Johnson, William. Urban planning and politics. 2nd ed. Pg 127 Chicago: Planners P, 1997.

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