We had the pleasure of attending a SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research) Event this week in San Francisco on “Implementing Equitable TOD”. The panel was great and included Ian Carlton from Ian Carlton Research & Consulting; William Fleissig, President of Communitas Development, Inc, and Amy Chung from Living Cities.
The panel stressed the importance of considering how you move from planning to implementation in the US when tackling TODs. Ian and Will mentioned that in theory, developing TODs move smoothlyfrom strategic and concept planning through to governmental bodies such as the planning department and the transit authorities before reaching investment and development organizations. They mentioned that in reality this process is very non-linear, and the extent of stakeholders causes misaligned goals from player to player. This complex decision making environment and lack of early multi-stakeholder collaboration and engagement leads to the stalling of effectively developing these communities.
Beyond early collaboration and aligning goals, the panel also stressed that every TOD site is different and stalls in development happen if you don’t tie your proposed equitable TOD to market rate development feasibility. They mentioned that you need to plot your site in question on two dimensions:
1) TOD Factors: Are there liveability benefits that exist, is it walkable, is it connected, what can be realized in that site in an ideal TOD?
2) Parcel-Level Development Feasibility: How much does the parcel of land cost? What is the market value, and what are the economic indicators of the community currently and into the future?
What did they mean by “Equitable TOD”?
Living Cities defines it as “dense, mixed-use livable communities near quality public transit that improve the lives of low-income people by connecting them to opportunities and services.” I would take that one step further:
Equitable TODs are: High density, mixed-use, life-hub developments that are connected to multi-modal public transit infrastructure, which fit into the fabric of the existing community, but improve the lives of all residents and visitors, efficiently and inexpensively connecting them to locations, opportunities and services that ultimately benefit that city’s 5-P bottom line.
What is the 5-P Bottom Line? Profit, Planet, People, Place, and Person
There are many definitions out there but ours is a little different. The triple bottom line considers not just economic sustainability, but also environmental, and social sustainability. Our concept of the 5-P bottom line brings place-making and the person-level into consideration.
Why is it important to consider place-making and the person-level in developing equitable transit-oriented developments?
Place-making is important because it promotes pedestrian activity and footfall in a very permeable way that will inevitably lead to a more vibrant street-scape through effective ground-level development. It is important to consider the person or human level in developing these life-hub developments because we need to understand how these developments impact each person at the individual level. Are we making their lives more affordable? Easier? Happier? Healthier? We believe that all these factors are relevant at the person-level and if unconsidered, will affect the overall success of the development.
Equitable TODs need to:
-Start with multi-stakeholder collaboration and goal-alignment
-Be high-density and mixed-use
-Be connected to multi-modal transit infrastructure that is efficient and affordable
-Be relevant and sensitive to the overall fabric of the community
-Be designed and developed sustainably to boost the city’s 5-P bottom line
What do you think are important considerations when developing an Equitable TOD?
1. Ian Carlton, Ian Carlton Research and Consulting
2. William Fleissig, President of Communitas Development Inc
3. Amy Chung, Living Cities
4. Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/funkbrothers/