A new hot topic in the geeky transportation world focuses on helping people live closer to their work place, thus greatly reducing the distances traveled to get to work. Before you shake your head because you know how expensive it will be to get a place downtown, we know that many downtown employees can’t afford to live downtown. That’s one reason so many people are talking about Transit Oriented Development (TOD) these days. What if you could live near downtown or within easy access to downtown, at prices more affordable than places in the Central Business District? When lots of people live in the same area (think Triangle, Mueller, even West Campus) it is easy provide more affordable housing prices and good access to transit services for short jumps into downtown.
This kind of development is really the way we used to build neighborhoods, think Hyde Park, where the streets are a connective grid, narrower and thus walkable with slower car traffic and connect to other places with transit. TOD can also support more compact and mixed development that gives people nearby places to shop, socialize and some may even work within the TOD.
Much of the Transit Oriented Development is occurring around current and proposed rail services. Here are a few examples of the larger projects.
Planning has or is occurring at: Airport Blvd, East Riverside, Leander, Lakeline, Plaza Saltillo and South Shore. Development is already occurring at Crestview/Midtown Commons, MLK station area, and Seaholm.
The next series of questions might go something like this, “what are the benefits of TOD for me? And what are the benefits of TOD to Austin and the surrounding areas?” According to the Center For Transit Oriented Development, the benefits are real and impactful. Benefits include reduced driving and less congestion, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Among other things, they also include added economic value around transit investments and more walkable communities which enable healthy and active lifestyles.