Transit oriented development
King County’s Strategic Plan establishes a goal of encouraging a growing and diverse King County economy and vibrant, thriving and sustainable communities. Transit Oriented Development is a means to achieving this goal.
A transit oriented development (TOD) is a private or public/private real estate development project that creates, expands, maintains or preserves a mixed-use community or neighborhood within walking distance of a transit center. TODs are designed to encourage transit use and pedestrian activity by increasing the density of residents, shoppers, visitors or employees per acre. They reduce transportation costs for residents and provide multiple benefits to residents within walking distance of transit. New TOD projects are often coupled with an increase in transit service to the area and frequently provide improvements to the transit operating environment.
Generally, transit oriented development includes multi-story residential uses, often with mixed commercial and office space, with progressively lower-density land uses spreading outwards from the center. This density justifies frequent t4ransit service, and this transit service enhances opportunities and market demand for additional dense development, which creates an active streetscape with commercial activity such as coffee shops and grocery stores. Walking distances from the center generally are less than a quarter mile. In addition, a TOD typically includes some or all of the following features:
- High-density development within a 10-minute walk circle around transit station
- Mixed-use development that includes schools, retail uses, shopping, and various housing types
- Street facilities for walking and biking
- Street grid, connectivity and traffic calming features to control vehicle speeds
- Parking management to reduce the land devoted to parking
- Street trees and lighting
By providing compact walkable communities centered around a bus or rail station with high quality transit service, TOD makes transit investments work more efficiently and attracts more riders to transit. TODs reduce the need for driving cars, which can contribute to less burning of fossil fuel, resulting in improved air quality. The facilities for walking and biking that are usually provided also promote healthier lifestyles by encouraging more exercise and can enhance community interaction.
Interest in transit-related communities is growing
Several factors are influencing a growing trend toward TOD, both within developed cities like Seattle, and in more suburban locations, such as Burien, Redmond, Shoreline and Kent. A major factor affecting this trend is individuals’ desire to avoid the time and costs of driving on congested freeways and arterials during peak hours, especially when facilities are tolled. When coupled with improved transit services to multiple destinations, individuals often make choices that increase the demand for denser communities close to transit. In addition, demographic changes resulting in more single and empty-nester households, a decrease in the ability to purchase single family homes, the continued recession and shifts in federal policy and funding also contribute to a growing interest in TOD. Young adults (18 to 29 year olds), who represent one in six Americans, are driving this trend. Burdened by college debt and working in temporary low-paying positions, many are opting for apartment living near public transit and more potential jobs. In addition, in recent years the share of 16 to 39 year olds with driver’s licenses has declined markedly.
King County TODs
In recent years, King County has completed or provided significant impetus for five major TODs: Thornton Place at Northgate, Metropolitan Place (Renton), the Village at Overlake Station, downtown Redmond, and Burien. These TODs exhibit the features described above, including close proximity to bus transit, mixed uses, some mixed income housing, shared parking, bicycle parking or lockers, and transportation demand management measures, such as free bus passes. Planned extensions of light rail to the north, south, and east, beginning in 2016, will provide additional improvements to transit that will increase opportunities for TOD.