What eTOD Plans Need to Consider

Since its inception, CNT has pioneered sustainable, equitable, and growth-oriented solutions that reimagine how cities think about transportation and land use. One area of work is equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD), which helps underserved communities tackle affordability, meet transportation needs, and decrease climate change impacts. In light of increased community interest in walkable, connected environments, CNT recently hosted a series of workshops addressing pertinent eTOD topics. These included community history and culture, affordable housing, parking requirements, and new transportation technology. The workshops are complemented by CNT’s eTOD Social Impact Calculator, which quantifies the many benefits of eTOD practices.

Preserving the history and culture of a community is essential to maintaining a neighborhood’s unique cultural characteristics. In one workshop, Ciere Boatwright of Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives highlighted the impact of historic preservation and artists’ housing on community and economic development. Along with enriching the broader community, understanding and preserving the cultural makeup of a community and its history ultimately helps shed new light on tough problems and reduce or prevent racial and ethnic divisions.

Affordable housing is a multi-dimensional element of eTOD as it improves social service delivery, reduces emissions, and increases neighborhood spending. First, providing affordable, supportive housing near transit reduces transportation costs and allows residents to more easily access jobs, services, and opportunities. Building affordable housing near transit is also an effective greenhouse gas reduction strategy; CNT found that in Cook County, on average households living within ½ a mile of fixed guideway transit drive more than 25% less than the average household. In addition, low-income households living within ¼ mile of frequent transit drive less than 50% the miles driven by higher-income households, emphasizing the importance of creating opportunities for low-income families to live near transit stations.

Finally, when neighborhoods add housing, it increases spending power. An affordable multifamily building can add hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars into neighborhood consumer spending, supporting the local economy. The Calculator quantifies that boost to local retail based on the combined incomes of building residents.

After housing, transportation is the second highest household cost. Reforming our parking and transportation policies, particularly phasing out minimum parking requirements to improve transit access and reduce auto dependence, will stimulate economic success in neighborhoods, make day-to-day living more affordable and equitable for residents, and ultimately save municipal governments money.

The rise of new transportation technologies plays an important role in eTOD  implementation. As new transportation methods and technologies are introduced, eTOD prioritizes the needs of the community and seeks to mitigate the displacement of residents, businesses, and the overall culture. Finding a middle ground for innovative transportation technologies to co-exist in communities requires an equity lens to both address the socioeconomic challenges and leverage the opportunities these technologies can bring.

The workshops, which took place throughout the spring of 2019, were recorded and are now available to view here. CNT looks forward to continuing the conversation on eTOD and its value in community development. In collaboration with Elevated Chicago, CNT is supporting the development of an eTOD Policy Implementation Plan as called for in an amendment to the TOD Ordinance adopted in January, 2019.

Special thanks to Kira Baltutis, CNT intern, for co-authoring this post.

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