“We created the Center for Transit-Oriented Development because what we were finding was that each agency had to do all of the research themselves about what is happening in transit-oriented development,” she says. “We basically created a clearinghouse of information that practitioners can link into about whatever stage of that process they are in.”
Just like many in the industry, Poticha is optimistic about the direction things are headed. “When we started five years ago we put out a report that looked at the market demand for housing near transit and we found that through this research, that just based on demographic trends, we’re likely to see about a third of the housing market over the next 20 years wanting to live in neighborhoods near transit.” She continues, “It was new at that time. People weren’t really thinking about this and now transit-oriented development is part of the lexicon of transit agencies in cities.
“Developers really get it and we’re moving into this phase where people are, they understand that this is an important building block to the future of our cities. They really want to learn more about how do we implement it.” She adds, “With rising gas prices and increased demand on transit, that has just fueled it even more.”
Poticha stresses, “I think the future for transit agencies is a recognition that we need to partner with the cities and the development community to really make transit as effective as possible.
“We’ve been locked working over the past few decades, focusing on delivering transit services efficiently, but now, we are learning that transit is a community-building tool.” She emphasizes, “Once we begin to look at transit in this new frame of reference, it opens a lot of possibilities up for both improving the quality of transit, but also making it more cost-effective.”
“It’s really a different time. It’s just fascinating how quickly all of this is happening. Just today, I’ve been partnering with this group called Policy Link, they are primarily a network of community-based organizations and they just sent me this article from Coldwell Banker saying interest in urban homeownership, fueled by higher prices, 81 percent cite minimizing their work commute as a reason for interest in urban living. Fifty-four percent agreed that access to public transportation is appealing and 75 percent agreed that the ability to walk to more places is positive.”
This relates to what she was saying at the recent sustainability workshop. As this mindshift is happening, as gas prices are rising and transit usage is rising, the piece of federal legislation that delivers much of the money we use to leverage local funds and implement contracts are all coming forward at the same time. With positive enthusiasm she stressed, “So let’s step up and do something.”
President and CEO
Canadian Urban Transit Association
With a lifelong passion for transportation, particularly public transit, Michael Roschlau feels privileged to be able to be the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA). He says it combines personal and professional goals. “Public transit stands for so much — in terms of its economic, environmental and social benefits — that working in this context is a real pleasure.” He adds, “Linking people to jobs, to school, to healthcare and recreation — and doing this while keeping the carbon footprint as low as possible — is a tremendously rewarding vocation.”
CUTA originated as the Canadian Street Railway Association and has evolved in many ways since the inception in 1904. “Our evolution has involved development from a traditional industry association to one that provides a multitude of services to its members, to a strong advocate that has positioned itself as the voice of public transit in Canada,” says Roschlau. “The biggest shift has been the emergence from an inward-looking trade association to a forward-looking beacon that engages openly with Canadian and international partners in the pursuit of its goals.”
As the national association in Canada representing public transportation, Roschlau says it brings together all the stakeholders for all its activities, such as government advocacy, conferences and trade expositions, statistics, research, networking, training and communications.