MTC has a number of key interests in smart growth — to insure cost-effective transit, ease the region’s housing shortage, help local jurisdictions create vibrant communities and preserve regional open space. Mounting traffic congestion, air quality problems and a continuing housing crisis all point to the need to craft a new regional approach to coordinating transportation and land-use decisions. MTC and its partners are exploring efforts at a regional scale to envision and support smart growth land-use patterns such as higher housing densities around transit stations and in downtowns, while preserving valuable open space. The MTC is working with cities and transit agencies to help define development levels in corridors that will support transit investments. At the same time, it continues with smaller scale projects through the TLC and HIP programs that encourage local communities to build more housing near transit and build vital pedestrian and bike connections. The success of these policies and programs requires continued coordination and support by the numerous and valuable partners and public that make the Bay Area one of the world’s most competitive and attractive regions.
Local Vision Supports TOD
In November 2004, voters approved a $4.7 billion bond initiative to build FasTracks, 119 miles of light and commuter rail line, and expanded bus service and Park-n-Rides throughout the Denver region.
Metro Denver has an unprecedented opportunity to capitalize on the convergence of demographic trends, changing consumer preferences, and citizen willingness to invest in the region’s future. Transit-oriented development in metro Denver is about to become reality.
With this opportunity comes great challenge. No other region in the United States is building more miles of rail service or planning and developing more TOD within such a focused period. No models can simply be applied to the 97 station areas metro Denver will have when FasTracks is completed in 2016.
The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) is working at several levels to support successful transit-oriented development. First, DRCOG encourages collaboration. Second, DRCOG guides transportation and land-use patterns through the implementation of Metro Vision, the region’s long-range transportation and land-use plan. DRCOG also funds station area planning studies, and transit and TOD infrastructure.
As both the region’s MPO and council of governments, DRCOG’s TOD role is technical and policy-oriented.
Encourage Informed Dialogue
TOD literature is filled with case studies and research reports documenting how to develop successful TOD and achieve environmental, fiscal and social benefits. The unique nature of each jurisdiction and station area requires different, yet complementary solutions. No single model for planning and developing TOD can or should be replicated.
A common theme throughout TOD literature is the need for informed dialogue and collaboration. To build TOD successfully, experts agree it is vital to carefully craft partnerships between the many individuals, organizations and institutions interested in the outcome, including developers, lenders, transit agencies, local and regional planning organizations, and public interest groups.
DRCOG, along with the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) the Colorado District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI Colorado), the Transit Alliance and other partners have adopted a plan to coordinate efforts of TOD stakeholders. DRCOG serves as the vehicle for regional collaboration.
Several activities are underway, including:
- Providing relevant and timely information via DRCOG’s Web site.
- Working with stakeholders to develop a shared vision and collective definition of TOD success across the region and marshalling resources to achieve this success.
- Sponsoring and hosting workshops encouraging public/public and public/private collaboration.
- Sponsoring public education and outreach programs to involve citizens.
One key element of Metro Vision is the identification of urban centers. Urban centers are strategic locations where denser development is encouraged and good highway and transit access is provided. If these “nodes” are developed with a mix of land uses, especially residential and employment, people can choose to leave their cars behind and use public transit.
Concentrating future development in these urban centers supports Metro Vision’s goal of compact development. Even though population is growing by 50 percent, urban center development will keep future land consumption below 50 percent.
Metro Vision identifies the Denver Central Business District (CBD) as the region’s most significant urban center. A healthy regional core is vital to the vision of a sustainable region. FasTracks focuses the region’s transit system on the CBD, and Denver is identifying several downtown stations as major TOD opportunities. Of particular significance is the redevelopment at Union Station. Union Station is not only a central transfer point for several transit lines, but a unique TOD location. DRCOG is participating with RTD, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Denver in planning and funding both the transit and development elements of Union Station.