- Government support is the best predicator of transit-oriented development, regardless of system type. Governments can invest in related infrastructure, change the zoning and other regulations, provide loans or tax abatements, and market the area to help support development. But if a government does nothing to support TOD along the transit corridor, there will be no impact.
- Bus rapid transit leverages more transit-oriented development per dollar spent on building transit than light rail transit or streetcars. Cleveland’s HealthLine BRT and Portland’s MAX Blue Line LRT leveraged the most overall TOD of the corridors studied—$5.8 billion and $6.5 billion, respectively. Yet, because the HealthLine cost significantly less to build than the Blue Line, Cleveland leveraged approximately 31 times more TOD per dollar spent on its HealthLine than Portland for its Blue Line.
- The strength of the land market around the transit corridor is the secondary indicator of success. Where governments provide moderate development support, the attractiveness of the land determines the level of TOD investment. Today, downtowns tend to begin as stronger land markets, so routing transit through a city’s downtown leads to better TOD impacts.
- A higher quality transit investment, as scored by The BRT Standard, helps leverage more development in emerging land markets.
Existing Transit Systems Also Generate Development
ITDP’s report also shows how urban planners can employ TOD principles when redeveloping urban areas served by existing transit systems. The TOD success story in Pittsburgh provides the perfect example for this finding. The Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway, the first BRT in the country, was not conceived as a development initiative. The city built the BRT in 1983 to connect the downtown neighborhood with the communities and suburbs to the east — but did not invest in economic development around the BRT at all.
Twenty years later, though, a public-private initiative looking to revitalize the East Liberty neighborhood focused on the community’s BRT station as a potential economic anchor for new growth. By adjusting the zoning regulations surrounding the station, cleaning up industrial sites, and aggressively recruiting economic anchors, the initiative attracted $900 million in new development concentrated around the East Liberty Station.
“Our research found that the most important factor in the success of transit-oriented development is how the mass transit is embraced and promoted — the type of transportation doesn’t matter, so long as it’s good quality,” said Hook. “But in these cash-strapped times, how far an investment stretches sparse government dollars is as critical a factor as finding the lowest possible price tag for the project. Bus rapid transit fits perfectly in this narrow window of opportunity.”
BRT was first developed in Curitiba, Brazil, and later embraced by Latin American cities such as Bogotá, Lima, Rio de Janeiro, and Mexico City, as well as other cities around the world, including ones in Australia, China, France, India, Indonesia, and South Africa. The largest BRT system in the world is TransMilenio in Bogotá, which has an average daily ridership of nearly 2 million passengers.
Other North American cities with good-quality BRTs include Eugene, Ore.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Ottawa, Ontario. The bus systems in Boston, Mass., and Kansas City, Mo., use elements of BRT as well, but have not fully embraced all of the advantages that a comprehensive BRT system provides. Chicago, Ill., Boston, Mass., and San Francisco, Calif., are among the municipalities currently considering how to implement BRT and use the systems to promote their own growth.
“With revenues still bottoming out from the recent recession, cities today have to stretch their investments as far as possible,” concluded Weinstock. “Cost-effective BRT has now proven itself to be a great catalyst to revitalization. But it doesn’t happen automatically. Cities have to pick the right corridor and then provide considerable support to generate TOD success.