Strategies to Advance Transit-Oriented Development Outlined by Coalition

Strategies including community engagement, placemaking, mixed-income housing, complete streets, parking configuration, green infrastructure and energy efficiency are outlined in a comprehensive 68-page “toolkit” focusing on opportunities to extend transit-oriented development in Connecticut, as the state moves forward with significant rail and bus initiatives.

 Working in partnership, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Partnership for Strong Communities, Regional Plan Association and Tri-State Transportation Campaign have created a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Toolkit that highlights key strategies necessary for developing competitive and sustainable TOD in Connecticut.  The toolkit has been shared in recent weeks with interested officials  and organizations around the state, and discussed at two public forums in Bridgeport that brought together more than   80 municipal leaders from the region.TOD Toolkit

The document outlines the primary components of a TOD program that meets common community goals of strengthening town centers, supporting municipal budgets, expanding housing and commercial opportunities, and minimizing environmental impacts. Among the central components outlined:

  • The process and design for getting TOD built in a community, from developing a community vision and supportive zoning, to determining how accessible a station is for non-drivers.
  • The demographic trends that favor mixed-income, transit-accessible housing, the fiscal impacts of residential TOD, and mechanisms to include affordable housing within TOD development.
  • Complete Streets strategies that enhance streets and sidewalks to promote walking and biking to a station and to TOD built around it. Transit access, walking an bicycling, and the mix of uses in TOD mean that TOD districts require less parking than traditional development.
  • Best practices for managing parking, including parking maximums, shared parking, and transit incentives.  
  • Information and resources for incorporating green infrastructure and energy solutions in a community. Green infrastructure minimizes wastewater and pollutant impacts from development. Energy-efficiency, local energy generation and micro-grids help communities use less power and withstand disruptions to the regional energy supply. housing starts

Efforts are continuing by the organizations participating in the effort, and others pursuing a transit-oriented development agenda, to coordinate with key state agencies regarding strategies to move TOD forward in the state, especially along key transportation corridors.  Officials are working to secure funds for a new TOD position that would initially provide technical support to Meriden and other towns on the upcoming New Haven - Hartford - Springfield rail and CTfastrak bus lines and to develop a funding source to support financing and land acquisition for priority TOD sites.

 Transit-oriented development is described in the toolkit as “development that’s built to take advantage of the ability of people to access it with transit - a strategy for growth that produces less traffic and lessens impact on roads and highways.”  The overview also points out that “households located within walking distance of transit own fewer cars, drive less, and pay a smaller share of their income on transportation related expenses. Homes and businesses can be built with less parking, reducing the cost of development, making development more feasible in weak markets, and increasing local tax revenue.”


Towns and Cities Look to Varied Housing Options, Community Engagement

Many municipalities across Connecticut and New England are finding that community engagement – proactively, thoughtfully and creatively asking their residents for their attention and ideas about proposed housing and commercial development – pays off big time. That was evident last month at UMass/Amherst when three federal agencies – HUD, EPA and DOT – along with the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities brought together experts and advocates from the region to discuss the best ways to merge affordable housing creation, transit and livable, sustainable and environmentally sound practices.

A growing number of organizations and government entities – municipal and regional – are using or promoting community engagement because the changing housing market is moving many more communities to increase their efforts at housing creation. A wider array of housing options – smaller, denser, more affordable, energy-efficient, walkable and, if possible, close to transit – are being utilized to meet the needs of empty-nesters, young professionals and families, and workers in a region that, despite a falloff in demand, has seen rental and purchase prices remain very clip

The Partnership for Strong Communities highlighted community engagement strategies it promotes, including its new video about five very different Connecticut communities – Hamden, Old Saybrook, Colchester, Bristol and Simsbury – that have used an array of community engagement methods – charrettes, town meetings, websites and crowd-sourcing among them – to harvest ideas and achieve buy-in for their development plans.

The organization embarked on a search to discover how communities can balance multiple priorities and opinions, and achieve development that most residents can be satisfied with.  Partnership staff drove around the state and filmed interviews with about 30 individuals involved in this work.  The resulting video, along with supporting materials, reflects how five different communities with different goals, used different methods to achieve a single outcome.