Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Transit-oriented development

The idea that 15-million U.S. households ("double the number that live in these neighborhoods today") will want to live in transit-oriented developments (TODs) by 2025 has been suggested by a group called Reconnecting America. It's one of those factoids that gets repeated and cited to the point that it will soon make its way into many serious discussions.

On the industry side, one real estate newsletter breathlessly reported that, "this presents a significant opportunity for developers, ... by partnering with local governments, TOD developers can receive assistance with land assemblage, tax increment financing, enactment or modification of zoning or other land use restrictions, funding infrastructure and rallying community support."

In other words, the transit subsidies can be leveraged with more local subsidies.

On the reality side, the American Housing Survey of 2003 reported that of the 106 million U.S. households, 11.4 million used transit "at least once a week".

More interestingly, of the 17.9 million households that had reported changing residences in the past year, only 1.4 million said that being "closer to work, school or other" was the main reason for the move; 2.0 million reported that it was one of the reasons for the move.

Twenty years of, say, 1.5 million annual mover households that move for better accessibility, makes 30 million by 2025 -- and 25 percent of these (7.5 million) make the move to be near transit?

That's a real stretch -- and a betting opportunity. Too late: the consultants have already been paid.