|Urban & Regional Planning professors Hollie Lund and Richard Willson have released a study called “Travel Characteristics of Transit-Oriented Development in California.”|
|As California highways become too congested, more commuters are being drawn to a lifestyle that includes public transportation.|
Imagine living in a neighborhood where you could walk a block from home to the nearest grocery store or shopping center, then hop on a bus or ride the rail system to work and back. Surprisingly, this isn't just a reference to savvy mass-transit cities such as New York City or Boston. It could actually be a reality in car-crazy Southern California.
As California highways become too congested, drives too long and gas prices too high, more and more commuters are being drawn to a lifestyle that requires less time behind the wheel and on the road. The answer for some is relocating to “transit-oriented development” (TOD) areas, or neighborhoods that provide mixed-use development — housing, businesses and shops — all within an easy walk of a major transit stop.
“Some people still want single family homes in the suburbs, but there is a large unmet demand for a more urban lifestyle where you live along a rail corridor and walk around the corner to shops, says Hollie Lund, assistant professor of Urban & Regional Planning. “These developments are popping up all over the place, and they are providing people a quality of life that you can't find most places, especially in Southern California.”
Cal Poly Pomona professors have released a study funded by a Caltrans transportation grant called “Travel Characteristics of Transit-Oriented Development in California.” Lund and Urban & Regional planning professor Richard Willson partnered with UC Berkeleys Robert Cervero along with undergraduate and graduate students to review the statewide trend.
In this study, 624 residents, 877 office workers, 103 hotel patrons and employees, and 1,237 retail patrons along each of California's major urban rail systems were surveyed on their travel behavior in the TODs. The transit systems included the San Diego Trolley, San Diego Coaster, Los Angeles Blue and Red Lines, Los Angeles Metrolink commuter rail, Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) and Sacramento Light Rail.
Interestingly, the study revealed that residents already living near transit stations are around five times more likely to commute by transit than the average resident worker in the same city. Office workers in these development areas are more than 3.5 times as likely to commute by transit compared to workers in the surrounding region.
“The theory is that living next to transit would reduce the number of car trips people take, and we wanted to measure whether that is actually happening in California,” says Willson. “Our study shows it does make a difference in how people travel.”
Factors that affect the decision to use the transit system include the time benefit for traveling, the number of stops along a route, flexible work hours, limited vehicle availability and parking costs.
Convenient public transportation isn't the only enticement to these mixed-use development areas. California's housing supply and affordability index also play major roles in the demand for TODs, where housing units tend to be smaller and less expensive.
“The TODS are helping to spur some new housing development, and cities are allowing higher densities around rail stations,” says Lund. “Building these development areas means having newer, more affordable housing in accessible locations.”
Lund and Willson's work has received a lot of attention from state and regional transportation and planning agencies — including BART, the California Department of Transportation and the city of Pasadena — that are using the study to further analyze and develop their TOD policies. Closer to home, Willson and Lund have also worked on a follow-up study of the Gold Line, from Pasadena to Union Station, to be published later this year.
“We're finding that community members and city councils are very interested in these studies because in some cities there is concern about overcrowding and congestion from too much development,” says Willson. “We need to be able to tell them whether additional development around transit will overload the street system or lead to gridlocked traffic. This study gives them real California data that provides a way of making development decisions.”
Continuing to research issues surrounding transit-oriented development is critical, Lund says, because “California is investing a lot of money and energy right now into rail development, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions about what makes these areas successful.”
While more Californians are becoming accustomed to the transit system, there is still much to be done before Lund and Willson can envision a region that relies heavily on public transportation the way other metropolises do.
Transit services, such as rail, bus and shuttles, need to “connect the dots” among the varied trip destinations more effectively to make this mode of transportation more accessible and convenient.
“We need to look at how to coordinate transit service and land uses in order to bring places closer to people,” says Lund.
In order to make TODs even more successful, transit travel time and reliability must be improved as well. Perceptions and attitudes toward public transportation are also an obstacle to convincing people to use the transit system. Some think public transportation is unsafe, while others may feel it only serves the needs of those who cannot afford an automobile.
“Some don't even think about trains and buses as an option, says Lund. “We need to figure out how we get people to even consider other modes of transportation besides an automobile.”
“We're moving in the right direction of getting drivers out of cars and onto the rail, but we still have a lot of questions to answer,” says Lund.
To read the full report on “Travel Characteristics of Transit-Oriented Development in California,” visit www.cpp.edu/~rwwillson/tod.
|In the study, 624 residents, 877 office workers, 103 hotel patrons and employees, and 1,237 retail patrons along each of California's major urban rail systems were surveyed on their travel behavior.|
|The transit systems studied included the San Diego Trolley, San Diego Coaster, Los Angeles Blue and Red Lines, Los Angeles Metrolink commuter rail, Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) and Sacramento Light Rail.|