UC-Berkeley Professor: Rail TOD Isn't Sustainable Development
by Dr Panos Prevedouros, PhD, Fix Oahu, December 3, 2015
One of the conclusions that can be drawn from the article Does Transit-Oriented Development Need the Transit? by Daniel G. Chatman, Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley is that rail transit is ineffective in reducing auto ownership and in reducing auto ownership use for commuting.
Interesting quotes include the following (my underlining):
- Auto ownership: Once I controlled for housing type, parking availability, population density, bus availability, and other built environment measures, the results were striking. ... rail proximity was not an independently significant predictor of auto ownership.
- Driving to work: When I controlled for other factors, the apparent effect of rail access on auto commuting vanished entirely.
- Grocery trips: Again, when controlling for parking supply, housing, and built environment characteristics, neither housing age nor walking distance to rail showed any association with the frequency of auto grocery trips.
- Conclusion 1: Developers are aware that public opposition is often lower near rail stations, and policy makers and urban planners believe that rail access will mitigate traffic impacts. But such a policy will not improve long-term sustainability when rail investments and rail-proximate housing, in and of themselves, make little difference in auto ownership and use.
- Conclusion 2: If access to rail is not a primary factor in reducing auto use, it could be a blessing, not only because rail infrastructure is expensive, but also because the amount of available land near rail stations is limited.
My conclusion: Rail based TODs are unsustainable. They are sub-optimal projects that waste public resources on marginal (at best) mitigations of mobility problems.