April 05 2013

Transit-Oriented Developments are One Answer to Austin’s Growth Need

The Midtown Commons exemplifies TODs with its close proximity to light rail and bus, tree-lined streets, shops, and curbside parking.

The Midtown Commons exemplifies TODs with its close proximity to light rail and bus, tree-lined streets, shops, and curbside parking.

As Austin, Texas strives to grow as a more environmentally and socially sustainable city, it has turned to Smart Growth principles to obtain its growth goals. One way in which the city has met this challenge is through the implementation of Transit-Oriented Developments, or TODs. The principles are transit-centric and consist of the following:

●     Organize growth pattern on a regional level to be compact and transit-supportive;
●     Place commercial, housing, jobs, parks, and civic uses within walking distance of transit stops and one another;
●     Create pedestrian-friendly street networks which directly connect local destinations;
●     Provide mixed housing types, densities, and costs;
●     Preserve sensitive habitat, riparian zones, and high quality open space;
●     Make public space the focus of building orientations and neighborhood activity;
●     Encourage infill and redevelopment along transit corridors within existing neighborhoods.

Midtown Commons 1st Floor Work/Live Spaces

Midtown Commons 1st Floor Work/Live Spaces

In essence, TOD strives to create vibrant communities that are part of an environmentally and socially sustainable urban plan. A challenge Austin faces with this mass implementation of TODs is rapid gentrification of existing neighborhoods, and a lack of single family detached homes. Most of the TODs seen in Austin consist of apartment homes, and occasionally condominiums are seen as well. Midtown Commons at Crestview (see images) is an example of a transit-oriented community that is in the beginning stages of developing for-sale properties in close proximity to the Capital MetroRail Red Line. What other challenges and opportunities of this development type in the Austin area can be foreseen?

People leaving the train station, and others frequenting the local pub, Blackstar Coop.

People leaving the train station, and others frequenting the local pub, Black Star Co-op.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

Bonnie Rodd

Originally from the North-Central area of California, Bonnie Rodd found herself at home amongst the creative, participatory, and sometimes off beat Austinites. She holds a B.A. in Urban Studies with a minor in Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary interest is sustainable urban development, focusing on alternative transportation and pedestrianism. Believing that the human element in design is invaluable, she dabbled in some social studies as well. This past spring she explored the three legs of sustainability in her thesis titled “Making a Case for Affordable Housing in Transit-Oriented Developments: Austin,TX” and developed a model for single-family affordable housing delivery in such neighborhoods. Bonnie currently resides in Austin, Texas, and will be exposing readers to environmental design issues present in both Austin and Central Texas.

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 5th, 2013 at 9:07 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environmental Design, Housing, Infrastructure, Land Use, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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One Response to “Transit-Oriented Developments are One Answer to Austin’s Growth Need”

  1. M1EK Says:

    Two major areas off the top of my head which immediately disqualify Midtown from being a TOD:

    1. Parking is much more convenient (and much cheaper) than the transit. Parking is free and abundant and easy to get to; the transit options cost $$; and are significantly less convenient.

    2. The density does not meet or exceed conditions in the same general area that are not right next to the transit stop.

    Midtown is what the VTPI people would call “transit-adjacent development”.

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