Transportation and land use planning, as a field, is shifting away from segregated uses connected by highways and streets to more compact, mixed-use developments connected by high-quality transit. This new paradigm has brought special attention to transit-oriented developments (TOD), which are sometimes touted as being among the most affordable, efficient places to live. But how affordable are they, and who has the power to effect change?

Is Transit-Oriented Development Affordable for Low and Moderate Income Households?, a study funded by the National Institute of Transportation and Communities (NITC), examines housing costs for households living in TODs. Led by Reid Ewing of the University of Utah, the team examined the housing affordability of TODs in U.S. cities across 23 regions. Register for a February 15 webinar to learn more about the project.

The analysis of housing costs revealed a lot of variability across different regions. Of all the examined housing developments, only 16 projects/developments out of 117 across 85 TOD sites were deemed 100% "affordable" – meaning that ...

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Principal Investigator: Arthur C. Nelson, University of Arizona
Learn more about this research on the Project Overview page.

July 2018 Update

We originally published this story in December 2017 about a new study in progress. The data clearinghouse created by the researchers is now live and can be accessed here. Researchers have also provided a guide to using the data (PDF). The research team has made this resource publicly available to allow transportation researchers to use it as they see fit: micro-level analysis, in-depth longitudinal studies, or anything in between. We anticipate the publication of the full final report by the end of 2019.

Robert Hibberd...

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Principal Investigator: Brenda Scheer, University of Utah
Learn more about this research by viewing the related presentations and the full Final Report on the Project Overview page.

Transit-oriented development, or TOD, could be the “poster child” for sustainable urban development. It concentrates land uses, including commercial and multi-family housing, near transit stations so as to reduce car dependency and increase ridership. The benefits are manifold; increased community health, positive economic impacts, less harm to the environment and potentially greater social equity.

But what about affordability? In exchange for all these benefits, do TOD residents spend more money on transportation?

A new NITC ...

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Principal Investigator: Lisa Bates, Portland State University
Learn more about this research by viewing the two-page Project Brief, related publications and the full Final Report on the Project Overview page.

Lead Investigator Lisa Bates gave a lecture at Portland State University in December 2017. Watch the video or ...
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Saddling transit-oriented developments with parking requirements better suited to typical suburban developments can make housing and office space near transit scarce and overly expensive. That’s one implication of a recent NITC research report "Trip and Parking Generation at Transit-Oriented Developments" examining driving and parking at these centers.

It makes sense that transit-oriented developments—dense, walkable centers close to transit that combine residential, commercial and office uses—would generate fewer car trips and need less parking than other development types. But until now, no one has found out how much less parking.

NITC researcher Reid Ewing of the University of Utah took up the challenge and reveals the answer in a report: a lot less. The developments Ewing’s team studied generally generated less than half the driving, and required fewer than half the parking spaces, than standard guidebooks predict. They presented some of their findings Jan. 10 during the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C. Learn more about the conference or download the paper.

Ewing’s team studied transit-oriented...

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In many cases, living in suburbia means relying on an automobile for most trips, even short trips to nearby stores. If housing developments incorporated better paths and sidewalks, however, would anyone use them?

Researcher Nico Larco found that people who live in well-connected developments are significantly more likely to walk and bicycle than those in developments only accessible by automobile. He details his findings in this OTREC report.

Larco, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Oregon, found that people who live in well-connected developments walked to their nearby commercial strips nearly twice as often as did people in less-connected developments. In addition, a greater percentage of residents in well-connected developments reported sometimes walking or cycling.

Despite suburbia’s reputation for large single-family homes, more than a quarter of suburban housing units are higher density. In fact, the suburbs are home to more than 9 million multifamily housing units, with 5 million more projected for the last 20 years. Although these units tend to be near commercial centers, a lack of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure makes trips using these modes difficult.

For this research project, Larco developed criteria for measuring connectivity in trips taken from, to and through multifamily suburban developments. Studied developments were rated as “well...

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A daylong conference Thursday in Salem focused on the ties between transportation and affordable housing. While not sponsored by OTREC, the conference dovetails with an OTREC theme, the intersection of land use and transportation.

Called "The Road Home: The Intersection of Transportation and Affordable Housing," the conference was sponsored by Housing Land Advocates, AARP and the Willamette University College of Law. Speakers tackled topics including transit-oriented development, land-use and transportation policies that spur the development of affordable housing, transportation agencies' civil rights obligations and climate change.

Although much of the discussion revolved around metro areas, one panel also addressed rural concerns. Sometimes simple solutions for small-town problems get overlooked, said panelist Travis Brouwer, senior federal affairs advisor with the Oregon Department of Transportation. Improving a local trail system can allow town residents to run errands without needing a personal vehicle, Brouwer said. Adding at least occasional bus service to the nearest large town can help residents go car-free, said Mary Kyle McCurdy, staff attorney for advocacy group 1000 Friends of Oregon.

The conference follows the...

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The Regional and Division Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development and Department of Transportation are working with the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) to convene a one-day, statewide, community dialogue to discuss their joint Partnership for Sustainable Communities today (June 30, 2010) at Willamette University.

Attendees represent a balanced representation of subject (transportation, housing, environment), geography (statewide, regional, local), and sector (public, private, academic, NGO).

The purpose of the event is to “increase awareness and understanding of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities; to receive input from state, regional, and local participants about opportunities and needs to inform our efforts; and, to catalyze an enhanced level of participation throughout Oregon.” The meeting will include presentations by the Administrators and workshop discussions facilitated by the National Policy Consensus Center.

Suburban multifamily housing makes up the fastest-growing housing market in the country. Townhouses, condos and apartment complexes bring density to suburbia. They are also often located close to commercial areas. For these reasons, they offer the potential for active transportation and mixed-use development. Yet this potential rarely becomes a reality. Professor Nico Larcoís OTREC project explores why inaccessible, disconnected forms of suburban multifamily development dominate. The project draws on interviews with architects, planners, developers, and property managers of developments in four states. It proposes ways in which current practices might shift in order to create more livable, less congested, and multi-modal suburban communities. To read the report in its entirety go to: https://ppms.trec.pdx.edu/media/project_files/OTREC-RR-10-03_final.pdf

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