Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Creating transportation management districts (sustainable mobility districts) as an organizing framework

An entrance to the Kendall Square T Station.

The Boston Globe reports ("Boston Properties’ $6 million pledge to Kendall Square transit could be a model) that planning and transportation agencies have secured a $6 million payment towards transportation improvements in the Kendall Square district of Cambridge, Massachusetts from the real estate development firm Boston Properties, in return for development approvals beyond what would normally be obtainable through standard zoning and planning rules.
From the article:
City and state officials expect to sign an agreement with Boston Properties this month that would set aside $6 million from the developer for transit improvements there. The money would go toward a mix of short-term fixes, such as expanded MBTA bus service or more privately subsidized EZRide shuttles between Kendall and North Station, and longer-term improvements like new technology on the Red Line, or dedicated lanes for “rapid-transit” buses.

Boston Properties agreed to the contribution as part of discussions to gain approvals for 1 million square feet of housing and offices along Broadway and Binney Street. The project includes a new headquarters for Akamai Technologies.
This is a typical practice.  Other examples include:
  • New Balance paying towards commuter rail improvements and agreeing to fund the station's operation for at least 10 years ("New Balance bought its own commuter rail station," The Atlantic)
  • Paul Allen's Vulcan Investments and other developers paying half the cost of a new streetcar service to facilitate redevelopment in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle ("Seattle's streetcar rides route to success, San Antonio Express-News)
  • Amazon paying for additional streetcar services in return for development approvals in SoDo ("Amazon to Buy 4th Streetcar, Fund 10-Minute Headways," Seattle Transit blog)
  • development approvals in the Potomac Yard district of Arlington and Alexandria in Northern Virginia are tied to transportation improvements, etc.
and of course, this is a historical practice as well.  Many communities were built by real estate developers who created transit services to make the often distant locations convenient to reach, leading to what have often been called "streetcar suburbs."

A PCC streetcar train on the Blue Line Rapid along Van Aken Boulevard at the Lynnfield station. Jet Lowe, Historic American Buildings Survey.

In the DC area, the Chevy Chase area of DC and Maryland is a leading example of such development ("Chevy Chase, Maryland: A Streetcar to Home," video, Chevy Chase Historical Society), as are Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights in Greater Cleveland ("The Van Sweringen Developments in Cleveland, history thesis)

In most places, rather than organize a formal city- or county "transportation management district," voluntary associations, called "transportation management associations" in the trade, are created.

But I argue that the process should be formalized, creating transportation management districts--beyond "parking" and "parking districts"-- with plans for multi-modal improvements (walking, biking, transit, delivery, not just for cars), and ways for funding these improvements including "public improvement districts" and proffers, which is what Boston Properties is doing in Boston, need to be provided.

One-off funding events, like what Boston Properties is doing, don't fully leverage what is necessary, and should be integrated into the creation and operation of TMDs.


-- "(In many places) Public improvement districts ought to be created as part of transit station development process: the east side of NoMA station as an example," 2016
-- "Parking districts vs. transportation/urban management districts: Part one, Bethesda," 2015
-- "Parking districts vs. transportation/urban management districts: Part two, Takoma DC/Takoma Park Maryland," 2015

Although note that Cambridge has organized the Kendall Square Mobility Task Force, which could be the prelude to the organization of a TMD.

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At 10:19 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

apparently there is a bill in the Massachusetts legislature enabling the creation of regional transportation districts

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Harshita Vyas said...

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