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The Role of Urban Infrastructure in Supporting Transit-Oriented Development

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Of the many challenges cities face, congestion and air quality are two interrelated issues that despite technological improvements in vehicle emissions standards and engine efficiency, continue to worsen. Of the

Of the many challenges cities face, congestion and air quality are two interrelated issues that despite technological improvements in vehicle emissions standards and engine efficiency, continue to worsen. Of the strategies attempting to reduce automobile dependency, a popular approach adopted by cities is the concept of transit-oriented development (TOD). The strategy aims to better integrate land use and transportation planning, and is often characterized by a mix of land uses, high density, and proximity to quality public transit. While practitioners and academics argue the economic and environmental benefits of TOD, there are several examples along the Valley Metro light rail corridor where the strategy appears to be failing to attract people, businesses, and ultimately transit riders. The purpose of this study is to explore how urban infrastructure characteristics, specifically transportation connectivity, urban design, and land use interact to support light rail ridership. The study utilizes a rendition of sustainability’s triple-bottom-line framework, wherein economic, environmental, and social elements are represented as criteria in the transportation, land use, and urban design analysis of six Valley Metro light rail stations. Each element has supporting criteria that are ranked relative to the other stations under analysis, culminating in overall TOD scores for each station. The number of TOD projects and ridership trends are also compared, and in combination with the evaluation of urban infrastructure elements, the results suggest the importance of transportation connectivity, pedestrian-scale infrastructure, a sense of place, and employment centers for TOD stations to yield high ridership. Findings are analyzed through a sustainability lens resulting in the proposal of strategic solutions for improving TOD planning methods.

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  • 2017-04-17