“All Aboard” with Erika Schnitzer

Financial crises…soaring gas prices…How does transit-oriented development fit into the bigger picture?

As a native of the metro New York City area, public transit is nothing new to me. But perhaps I’m naïve. As I sat listening to Bill Sirois, manager, TOD for the Regional Transportation District RTD) in Denver this morning, I began to realize just how crucial TOD truly is in today’s society and how far some of our nation’s cities have come in recent years.

The large turnout for Multi-Housing World’s Denver TOD bus tour clearly reflected this importance, as well as an eagerness to see what can actually be accomplished.

Here in Denver, public transit ridership was up 13 percent in the first quarter of 2008. With FasTracks, RTD’s 12-year plan that includes 122 miles of new light rail and commuter rail, in addition to 18 miles of bus rapid transit service, this figure will only continue to rise.

And at the heart of this plan is the development of Denver Union Station. Much like New York’s Grand Central Station of which I am accustomed, Union Station will become Denver’s transportation hub by the time it is completed (expected in 2017).

But that’s not all. The Center for Transit-Oriented Development projects that by 2030, there will be a demand for 155,000 residential units within a half mile of transit. Downtown Denver alone has expanded from 2,000-3,000 units to 10,000 units over the past 15 years. And plans are being called for another 8,000 units within the next several years.

This is great; more TOD means fewer cars on the road, which means residents have more income to spend on housing and other needs. Transit thus becomes an amenity for downtown living.

But what impact will this failing economy have on transit-oriented development?

While plans for Union Station call for it to be built all at once, the whirlwind of recent events provides a challenge. The airport corridor will be the number one priority. On a larger scale, Forest City reportedly will not begin any new projects in Denver in the next few years.

Stay tuned for more on Denver’s transit-oriented developments, as well as updates for Multi-Housing World…