BRT and Transit-Oriented Development

High-end, infrastructure-intensive bus rapid transit systems have been proven to attract and sustain transit-oriented development. As with rail, the infrastructure commitment required for high-end BRT gives investors confidence that transit service will run in a given corridor. Indeed, according to Cleveland's regional transit authority, the city's Euclid Avenue BRT has already attracted $800 million in development with $2.4 billion more planned, even though the BRT line is still under construction (as of February 2008).

BRT's development-attracting abilities have also been borne out by more established transit systems.

In Ottawa, strong land-use controls have concentrated commercial development around the BRT Transitway. Between 1988 and 1991 alone a billion Canadian dollars of development was built or in the process of being built along the Transitway. Stations anchor office parks, shopping malls, and mixed-use developments; one station is even directly connected to a hospital.

More evidence for bus transit-oriented development comes from Pittsburgh’s busway system. A 1996 analysis of Pittsburgh’s 9.1-mile East Busway found that between 1983 (when the busway opened) and 1996, 59 new developments (including retail, office, residential, and medical complexes) valued at $302 million had been built within a 6-minute walk of busway stations. This was despite terrain constraints which limited development opportunities, despite declining population in the communities adjacent to the busway, and despite the absence of Ottawa-style land-use planning. The Port Authority of Allegheny County estimates that another $203 million in development occurred between 1996 and 2004.

These are not the only successes. Areas as far-flung and different as Seoul, Korea; Curitiba, Brazil; and Boston, Massachusetts have had success with bus-centered TOD. More examples will be described as this site is updated.

The success of transit-oriented developments depends on multiple factors, including political leadership, government incentives, land use regulations, the strength of the real estate market, and the level of traffic congestion in the area (which affects demand for transit-oriented living). But it cannot be overemphasized that one of the most critical factors is the effectiveness of the transit system. Only when a transit system effectively connects places does access to transit—the heart of the TOD concept—become a valued commodity. And so the question of which transit mode can best support TOD is inextricably linked to the question of which transit mode is best suited to the development and commuting patterns of a given area.

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