Every city that we love is a city in which we want to walk. We vacation and often choose to walk in beautiful neighborhoods and downtowns that are not characterized by 4-lane roads of high-speed traffic and acres of parking lots. Most people are in fact drawn to vibrant places defined by a certain level of congestion with its inherent lower-speed car travel. So rather than respond to increasing population and driving by only building more vibrancy-killing road and parking infrastructure - that take up a significant percentage of city land (33% of St. Paul as of 2018) and return little in property taxes - cities and developers can invest in infrastructure changes shaped by transit-oriented design (TOD), and can shift car-oriented incentives and infrastructure through travel demand management (TDM). Both result in more cost-effective use of existing transportation infrastructure and change the overall transportation mode mix from single occupancy vehicle use to other modes - such as walking, biking, carpooling, ride-sharing and transit - that deliver multiple public and private benefits.
TOD brings moderate to higher-density development within easy walking distance of transit stops, generally with a mix of residential, employment and shopping opportunities oriented toward pedestrians without excluding the auto. TDM strategies are incentives and infrastructure that lessen the demand for more/bigger roads by shifting an area's mode share away from solo drivers. Both TOD and TDM decrease parking lot acreage, allowing more people and businesses per acre and thus higher property tax collection per acre.
Funding for redevelopment of land parcels that increases the effectiveness of transit by incorporating commercial, residential, or mixed-use development that provides for safe, pedestrian friendly use is available annually from the MN Dept. of Employment and Economic Development.
TDM plans in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area were found to reduce traffic generation rates by 27% to 37% and parking generation by 11% to 21%. These reductions can be the difference between needing to install a traffic signal or not (costing around $150,000). And in Minnesota, a surface parking stall costs between $3,000 and $4,000 to build while a stall in a parking ramp costs between $15,000 and $20,000. From a 2009 Spack Consulting reportAn Analysis of the Effectiveness of TDM Plans in Reducing Traffic and Parking in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area.
Dozens of induced demand studies have found that 'on average, a 10% increase in lane miles on highways induces an immediate 4% increase in vehicle miles traveled,which climbs to 10% — the entire new capacity — in a few years.' In contrast to highways inducing congestion, light rail transit (and passenger rail) induces economically positive congestion: denser, more compact business activity at transit nodes. As the saying goes,The only thing worse than having congestion ... is NOT having congestion! The 2012 study Rethinking the Economics of Traffic Congestion clearly shows that increased congestion in US cities is related to stronger economies. Regional GDP and traffic congestion increase together, driven by and driving a vibrant, economically-productive city. As city economies grow, so too does the demand for travel. And when the streets become congested and driving less convenient, people move to more accessible areas of the city, infill and rebuild at higher densities, travel shorter distances, and shift travel modes.
The Housing Affordability Analysis Spreadsheet (Victoria Transport Policy Institute: 2010) provides default values (that can be adjusted to reflect specific circumstances) for factors such as land costs, density, building size, parking supply, financing and operating costs, that allow a city to evaluate the housing and transport cost impacts of various policy changes.
Detailed vehicle miles traveled savings, and fuel and emissions savings, in "Transportation Emissions Guidebook, Part One: Land Use, Transit, Travel Demand Management" (Center for Clean Air Policy).
Vehicle traffic from cars and trucks is a large source of greenhouse gas emissions in cities, accounting for between 20% and 50% of the total, depending upon the city, its land use patterns and its relation to other cities.
The benefits of TOD include:
Enhanced transit ridership.
Reduced reliance on cars and reduced need to travel beyond walking distances.