Bus rapid transit project changes the calculus for office park


Site of the future Helmo Ave Station and park and ride with the undeveloped land surrounding it. (Photo credit: Metro Transit)

In St. Paul’s eastern suburb of Oakdale, MN, plans for a undeveloped 30-acre site have evolved from a run-of-the-mill office into a dynamic, mixed-use development. The change of plans was spurred by the finalization of the Gold Line bus rapid transit project and the placement of the line’s Helmo Station on the site.

The nine-mile Gold Line will start in downtown St. Paul, with connections to existing light rail and bus routes, and run east into Oakdale before turning south and terminating in Woodbury, MN. For most the route, the line will use exclusive bus lanes on the north side of Interstate 94 and its expected to begin service in 2024. The current station area, which is the largest undeveloped piece of property along the future route and includes the existing office/industrial park to the west, has a walk score of 22 landing it in the lowest tier of rankings: “Car-dependent, almost all errands require a car.”

Building new housing projects near transit isn’t new, but these types of speculative projects near future bus rapid transit lines, especially so close to a freeway in the suburbs, are more rare. The new TOD plan includes 700-900 new housing units and 175,000 square feet of office and retail space.

Given the location of the project and it’s low existing walk score, it will be crucial to create access to the station for riders living and working in the new development. While important, access is not necessarily something developers will consider a top priority. TODresources.org has several documents that focus on access including TCRP Report 153: Guidelines for Providing Access to Public Transportation Stations and the APTA Standards Development Program’s Design of On-street Transit Stops and Access from Surrounding Areas.

Recent TOD news

Here are a few things that have been happening this week with TOD projects across the country.

  • New skyscraper over subway station to add 1,000 parking spaces (Chicago Streetsblog)
  • Transit villages: An alternative to traffic-choked commutes is rising in Silicon Valley (The Mercury News)
  • Cuomo and de Blasio do battle over new transit tax districts (Bloomberg)
  • San Fernando Valley neighborhoods brace for more density near transit (Curbed Los Angeles)
  • Journey planning apps need to focus more on walkers before they are forced to (CityMetric)