Codifying equitable TOD for Sound Transit’s surplus land


New apartments adjacent to Othello Station in Seattle, WA. (Image: SounderBruce, Wikimedia Commons)

Lower-income individuals and families are most in need of more affordable transportation options. But when new transit comes to a neighborhood, it can drive housing prices higher and force out people who can no longer afford to live there. In Seattle, the expansion of their light rail lines is having that precise effect. As Hester Serebrin with the Transportation Choices Coalition says, “Sound Transit increases land value just by touching the land.”

But Seattle is also taking steps to make sure that its new light rail stations will also serve people with low- and moderate-incomes—those who stand to benefit most from the new transit access—by combining traditional TOD with a focus on equity (also known as equitable TOD or eTOD). Sound Transit’s Board of Directors recently approved a new policy for using surplus land acquired during the construction of new transit facilities to build affordable housing. The policy, which codifies Sound Transit’s commitment to TOD and affordable housing, is the result of a mandate from the state legislature that was imposed in exchange for granting Seattle the local taxing authority needed for its most recent transit expansion plan.

The state mandate requires that 80 percent of suitable surplus property owned by the transit agency must be offered to affordable housing developers and 80 percent of the units must be affordable to those making up to 80 percent of the area median income. The agency’s new policy now defines equitable development and lays out a number of goals including increasing transit ridership and public engagement. Over the next year, Sound Transit will develop procedures and a strategic plan for implementation of eTOD with public input.

Local organizers hope the implementation plan will allow those who are potentially negatively affected by rising rents and property values to influence the planning of new developments. They also hope the policy will push Sound Transit to go beyond just housing and consider local businesses that can be affected by displacement pressures.

For more information on public engagement in the planning process visit the library. Reports available include “A Guide to Community Driven TOD Planning” and “Engagement Technology for All.”

Recent TOD news

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

  • Transit advocates say building new Boston commuter rail station now will influence future development (Commonwealth Magazine)
  • Montreal transit agency ventures into real estate (The Globe and Mail)
  • Development slow going along Grand Rapids, MI rapid bus line (MiBiz)
  • California Legislature’s latest attempt to finance neighborhood infill TOD (The Planning Report)
  • Sacramento plans to ban gas stations and pot business near transit (The Sacramento Bee)
  • Debate about Nashville’s first planned transit oriented district (The Tennessean)