Housing for buses and people


An electric trolley bus in San Francisco, CA. (Image: Pi.1415926535, Wikimedia)

In many older dense cities transit agencies operate aging bus and train yards that sit on expensive land and need extensive upgrades. Affordable housing shortages are also prevalent in many of these places which can lead to decisions about whether these properties should be used for housing or bus depots. But innovative thinking and new technologies are changing the discussion. Such is the situation in San Francisco where the SFMTA has opened up the possibility of building new housing to help pay for the renovation of a 103-year-old maintenance facility.

The two story Potrero bus yard is the maintenance facility for eight trolley bus lines and is at currently at capacity with 138 buses. The depot is outdated and needs electrical upgrades and more space to house as many as 200 vehicles that run on batteries and electrical wires. But the necessary improvements will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and to pay for it the agency will consider partnering with the city to build housing units (including affordable housing) on top of a revamped depot.

Often bus yards are loud and full of exhaust which means agencies would have to choose between either buses or housing on prime real estate, as was the case in Boston. But in this instance the bus facility is for electric trolley buses and battery electric buses that have zero tailpipe emissions and are much quieter than other buses. This discussion could become more common as cities look to use valuable land to provide more needed housing or manufacturing space and the potential negative elements such as diesel exhaust and noise become less of an issue with cleaner vehicles.

For more information about how agencies and DOTs are taking creative approaches to problems, check out the resource library, which includes documents such as The Innovative DOT authored by Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative.

Recent TOD news

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