The clear benefits of compact, transit-oriented growth


Downtown Columbus, Ohio. (Image: public domain)

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) expects the Columbus area to grow to 3 million people by 2050, up from about 2.4 million today. To accommodate that growth, MORPC developed a long-range plan—insight2050—in 2014, which called for studying the potential of high-capacity transit corridors to see how they would be affected by various development patterns.

The resulting Corridor Concepts study looked at two different scenarios for five transportation corridors: a compact scenario and business as usual scenario that continues the region’s current trajectory. The study examined eight metrics—land consumption, local infrastructure and services, local tax revenue, transportation accessibility, transportation mode share, vehicle miles traveled, greenhouse gas emissions and household auto and utility costs—using Calthorpe Analytics Urban Footprint tool. This analysis used data from every single land parcel in the region and parsed how they work together in greater detail than has been previously possible.

The findings are impressive. By focusing on compact growth, locating 55 percent of new homes and 60 percent of new jobs along the five corridors, land consumption could be reduced by 112 square miles, capital and operating costs for infrastructure could be reduced by almost $11 billion, and local tax revenue will increase $1 billion by 2050 compared to business as usual. This is an increased total value of about $12 billion for the region in savings and increased revenue, not to mention household savings and greenhouse gas reductions.

But getting there will be a challenge. To realize the benefits of more compact growth, “the many different jurisdictions in the region will need to cooperate, zoning and land use policies will need to change, and a major push will be needed to carve out space along each of the corridors for high-capacity transit.” (Columbus Underground)

For more information on scenario and corridor planning, check out and TOD 203: Transit Corridors and TOD and the Performance-Based Transit-Oriented Development Typology Guidebook.

What’s new on the pod?

Under new TOD zoning in Charlotte, NC, developers will be able to build taller buildings if they include affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, more open space, or a number of other items focused on improving economic mobility in the city. A menu of options allows developers to mix and match these economic mobility items for points which allow them to build higher building; the more points you earn, the higher you can build. Hear more about Charlotte’s new TOD zoning and how it was developed on this month’s episode Building Better Communities with Transit. Catch this episode on Soundcloud, Stitcher, iTunes, Overcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

Recent TOD news

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

  • Austin to leverage development review for transit goals (Austin Monitor)
  • Using transit to integrate neighborhoods with the jobs inside the Loop (Chicago Sun Times)
  • Inside LA’s massive transit-oriented community construction pipeline (GlobeStreet)
  • Plans for shops and offices near light rail clear major hurdle (Charlotte Observer)