When a transit-oriented development misses the point


A proposed residential tower at 8th and Figueroa in Los Angeles (circled on the map) is currently occupied by a surface parking lot and is in close proximity to a Metro station. (Photo: Google Maps)

The whole point of transit-oriented development is that it’s close to transit. With denser development focused around transit, people can walk or bike to restaurants, the grocery store, and other frequent destinations close to home. And the convenient proximity to transit allows for more distant trips, making it possible to accommodate more people without having to also require space for more cars. But sometimes, that crucial idea is lost on TOD projects.

Case in point: a proposed development in the heart of downtown Los Angeles at 8th and Figueroa that will contain 517 parking spaces for 438 units. (Urbanize LA) The new project is on one of “the most transit-oriented, walkable corners in Southern California.” (Market Urbanism) A Metro station with access to four metro lines is just one block from the site and stops for more than a dozen bus routes are within two blocks.

While the proposed tower is an improvement over the surface parking lot that currently occupies the site, getting parking right is critical if transit-oriented developments are going to make the most of transit, reduce dependence on cars, and provide more attainable housing without having to bake the high cost of structured parking into every unit for sale or rent.

In many cases (though not all) the glut of parking is a result of parking minimums imposed by cities, as in Los Angeles. Some cities are increasingly eliminating or reducing parking minimums—and sometimes imposing parking maximums—that allow (or require) developers to dramatically reduce parking for transit-oriented projects which in turn reduces the cost per unit.

There are multiple resources in the TODresources library dealing with parking such as Empty Spaces: Real Parking Needs at Five TODs and Getting the Parking Right for Transit-Oriented Development. One resource, Are TOD Over Parked?, found in a survey of professional planners in municipalities with rail stations, that “37 percent of respondents felt that their city’s minimum off-street parking requirements were too high for housing near rail stops.”

You can find all parking-related resources in the TODresources library.

Recent TOD news

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

  • Denver’s plan to turn its lifeless parking crater into a walkable, bikeable neighborhood (Streetsblog Denver)
  • Letter: Raleigh must commit to transit-oriented development (The News & Observer)
  • Millbrae, CA approves multi-use development around BART station (The Daily Journal)