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Transit-oriented development (TOD) is a mixed-use residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport, and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership. A TOD neighborhood typically has a center with a transit station or stop (train station, metro station, tram stop, or bus stop), surrounded by relatively high-density development with progressively lower-density development spreading outward from the center. TODs generally are located within a radius of one-quarter to one-half mile (400 to 800 m) from a transit stop, as this is considered to be an appropriate scale for pedestrians.
Why are TODs important to South Florida?
South Florida came of age during the era of the automobile. The area’s huge increase in population during the 195
0’s-1990’s was accommodated largely by westward development and the rapid growth of subdivisions that were all predominantly accessible by the automobile. While all of this growth provided increased access to homeownership, our current development patterns have also placed quite a heavy toll on the vitality of our cities and on our natural resources.
In Miami-Dade county alone, 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed mostly to private automobile and truck use. For theentire South Florida region, wateris becoming an endangered resource, further threatened by continued growth into the western portions of the area bordering the Everglades. From a city planning and place-making perspective, exclusive reliance on cars robs communities of their vitality by creating environment that are pedestrian and bike hostile — ultimately a city’s vitality is directly related to the number of people that interact and connect regularly with the built environment. Access to transportation choices allow residents and visitors alike — of all ages and abilities — to access the services they need, and provides mobility choices for all.
South Florida, with its diversity of cultures and ages as well as its touristic appeal, is an ideal region for greater emphasis on mobility choices and transportation expansion.
TOD around the World
Many of the new towns created after World
War II in Japan, Sweden, and France have many of the characteristics of TOD communities. In a sense, nearly all communities built on reclaimed land in the Netherlands or as exurban developments in Denmark have had the local equivalent of TOD principles integrated in their planning, including the promotion of bicycles for local use.
In Other Words…
“It’s not about the transit, it’s about creating great places. Transit is just one of the tools. TOD (transit-oriented development) is really about the fundamentals of good neighborhoods. Transit becomes the means to an end in creating a liveable community.”
“My admonition to you would be to remember that, in the 21st century, building transit is about community building, and it’s about people moving. It’s those two things, it’s not one or the other.”
– GB Arrington, a consultant with PB Placemaking in Portland, Oregon
South Florida is going back to it rail roots. As a region, much of the development and growth in this area over the last century or so can be attributed to Henry Flagler and his Flagler East Coast (FEC) Railroad (and of course, Julia Tuttle who played no small role in attracting Flagler’s interest and investment).
As development boomed and the era of the automobile emerged, Flagler’s railroad, which was never truly considered commuter rail, was overshadowed by huge investments in roadway and highway construction. Interstate 95, running almost in parallel to the FEC railroad in South Florida, became emblematic of how people moved and the railroad was seen as the transporter of freight.
Today all of South Florida finds itself at an interesting crossroads. Through a combination of generational shifts, economic conditions, land scarcity, attention to environmental preservation and renewed interest in urban areas, much of the region is experiencing a change in perception particularly with regards to mobility.
No longer is the private automobile seen as the only real choice for getting around. Much of South Florida is beginning to see that cars alone are not the ideal way to move people and planning for an auto-dominated city leads to a variety of urban and human ills. Such is the moment that All Aboard Florida has stepped into the role of regional transit provider.
The conversation started, publicly at least, around 2012. All Aboard Florida, run by FECI, a sister company of the original FEC Railroad, has created rather large scale plans for Flagler’s rail line. The company is moving forward with the creation of train service between Miami and Orlando, with service expected to start in 2016. FECI isn’t just taking on rail service though; the company is planning a major mixed use development and train station on several downtown Miami blocks. Read more about their plans here.
All Aboard Florida estimates that it will take 3 million cars off the road annually with its rail service that connects travelers between Miami and Orlando in about three hours and trim nearly an hour off of travel time between Miami and West Palm Beach. While this rail service will not provide local commuter rail, it may play an important part in establishing local service. The Tri-Rail Coastal Link project is pushing to add Tri-Rail service along the FEC line to run alongside All Aboard’s trains. While still in the planning stages, Tri-Rail Coastal Link would fill in the gap for local commuters between Jupiter and downtown Miami with the possible addition of about 28 new train stations between the two cities.
Both projects could have an enormous impact on South Florida’s mobility, connectivity, economy, urban development and sustainability. Citizens for Improved Transit will be monitoring both projects and providing updates as available. Join our newsletter to stay informed.
Smart Growth America recently published the Dangerous By Design 2014 report which analyzed and cataloged the most dangerous streets for pedestrians. Of the most dangerous large metro areas nationwide, Florida holds the top four positions and South Florida is number four in pedestrian fatalities. Number one on the list is Orlando/Kissimmee, followed by Tampa/St Pete, Jacksonville, and finally Miami/Ft Lauderdale/Pompano Beach.
As our transit services grow and improve, our communities must make pedestrian safety a top priority. After all, every transit user starts each trip as a pedestrian. The absence of safety for those walking could have a negative impact on transit ridership and support which in turn could reduce the demand and political will towards transit improvement and expansion.
Smart Growth America, and many other urban/transportation planners, contend that street design plays a major role on our street’s safety. See the whole report here. Locally, a new group called Walkable West Palm Beach is an excellent example of how local action can help improve safety and walkability. Most recently, the group has worked with urban planner and author of Walkable City, Jeff Speck, to complete a walkability study for the area.
The average annual cost to operate a car in Florida is $2,516. Click to view full statistics on bankrate.com.