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The Mile High Transit Opportunity Collaborative: How A Group of Nonprofits and Philanthropic Foundations Are Working to Ensure Equitable TOD in the Denver Region

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The Denver region is currently embarking on one of the most ambitious and extensive fixed-guideway transit expansions in the country. Other regions are watching closely to see how the network gets built out and if development patterns reorient themselves around new transit stations, hoping to emulate our success. The region’s cities and counties have been busy preparing land use plans for new stations over the past few years, yet so far most remain long-term visions, lying in wait until stations open or developers line up to build. There are also concerns that transit-oriented development will not benefit the populations which need it most—low-income households and communities of color--which typically spend a greater percentage of income on housing and transportation.

Equitable TOD should provide greater access to opportunities for everyone, including better connections between housing, jobs and essential destinations. To ensure that the FasTracks buildout achieves this outcome, a group of nonprofits and philanthropic foundations, including Reconnecting America, have come together to form the Mile High Transit Opportunity Collaborative (MHTOC). Supported by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation, MHTOC is spending the next year engaging in a number of activities that will help implement equitable TOD in the Denver region, including:

  1. Creating a Regional Equity Atlas mapping out the Mile High region’s demographics, housing, employment, education and health features, overlaid with the planned transit network to demonstrate the importance of this infrastructure investment to the opportunities available to all of the region’s residents.
  2. Holding educational events for local and regional stakeholders to raise awareness about equitable TOD and generate interest in supporting it.
  3. Exploring the expansion of the existing Denver TOD Fund, which finances land acquisition near transit stations, to a regional level.
  4. Developing criteria for site-specific work, with the goal of selecting several transit stations to focus our community outreach, technical assistance and advocacy efforts in the coming years.
  5. Supporting the region’s 2011 application for a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant.

The groups comprising MHTOC hope to spur discussion among local and regional decisionmakers about why increased transportation options and affordable housing opportunities near transit are important to the overall health and vitality of the regional economy. The Denver region is already far ahead of many other regions, and along with similar existing collaboratives in which Reconnecting America is a participant, including Central Corridor Funders Collaborative ( Twin Cities) and Great Communities Collaborative (San Francisco Bay Area), the region is setting a precedent for how regions can invest to become more livable, sustainable, inclusive and affordable for everyone.

For more information on TOD and equity, see Reconnecting America’s Featured Topic on TOD and Equity