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Integrating Transit Into The Built Environment: Lessons From Denver

Simply having light rail doesn’t prompt people to drive less, according to researchers who looked at Denver’s existing light rail system. It is the integration of transit with the built environment that can prompt reductions in the vehicle miles driven.

The March report “Quantifying Transit-Oriented Development's Potential Contribution To Federal Policy Objectives On Transportation-Housing-Energy Interactions” written by students from the University of Connecticut and the Denver campus of the University of Colorado for Center for Transportation and Livable Systems has been added to the Resource Center best practices database.

“While Denver may have achieved its goals with respect to ridership,” the researchers noted, “locating the system within a heavy rail corridor and freeway corridor provides limited opportunities for more integration between the system and the built environment.”

Researchers created a systematic pedestrian level-of-service index for each station within the system, taking into account the formal as well as informal street networks.

“Primary data collected by surveying households across the metropolitan area revealed very little difference between car ownership rates and weekly VMT of survey respondents living within ½-mile of an LRT station and elsewhere in the metropolitan area,” researchers explain. “Differentiating between those station areas that were Park-and-Ride (that is, had a park-and-ride lot) versus Walk-and-Ride showed a more nuanced picture. Residents who live in Walk-and-Ride stations do have lower VMT than those who live in Park-and-Ride station areas and those who do not live near an LRT station. This reinforces the fact that development needs to be more fully integrated with the LRT system in order to achieve some intended goals such as less dependence on automobiles.”

Read the executive summary and download the full report