Strategic Plan for Transit Oriented Development, RTD FasTracks
The Denver metropolitan area is home to more than 2.6 million people. This represents more than half the population of Colorado, which was the third-fastest growing state in the nation during the 1990s and is the eighth-fastest growing since 2000. Metro Vision 2030, the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) 25-year plan for growth and development, projects the region to grow by nearly 50 percent to a total of 3.9 million residents—along with 800,000 new jobs—by 2030.
This growth will place a tremendous strain on the region’s already congested transportation system. In its 2003 Annual Urban Mobility Report, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) rated Denver as the third-most congested city in the nation. In 2005, about 1,460 lane-miles of the regional roadway system were severely congested for more than three hours per day. By 2030, DRCOG projects this to grow by 82%.
FasTracks, the Regional Transportation District’s 12-year comprehensive plan, responds to the growing transportation needs of the Denver region by planning new rapid transit and expanding and improving bus service throughout its service district (see Exhibit 1-1). Passed by a 58-percent majority in 2004, FasTracks plans for 119 miles of new light-rail and commuter rail service at a proposed 57 new stations, along with 18 miles of bus rapid transit (BRT). FasTracks has the following three core goals:
- Provide improved transportation choices and options to the citizens of the District,
- Increase transit mode share during peak travel times, and
- Establish a proactive plan that balances transit needs with future regional growth.
FasTracks offers an unparalleled opportunity—no other U.S. region today is making this level of commitment to invest in transit. The dividends of this investment will come in the form of an enhanced quality of life, which for decades to come will provide metropolitan Denver with a competitive advantage for economic development opportunities compared to other regions.
One key to realizing these benefits lies with the region’s ability to implement transit-oriented development (TOD). TOD is a specific approach to developing the built environment—not a style of urban design or a description of physical location. At its essence, TOD means development with a functional relationship to transit, allowing it to achieve synergies that enhance the value of both. For example, TOD can make transit systems more efficient and cost effective by increasing off-peak ridership. In addition, studies have shown that proximity to transit can yield a premium for property values. By definition, TOD can only be implemented by collaboration between the parties whose interests converge at transit facilities: the transit agency, local government, private developers, and community stakeholders.
As the regional transit agency, RTD’s primary role is to develop and operate this public infrastructure system. RTD’s expansion of the regional transit system will provide more transportation choices and make public transit a more attractive travel option—the first two goals of FasTracks. But local government jurisdictions will play a key role in determining the success of the third goal—as well as a supportive role for the first two—by using their power to regulate land use and development. Private developers will play a critical role by proposing new projects and providing their financing knowledge and construction muscle to develop real estate at and around transit facilities. Community stakeholders will prepare the canvass for this development by articulating a vision for their neighborhoods for which transit can act as a catalyst to achieve.