Quantifying Transit-Oriented Development's Potential Contribution To Federal Policy Objectives On Transportation-Housing-Energy Interactions
The LRT system in Denver, Colorado, connects the downtown with neighborhoods to the North, but primarily stretches southwards, travelling in existing transportation corridors carrying freeways and a heavy rail system. Outside of the downtown areas, the siting of the LRT system alongside the rigid infrastructure that comprises the heavy rail system and the freeway systems severely inhibits pedestrian accessibility to the transit system. To help further understand how the level of accessibility varies across the system, a systematic pedestrian level-of-service index for each station within the system was created that takes into account the formal, as well as informal street networks. This inaccessibility is highly likely to limit the potential that this system may have to generate development near station located that is fully integrated with the LRT system.
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. 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 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.
Taken as a whole, the study suggests that while Denver may have achieved its goals with respect to ridership, locating the system within a heavy rail corridor and freeway corridor provides limited opportunities for more integration between the system and the built environment over the longer term. Building a system with the goal of congestion relief and placing an emphasis on creating transit points where drivers can switch to LRT may limit the extent to which that system is able to generate Transit-Oriented Development in the long-term, and reduce the potential that LRT has to reduce VMT and thereby GHG emissions.