A Transit Oriented Development Fable
by Tara R.
Once upon a time there was a little light rail system that didn't think it was anything special. It didn't think that it deserved to have potential riders living feet away, it didn't think that any of its riders would buy a cup of coffee or drop off any dry cleaning, and it was absolutely certain that nobody would like to hear a good bluesman strumming a guitar within a three-minute walk.
No, this little light rail (we call him L.R. for short) was pretty sure that only ugly industrial buildings with tin roofs would like to hang out with him. Oh, and maybe people that sell used ranges and washers.
That was before Mr. Can-Do came to down. Mr. Can-Do lived in Prosperous Southern Metropolis (P.S.M.) where they actually planned out transit oriented development at every stop. Along L.R. they figured that people would ride and they didn't need to do anything special except wait for federal subsidy.
But in P.S.M. they knew people loved their cars, so they'd have to do something really spectacular to get people to give up their cars.
So now in P.S.M., you can live in a big condo or a studio apartment, or live above your store, buy coffee and lunch, catch some jazz, walk to work at the marketing firm, see an outpost exhibit from a major cultural institution, and get ice cream as you're wheeling your toddler out of day care toward home.
If you work downtown, you can go there on transit, come home, and do any of those things, all without getting your car out.
Poor little L.R. needed to figure out what to do, because he was so lonely all the time, except at rush hours. So L.R. asked the big transit landlord for a transit oriented development (TOD).
Maybe we can do that another day, said the landlord.
L.R. wasn't happy. So he called together a few of his friends and asked them to go visit P.S.M. to see how he could get some TOD friends. They said OK.
One day when L.R. was just whizzing between stops, he saw something strange. A lot of commotion, a lot of construction equipment, machines cutting through the brush.
After many days of this strange hyper-activity, L.R. saw it was a big building going up, no, actually several big buildings.
But when L.R. figured out this was a TOD and saw it fill with happy residents, shoppers, and movie goers...then L.R. lived happily ever after.
Editors' Reply: We love it. Tara, you've said it better than we could.
We took a more conventional descriptive route at our transit-oriented development page.
Creating development opportunities through the certainty that comes with fixed transit routes, whichever type they may be, is a good strategy for those who want to increase density, decrease vehicular trips, and improve economic viability without while tamping down the market for suburban sprawl.