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How GreenTRIP Helps Successful Transit-Oriented Development Come to Life: Evaluation of GreenTRIP's Pilot Project
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) can have a myriad of social, environmental and economic benefits for people and communities, especially if designed well and for a broad mix of incomes.
But the obstacles to fully realizing these benefits are daunting, including opposition from local groups and outdated city codes that vastly overestimate how many cars people will own and how much they will drive in walkable communities near transit. These codes require excessive amounts of parking, which reduces the number of homes or other beneficial uses that can be provided in a given building envelope. It often leads to expensive traffic mitigations, which further increases the costs of homes or the subsidy needed to make them affordable.
Direct Impacts of Pilot Project
1. Easier Approvals for 1,970 Cutting-Edge TOD Homes
Concerns about traffic are the top reason that communities oppose new development. Opponents don’t trust city staff, and they trust developers even less when they claim that a development will be low-traffic and a good neighbor. The greatest benefit of GreenTRIP, according to city staff and developers involved in the pilot project, was the ability of an independent non-profit to clearly and credibly explain why their project is low-traffic. In San Leandro, residents actually broke into applause as the GreenTRIP certificate was handed to the Mayor.
2. More Affordable Homes
In San Leandro, GreenTRIP supported the reduction of parking requirements in "The Crossings” to 1.1 spaces per unit (it would have been 2.2 under the old code). With 300 total units this change in parking:
- Saved the developer $3.9 million by eliminating one floor of parking.
- Allowed a pedestrian friendly ground floor with a childcare center and additional walk-up units, instead of a garage.
- Reduced the cost of subsidizing each affordable unit by nearly $40,000, allowing them to provide 30 more affordable units, for a total of 100.
As GreenTRIP standards are considered even earlier in the design phase these types of benefits and the potential for broader and deeper levels of housing affordability and/or other community benefits will become more widespread. Also, affordable homes are given a trip reduction benefit in GreenTRIP modeling, which helps reduce mitigation costs and build community support.
3. 80,000 Years of Transit Passes and 24,000 Years of CarShare…
Developers will distribute 2,010 transit passes annually for 40 years. The vast majority of these will be free for residents. (A small number require a $5 per month match, a very deep discount from the $70 fee for an individual monthly pass.) One project committed 600 car share memberships and is providing the cars.
4. … Which Is $7,000,000 for Transit Agencies
Over $7 million will be paid by the developers to two transit systems, VTA and AC Transit, over the next 40 years. Previously these “eco-passes” were bought by just a few building managers and usually for just one year, generating little revenue.
5. Expansion of Trip Reduction Programs
GreenTRIP may unleash the tremendous untapped potential of Transportation Demand Management programs. After just the first pilot project:
- Caltrain announced that they would begin accepting residential applicants to the GO! Pass program, which is currently open only to employers.
- SamTrans will maintain the pass program they were about to shut down for lack of participation.
- CarSharing will come to San Mateo County in two ways: as part of a 600-unit GreenTRIP certified project, and through a successful climate grant proposal that GreenTRIP staff worked on with county leaders.
- VTA, in the South Bay, is considering reducing the cost of passes for GreenTRIP buildings since the 40-year commitment significantly reduces their marketing and administrative costs. City CarShare is also considering a lower membership fee for GreenTRIP buildings.
Projected Outcomes of Pilot Project
As people move into the first five GreenTRIP certified projects, the direct impacts noted above will create impressive environmental and social outcomes.
1. Less Driving and CO2, More Transit
Households in these buildings are predicted to drive an average of 19.8 miles vs. the regional average of 50. That adds up to 59,400 less miles of vehicle travel each day and 10,857 fewer tons of CO2 per year. And it is possible the results will be even better; in a pilot project of over 3,500 homes, AC Transit found that distributing free transit passes more than doubled the number of market rate participants who used the bus daily.
2. Lower Car Ownership
While vehicle use and ownership levels are dramatically lower in transit districts, a growing body of empirical evidence show that it can go down even further with carsharing and unbundling. On average, about 20% of car-sharing households give up their car or a second or third vehicle, and an even higher percentage avoid buying or replacing a car. This translates into a reduction of at least 120 additional vehicles in a building that includes 600 car share memberships.
3. Deep Affordability for Families
Recent research by the Center for Transit Oriented Development has shown TOD’s potential to create “affordable living” with lower housing and lower transportation costs. GreenTRIP offers to take this concept further to one of “deep affordability” by making it even easier to live with one less vehicle and by covering the cost of transit passes and carshare memberships.
Next Steps: GreenTRIP Connect
Maximizing Affordable TOD Production, Minimizing Transportation Costs
With these dramatic impacts from just the first pilot project, TransForm is working to bring the benefits of GreenTRIP to scale as quickly as possible. We are now pursuing four key strategies.
1. Continue GreenTRIP Certification
We are certifying more GreenTRIP projects and have a new greater focus on dedicated affordable housing. With a grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank TransForm is offering reduced cost GreenTRIP evaluation for dedicated affordable housing projects.
2. Catalyze Research For Needed Data
Consolidate and analyze existing empirical data that identifies the benefits of affordable housing and trip reduction strategies. TransForm has also developed a proposal to conduct site-based research to fill gaps in the existing data and to link with other studies that, together, can be used to modify standards for parking demand and trip generation rates. Giving affordable housing and trip reductions strategies the credit they deserve will reduce the cost and barriers so the can be provided at much greater scale.
3. Create Web-Based GreenTRIP Database
The Bay Area was awarded a federal Sustainable Communities Planning grant that included development of a GreenTRIP database where all can view, toggle, and see data sources. It would be constantly updated as the data becomes available. Ultimately, cities could create zoning overlays near transit that reference the GreenTRIP database, reducing their planning costs and ensuring their codes use the latest information to promote affordability and trip reduction.
4. Community Engagement and Education
TransForm has been the lead organization in the Great Communities Collaborative providing technical support, trainings and workshops on transportation and parking strategies. TransForm will now be offering this assistance across the state, with a growing focus on the affordable housing and the health benefits.
For more information or to become a partner please contact Ann Cheng, GreenTRIP Program Director.