Investment in innovation: Knight Foundation supports expanding GreenTRIP in San Jose

Ann Cheng Headshot

GreenTRIP certified First Community Housing project in San JoseWhat could developers do with $2.4 billion and more space? What could families do with another $8,000 in their pockets? How many more parks, plazas and bike lanes could a city make if we added more people without all the cars?

These scenarios represent the potential outcome of expanding GreenTRIP in San Jose – a program that seeks a paradigm shift on how we plan and develop.

San Jose is seeking to build another 120,000 homes by 2040, mostly in “urban villages” near public transportation. The city has audacious goals for this growth: to become a greener, more vibrant place that reduces solo driving trips from 80 percent of all trips to 40 percent. It also wants to attract talent that keeps it the capital of Silicon Valley, while remaining affordable to people of all incomes. 

Yet the roadblocks to this kind of future are many and daunting, including outdated codes and expectations that vastly overestimate how many cars people will own and how much they will drive in these areas. Such codes result in huge parking lots that raise the cost of homes, at up to $70,000 per space, and generate more traffic.

GreenTRIP certification helps to shape and build support for residential developments that offer free transit passes, car-share memberships, great bicycle facilities and more. By reducing the need for parking, GreenTRIP lowers the cost of building each unit and allows more space for cafes, parks and other amenities that create great, affordable communities. With GreenTRIP strategies developers in San Jose could save nearly $2.4 billion in reduced costs for parking structures, making homes at many more price points feasible. 

GreenTRIP has certified 17 developments in the Bay Area, with 2,500 homes. It is helping families such as the Lopezes directly save over $3,000 per year with free transit passes, and allowing them to save more by not needing to own a vehicle.  GreenTRIP-certified projects generate nearly 60 percent less traffic, on average, than typical Bay Area homes.

With $100,000 in support from Knight Foundation, GreenTRIP will greatly expand the number of certifications in San Jose, and launch a new platinum level that will encompass new strategies, such as on-site bicycle sharing with free memberships for residents. 

Knight funds are also expanding a GreenTRIP research project that is collecting data on vehicle ownership in homes near transit. This information will soon be put into a database to help make the case for parking reductions, a project supported by three city of San Jose department heads.

“With support from GreenTRIP we can lower the cost of housing by not building excess parking, while supporting more walkable, urban, transit-oriented communities. By making homes more affordable, families of all incomes can have access to opportunities and help keep San Jose diverse and vibrant,” said Leslye Corsiglia, director of housing for the city of San Jose.  

Knight Foundation will also support GreenTRIP with an additional $25,000 if we can raise the remaining funds for the GreenTRIP Connect Tool by May 1, 2015. Designed to unleash the power of GreenTRIP at a broader scale, this online tool would allow all users to identify a particular parcel of land for development, see the benefits of locating near transit, and use toggles to instantly show how those benefits are expanded by providing trip reduction strategies and homes affordable to a range of incomes. It would provide information in a way that can empower community members to engage in decision-making and could ultimately be adopted in city codes, in San Jose and beyond.

By simultaneously reducing the cost of both housing and transportation, GreenTRIP is one way of moving toward economically integrated neighborhoods, avoiding displacement of existing residents, and creating a vibrant and greener city that attracts top talent.

This blog post originally appeared on the Knight Foundation's blog under the title "GreenTRIP: An innovative way to grow in San Jose" by Stuart Cohen and Ann Cheng.


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