It might be unpopular, but I'm not a fan of passenger rail systems, at least in sun belt cities. Don't get me wrong, rail systems are wonderful in cities that were built around them, but I think they are anachronistic in cities built around the automobile. Why build a fixed rail system when you could dedicate a road lane to the bus system? I'm no expert, but it seems that a fixed rail system has so much more built-in risk. If you were too optimistic with your ridership projections, you can't just up and move the line or easily convert it to an alternate use. You are stuck with it. If you dedicated a bus lane, and you didn't hit your ridership projections, you could always change the bus route, and at least you would have a road that could always be used for drivers. Last, but not least, why build a fixed rail system when the future is in autonomous vehicles and car sharing programs? Like I said, it just seems too anachronistic to me.
Regardless of your opinion or my opinion, some cities have already implemented piece meal light rail systems and have created Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zoning districts around them. Typically TOD sites are within a certain walking distance to a light rail or other public transit station. Theoretically, due to being proximal to public transit, residents in the area are in less need of their own personal vehicles. Because of this, TOD zoning will typically require less parking than traditional zoning designations. Since parking garages can be very expensive to build, and can make or break a development project, TOD zoned sites are often very attractive to real estate developers. Also, and especially if the area is very walkable, the convenient access to public transportation can often justify a premium. At the very least, you can always suggest that "they can pay more because they won't be spending as much money on a car", which always sounds logical!
So, how do you identify sites within a TOD, and how can you pinpoint sites that might work for your product type? Site Identify makes it easy to spot these districts, since Site Identify allows users to search for parcels based on zoning classification. As long as you know the abbreviation for the zoning district you are looking for, usually TOD in the case of a transit oriented development district, you can easily spot parcels that fall within these districts. With the right parcels, you might be able to build a project with both a higher rent level and a lower construction cost. Just thinking about that combination should make any developer happy.
If you are interested in easily spotting TOD districts in your markets, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Click Here to Schedule a 15 Minute Web Demonstration!
Also, if you have a different, or even more informed, opinion about light rail systems, feel free to comment below! We are always up for a good discussion.
The official Site Identify blog
David Morin (co-founder)