There are many direct and indirect benefits to utilizing TOD principles. These benefits are directed not only to communities and residents, but developers and other stakeholders as well. A few of these benefits are outlined below:
Increased Private Investment
In addition to the initial economic impact of constructing advanced public transportation options such as Bus-Rapid Transit (BRT) and Light-Rail Transit (LRT), advanced transit service leads to significant private investment. TOD projects throughout the nation have been successfully utilized as tools for economic development.
Eased Parking Needs
TOD requires less parking for residents, as many choose to not own a car. Parking ratios are cut as much as 25% in some cities, allowing that space to be used for uses such as additional retail, residential, or open space. Developers benefit because they do not need to overbuild parking structures or lots, while municipalities benefit from increased property taxes and decreased expenses.
Decreased Traffic Congestion
Studies show that TOD results in a reduction of vehicle miles traveled (VMTs). This leads to less congestion, increased air quality, decreased use of imported fossil fuel, and other benefits associated with driving less. Two studies by consultants at ICF International showed that public transportation eliminated the need for 102.2 billion VMTs and 1.4 billion gallons of fuel in the US in 2007 (ICF, 2007, 2008). TODs that increase public transportation utilization will amplify this effect.
Increased Social Capital
Social capital is a term used to describe social networks in a similar way to “economic capital” and “human capital”. It describes the intangible concept of community. Two well-known social scientists, Robert Putnam and David Halpern, assert that development patterns and design standards of urban sprawl have led to a decrease in social capital as evidenced by decreased levels of civic engagement and other measures. TOD concepts can be used to lessen the negative aspects of urban living that encourage sprawl, while providing interesting places that are built for social interaction.
Transit-oriented development principles, increased transit utilization, and successful local design considerations are part of a holistic approach to transportation safety. Michigan State University utilized transit, traffic calming, and other techniques to decrease auto-related injuries by over 95% over a ten-year timeframe.
Increased System Efficiency
Public transportation investment yields greater system efficiency. The 2009 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Energy fact book compared the energy use of public transportation with the energy use it displaced from single-occupant vehicles (SOVs). The comparison showed that public transportation displaced over 4 billion gallons of gasoline equivalent and eliminated the production of 37 million metric tons of CO2. Public transportation is a major contributor to energy conservation; multiple-occupancy vehicles use less energy per passenger than do automobiles.
The Tri-County region already enjoys improved system efficiency through the use of transit. CATA buses currently carry 10% of the daily trips through the Grand River Avenue corridor in East Lansing, while making up less than 1% of the vehicles in the corridor. 60-foot buses can carry up to 120 passengers, displacing up to 120 automobiles on the road with a vehicle that takes up less space than four SUVs lined end-to-end. Options such as BRT and LRT have the potential to carry hundreds of passengers per vehicle. As these options are explored, the region stands to improve system efficiency.