Complete Communities and Transit Oriented Development

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) has become a label for any mixed-use development with access to city transit. However, it is the creation of “complete communities” centered around these TOD hubs which actually fulfill the promises made by transit developers and city officials. These communities provide affordable, convenient, and attractive access to quality housing, education, places of employment, open space, retail, grocers, places of worship, healthcare, and transportation. They are appealing to individuals and families as high quality, safe neighborhoods which accommodate the needs and preferences of their residents and visitors.

The Center for Transit Oriented Development and the Center for Cities & Schools released a booklet entitled Families and Transit Oriented Development: Creating Complete Communities for All as a guide for how cities can develop complete communities which are supportive of families with young children. For many of these young families, school location and quality plays a major role in their neighborhood and housing choices. TOD’s must aim to attract diverse families by providing a wide mix of housing types within easy access to high-quality education. They must promote walkability through maintained, convenient, and safe sidewalks and bike paths which connect homes to schools to places of work along active transit networks. In order to accomplish this, communities must follow several steps such as being aware of their educational landscape, engaging school stakeholders and families in TOD planning, creating shared visions which link together the neighborhoods, aligning brick and mortar investments in community assets, supporting family-friendly communities, and institutionalizing ongoing innovation and communication between families, schools, and the city.

Document case study – Santa Monica, California:
In 2008, the City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) were interested in coordinating redevelopment efforts between SMMUSD’s high school campus and the city’s Civic Auditorium campus. Both entities recognized the shared use potential inherent in the development of these two campuses and chose to work together towards a mutually beneficial outcome. In 2009, $57 million was prioritized by the City Council for the first phase of this development associated with the long-term master plan for the high school campus. This funding will go towards prioritizing shared use opportunities on the school campus along with other planned projects such as a new gymnasium, synthetic turf on the football field, and connections with the nearby future light rail station and a new 325-unit mixed income housing development. Working together has allowed both the city and school district to maximize amenities which benefit both students and the community.

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