Sunday, September 21, 2008

Digging Down (for Transit) Means Building Up

This post is the sixth in a series of posts I am writing about lessons planners could learn from Canada. My recent trip showed me North American cities that have done a better job of managing their urban fabric than is typical south of the 49th Parallel.

The Washington region has done a decent job of building up where it has dug down for subway construction. And so has Toronto. Because of the height restrictions in DC, it's not always as obvious that we've included density with transit; however the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor and transit nodes in Alexandria, Bethesda, and Silver Spring are easier to see.

Transit Oriented Development in Alexandria

Mid-rises in Silver Spring,
Metro/MARC in foreground

Rosslyn's transit node from across the river

Toronto is especially adept at matching density with transit nodes. They also offer a good vantage point for the geography-savvy to note this good planning. From the top of the CN Tower, one can see for many miles, and its obvious where subway stations are, even from 1464.9 feet above the city.

Can you find the subway stations?
Hint: Look for taller buildings
Looking northwest from the CN Tower

Looking north from the CN Tower,
TOD stretches toward the horizon

Success in transit goes hand in hand with success with urban development. I was in another city which has learned that lesson recently. Charlotte, North Carolina opened its brand new light rail system in November of last year, and has almost reached its 2025 ridership targets in less than 10 months. I think that a large portion of the credit for the high ridership can be given to the planners in Charlotte who, long before the rail line was a sure thing had already implemented transit-supportive, smart growth policies.

The Lynx LRT at Carson

These policies are essential to the success of transit. At the moment, Fairfax County is struggling with those issues in preparation for the Silver Line to Dulles. As I've noted here before, the largest impediment to creating walkable, livable urban centers at Tysons is the auto-oriented nature of the development and transportation systems.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Metro's General Manager says the system needs billions of dollars over the next ten years to keep it up and running. Today, News4 talked with him to find out what needs fixing and whether the money will come from fare increases. Catch News4 at 5 tonight.