It’s OK to Build Transit-Oriented Development Before Transit

Which should come first: transit or transit-oriented development?

Mountain View, California's Shoreline Boulevard is seen as a potential mixed-use transit corridor. Image: City of Mountain View via Streetsblog SF
Mountain View, California’s Shoreline Boulevard is seen as a potential mixed-use transit corridor. Image: City of Mountain View via Streetsblog SF

Streetsblog San Francisco reported Monday that residents of Mountain View, California, are trying to figure out how to accommodate thousands of tech employees without overwhelming local transportation infrastructure. One-fourth of all workers in Mountain View travel to and from an office district that houses Google, LinkedIn, and other companies, yet in 2012 the city council prohibited mixed-used development there.

It’s an election year in Mountain View, and some council candidates say it’s a bad idea to put dense housing in an area where public services, including transit, don’t exist.

They’ve got it wrong, says Jarrett Walker at Human Transit.

[T]here’s not enough transit there because there aren’t enough people there, yet. Transit is easy to add in response to seriously transit-oriented development, but as long as you have a development pattern that is too low-density or single-use for transit, you’ve locked in lousy transit service as an outcome.

So whenever someone gives you this line as a reason to oppose a transit-friendly development, ask: “Well, what would it cost to provide good transit, and who should pay for that?”

Often, as in Mountain View, extremely frequent transit into the nearby transit hub can achieve plenty, and is not that expensive, because of the very short distances involved.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Better Institutions reports on the housing boom in downtown Los Angeles. A View From the Cycle Path says making driving more expensive isn’t the only way to get people out of their cars. And Greater Greater Washington has a nice piece on a pedestrian desire path that, once blocked, got an upgrade from a strip mall developer.

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