Creating Vibrant Centers

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Creating Vibrant Centers with Transit-Oriented Development

Download Paul F. Morris' "Build It and They Will Come" presentation to the Institute for Emerging Issues
[Adobe Acrobat Reader is required: Click here to download]

Extraordinary growth in the Triangle leaves us with two options:  we can continue our existing sprawling, auto-centric development patterns; or we can create vibrant, mixed use neighborhoods and centers of development that enhance and sustain our community.  Unfortunately, the congestion and lack of transportation choices associated with sprawl are beginning to threaten our economy and quality of life.  Sprawl also is taking over the forests, farms and waterways we love.  The alternative is to create pedestrian, bicycle and transit-oriented development and neighborhoods that focus our development in active centers along transit corridors.  Such vibrant places of community and business activity provide wonderful opportunities to connect with people.  Let’s shape a different future for the Triangle region!

What is transit-oriented development?

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is the practice of locating mixed-use, higher-density development around transit hubs, including bus and rail stations.  TOD is essential to the success of transit because compact land development means people can access transit more easily.  What’s more, TOD brings together amenities we all enjoy, including restaurants, shops, local business and entertainment.  This creates a vibrant environment oriented towards community gathering and pedestrians.  Think about it --   when we pass each other walking on the street, we get to know our neighborhood in a way we can miss when in cars.  We have enjoyable opportunities to connect with the people in our community.  Vibrant mixed-used development encouraged by TOD creates a sense of place and belonging and enhances our quality of life.  And using convenient transit frees us from the burdens of parking our car – what a new sense of freedom!

Close proximity of a range of land uses - including residential, business, commercial, and recreational - encourages transit use by integrating the transit system with other community activities.  TOD is gaining momentum around the country, in cities such as San Francisco, Portland, Denver, Salt Lake, and Dallas.  These cities have experienced great success in helping build community and encourage responsible new development with TOD, as have many smaller towns and cities.

To learn more, view this TOD presentation of Paul Morris, with Greenleaf Strategies (given at the Institute for Emerging Issue's 'Transit in the Triangle' forum.  Click here   Read more about TOD at the Center for Transit-Oriented Development.

A “Reality Check” on the Triangle’s Growth

In 2009, 300 civic leaders from the greater Triangle area participated in a growth planning exercise to create a vision for how our region will grow over the next 25 years.  Reality Check studied the significant challenges of future population and job growth, to decide where and how growth should take place if we are to sustain a high quality of life for future generations.  The Reality Check exercise and subsequent Results Summit were a collaborative effort of Triangle Tomorrow and the Urban Land Institute of the Triangle.

Reality Check participants reached consensus on three guiding principles for how to plan for quality, sustainable growth in the Triangle region:

1.   Build Public Transit - Improve regional transit with expanded bus and build light rail and commuter rail lines.  Match land use decisions with transit investments.

2.   Create Vibrant Centers - Reinvest in city and town centers, and promote compact development, density, and mixed use communities.  Vibrant centers should connect with transit wherever possible.

3.   Protect Green Space - Define appropriate growth and preservation areas to protect open space, agricultural land, watersheds and natural resources -- especially water.  Reduce sprawl.

To ensure the collective vision and guiding principles help shape future growth, Triangle Tomorrow formed the Reality Check Action Committee to lead implementation. Task forces have been formed around each guiding principle, and they are working to identify barriers, gather input and support for the vision, and find solutions that meet the Reality Check recommendations and.  The Reality Check Action Committee is inviting municipalities throughout the region to adopt the Guiding Principles.