12-pittsburgh-transit-districts-zoning-for-transit-funding-and-expansion

Pangeas in Downtown Traverse City in the Summer…Bikability and Walkability, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Michigan Municipal League (MML)’s photostream

In 2004, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) law. This law allows municipalities and redevelopment authorities to create TRID Districts so new revenue can be utilized to expand and create new public transit opportunities. Stakeholders in East Liberty are working on implementing the city’s first TRID District in conjunction with new developments in the area. The TRID will allow a portion of the new property taxes created through redevelopment efforts to be dedicated to improvements in public transit, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure in the surrounding area. Our hope is that this TRID District becomes a model that can be used in other neighborhoods. But creating TRID may not be enough. To supplement the district and ensure that the development within it is in line with the goals of expanding and creating transit opportunities, I will work with our City Planning Department to create the city’s first Transit Oriented Development zoning overlay.

1. Zoning for Transit

A Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zoning overlay would allow us to work directly with developers to tailor their commercial or residential buildings to the opportunities created by the TRID District. I see these two planning tools working hand in hand to help expand our transit network and improve quality of life and accessibility. The TOD zoning overlay would provide guidelines to create greater density, improve pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, require open public space, minimize or eliminate the creation of new parking spaces, limit the construction of surface parking lots, and limit some types of businesses (e.g. gas stations). The idea is to create a district within a neighborhood, or several neighborhoods, that encourage and support public transit, walkability, and bicycling. This TOD zoning overlay would be well suited to the many business districts throughout the city that are easily accessible by public transit. The idea is to allow people to get to and from a district without having to rely on a car.

This TOD zoning overlay is the perfect partner for a TRID District. When a district has been designed to encourage and support public transit, the revenues its TRID generates have a multiplier effect. Greater density means higher tax revenues, which means more money to put towards improving the public transit system. Pairing a TRID District with a well-sited TOD zoning overlay will create a positive feedback loop that will allow us to more rapidly make the transit investments that we critically need to attract more jobs and more people to Pittsburgh. I am looking forward to working with East Liberty to move this plan forward and working with stakeholders in other neighborhoods across our city to create the 21st century transit system we need.