Speaking for TOD

I was asked by a client of ours to provide testimony in support of transit-oriented development at a City Council hearing. Here are my written comments.

Members of the Rules Committee of City Council, thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of transit-oriented development, or TOD. My name is Lee Huang and I am a Director at Econsult Corporation. Our firm has produced a number of studies on the topic; and as a result, we consider ourselves vocal and informed advocates of TOD.

The recent financial and housing crises, our heightened environmental awareness, and the growing concerns of working families in our neighborhoods reinforce what we have believed all along, which is that transit-oriented locations merit priority when it comes to encouraging and coordinating development.

Importantly, given our challenged municipal budget, TOD can have a positive effect on real estate values, thus potentially increasing property tax revenues for the City. In fact, in a November 2008 report, the Center for Transit-Oriented Development cited numerous studies from across the country in which enhancements associated with orienting development to transit stops produced a significant premium effect on residential, commercial, and retail real estate values.

TOD represents for us a mechanism by which the City of Philadelphia can make a concerted effort to play to its strengths, strengths which will become all the more vital in the years and decades to come. Those strengths include an extensive transit infrastructure, a dense and walkable downtown, and neighborhoods that are diverse in income, ethnicity, and architecture.

It is important, then, to act decisively to build on these strengths, as well as to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime rewrite of the City’s zoning code. Importantly, as we have new leadership at the helm of the City and SEPTA, we also have an unusual moment for mutually beneficial collaboration.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that I live near the 46th and Market Market Frankford Line stop, and that I serve on the board of The Enterprise Center, which is planning an impressive TOD near that stop. I look forward to seeing those plans come to fruition, and to seeing many more neighborhoods benefit from TODs, in the form of greater access to employment and shopping venues, greater aesthetics which encourage non-automobile forms of travel and provide enhanced feelings of safety, and greater affordability as transit resources minimize transportation costs for working families. Thank you.
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