The Science of Sustainability

Reporter's Notes: Mass Transit Housing Plan

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By Rori Gallagher.

Even in these difficult economic times, California's population continues to grow, and those additional people are going to need a place to live. Recent legislation in California directs city planners to make environmentally responsible choices for new housing. One way to do that is to create transit villages.

The idea is to design housing near a transit station with easy access to retail and commercial space. That way people can drive less if they want to. Some transit villages are easy to identify as pre-planned developments, like the transit village in South San Francisco. Others developed more organically, like the area surrounding the Rockridge Station in Oakland.

As with all new development and redevelopment, there's always a concern about gentrification. Most cities have a requirement that a certain percentage of new units are offered below market rate. But some longtime residents of established communities, like San Mateo, worry about new development changing the character of the community. In order to make transit villages work, designers have to carefully blend new development with the existing community, creating a truly pedestrian-oriented destination. Check out a map of transit-oriented development in California. Also, here are some fun audio walking tours of transit-oriented development projects in the Bay Area.

Listen to the Mass Transit Housing Plan radio report online.


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Category: Engineering, Environment, Radio

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About the Author ()

Andrea is KQED's Senior Science Editor . Andrea was born in Los Angeles and discovered radio news through listening to her college radio station. With a curious mind and a love for telling stories, she set off for Tampa where she landed her first job as a reporter for Florida Public Radio. After three years reporting in an unbearably humid climate and a brief stint as a miscast opera reporter, Andrea returned to L.A. to work for public radio, then for television news and finally as a reporter for CBS radio. Andrea has been at KQED for over twelve years, working first as a producer for Forum, and then as the senior producer for The California Report. She is now KQED's Senior Science and Environment Editor and narrates the QUEST television program. Andrea says she feels lucky to cover emerging science and environmental trends in a place where geek is chic.
  • nancy Kirwan

    Hmmm…can’t tell if I’m an introvert or a Luddite, but the vision of a transit village that you’ve provided would make me want to commit suicide. Private, quiet space is important to me – I’ve found that in a townhouse in the burbs, with a generous planting space around a patio situated between the house and the garage, a 1200 square foot house on a 1300 square foot lot between a small front yard and the patio, but my house was built 35 years ago, when they understood that they were trying to replace the privacy virtues of a single family home. I looked at gazillions of modern homes crammed together that had a tiny little deck in front or a dinky balcony off the dining room as the only outdoor space which afforded no privacy or which had no outdoor space at all. So, I cringe when I hear of transit villages. I’d suggest fixing the transit before trying to cram people into a soulless high-density development at the station. I could walk to the Campbell light rail station – it’s about 2 miles each way, but, then it takes an hour to get to the Santa Clara train station and I’d have to switch to Bart from Millbrae to Daly City – that would take me 2.5 hours each way on the transit and a 30-minute walk each way. I can drive it both ways in about 2.5 hours total on 280. So, if you want me to take transit, don’t make me change between three separate systems, don’t make something I could drive in 15 minutes (my house to the Santa Clara train station) take an hour. And don’t expect me to move – just fix the system, so it makes sense – if it were easy, I’d take public transportation, but not for twice the time it takes me to drive. And cramming people into station-based developments as virtuous as you try to make it sound, well, again, I couldn’t do that and I don’t think I’m the only one who needs both a modicom of privacy and personal space.

  • Carol Denney

    Hello,

    Transit villagers make fewer trips because they don't have the option, and believe me, they wish they did. Your reporter at least had the sense to point out in a roundabout way that transit villages without transit are…problematic. Most transit villagers don't plan to stay long, just make some money and get out of there.

    Carol Denney