eTOD Briefs

How New Transportation Technology Impacts Equitable Transit-Oriented Development

New transportation technology is flooding cities around the world, including Chicago, with rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft, innovative freight technology such as Amazon Fresh, and other advancements, such as driverless cars and electric scooters. We need to consider how these technologies will impact equitable transit-oriented development. In a webcasted community workshop on March 21st, 2019 Peter Haas and Elizabeth Irvin from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) discussed the positive and negative consequences of these cutting-edge technologies with a group of community organizations and other stakeholders.


Google prototype autonomous vehicles.

photo source: austintx https://www.flickr.com/people/austintx/

CNT addresses problems such as poverty, climate change, and urban sprawl, and it begins with making neighborhoods, cities, and regions work better. One way to do so, is by introducing equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) into communities that do not generally have access to transit. Although transit-oriented development can reduce transit times, increase housing stock, spur economic activity, provide alternative transportation opportunities, and include environmental and public health benefits, without intentionality and a commitment to co-design solutions with communities, these benefits can lead to the displacement of longtime residents and businesses that may encompass.

CNT has created the Social Impact Calculator to help developers, decision makers, and communities realize the enormous and untapped potential that comes with implementing eTOD. The eTOD Map Tool has several different features that developers can use to imagine the different types of buildings they may want, while getting feedback back regarding the social impact the building would have in the community. Peter Haas explained that eTOD can boost household budgets. After housing, transportation is the second highest cost in a household budget.

The rise of new transportation technologies plays an important role in how eTOD can be implemented,explained Elizabeth Irvin. There are positive potential outcomes and negative ones. On the positive side, options like Uber and Lyft could expand options for people without cars, reduce the need for new car ownership and associated costs, further reduce parking needs in TOD areas, and expand the area that can be transit oriented. However, according to Bruce Schaller, author of The New Automobility: Lyft, Uber, and the Future of American Cities, “about 60 percent of Transportation Network Company (TNC) users in large, dense cities would have taken public transportation, walked, biked or not made the trip if TNCs had not been available for the trip.” The potential negatives of decreasing transit ridership and increasing congestion could create a vicious cycle, undermining transit revenue and service quality. Similarly, new technologies may be unaffordable or inaccessible to those who could most benefit from them and employment and other amenities could move farther from transit.

In the analysis of the American Community Survey 5-year PUMS data (2013-2017), CNT found that regardless of income, black residents in Cook County are more likely to be in a zero-vehicle household, and black and& Latinx residents in zero-vehicle households are more likely to be in poverty. Additionally, about 55% of black households are either at or below the poverty line. So, there is an opportunity to use the new technologies in a manner that helps expand options for those without vehicles, reduce the need for car ownership and the costs that come with it, further reduce parking needs in transit-oriented development areas, and expand the areas that can be eTOD. In order to achieve this, communities can continue to implement eTOD within their neighborhoods, invest in infrastructure for walking, biking, and transit while making the new technologies fit within that system, and finally engaging with residents in research and policy discussions regarding those emerging technologies. On-demand ride sharing services and new technologies should complement, not replace, a holistic transportation system of rail, bus, biking, scooting, and walking options to help create healthy, economically viable communities.

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