You have to start with a spine

There's a lot of transit-oriented stuff going on in Richmond these days. The new BRT line and the Richmond Transit Network Plan hope to build a strong transit foundation on which we—and future developers—can build. Luckily, we're not the first city to add rapid transit and remake our bus system in hopes of better connecting residents to the rest of their city while creating a virtuous circle of more transit -> more people -> more development. In fact, Houston did this very same thing!

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007–2013 talking about Houston's transit efforts:

Well, you have to start somewhere. And I think that the new light rail that you’ve got going is a great down payment on the future of Houston, and you can build out from there. But you have to start with a spine, a backbone. You know in NYC, our spine started in 1904, and you know, real estate developers invested in it.

It’s really interesting to see how the real estate community understands the value, and what it does to increase property values, when you put down a really strong transit spine. So in Houston, what you’re seeing in terms of the light rail and in terms of the surface transit renaissance, with the remade bus network, is really exciting. I think that approach, to really looking holistically at your surface transportation, is a model for other cities. I’d love to see other cities take the Houston model and run with it.


I think density is destiny when it comes to these kinds of projects. I mean, for transit-oriented development, it’s critical. And having just the volume of people to anchor a downtown, a neighborhood, a community, is really key. But you have to lay down the transportation network to make that possible. People aren’t just going to come because you put in some nice trees, you actually need to make it possible for them to get there easily, affordably, and conveniently.

This week's transit-oriented reminders: