Benefits of Transit-Oriented Design

Do you ever feel like your commute to work is getting worse every day? The traffic, congestion, and accidents, not to mention the hours spent being sedentary while you miss precious time with your family, are things that weigh on you as you count miles after mile on your car’s odometer. You are not imagining things and you are not alone in your assessment; your commute is getting worse! Let’s take a closer look at how bad it really is and how Transit-Oriented Design may be a viable solution.

 

There are approximately 90 million Americans commuting to work daily in big and small cities alike across this nation. In our neck of the woods, around the Greater Boston region, the news on traffic is dismal. The latest U.S. Census data reports that the Boston area commute is one of the longest in the nation. The average Boston commute time ranked only minutes on average shorter than the notoriously horrendous commutes of New York and Los Angeles. In addition to long commutes, Bostonians have also been rated by Allstate Insurance as some of the most accident-prone motorists in the nation. Census statistics also show us that the daytime population of Boston nearly doubles during daytime working hours, which means that commuters are sharing the roads in an effort to cram their way into an already busy city. These statistics come as no surprise, though, for the hundreds of thousands of people who commute in and around Boston daily.

 

What design solutions could alleviate these startling statistics? Would adding parking garages or expanding road capacity solve the underlying problem of increased traffic, congestion, and commuters spending hours a day on a highway? While these suggestions may temporarily alleviate congestion, they would merely be a bandage on a larger problem caused by the growth of cities and a huge strain on infrastructure. Transit-Oriented Design, however, has shown already to be beneficial in several communities around the nation and could also aid Boston in the years to come.

 

Transit-Oriented Design (TOD) is a type of community development that can be an essential part of the solution for not only traffic issues but climate change problems, affordability of housing, and encouragement of healthier lifestyles too. TOD allows for a mixture of housing (both residential and workforce), retail space, offices, and other amenities within a reasonable walking distance to public transportation. TOD is a fast growing trend that involves regional planning, city revitalization, suburban renewal, and walkable neighborhoods combined. These pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods are centered around easily accessible public transportation such as the “T”, commuter rail, or bus lines. As more and more Americans seek out a desirable place to live, work, and play, realtors, contractors, and building designers have come to support the trend that has so many positive impacts. DMS design has been active in planning for our buildings to meet TOD design requirements. We continue to stay on top of this trend as it will impact the Bay State and its many surrounding communities. Here is a quick rundown of how this type of community design could benefit our area.

 

Benefits of Transit-Oriented Design

 

  • Better access to job opportunities and economic growth.
  • Housing opportunities for people of all ages and incomes from singles, to empty-nesters, to growing families.
  • Allow residents to live, work, and play in the same area.
  • Convenience of walking or taking public transit to work.
  • Encouragement of a healthier lifestyle when your home is within walking distance to shopping, food, civic areas, entertainment, and work.
  • Reduction of traffic congestion and accidents.
  • Reduction of households driving means an overall decrease in the production of greenhouse gases and our carbon footprint, and a dependency on foreign fuels.
  • Reduced financial burden of commuting including the cost of a car, insurance, and regular maintenance.
  • Revitalization of urban areas.
  • Stimulate the local economy.

 

Visit our blog again as we stay on top of this community design trend and our role in the development in the Boston area. If you have questions call DMS design at 978-965-3470 or visit our website.

 

The Impact on The Economy and Housing Market in the Amazon Headquarters Hunt

Amazon, the e-commerce giant led by Jeff Bezos, announced at the beginning of this year that it has whittled the 238 cities that applied to bring the new Amazon headquarters to their zip code, down to 20 cities including Boston. By the end of 2018, Amazon will finally announce a location for its second headquarters, bringing the tech giant’s massive search for “HQ2” to a close. Top runners within that shortened list of 20 include several Northeast hubs where transportation, schools, and infrastructure could support this growing market. What potential impact does this long awaited decision have on the economy and housing market of the yet-to-be-named city? Let’s take a closer look.

When Amazon first settled in Seattle, Washington in 1994, it transformed the city by employing over 40,000 tech workers and pumping an estimated $38 billion into the city. In what is now being called the “Amazon Effect,” the housing market in Seattle has seen a massive surge with needs not being met in the areas of workforce housing. The Seattle Times has reported that home prices in this area have increased by 76% causing an utter lack of housing that is affordable for the large company.

The impact on the future HQ2 city will be similar in that Amazon is planning to inject $5 billion into the economy and create more than 50,000 jobs. According to the online site Bisnow, the jump in housing needs and lack of affordability could be faster and even more significant in the city that wins Amazon’s second headquarters due to the unprecedented number of employees it hopes to hire.

One of the solutions to the strain on the housing market will be getting creative in designing and building affordable workforce housing in the areas surrounding Amazon’s HQ2 pick. Other tech companies like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn have come up with some creative ways to meet the demands of housing while still remaining within budget for workers. In an attempt to remedy the demand for workforce housing, Google built modular housing for 300 of its employees. Facebook tackled the problem by pledging to develop 1,500 units in Silicon Valley’s Menlo Park area — home to the Facebook campus, of which 15% will be designated workforce housing. LinkedIn, on the other hand, invested $10M to provide short-term loans to affordable housing developers to incentivize them to quickly purchase property and compete with other developments. What solutions to the demand for workforce housing will Boston come up with if chosen as the new Amazon headquarters? At the Executive Multi-Family Housing Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, DMS Design Principal and Owner, Dan Skolski, spoke about the need for modular housing in the age of the “Amazon Effect.” DMS design specializes in workforce housing and modular housing and will be keeping a close watch on the developments and what Amazon’s announcement could mean for our region’s housing market.

Importance of Workforce Housing

Have you ever seen the highway billboard signs noting that, “If you lived here, you’d be home now.” For many daily commuters who find themselves sitting in nightmare congestion, this sign may be validation that they should live closer to work. Unfortunately for many hardworking individuals and families this sign is merely wishful thinking due to the lack of workforce housing in the community where they are employed. During recent political addresses, both Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker discussed the issue of high end apartment buildings and condominium complexes dominating housing development and not enough affordable housing for the population that is considered moderate and medium income households. Let’s take a closer look at the workforce housing issue and why addressing it is critical to our region.

Workforce housing can be described as housing that is affordable for households with an earned income that is sufficient to secure quality housing within a reasonable proximity to a workplace. If we crunch the numbers, this translates to housing costs no more than 30-40% of a person’s annual income. Workforce housing, therefore, is housing that is affordable to households earning 60-120% of an area’s median income. The people whom this impacts most are not typically thought of as the focus for affordable housing. A vast majority of the individuals in this population are gainfully employed in the industries such as: the service industry, tourism industry, emergency services workers (police and fire), teachers, senior citizens, and even nurses. The average incomes for many of these professions have been stagnant for the last 20 years while the median rents have set records and put quality housing out of reach for the workforce that is so vital to our economy.

Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker have recognized that special housing programs need to be offered by local and state housing authorities and they have both indicated that they will approve funding for such programs. These programs are beneficial to not only the individuals it will serve, but also to the community at large. Research has shown that when workers live closer to their job, entire communities reap the benefits. For example, commute time decreases, traffic congestion is relieved, neighborhoods become more diverse, and businesses are able to attract and retain employees thus strengthening the economy of our region.

While funding programs that support workforce housing is important, it is also critical for finance lenders, building owners, municipalities, and architects to work together on workforce housing projects. At DMS design we have extensive background dealing with the funding aspect of workforce housing. We understand the red tape and administrative paperwork associated with such projects and have comprehensive understanding and experience dealing with agencies including HUD and Massachusetts Housing Authorities. We work closely with owners and developers in the design process to make quality workforce housing a reality.