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Transit Overlay District _TOD_


									                                    TRANSIT - ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT

 TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT                             For Vestavia Hills, transit-oriented development
     and DESIGN GUIDELINES                                along Highway 31 will:

The following section includes excerpts of the                   encourage revitalization in existing
Design Guidelines document for Transit-                          business areas;
Oriented Development (TOD). These Design                         provide a strong, legal framework for
Guidelines were developed by consultants                         design review;
working on the Transportations Alternatives                      foster the development of walkable,
Study for the Jefferson-Shelby Metropolitan                      mixed-use activity centers; and
Planning Organization (MPO). Municipalities                      allow for the continued development of
within the MPO’s study area, with existing or                    high-density housing alternatives in
proposed transit stops, were invited to                          defined areas when combined with
participate in a series of advisory meetings to                  commercial development.
learn about the implementation of TOD
concepts and regulations, give feedback to                High-density residential development has been a
consultants on local concerns, and develop                concern to the community in recent years. In a
individual     TOD      ordinances    to     be           per unit comparison to single-family development,
recommended for adoption by each                          multi-family development contributes less to the
municipality.                                             property tax revenues needed to support the
                                                          City’s educational system. In a TOD, high-density
                                                          residential would inherently be mixed with
Transit-Oriented Development                              commercial development. The sales tax revenues
                                                          that this represents would more than offset
Transit-oriented development is intended to               differences in ad valorem taxes. Having
increase the mix and density of development               designated TOD areas in the City’s
within a “walkable” distance of proposed                  comprehensive plan also allows the City to steer
transit centers. In most cities in the                    high-density residential development into TOD
metropolitan region, this process will involve            areas, allowing the City to preserve densities in
new development and redevelopment in                      other areas while still accommodating growth and
existing commercial and mixed-use areas to                affordable housing alternatives within the
achieve critical mass. Achieving this critical            community.
mass is essential for the long-range
sustainability of both local and regional transit
improvements.                                             TOD Zoning and Design Guidelines

TOD areas comprise land within a ½ mile                   As a zoning district, a TOD is intended as an opt-
radius of transit stops. Within each TOD, is a            in “floating” district, which overlays (but does not
smaller ¼ mile radius area encircling the                 supercede) existing districts. As a “floating” zone,
transit stops. Within the ¼ mile radius is the            it allows property owners/developers to choose
highest mix and density of uses; while the                between the TOD zoning and the existing,
remaining area acts as a transition, where                underlying zoning. Opting into a TOD District
density and mix of uses decreases, blending               can be attractive to the development community,
into surrounding residential neighborhoods.               since it allows mixed uses and higher
                                                          development potential per unit of land compared
                                                          to traditional zoning.

Vestavia Hills Comprehensive Plan                   A-9                                           Appendix
                                    TRANSIT - ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT

TODs include design criteria for proposed
developments to ensure that project designs:
include an appropriate mix of uses, are well-
integrated into the community fabric, and are
walkable and attractive. According to state
enabling legislation, traditional zoning cannot
regulate design or aesthetics. However, with
opt-in zoning, design review can be mandatory.
To encourage developers to opt in to TOD
districts, a City may offer incentives, such as
tax abatements, on projects that meet TOD

A model TOD ordinance was created by MPO
planning consultants from the City’s existing
Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance.
Upon completion of the Comprehensive Plan,
the City of Vestavia Hills should consider
establishment of a TOD Ordinance and design
guidelines while revising the City’s Zoning

The TOD design guidelines document
categorizes proposed TOD areas by the type of
transit route (express bus, bus rapid transit,
and HOV/express bus) and station area (urban
core, urban, and suburban). For Vestavia Hills,
the transit study identifies three potential
TOD transit stations along Highway 31. These
stations would fall under the classification of
“suburban: bus” according to the design
guidelines document.

NOTE: On the following pages are excerpts of
the design guidelines document, which pertain
to the route and station areas proposed within
the City of Vestavia Hills. Portions of the
document, which do not apply to the proposed
transit stations in Vestavia Hills, have been

Vestavia Hills Comprehensive Plan                 A-10               Appendix

Transit Oriented Development is encouraged within the corridors of the Greater
Birmingham Region where the development or enhancement of transit services
is envisioned, including light rail, bus rapid transit, and bus. The corridors include
the municipalities of Bessemer, Birmingham, Helena, Hoover, Homewood, Irondale,
Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, as well as Jefferson and Shelby Counties.


        Density, diversity, and design are necessary priorities in transit oriented design. The careful integra-
        tion and balance of these factors is crucial to multi-modal, pedestrian-friendly development. Density
        allows for proximity between uses, a prerequisite for walkability. Diversity, multiple uses serving
        multiple needs, provides a wide range of services and opportunities within walking distance. Design
        creates the network for movement and provides access to nearby destinations within an attractive
        and desirable pedestrian environment.

        Most people will choose to walk if a destination is within a quarter of a mile and not to walk if the des-
        tination is more than a half-mile away. Because of the importance of walk access to transit ridership,
        this influence of distance on whether or not to walk defines the market area around a transit station.
        The primary market area is within a quarter mile and the secondary area within a half mile of the sta-

        Because the station market area is fixed (roughly 500 acres), density directly influences the number of
        person trips generated and potential transit ridership. Higher capacity transit systems, such as light
        rail transit, require higher densities to generate enough ridership to help pay their higher costs.

        While density generates the demand for transit ridership, it does not, by itself, result in a shift from
        auto to walking trips and higher ridership. Other factors influence mode shift, including the frequency
        and convenience of transit service provided and the convenience of being able to walk to destinations
        within the station area.

        Land use diversity encourages walking because it creates opportunities for local trips. Few trips are
        made between similar land uses – seldom does one travel from their home to another home, for exam-
        ple. Rather, trips are made between different yet complementary uses, like a trip from home to work
        or from work to lunch. Greater diversity in the station area creates more opportunities for short trips,
        which are more likely to be made by walking. Fostering the walkability of the station area ultimately
        encourages people to leave their cars behind and use transit.

        While density creates the demand and diversity creates the opportunity to walk, design makes it pos-
        sible and pleasurable to walk. Paths are needed to walk, and more paths will promote more walking.
        To create an interconnected and dense path network, the layout of the network design must lead the
        design process – it cannot be done incrementally and as an afterthought as it is in the suburban areas
        of the Greater Birmingham region. The illustration on the left below shows the typical suburban condi-
        tion, where both density and diversity exist but there are few paths to connect buildings, and of the few
        paths provided, none are either direct or convenient. In contrast, travel paths take prominence in the
        illustration on the right below. The grid network creates relatively direct connections among buildings,
        parking is tucked behind buildings and separated from paths so that walking is not made through park-
        ing lots and traffic is spread over several streets to minimize the conflict between walking and autos.
        There are added benefits to creating a path network. Once established, the network controls the
        location, spacing and size of buildings. More streets will disperse traffic, making it possible to bring
        buildings and front doors up to the street. Smaller blocks will reduce the scale and massing of build-
        ings making the place seem less overwhelming, even though overall densities are the same or higher.
        Smaller buildings allow for greater diversity in closer proximity. In essence, the path network creates
        a framework for development, resulting in a place that seems to “hang together.”

        Well-organized and scaled places encourage people to enjoy place, thereby increasing street life and
        encouraging even more walking. Other design factors can promote street life. As illustrated by the
        contrast in the images below, clearly defining travel paths as public spaces with uniform scale and
        street walls, providing plenty of windows that connect private and public spaces and encouraging a
        variety of design features within the overall framework combine to create a positive experience for
        walkers and others out on the street.

If is difficult to create a well-connected, well-defined internal path network through the typical site planning and de-
velopment review process because the process focuses on the site, not how the site connects to and relates with
adjacent sites. A path network plan along with building/path design specifications are needed so that site plans and
reviews can react to the network rather than the other way around. The purpose of these TOD Design Guidelines is
to provide needed specifications. Floor area ratios and dwelling units per acre (density), land use mixes (diversity)
and maximum block lengths and other design details are defined for each of the station area types considered. Path
network plans, based on the Design Guidelines, are the next step for each of the proposed station areas.

In sum, density generates the demand for transit ridership but not necessarily the incentive to shift to transit. Creating
a walkable environment through diversity and design encourages the shift. These TOD Design Guidelines provide
instructions to local governments and land developers in the region on how to ensure proper density, diversity and
design in transit station areas.

Density is expressed in terms of floor area
ratio (FAR), which is the total building area
divided by the total lot area. Bus transit is
supported with FARs of at least 0.5 and
preferably over 1.0. Light rail transit is
supported with FARs of 2.0 or greater.                    2.5 FAR               2.0 FAR                1.0 FAR              0.5 FAR

                                                               Light Rail Transit         Bus Rapid Transit      Bus Densities
                                                                   Densities                  Densities




POORLY NETWORKED USES                                                                                     WELL NETWORKED USES


          Station Area Context
          For each transit station area, high to moderate density, mixed-use development and an interconnected
          travel network is required in the center, or core area, which extends a quarter mile in each direction from
          the station. This is the primary pedestrian “market shed” for the transit station. A moderate to low density,
          primarily residential, transition area extends for another quarter mile beyond the core. This area is de-
          signed to make a seamless connection between the core area and predominant patterns surrounding the
          station area. The predominant patterns in the Greater Birmingham Region are:

          Urban Core – This area type is downtown Birmingham, including the commercial district and the University
          of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) district. Downtown Birmingham has the density, diversity and design to
          support most forms of transit. The urban core has high densities with floor area ratios above 1.0. It also
          has mixed uses with clearly defined and highly networked pedestrian travel paths. Densities and other
          development characteristics beyond the half mile station area do not change signifcantly, so the transition
          area has similar characteristics to the core area.

          Urban – Areas developed during the era of streetcars are still intact in the valley northeast and southwest
          of downtown Birmingham and the areas just to the south and southwest. These areas, such as the down-
          towns of Irondale, Bessemer, Mountain Brook and Homewood have moderate densities (FARs from 0.5
          to 1.0), mixed uses and clearly defined, highly networked travel paths. Beyond the half-mile station area,
          densities are low and uses are predominately residential. The travel path network often extends from these
          areas into the neighborhoods. The transition area should maintain established connections and minimize
          the differences in character.

          Suburban – Auto oriented development patterns are prevalent beyond the urban areas. Many of the
          station areas along proposed transit routes have moderate to high densities and a mix of uses, but lack a
          clearly defined, highly connected pedestrian network. Development outside the half mile station area is
          often low density and predominately residential. Unlike the urban areas, travel paths between these outly-
          ing areas to the station areas are limited. The transition area must recognize the differences in character
          and encourage a greater number of connections.

          Transit Improvements
          Several transit improvement type are proposed along the major corridors leading into and out of downtown
          Birmingham. Each transit type has differing operating characteristics, passenger capacities, station/stop
          designs and costs that influence the development characteristics of the transit station area. The transit
          types are:

          Light Rail Transit (LRT) / Trolley – LRT is powered by electric motors and runs on steel rails. It has the
          highest passenger capacity of any of the transit options, but also the highest cost. Ridership must be
          around 10,000 trips or higher per day to generate the fare revenues that can offset its costs. Such ridership
          requires moderate to high densities and well connected pedestrian paths around stations, both of which
          are currently found in downtown Birmingham. Development changes are needed in potential urban and
          suburban station areas to support LRT.

          Bus Rapid Transit –Rubber-tired buses operate in right of way that is separated from automobile traffic,
          giving the buses an opportunity to avoid congestion and provide competitive travel times with autos. The
          separated right of way can range from exclusive lanes along the entire route to by-pass lanes at major
          intersections. BRT does not have the passenger capacity of LRT, but it is less expensive to build. Con-
          sequently, it does not require the same level of ridership to be economically feasible, and development
          densities in BRT station areas need not be as high as LRT areas. However, development diversity and well
          connected travel paths are needed.

          Enhanced Fixed Route Buses – Rubber tired buses operate in existing roadways, but with greater fre-
          quency and improved amenities at stations. As enhanced fixed route service does not require its own right

of way, it is the least expensive of the transit options, and economically viable with relatively low ridership.
However, higher ridership will improve financial performance and ridership can be increased with moderate
densities, mixed uses and well connected pedestrian paths.

Express Buses – Rubber tired buses operate in existing roadways or on high occupancy vehicle lanes over
long distances with few stops. The service is primarily intended for long distance commutes. Express bus
station areas can have transit oriented design, with moderate to high densities, mixed uses and well con-
nected pedestrian travel paths. However, stations are often accessed by automobile, requiring park and ride
and “kiss and ride” facilities. Balancing auto and pedestrian access is the challenge in these station areas.

Area Types and Transit Improvements
Combinations of area types and transit improvements create unique station area design requirements. The
distinct combinations are shown in the illustrations below, with detailed guidelines provided on the following


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