Transit Oriented Developments: Why TOD's are the Future of Urban Living

Transit Oriented Developments, or TOD's, have recently surged in popularity due to urban infill growth and the need for these transportation solutions.

Let's be real: Austin has a traffic problem that isn't getting better anytime soon. As an Austin Realtor with an eye for effective multifamily development, I've observed many different mixed-use developments (MUDs) that bring style and convenience to the lives of my clients. Among some of the more popular MUDs in Austin's urban core are The Triangle, Lamar Union, and South Shore District. We all know the City of Austin has been looking to expand the paltry public transportation scene to alleviate traffic, help the environment, and cut down on sprawl.

Transit options encourage development along their routes. This has been apparent in many cities with superior public transportation, such as Seattle and DC. Transit Oriented Developments, or TOD's, have recently surged in popularity due to urban infill growth and the need for these transportation solutions.

What is a TOD, you ask? TOD's are essentially mixed-use developments located on or near public transportation routes, most commonly light rail or train systems. TOD's offer walkability and an urban feel. They provide value for residents and retailers by cutting out inconvenient travel times. TOD's strive to instill the sense of community that small town America once offered. The result of a TOD is infrastructure cost savings that will free up tax money for other causes.

The TOD is incredibly good for the environment and quality of life, too. According to the EPA, greenhouse gasses from individual motor vehicles has increased 19% between 1990 and 2010. Furthermore, 38% of carbon monoxide in the air is from highway vehicles. Deaths from car accidents are the #3 leading cause of life years lost, as young people are more likely to perish in car crashes. Being able to get work done or study on public transportation also leads to more productivity. Getting this work out of the way also leads to more time to be active, and will ideally cut down on the obesity epidemic.

Downtown Transit Austin Urban Living

Transit Oriented Developments also serve to bring socioeconomic benefits. Owning, maintaining, and insuring a car is very costly, not to mention paying for gas. When families can save big money on cutting out this expense, they are more likely to be able to afford housing closer to their jobs in town instead of having to commute from the suburbs. Austin has the 2nd fastest growing rate of suburban poverty in the nation, which is something that TOD's and an efficient public transportation network can help fix. Check out the article here.

With the cost of car ownership on the rise, and the advent of ride sharing companies Uber/Lyft, young people are becoming less interested in owning cars of their own. More and more college students are studying abroad, frequently in European cities, and seeing firsthand that the American idea of mandatory car ownership isn't necessarily the best solution to lead a full and heathy lifestyle. The Congress for New Urbanism is a great organization that promotes TOD's and smart urban infill growth. According to the EPA, the US population is set to grow 42% between 2010 and 2050; much of that growth coming to urban centers across the country.

In order to be financially viable, however, government support and smooth re-zoning processes ought to be available to TOD developers. The Transit Oriented Development Infrastructure Financing Act was re-introduced this March, and it remains to be seen how generous the government will be to stimulate TOD's nationwide. Read more about it here.

Although it remains to be seen when and to what extent Austin upgrades its public transportation game, what we can bet on is a sleuth of TOD's likely be built around it. We already have Midtown Commons up on N. Lamar near the Highland Mall ACC campus, which is next to a stop on the mostly inaccessible Cap Metro line, and we have the Saltillo Plaza development on the Eastside that sits on the same tracks. It's pertinent to keep tabs on the city's transit plans in order to make smart real estate property investments with lasting appreciation being so close to these public amenities. You can bet I'll be keeping my finger on the pulse!

about the author

Drew Johnson

Owner + Broker


Drew has been an Austin REALTOR® since moving here in 2010. Originally from Ft. Worth, Texas, Drew fell in love with the city of Austin as a kid when he was captivated by its eclectically progressive lifestyle and music scene. Drew spent four years at Trinity University earning his degree in Business Marketing, during which time he spent a semester abroad in Sevilla, Spain.

With expertise ranging from urban apartment locating to sales and investments, Drew seized the opportunity to help current and future Austinites find their niche by forming a team of passionate agents and founding Austin Craft Realty. Drew himself has proven to be an effective Realtor due to his open and speedy communication, creative negotiation skills, and rare blend of youthful energy with eight years of experience. Drew believes the lasting relationships and friendships he has developed with clients is the most rewarding aspect of being in real estate in Austin.

When Drew isn’t working with clients and running Austin Craft Realty’s office, you might find him bicycling around town, serving on the board of the Young Men’s Business League, playing saxophone at some of Austin's best venues, and enjoying the latest craft brews. Whether you need a good recommendation for live music, a new restaurant destination, or simply an excellent Realtor to help you navigate the Austin market, Drew is your man.

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