March 14, 2018

New Enterprise Research: Navigating Federal Transportation Policy to Promote eTOD

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Federal transportation policies and programs can have a significant impact on the creation of local equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD), as we detail in our new report, Navigating Federal Transportation Policy. These policies and programs generally provide several funding and technical assistance opportunities that can support eTOD. Furthermore, a wide range of policies and incentives that do not explicitly address eTOD can support or detract from conditions that make such development possible. 

Navigating Federal Transportation Policy seeks to assist eTOD stakeholders, including public entities, developers and practitioners, seeking to understand and benefit from federal transportation policies and programs. This new report can be particularly helpful for housing practitioners, who may be less familiar with these resources and how to access them.  

The report, third in the Promoting Opportunity through eTOD research series, examines key influence points in federal transportation policy:

Prioritization and planning
In accepting federal transportation funds, grantees, such as transit agencies and local municipalities, commit to a federally mandated planning process. This process is critically important; local planners have significant discretion about how transportation funds will be used. In recent years the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) and the Federal Highway Administration have taken several actions to support a more inclusive and outcome-oriented metropolitan planning process, including requiring that the policy boards of larger metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) include the participation of officials representing the collective interests of the operators of public transportation  and mandating the adoption of a performance-based approach in planning and programing.    

Federal funding and incentives can either encourage eTOD or make it more difficult. While federal transportation policies generally prioritize spending on highway projects, recent policy changes actively support eTOD. These policy changes include: expanding the Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act and the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing programs to offer opportunities to finance TOD-supportive infrastructure projects; revising the FTA rating system for its Major Capital Investment Projects program to measure a wider range of outcomes like the extent to which affordable housing is preserved or created within new station areas; and providing technical assistance and funding opportunities to integrate land-use and transportation planning[?] along transit corridors through programs like the FTA’s TOD Pilot Planning Program. 
Utilizing publicly owned parcels
The most direct way for public agencies to support eTOD is to make publicly owned parcels near transit available for affordable and mixed-income housing development. Transit agencies are particularly well-placed to utilize those parcels for eTOD – most of their sites include a core component for advancing opportunity through expanding access to multi-modal transportation. The disposition of properties that have federal interest (having been purchased in full or part with FTA funds) is subject to numerous federal regulatory requirements that aim to protect this federal interest. FTA grantees, such as transit agencies who own properties with federal interest, have several paths for disposing or developing their properties. One option is pursuing a FTA-assisted joint development, which is a collaboration between a transit agency and one or more partners to develop TOD using FTA funds or property acquired with FTA funds. This type of collaboration can support affordable housing development by allowing the sale/lease of property at costs that are based on the actual revenue generated by the project rather than the original federal investment in the property. (For more information on the effective utilization of publicly owned parcels, read Enterprise’s report, Public Benefit from Publicly Owned Parcels: Effective Practices in Affordable Housing Development.)

Despite this progress, federal transportation policies need additional improvements so they advance eTOD planning and implementation. The federal government can enhance the MPO transportation planning process by mandating official coordination between public transportation and affordable housing stakeholders. Furthermore, it can adopt more balanced transportation policies that do not prioritize public spending on highway projects, which would lower the local match requirement for transit projects and provide more federal funding for public transportation and e-TOD supportive infrastructure. Finally, it is important to highlight that the FTA programs and policies that directly support eTOD can be enhanced by expanding their funding sources, flexibility and scope. 

The full list of publications and resources from this research initiative, including Making the Case and Barriers to Success and Best Practices for Implementation, are available on the Enterprise website. For more information on equitable TOD, visit the Enterprise Equitable TOD Initiative webpage or contact Susan Anderson, Senior Program Director and Ahmad Abu-Khalaf, Research Analyst.

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