Outmoded Land-Use Policies Thwart Transit-Oriented Development in Connecticut

Southwestern Connecticut is home to one of the best commuter-rail networks in the country, yet many communities across the region aren’t making the most of their superlative transit connections.

A new RPA study finds that only about half of Connecticut communities with Metro-North rail service have established land use regulations that maximize access to transit and foster economic growth through transit-oriented development. “Halfway There: How to Create Land Use Policy That Makes the Most of Connecticut’s Transit Network” reports that at 54% of Connecticut’s Metro-North stations, community visions exist for station-area development that capitalize on transit assets to attract investment and draw residents and businesses. But 46% of Connecticut’s Metro-North communities don’t have a plan in place, limiting their ability to take advantage of the region’s transit network.

Even among the communities that have taken steps to support transit-oriented development, outmoded policies, especially those involving parking requirements, undermine their efforts. Only 20% of Metro-North station neighborhoods had parking requirements that reflect walkability and transit use.

Similarly, only half of station areas allow densities that encourage a mix of homes, shops and services within walking distance of transit. Other stations are surrounded by large-lot, single-family houses, discouraging transit use, contributing to longer commutes and traffic congestion and reducing open space.

Nationally, cities and towns are recognizing that the post-World War II model of suburban development – large homes on large properties, separated from offices and shopping – has after 50 years contributed to long commutes, heavy traffic, destruction of habitat and open space and high costs for quality housing. Improving development around transit hubs reduces dependence on cars and curbs pollution, allows for a mix of housing types and makes more efficient use of land. Companies located in transit-served, mixed-use centers also are able to attract more highly skilled employees. And both young people and retirees are drawn to walkable neighborhoods with easy access to shops and services.

The report offers detailed recommendations for municipalities to help them understand the barriers to transit-oriented development in their neighborhoods and to update their land use, density and parking guidelines.

Read the full report.

Read the news release.