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Setting the Stage


 

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When Denver’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) strategic plan was produced in 2006, the idea of having a more systematic approach to transit-oriented development was a new, uncharted, and unproven idea. Since 2006, many regions have embarked on their own strategic planning for development around stations. Denver’s strategic plan for transit-oriented development is different than many other TOD Strategic plans. This plan outlines the city’s approach to implement TOD over the next six years; it is not a vision setting document for station areas nor is it a region-wide policy document produced by a metropolitan planning organization to promote TOD.

2006 TOD Strategic Plan

The 2006 plan has proved invaluable for guiding TOD related policies in the city, fostering external partnerships, and setting a work program of TOD planning and investment. Over half of Denver’s stations have received neighborhood and stakeholder-led planning efforts (small area and general development plans), infrastructure analysis has occurred, and investment has taken place. The City transitioned to a form-based, context-sensitive zoning code in 2010 and many stations now have transit and TOD supportive zoning. And TOD has happened in Denver, whether it is the Denver Housing Authority’s Mariposa project at 10th and Osage or the booming development around Denver Union Station, development has often followed public investment at stations.

Moving Toward Implementation

All of this has informed the City on what TOD is to Denver and what it can be in the future. Development around rail stations is part of Denver striving to become a world-class city. To be competitive with the best and brightest regions of the world, Denver needs an exceptional transit system with great stations that connect to walkable communities. The City needs to tackle affordable housing issues, broaden transportation choices, and meet the demands of changing demographics. With this in mind, The City of Denver has evolved the definition of TOD to an idea of developing transit communities that are walkable, livable places that provide citizens with access to most of their daily needs. Six TOD principles now outline what makes a great transit community, and the typology has been altered to better reflect what Denver knows about development around stations while meshing with the neighborhood context that has been established in the Denver Zoning Code. For Denver to succeed in establishing more walkable places through transit communities, the action items need to be prioritized and realistic funding strategies must be considered. This document lays out the foundation of an implementation action plan through research and analysis of the existing state of transit-oriented development, provides city-wide and station-specific recommendations, and establishes a system to track and monitor Denver’s success so the City can continue to refine and improve its strategic moves in the future. 

 
Accomplishments of the
2006 TOD Strategic Plan
  • Long-range planning for 21 station areas
  • Established or strengthened external partnerships
  • Implemented TOD Typology through new form-based, context-sensitive zoning
  • TOD Fund established to create and preserve affordable housing at station areas
  • Millions of dollars spent on infrastructure in TOD areas
  • Collaborated with Denver Urban Renewal Authority on TIF opportunities at multiple stations
  • Reduced parking requirements in TOD areas
  • Bike sharing stations at multiple stations
 

How is TOD Defined in Denver?

The definition of transit-oriented development in Denver is more than just development in station areas; it is part of building transit communities around rail stations in order to more closely connect the suburban and urban neighborhoods to Denver’s urban centers and Downtown.  Removing barriers to transit-oriented development and improving multi-modal first and last-mile connections around rail stations can fill in the missing urban fabric between Denver’s new rail transit system, established neighborhoods, and emerging areas.  By doing so, Denver can grow into a more seamless, walkable community that provides its citizens with great access to daily needs, whether that is a place to work, to study, to shop or run in the park.

Transit Community

Denver’s transit communities are walkable places that provide destinations like shopping, dining, jobs, parks, and schools — most of one’s daily activities — easily accessed from home by foot, bicycle, and transit.  These communities tend to have a variety of housing types, provide the opportunity for a healthy lifestyle, and are designed to maximize resident access to public transportation by focusing activities on a major transit stop.

Transit-oriented Development

Transit-oriented development in Denver generally describes development in an existing or planned transit community that adds to the walkable, vibrant, mixed-use environment and is oriented towards frequent, high-quality transit service that connects the community to the rest of the region. 

 
TOD Principles

The following TOD principles establish a baseline for Denver neighborhoods to envision and plan for great transit communities.

Connect

  • Entry Point: access to the regional economy
  • First/Last Mile: walk, bike, bus to the station
  • Access to All: connect to new and existing neighborhoods

Innovate

  • Sustainable: economic, social, environmental
  • Equitable: opportunities for all
  • Global Economy: compete on the world stage

Efficient

  • Location: one place to live, work, and play decreases the need for regional trips
  • Shared Resources: reduce the cost of infrastructure per household
  • Balance: jobs and homes nearby reduce travel times and long commutes

Place

  • Active: promote safety and visual interest
  • Vibrant: bring together people and activities
  • Destination: public life happens in the streets and open space

Mix

  • Choice: housing, jobs, shopping, transit options
  • Diversity: a mix of incomes and age groups
  • Resilient: stands up through changing economic conditions

Shift

  • Car Free/Car Lite–: becoming non/less car-dependent for most trips
  • Public Space: more room for pedestrians and bikes, less for cars
  • Reduce and Energize: carbon emissions go down, healthy living goes up