Public transit will tame Tree Farm traffic
May 9, 2017
The following letter was addressed to the Eagle County commissioners.
As you make your decision on the application for the Tree Farm, pleases consider the unique location as a "transit-oriented development" (TOD), which makes the overall plan consistent with the county's goals for sustainability. It is my opinion that this is a unique opportunity in the Roaring Fork Valley for the proposed higher density residential mixed with other compatible uses. Should you adopt an overall policy of "slow growth" in this part of Eagle County, the TOD features should make the Tree Farm the clear favorite over any other proposed lower density development without close access to transit.
If this TOD neighborhood is not deemed to be suitable for development, is there another one that can?
As a community, we are very fortunate to have the benefit of the leadership that provided us with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. The Bus Rapid Transit is truly fast, frequent and fun as my wife and I know since we live not far from the Willits BRT stop. While we still use our cars, we prefer to take RFTA when we can. It is very likely that many or most of the residents of the Tree Farm also will use RFTA. And some will be able to walk or bike to work in the nearby offices and walk to the restaurants and shops.
Denver and surrounding cities and counties have also benefited from great elected and civic leaders who created the light-rail system called FasTracks. This week I drove to Denver just to take a firsthand look. It is clear to me that this transit system and the appropriate land-use regulations are transforming the way people in Denver live as they move into higher density TODs along light-rail stations. Based on the new neighborhoods we saw, it is appropriate to approve higher densities at the RFTA Bus Rapid Transit stops.
One item for your consideration will be the parking requirements. It is very interesting to learn that residents in many TODs are not using their cars enough to fill the parking spaces that have been required by some local land-use regulations. Another positive future opportunity for reduced parking will be the shared automobile vehicle and the "persuasive electric vehicle," which is now in research and development.
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A few years ago, as a trustee of Urban Land Institute, I was fortunate to get the Urban Land Institute to sponsor a TOD seminar attended by representatives of various municipalities in the Roaring Fork Valley.
For additional information, the its website has a wealth of detailed studies and relevant articles. For example, the Feb. 14 issue of "Urban Land," the magazine of the Urban Land Institute, includes an article "Calculating the Cost of Excess Parking in Transit-Oriented Developments." This article notes that residents of TOD developments are using their cars less and points out the unnecessary costs and poor use of land if too much parking is required. Kathleen McCormick's recent article in Urban Land, "Capitalizing on Opportunity for TOD in Growing Cities," provides an excellent summary of activities in the Denver area.
To add a personal point, my wife, Dianne, and I live just off of Willits Lane. She has expressed concerns about additional traffic. So if I am wrong in supporting the Tree Farm, you can be assured that I will hear about it!