City and Regional Planning

Transit-Oriented Development in Philadelphia

TOD typologies for a diverse city.

Studio 2011

While the 20th century is characterized by a political and economic system that subsidized auto-oriented development fueled by the construction of the federal highway system and availability of cheap land, the 21st century must seek more sustainable development solutions and find economic models for urban infill within regional policies and regulations that favor multi-modality and mixed-use. Higher value locations such as transit-oriented development (TOD) will be one of the major planning and development challenges as the United States faces population growth of an additional 100 million people in the coming decades. TODs will continue to offer one of the most compelling solutions to the challenges posed by the continued need for urban development. The trend toward TOD across the country is rooted in high-value quality of life issues. Americans are struggling with fuel costs increases which have contributed to a destabilized real-estate market that has been driven by auto-oriented development policy. TOD offers an attractive alternative, providing residents with amazing access to employment and leisure activities across the city and impeccable local access to everyday goods and services.

At the Federal level, the Obama administration's focus on integrated planning and design has charged the departments of Housing and Urban Development,Transportation, and Environmental Protection with creating programs that leverage investment across programs. This shift in Federal policy, a new focus on sustainability,and smart growth initiatives have spawned grant programs, such as the Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program, the TIGER Grant, and Community Challenge Grant. All of these programs have focused on TOD as the urban development typology for regions and communities to target their resources.

Philadelphia has a rich history of transit and some of the best neighborhoods in the city. Despite this vibrant past, more recently the national trend toward transit-oriented development seems to have passed Philadelphia by. To remedy this situation, the City of Philadelphia, through its dual zoning code revision and comprehensive planning processes has identified criteria and locations for future TOD development. Four categories for TOD have emerged in Philadelphia: Center City, Destination, Neighborhood Center, and Park & Ride. The charge of the Super TOD studio was to evaluate these categories through three selected station sites - Market East, Girard, and Wayne Junction - to create detailed development plans that the City can use to integrate into their policy thinking, regulatory frameworks, and dialogue with the development community and SEPTA. What follows is the result of that work in addition to some highlights of the opportunity and complexity that the TOD model provides.

The studio hopes that work found in this document can serve as a jumping off point for stakeholders invested in improving Philadelphia through transit oriented development. While each station will have its own challenges and opportunities, the categories outlined
by the City are helpful in framing the issues that are likely to be encountered at stationsassociated with a particular typology. Transit needs to be at the center of any TOD. SEPTA and private developers need to consider the impact that high-quality, competitively priced transit has on the viability of any proposal. The presence of a station is not enough to make for attractive development. Riders must have reliable levels of transit service to make this form of transportation a viable option, and thus make the development around these nodes successful.