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Cleveland's Uptown earns top Silver TOD Score

Marc Lefkowitz  |  01/30/15 @ 11:00am  |  Posted in Vibrant cities, Transportation choices

Moving on Up<br />Phase One of the Uptown development in Cleveland, a TOD Scorecard Silver earner.BRT in CLE<br />The HealthLine bus-rapid transit and new condo development at the edge of UptownBlank slate<br />Vacant land near the site of the East 105 and Quincy Red Line Rapid Station in Cleveland, Ohio. Image: Google.Uncertain future<br />Greater Cleveland RTA is trying to decide if it spends $16 million to upgrade this Rapid Station at E. 79th St. (less than a mile from the $331 million urban highway project known as Opportunity Corridor).More TOD to come<br />The Cleveland Clinic showed this concept for infill development within the Opportunity Corridor at E. 105th Street (about .5 miles to a Rapid Station). Image: Ohio Department of Transportation.

The TOD Standard bearers at the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) think they’ve found the answer to how sustainable a development can be.

The ITDP, founded in 1985, is a high-powered think tank on “environmentally sustainable and equitable transportation policies and projects worldwide.” Its current board is lead by Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, and includes Janette Sadik-Khan, former New York City Department of Transportation commissioner.

For a development to be truly sustainable—meaning, it reduces carbon emissions by removing the necessity of always needing a car—ITDP says it needs to answer:

  1. Is it Compact
  2. Served by Transit
  3. Connect to existing places
  4. Does it add Density
  5. And Mix uses, and
  6. Does it improve conditions to Cycle
  7. And, most importantly, Walk?
  8. The final, and they argue, real measure of a sustainable development is, does it Shift people from needing to drive to using low or zero-carbon forms of travel?

Out of this Standard, IDTP built a Scorecard used to rank new developments. For example, Compact is calculated by street-block size. (Smaller blocks equate to more pedestrian and bike friendly and, so, earn more points). Points are rewarded under Mix of uses if a food store is within 100 meters walk. If bike lanes and a high capacity transit station are within a 15 minute walk that picks up more points as does affordable housing.

Walkability is the baseline, because, when a development is pedestrian friendly it’s at a scale that gets a lot of other things right. The Scorecard counts the number and placement of crosswalks, sidewalks, and driveways, but also the number and visibility of building entrances from the street and their distance to people walking. Factors like, how much land is dedicated to parking could start losing a development points when it goes above a certain percentage.

IDTP aims for a clear standard, a best in class of walk, bike, and transit connected places. It asserts that by rating developments (in Gold, Silver and Bronze categories) more people default to other modes of transport.

It is applying the Scorecard to developments in the real world. For instance, Cleveland’s Uptown—which earns 84 points on the TOD Scorecard and the top slot in its Silver category. ITDP doesn’t publish a complete breakdown of the scores, but it is pretty clear walking Uptown where it earns points (six more than the Pearl District in Portland!) in all eight categories.

For example, it is more dense (offers more usable space on less land) than average for Cleveland. It mixes uses (with retail/and a grocer on the ground floor and residential above). Its designed for strolling (with entrances right next to sidewalks). And it is a short walking distance to high capacity (regionwide and to downtown) transit in the HealthLine and the Red Line Rapid at the soon-to-be opened Mayfield Road Station.

Uptown adheres well to the TOD Standard. It also sets the bar for future developments in Cleveland if they aspire to reduce carbon emissions while promoting vibrant, walkable places.

Imagine if there were the same attention to these details for the land surrounding other Rapid and BRT stations?

This question moves from theoretical to practical with the major investment in Opportunity Corridor, which includes the Red Line’s E. 55th Street, E. 79th Street and E. 105th Street stations. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, at its January, 2015 Board Meeting, discussed an interagency agreement between it and ODOT to pay for improvements to the E. 105th Street Red Line Rapid station.

Current land use around the E. 105th and Quincy station has potential to become a TOD development. There is plenty of vacant land available. Will the interagency agreement between RTA and ODOT lead to a land-use plan and an Uptown style “village” that dovetails with the Cleveland Clinic's expansion plans?

While the Clinic’s ideas on development historically have closed ranks around monolithic, hard to access buildings (reflecting a prevailing attitude in the research-medical profession), this $4 million improvement to the Rapid Station at E. 105th and Quincy represents an opportunity for thinking about the Rapid not as an isolated piece of infrastructure but the center point of a transit-oriented development.

The TOD Scorecard has potential to frame what’s happening at Uptown not as an outlier, but as a benchmark in how development plays a vital role in eliminating the need for road projects like Opportunity Corridor. The larger, contextual questions of how employees, students, visitors and residents interested in using the Rapid can be encouraged to walk between station and destination must be asked, though. It will require the stakeholders here to employ TOD (and perhaps this Scorecard) in the City of Cleveland's promise to leverage Opportunity Corridor—as a springboard for creating small scale neighborhood development and promoting the use of the Rapid as a backbone for economic, social and environmentally focused activity.

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