While it won’t be the death of the suburbs, high-density housing developments near transit and retail centers could remake many Bay Area communities in coming years, with more than $1 billion in statewide funds now earmarked for new projects following the passage of state Proposition 1C, local transit officials said.
The money, $1.2 billion in 30 years for so-called transit-oriented development alone, is yet to be divvied up by the community but already has officials at the Metropolitan Transit Commission claiming it could go a long way toward addressing traffic-congestion problems, housing shortages and air pollution in the Bay Area.
Another $600 million from Propositions 1C and 84 has been set aside to expand and improve parks and green spaces in urban areas, primarily in hopes of making high-density developments attractive as well as reducing greenhouses gases, James Corless of the transit commission said.
Rather than jump in a car to go grocery shopping or drive to work, more Bay Area residents will live in areas where they can walk, bike and take transit, according to a commission study released Friday. “Over the next 25 years, an incredible 40 percent increase — to 850,000 people — is expected in the number of residents choosing to live within half a mile of transit,” Corless said.
At the other end of the commute, a comparable increase is expected in the number of businesses locating near transit, the study shows.
“I like to look at the glass as half full, now that those propositions have passed,” said John McLemore, vice-chairman of a transit commission committee on “smart growth,” made up of elected officials, transit gurus and air quality experts from throughout the nine-county Bay Area.
To see what transit-oriented development looks like in real life, visit five miles of San Francisco’s Third Street, where since 2000 more than 1,000 new apartments and condos have sprung up on the way to 10,000, Corless said. The revitalized street is now lined with shops and a new Muni extension and job growth in the area is humming, Coreless said. Farther south, transit-oriented development is taking shape on the Peninsula near Caltrain stops, including at Bay Meadows in San Mateo and in Redwood City’s downtown revitalization plan, he said.
Aside from reducing highway congestion, higher-density housing centers tend to have multiplying effects, including increased transit use — making it a better investment for home builders and bolstering the bottom line for publicly funded transit agencies, officials said.
Focused development could reduce average weekday driving by as much as 3.6 million vehicle miles by 2020, transit commission spokesman John Goodwin said. That alone would conserve 150,000 gallons of gasoline a day and reduce daily carbon dioxide emissions by 2.9 million pounds per day, Goodwin said.