What Is Transit-Oriented Development?

Jul 13, 2021

How can our community build more affordable housing, reduce traffic congestion, create vibrant communities and sustainably grow transit?

It’s all possible, and transit-oriented development (also known as TOD) is how you can do it. 

A transit-oriented development is a partnership to build spaces near transit where people can live, work and play. We are not developers, but we can work with public, private and community partners to make these projects happen. When done right, a transit-oriented development creates demand for transit, and the transit creates demand for the development. 

The large transit-oriented development project next to Orenco Station on MAX Blue Line

This isn’t a new concept. In 1998, we helped develop Orenco Station (in Hillsboro) on the MAX Blue Line. Since opening, Orenco has evolved to become a thriving pedestrian-centric community with shopping, restaurants and hotels. Over 20 years in, Orenco shows how vibrant – and valued – a successful TOD can be.

Transit-oriented development projects like Orenco are something you’re going to be seeing a lot more of. Here’s an introduction to this exciting (no, really!) topic. 

Why TOD is an important tool for equity

Transit-oriented development is an important tool for promoting equity.

When people can live near transit, they have affordable access to jobs, shops, services and community without the need to pay for a car. Living near transit allows people to put more money aside.

Transit-oriented communities are healthy communities. When people live near transit, they don’t need to own a vehicle. This means less congestion and less exhaust being pumped into our air. And when you don’t need or have a car, you spend more time walking or biking.

By partnering to build dense and affordable housing people can afford near transit, we can help create healthier communities where people have an easier time getting ahead. Everybody wins. 

Our current transit-oriented development program

Last year saw an important step forward in our plans for more transit-oriented development. An extensive set of guidelines developed by our TOD team was approved by our Board of Directors. This document lays out our principles and values for transit-oriented developments moving forward.

With this document in hand, we have the guidelines to create new projects. Right now, we’re working on identifying potential TOD sites and defining standards for working with our community and stakeholders to ensure everyone’s voices are heard. We hope to present a draft of this plan to our Board by early 2022.

We’ll be working with public, private and community partners to build TODs within a half-mile of transit stations. Our projects will usually include mixed-income residential units, ground-floor retail spaces and other transportation modes like scooters, bikes and car-sharing, so you can easily make connections without owning a car. By design, TOD communities are compact and pedestrian-friendly, so it’s easy to walk, bike and roll.

Fitting in

Transit-oriented development brings many changes, and we’re mindful of the impacts they have on people and places. Our equity, inclusion and sustainability work helps ensure our TOD projects’ benefits and opportunities are enjoyed by everyone. When we’re considering a new transit-oriented development partnership, we consult with local organizations and study the proposed area carefully to examine minimizing displacement while creating new housing near transit for people who need it most.

The Dean River Apartments on MAX Orange Line is a transit-oriented development that opened in 2021.

Current and past TOD projects

From 2015-2020, we worked with partners to build more than 700 housing units around the region, including 475 affordable homes.

What we’re working on now

We just sold part of a Park & Ride site for a residential-only transit-oriented development project called the Fuller Road Station Apartments. This project, which is now under construction, will create a 100-unit apartment building just steps away from the MAX Green Line’s SE Fuller Road Station in Clackamas County. The building will be made up of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, and they will all be affordable. The project will help prevent displacement for hundreds of people and create a high-density community less than 500 feet from MAX. 

We hope this new community will spur more development around it, like retail and restaurants. The grand opening for the Fuller Road Station Apartments is planned for summer 2023.

What’s next: Hollywood Transit Center and beyond

We’re in the planning stages of our largest transit-oriented development yet: a major development with housing and commercial properties mixed together to create a vibrant streetscape at the Hollywood Transit Center.

Rendering of the hollywoodHUB transit-oriented development. View is looking south from NE Halsey.

We’ve partnered with BRIDGE Housing, who is developing 100% permanent affordable housing on part of the site. The project calls for BRIDGE Housing to build a 13-story building with approximately 200 units and community areas. The northeast corner of the site is reserved for future development that could include retail and office spaces. This project will be called hollywoodHUB, and it’ll be located steps from three MAX lines and several bus lines. We expect the developer to begin construction in fall 2022. 

Rendering of the hollywoodHUB transit-oriented development.

This project will bring a lot of other exciting changes to the 35-year-old transit center, like better lighting for safety, plus improved signage and other visual guides to direct people where to go. We’ll work with the City of Portland to upgrade the street and intersection at Halsey and 42nd Avenue. Sidewalk upgrades are also part of the plan, making it easier to walk, bike and use mobility devices to reach hollywoodHUB and the transit center. We’re still collecting feedback from the site’s neighbors and local community groups to make sure their input goes into project planning. Learn more about the project. 

On the horizon: TOD opportunities with the Better Red project.

Our Better Red project will extend the MAX Red Line west to serve 10 more stations and improve schedule reliability for the entire MAX system. And along with this $215 million dollar project, there will likely be opportunities for transit-oriented development projects along the improved east and west sections of MAX Red Line. Stay tuned!

We’re excited about our region’s future. It includes more compact, walkable communities designed to maximize access to transit, making it easier to travel to work, school, home and other destinations. Building dense, affordable housing near transit has many benefits, and it benefits everyone in our community. There’s a lot of work ahead for our transit-oriented development program. Stay tuned for more TOD news and updates.

For more information about our transit-oriented development program, visit our website.

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