As described in Brief Two, one core strategy to reinforce long-term economic development is to maximize worker transportation choices when they commute. This is primarily done by ensuring job centers are well-connected to transit; however, in reality, the ability to do so is limited by the willingness of employers, geographic location and density of jobs, and commute patterns of workers. These factors vary across the region and within different industries, particularly within the Industries of Opportunity identified in Brief Three.
Key activities to reinforce economic development activities through transit and TOD include:
Increased employer support for alternative transportation choices. A number of large employers understand the importance of transportation choices as quality of life amenities for their workers, and thus have invested in various activities to support these transportation choices. Locating jobs in areas with multiple transportation options is especially important for low-income workers, who are two to three times more likely than higher income workers to walk or take transit to work. Employer activities include:
- Locating businesses in transit-rich locations.
- Offering pre-tax commuter benefits and other transit incentives.
- Ensuring the value of a transit pass or similar benefit is greater than or equal to the cost of paying for parking.
- Ensuring employers communicate all transportation options available to employees.
- Participating in transportation demand management (TDM) programs. For large employers this may include offering shuttles, vanpool coordination, and guaranteed rides home. For smaller employers this may include participating in a district- or facility-wide TDM program that can leverage economies of scale to offer similar programs across many employers.
Local governments can improve “first” and “last mile” linkages from transit to neighborhoods and job centers. Local agencies can support economic growth in congested job centers that are less transit-accessible through a number of activities:
- Helping local employers initiate TDM programs by providing information, resources, and coordinating capacity.
- Investing in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and adding bus connections from regional transit to job centers. In addition to incorporating these investments in local Capital Improvement Plans, this can be done through grant applications for One Bay Area Grants or similar county, regional, state or federal programs, or introducing value capture mechanisms as appropriate, such as Community Facilities Districts and property based Business Improvement Districts.
- Completing TOD plans designating transit-supportive land uses and urban design requirements near transit to help enhance the walkability of communities through new private development.
Public/private shuttle systems are a key component of increasing transit access to jobs. These can be coordinated by individual private employers, district or citywide public-private partnerships, or public agencies. Some systems are funded by climate mitigation/air quality grants. Examples of successful shuttle systems include the Oakland “B on Broadway” bus, Bishop Ranch shuttle, Caltrain shuttles, and the Emery Go-Round. Corporate shuttles limited to a firm’s full-time employees should consider ensuring access to a broader range of workers, especially their own workers who are low-income, contract employees, or subcontracted employees (e.g. cleaning and food preparation staff). Shuttles managed by one employer might also consider partnering with employers in key origin locations to maximize use (e.g. shuttles serving San Mateo and Santa Clara County employers could also serve San Francisco employers in the reverse direction to reduce costs and environmental impacts).
Mitigate displacement of vulnerable businesses from transit-rich communities. Transit-rich communities that experience a boost in market demand for housing or commercial space could also experience displacement of small business that rely on lower rents to maintain a healthy profit margin. Where such instances exist, local governments might consider mechanisms to support the ongoing vitality of small businesses. This might take the form of offering small businesses supportive services such as those provided by Inner City Advisors, limiting the size of suite floor-plates, or considering other similar regulatory measures to reduce competition from national chains.
Areas of Further Research
Because this study provides a preliminary exploration into the intersection of these three fields, a number of areas have emerged where further, more detailed research could help develop innovative implementation activities:
Explore potential approaches to overcome perceived limitations of linking key sectors to transit and including them within TOD. Many types of industries have perceived physical limitations to being transit supportive, such as low employment densities that do not generate significant ridership, or the need for large-scale operations including significant freight traffic that could present barriers to walkability. Similarly, many industries have operations that require a large number of employees to commute during off-peak hours when transit is not as frequent.
Many industries facing these challenges are also key Industries of Opportunity for low-income workers, and/or are key economic drivers (such as manufacturing). As a result, some cities have adopted policies to preserve land for industrial uses. However, this raises questions for high-capacity transit areas with industrial land. Is there some way to serve lower density manufacturing jobs (that also might not operate on a 9 to 5 schedule) and still achieve the goals of transit-oriented development? Addressing this question and potential conflict at sites such as the Sunnyvale Caltrain station and Warm Springs BART – where Tesla manufactures electric vehicles within the NUMMI plant – is a TOD priority. Additional research into serving off-hour and shoulder commute times that are critical to some industries (healthcare, retail) should also be considered.
Research new ways to incentivize and/or require employment-based TOD at the local or regional level to promote transit use to employment centers. Increase share of jobs in transit-served locations. Research by the Public Policy Institute of California has found that the share of jobs located near transit in California has diminished overall. In part this is because there are limited to no existing incentives for employers to locate near transit. Further research into potential incentives – building on attempted state-level programs such as the Illinois Location Efficiency Act and the New Jersey Transit Hub Tax Credit – might help inform future policies to incentivize job growth near transit.
Job growth in compact locations is also a consideration in Plan Bay Area. There is potential to align the Priority Development Area (PDA) growth strategy with employment areas (West Oakland, I-880 corridor) and to coordinate the distribution of employment and housing growth to BART stations that currently have a lower than average share of housing or jobs. Incentives to support growth in these areas may include infrastructure investments in historic employment areas that have underperforming infrastructure to compete in today’s business climate.
Evaluate the role of small business in growing middle-skill TOD jobs and identify ways to increase pathways to middle-skill TOD jobs through small business development. This study did not delve into the potential economic opportunities created through small business development, particularly for low-income workers. Such an evaluation – along with the potential role that transit and TOD can take in supporting small businesses – could illuminate additional activities to better integrate the three fields.