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SWUTC Research Project Description

The Effect of the City of Houston Transit Corridor Ordinance on Development Along METRO’s Light Rail Corridors

University: Texas Southern University

Principal Investigator:
Carol Lewis
Center for Transportation Training and Research
(713) 313-7924

Project Monitor:
Jennifer Ostlind
City of Houston Planning and Development Department

Funding Source: USDOT

Total Project Cost: $70,000

Project Number: 600451-00047

Date Started: 5/1/13

Estimated Completion Date: 5/31/14

Project Summary

Project Abstract:
Livable communities that are anchored by transit emerge as a result of specific financial and policy decisions by several key entities including developers, cities, and the transit agency.  Recent research was conducted that focused specifically on the role of the transit agency in encouraging development proximate to transit.  A case study of four selected transit authorities within the United States led to a set of strategies and steps taken to facilitate proximate desirable development around their stations.  One activity was the conduct of a workshop to better advise developers of the guidelines available for their use near transit facilities.  The City of Houston passed a Transit Corridor Ordinance in 2009 for parcels that align the METRO light rail system.  This research will investigate the developer response to that ordinance and METRO’s Joint Development Guidelines and Policies and identify the level of knowledge regarding those potential courses of action.

Project Objectives:
The study will lead to the following:

  • Documented level of developer knowledge about the Transit Corridor Ordinance,
  • Compiled record of developers applying the transit corridor ordinance since its 2009 approval by City Council, and
  • Recommendations that will encourage and facilitate larger numbers of developers choosing to opt-in.

Task Descriptions:
Task 1:  Enhance background statement and update literature.

Task 2:  Gather data re: existing development along Main Street or other proposed light rail routes that is aligned with the Transit Corridor Ordinance provisions.

Task 3:  Work with City of Houston (COH) to get list of eligible property owners and potential developers.

Task 4:  Along with COH staff, meet with selected property owners to determine the existing level of knowledge relative to provisions of the Transit Corridor Ordinance.

Task 5:  Compare level of knowledge or perceptions with the actual ordinance provisions.

Task 6:  Develop report detailing the survey findings, identifying gaps between knowledge and applications, and craft recommendations to improve the response.

Task 7:  Convey findings to development community through in-person (workshop) or on-line (webinar) communication. Pursuing both communication methods will be an option.

Task 8:  Prepare final report that will incorporate lessons learned from Task 7 into report from Task 6.


Implementation of Research Outcomes:
In 2009 the City of Houston added a Transit Corridor Ordinance, a code in Chapter 42 to encourage an urban environment that improves pedestrian mobility, supports METRO’s light rail investment, and helps accommodate the City’s anticipated growth. This research examined developer response to the Transit Corridor Ordinance and determined which parcels owners have chosen to undertake design of elements within this code. Other agency TOD efforts, various developer rail station projects and best practices of public and private joint developments were also explored.

This study identified and mapped the locations of all parcels where developers applied the TOD ordinance.  This information was provided to the City of Houston Planning and Development Department.  Prior to the conduct of this study, the City did not have this information in this format.

Products developed by this research:

Presentation:  Doing Business with Transit-Oriented Development, Carol Lewis, presented to the Old Spanish Trail Community Partnership, Houston, TX, December 9, 2014.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation:

This study helps change behavior, practices, decision making and policies by increasing the knowledge about the options available to developers applying for the TOD ordinance.  The City’s representative stated that developers often indicate interest in the program, but learned of it when their project already had blueprints done.  The outcome of this work will present the options to land owners proximate to the rail lines earlier in their development processes.

Ultimately, better development of properties proximate to rail have been shown to increase the number of transit trips and improve economic return to taxpayers.

Web Links:
Final Technical Report