It’s no secret that the push for more transit-oriented development (TOD) has been a priority of the Obama administration. The administration created the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities under Director Shelley J. Poticha to allow HUD and the U.S. Department of Transportation to focus on the problem.

Today, at the 2010 ULI Fall Meeting and Urban Land Expo in Washington, D.C., Poticha outlined how the administration and its new office are continuing to spur development near transit nodes. As she was speaking, news came out that HUD, for the first time ever, is awarding nearly $100 million in new grants to 45 regions to support more livable and sustainable communities across the country. Over the next couple of weeks, Poticha said the administration will hand out $800 million in grants.

This announcement followed up other moves from the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, such as allowing a site to be eligible for HUD funding if it receives a certificate from the EPA and allowing local government to use Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds as a match for transit-oriented projects.

“The federal government is stepping up and saying we want you to be part of the solution,” Poticha said.

Parking Problems
Although the federal government is working hard to break down barriers to transit-oriented development, problems remain, as Poticha’s fellow panelists pointed out. The main problem: parking.

Christopher Patusky, director of the Office of Real Estate for Maryland Department of Transportation, outlined the steps the state took to develop TOD, including defining the concept and making it a “transportation purpose.” It has also made TOD projects eligible for Historic Tax Credits, even if they aren't historic. By figuring out how to marry land use and transit, the state was able to make projects such as State Center—a development in Baltimore near AMTRAK, light rail, metro, and MARC—a reality.

But even after making this progress, Patusky still has faced one problem on almost all of his projects. “We can make all of these projects work if we have money for garages,” he said.

Another panelist, Barbara Favola, a member of the Arlington County, Va., Board, added that parking does have a downside. “More parking can bring more cars,” she said.

Arlington has a reputation as a national leader for TOD. The city does make some considerable demands, such as requiring open, green spaces and that developers keep their parking lots open at night for public use. Arlington also invested in its ART bus system to keep people who don’t live near the metro off the road. “It’s expensive, but it gives people a reason not to drive,” Favola said.