A TOD Impostor in Fresno

Recently on Streetsblog we looked at developers who misapply the terms “green” and “new urban” to sprawling, exurban housing developments. Another abused term in the planning lexicon that we could have mentioned is surely “transit-oriented development.”

The city of Frenso wants to use funds dedicated for transit-oriented development to tear up this pedestrian mall and open it to car traffic. Photo: Stop and Move

If any building is close to transit — even a parking garage — someone is going to call it TOD, whether or not it bears any meaningful connection to transit.

But this example out of Fresno takes the cake. James Sinclair at Network blog Stop and Move reports the city is considering adding car traffic to a downtown pedestrian mall — and they’re trying to use money from a federal transit-oriented development fund to make it happen:

[Mayor Ashley Swearingen's] logic is as follows: The mall is in bad shape. It has a high vacancy rate and the shops that exist are low end. To get shoppers and developers back, the street needs car traffic (because apparently cars are big spenders).

No, not to add a streetcar, or BRT, or anything like that. Just to add cars.

Fortunately, the request was rejected. At least for now. The rejection didn’t come because the committee thought it was ridiculous to give TOD funds to a 100% auto project. No, the rejection came because they thought the city was trying to move too quickly, and the fed money would never come through.

Fair points. But shouldn’t the first and most important consideration have been…..how the hell do you spend $2m in TOD funds for a project that has nothing to do with transit?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Walk Bike Jersey wonders how a state with a complete streets policy could be investing $27 million in Newark streets without adding cycling infrastructure. Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space reports that Chicago continues to be haunted by its decision to lease out its parking infrastructure at a scandalously low price. And Urban Review STL looks at the potential for transit oriented development around St. Louis’s light rail stations.