By Seth Piccirillo | Senior Manager of Economic Development
- 81% of Millennials and 77% of Baby Boomers prefer to live in walkable, active communities.
- By 2030, 25% of people in the rental and housing market will seek housing near transit.
- The Buffalo Niagara Metro Rail Corridor’s population is expected to grow 4.5% faster than the rest of the region.
- 28% of all regional jobs will be located within the Metro Rail Corridor.
(Statistics from the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council 2018 Comprehensive Transit Oriented Development Plan)
Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is no longer just a catalog of possible amenities.
Most often associated with urban density, many rust belt cities viewed TOD as an aspiration rather than a reality for many years. That’s all changing. TOD is now an accessible and necessary approach to how land is used, and connectivity is created – sparking a useful dialogue on what cities of the future can be. A significant part of this ongoing TOD conversation is happening right here in Buffalo.
In February 2020, the City of Buffalo, Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, Stantec Urban Places and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) collaborated to host “The Future of Mobility: Remaking Buffalo for the 21st Century.” The week-long workshop series convened developers, public officials, experts and the community to discuss the best way to balance the city’s current progress with new opportunities for emerging technologies to transform regional transportation options. CNU will return later this year with a full report of the workshops’ findings, with that information intended to help elected officials make development and community focused transportation investments over the next 20 years.
CNU’s latest visit to Buffalo is both well timed and located. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown recently announced a pledge for Buffalo to become “the nation’s leading intelligent smart city,” including plans to continue smart streetlight installation, smart sewer initiative and launch a public-private partnership with the SAS Institute. Most of the February workshops were also hosted at Douglas Development’s Seneca One Tower, currently being redeveloped to become home to M&T Bank’s Tech Hub, and 1,000 new jobs. The additional of so many new downtown employers, and potential residents, will significantly impact the near future of the city’s transportation and parking infrastructure, making now the right time for creative solutions.
A recently announced partnership between Douglas Development and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown could serve as a model for future public-private sector transportation investment. Seneca One Tower owner Douglas Jemal has agreed to invest a $20 million Erie County Industrial Development Agency tax abatement into public realm improvements surrounding the building, including completion of the Cars on Main Street Project. Such an unconventional financial agreement is new to the region but could be an important tool for the future of Buffalo Niagara TOD.
Investment in TOD may be supported by financial statistics, both locally and nationally, but there are still not enough federal, state and local funds to meet the demands of both repairing aging transportation infrastructure and keeping up with new technologies.
Buffalo Niagara will need to continue being creative in TOD to complete existing transportation and place-making projects and to build advocacy for a potential Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Metro Rail extension. The continued engagement of CNU and the stakeholders brought together at the February Mobility workshops will help keep the conversation moving forward in Buffalo as TOD continues to become an even stronger nation-wide theme.