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The Surprising Key to Making Transit-Oriented Development Work

Turns out quality matters less than government support.
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Today, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy released a report showing that bus-rapid transit can play a huge role in stimulating economic development — often leveraging more investment than rail projects do. Previous research already suggested as much, but the impact documented in the ITDP report is still eye-catching. Every dollar spent building Cleveland's HealthLine BRT system, for instance, generated $114 in transit-oriented development.

But while the economic success of BRT (especially Cleveland's) may grab most of the headlines, it's not the most important lesson cities should learn from the report. Far more instructive is the odd fact that "transit quality" itself played only a limited role in predicting transit-oriented development. How limited? Well, of the three main TOD factors considered for the ITDP analysis, transit quality ranked third: