Accessibility's Influence on Population Location near Light Rail in the Denver Region

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Zuppa, Christophe Michael
Jobs; Sprawl; Streetcar; Transit; Transit Oriented Development
thesis / dissertation description
Accessibility is the most important concept in transportation planning because it describes the ease of travel to opportunities vital for everyday needs. Theoretically, people locate closer to transit corridors if accessibility improves. One desired benefit from light rail is denser land use patterns in the form of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) that captures population growth. In October 1994, the City of Denver, CO, joined the list of American cities that have implemented light rail within the last 33 years. Since then, five corridors have opened there, and planners are retooling their zoning codes to allow TOD near light rail. The hope is to mitigate road-centric policies that enabled sprawl during the second half of the 20th Century. This thesis investigates light rail in the Denver region in the context of accessibility. It asks the following research question: What land use and transportation conditions must exist to encourage the general population to locate near light rail? Five linear regression models test a range of accessibility variables. Evidence suggests that accessibility to jobs and housing near station areas is important for facilitating population growth near light rail. Specifically, land use policy needs to allow residential and non-residential mixed uses near station areas for population growth to occur. It is too early to draw any definitive conclusions for the Denver region. Anecdotal evidence indicates that planners are achieving land use goals of growth, even though many of the region's TOD-supportive policies were recently adopted.