Transit Oriented Developments

7 12 2009

If you ever read the PilotOnlie comments, then you will know that there are just some people in Hampton Roads that just don’t get it. They just don’t get how there can be people who don’t want to live in a sprawling suburb. They just don’t get that there are actually people that want to move out of Virginia Beach and into Norfolk. They just don’t get that you actually should know what you’re talking about before you form an opinion.

Most recently, the Virginian-Pilot ran an article about HRT’s new facility that they were building. In fact, I have posted already on this. For a refresher, HRT’s new building was supposed to incorperate a mixed-use development, but now the developer is putting it on hold until the economy improves. My favorite comment so far is by the Virginia Beach Taxpayers’ Alliance’s  Vice Chairman and Transportation Chairman, Reid Greenmun. Now, this man is affiated with the VBTA, so we know that by default he is against all change and somehow wants the city to print its own money and stop wasting their tax dollars doing crazy things such as repairing schools/roads/etc. His comment is as follows:

Gosh, that must touted mythical TOD (Transit Oriented Development) HRT has been pitchinf to justify its light rail boondoggles is now shown for the myth it really was – and in this case HRT is not willing to stick with their own TOD plans! Gosh, if tens of millions of state, local, and federal taxes are available to be used to subsidize the planned HRT TOD project (LEADS “green” roof and all)- and HRT can’t make it happen with all that FREE tax money thrown into the “deal”, just imagine how unlikely it is that any PRIVATE developers will be able to find the hundreds of millions needed to build the promised TOD in VA Beach, along the old Norfolk Southern right of way. The light rail TOD ROI myth is being exposed for the sham it is – right here in River City folks!

As you can see, he (and the VBTA) is severely misguided on the concept of a TOD. If we follow his definition of a TOD, every neighborhood that happens to be built near a bus line is a TOD. This is completely and utterly wrong. In order to be a TOD, the development has to have been built because of the transit line that it sits near. The HRT mixed-use development was not being build because the buses ran through. It was being built because the developer saw potential for profit. This is the same reason that the other development  was built right across the street from the HRT building: not because of HRT, but because a developer saw profit potential in an underutilized area.

Existing Development between Granby St. and Monticello Ave. HRT building can be seen in bottom right corner.

Furthermore, if TOD were “mythical,” how can Mr. Greenmun explain actual TODs in Northern Virginia? Take the following example in Arlington, VA:

This TOD is located around the Ballston-MU Station located on the Orange Line of the DC METRO

This suburban neighborhood is located only one mile from the TOD, above. It is not located on a transit stop

TODs are not myths, as Mr. Greenmun believes. They are simply not well known around Hampton Roads because there are so few of them. They do exist here, however. Both the Belmont @ Freemason and the Wachovia Center developments are TODs. The Wachovia Center development is also a mixed-use TOD. Both of these projects have a Tide light rail stop on the same block. As Hampton Roads’s light rail lines grow and become well-used, these TODs will begin to sprout up along the routes. In fact, Virginia Beach is planning a TOD off of Newtown Road because of Norfolk’s light rail stop.

Wachovia Center (TOD) - Under Construction

Belmont @ Freemason (TOD) - Under Construction




7 responses

7 12 2009

One correction, Wachovia Center is now Wells Fargo… and wouldn’t much of the Pembroke Implementation be considered a TOD, as well as the Convention Center/dome site plans?

8 12 2009
Russell Manning

Well, not technically. In order for it to be a TOD, it has to be built BECAUSE of a transit stop or planned transit stop. It is not technically a TOD if it is built to be able to accommodate transit but would still be built regardless if transit were to actually come. The Pembroke Plan is pretty close to a TOD, because realistically, light rail is 99.9% sure to be coming to the Beach.

7 12 2009

Great article with all the facts. I too, get a kick out of Reid’s replies on the Pilot’s website. It’s scary to know that there are officials like him in charge of a city transportation organization, with no regard for future planning and cannot even grasp the simple idea of TOD. Great pictures, great references, and again, awesome what you are doing here.

What did you use to get the great aerial shots of the planned HRT facility site/Ballston/etc.? They are really good quality and at a different angle than Google Maps, which is what I primarily use…

8 12 2009
Russell Manning

Thanks for the comments. I used Microsoft’s Live Maps. They have what they call “Bird’s Eye” mode. Similar to how Google drove the streets of the country for StreetView, Microsoft flew over the country and took angled photos from a plane. You can get photos from each direction.

8 12 2009

Since the Pembroke Implementation Plan basically revolves around the rail transit stations, and without LRT, there will be no build up of Pembroke other than a couple additions here and there, the Pembroke Area should be considered a TOD. I think we’re going to see significant development at a majority of rail stations in the coming future. Belmont + Wells Fargo are just the beginning. The Residence Inn was also a TOD, though.

25 12 2009
Reid Greenmun

Glad to know that y’all are amused by my sharing my views. I would be more than happy to give your organization a briefing on the proposed light rail line in Virginia Beach and to discuss the massively over budget 7 mile light rail TOD boondoggle in Norfolk. My email is

As far as the “mythical TOD” goes, I am discussing the mythical TOD along the old NOS ROW being promised as the “return on investment” to taxpayers in Virginia Beach as a reason to support wasting hundreds of millions of tax funds on a low volume, 10 mile rail project in my city.

BTW, I do not serve on a government organization regarding transportation. I am the Vice Chair of the Virginia Beach taxpayers Alliance (VBTA). We are a volunteer organization seeking to promote better government and intelligent use of our tax funds.

As far as my “not getting it” about the attraction for TOD, your assumptions are incorrect. I used to live in Montreal and i enjoyed using the multimodal transportation system to get around. I certainly understand that some people prefer to live in communities other than nice suburban neighborhoods. That is not what I debate. The point I was making about the “myth” is that the TOD planned for the old NS ROW requires hundrends of millions of dollars of bonds and debt – and those days are now gone – history.

The sales pitch that the taxpayers should fund TOD and light rail is no longer truthful. THAT is the myth I am discussing.

29 12 2009

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