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New City Council bill calls for more transit-oriented development along the El

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To encourage development around certain transit stops

A new bill proposes for more transit-oriented developments along the Market-Frankford line.
Photo by Melissa Romero

New legislation introduced to City Council last week aims to promote more private and affordable development near public transportation, specifically along the El.

Bill No. 180008 was introduced by city councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez of the Seventh District. It’s an amendment to the “TOD, Transit-Oriented Development Overlay District” section of the city’s zoning code that seeks to create transit-oriented density bonuses along four Market-Frankford stops in Sánchez’s district:

  1. Erie-Torresdale Station
  2. Allegheny Station
  3. York-Dauphin Station
  4. Berks Station

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell became the first City Council member to take advantage of TOD late last year, moving to designate 46th Street Station in West Philly as a TOD.

Transit-oriented developments (TOD’s) are meant to encourage density around transit stations and in turn make jobs, retail, and schools more accessible to residents. Cities all over the U.S. have embarked on this type of development, from Atlanta to Seattle.

Philly has had a TOD overlay baked into its zoning code since 2012, but it proved to be difficult and no council members made moves to create TOD’s in their districts. That’s why last year, City Council simplified the process and increased bonuses to developers and landowners who use it.

Now, developments proposed within a 500-feet radius of a designated train station can be built taller. More bonuses are available to green buildings and projects that include mixed-income housing, public space, underground parking, and certain transit connections.

In an op-ed for the Inquirer, Sánchez wrote:

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission must expand incentives for private, affordable development along transit-oriented and commercial corridors where affordable homes provide residents with greater access to jobs, schools, and child care. [...] We can further improve the accessibility and affordability of these underutilized areas for seniors, students, and single adults by permitting first-floor residential uses, fixed rents, and smaller units.

Sánchez says transit-oriented development is one tool to consider to create a more comprehensive housing plan in Philly.