Connecting Transportation to Land Use and Housing Policy


Connecting Transportation to Land Use and Housing Policy

When looking at other cities around the United States and abroad, it’s apparent that comprehensive and interconnected walking, biking, and public transportation networks are vital to sustainable and healthy communities. But transportation doesn’t function in a vacuum. For these networks and systems to succeed, people of all backgrounds and incomes must have access.

Alongside Trailnet’s commitment to making walking and biking viable transportation options across age, race, gender, and income level, we are continuing to unpack how transportation infrastructure connects to other sectors. In this article we begin to explore how active transportation systems should exist alongside land use and housing policies. 

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” -Gustavo Petro, Colombian politician

If we build protected bikeways and greenways between our neighborhoods, it can lead to an increase in demand for housing parallel to that investment, and rightfully so. If built correctly, protected bikeways and greenways are fantastic amenities that prioritize people over cars, offer comfortable places to rest and connect with one another, and offer a healthy commuting alternative. So much so that Trail-oriented Development is now national lingo.

However, in some St. Louis neighborhoods–specifically where vacancy rates are already low–it’s difficult to imagine that the supply of housing could meet the new demand without triggering an increase in rent and housing prices. That’s why modern transportation networks must be implemented alongside housing and land use changes–to avoid displacement. We don’t just need to build transportation networks in a way that creates environmentally sustainable places, we must also build networks that are socially and financially sustainable for current and future residents. 

“History has repeatedly demonstrated that investment without protective equitable policy and process mechanisms leads to gentrification and the subsequent displacement of residents in low-income and communities of color.” (1)

The St. Louis region is becoming increasingly aware that policy and outcomes are linked in ways that make it impossible to address one topic or service in isolation without having unintended and often negative consequences somewhere else. 

We must recognize that in order for St. Louis to be the healthy, active, and vibrant place we envision, we must team up and be prepared to support policies that aren’t always directly connected to pedestrians or cyclists.

When it comes to avoiding displacement as transportation infrastructure increases housing investment in low-income areas of St. Louis, Trailnet is exploring every angle to maintain and increase affordable housing.

One example may include Community Land Trusts. CLTs purchase and retain ownership of land to ensure ongoing use for community purposes. They promote long-term affordability for renters and homeowners by removing the price of land from the home’s cost, reducing the degree to which rising land values inflate the cost of the home.

In the future, you’ll hear more from us on these topics, and we’ll do our best to explain how the different land-use and housing policies that we are helping push forward work to accomplish our transportation goals, and our vision for a healthy, active, and vibrant St. Louis for all.

Click Here to read the full land use policy recommendations from Connecting St. Louis, and learn more about what we believe is necessary to achieve our vision for a healthy, active, and vibrant St. Louis for all.

(1) https://www.buildhealthyplaces.org/whats-new/opportunity-zones-who-benefits/