Chapter 2

TOD Database Background

Background and Purpose of Database

The TOD Database was originally created in 2003 and 2004, and was the primary source of information for the first ever national TOD market study, Hidden in Plain Sight: Capturing the Demand for Housing Near Transit (HIPS), September 2004, which was conducted by the Center for Transit Oriented Development (CTOD). The HIPS report was primarily funded by Federal Transit Administration (FTA) with additional support from the Fannie Mae Foundation and the Surdna Foundation. Additional improvements were funded through an interagency cooperative agreement between FTA and HUD. The FTA continues to fund and support the ongoing development of the project.

Creation of the TOD Database

The TOD Database was originally developed as a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform for analyzing conditions around the nation’s existing rail stations and potential stations projected to be developed by 2025. The Database collected station location data and digitized existing rail stations beginning with the National Transit Database, which was updated and revised when additional data was made available. Similarly, potential stations were digitized from static maps submitted to the FTA New Starts Program, as well as maps obtained from individual transit agencies. Once stations were digitized, a half mile buffer was created around each transit station to represent the transit zone, which was used as the unit of analysis in the HIPS report.

The Database enabled CTOD to carry out a comprehensive analysis of station areas across the country. Through use of the tool, CTOD was able to evaluate regional housing demand projections for the types of households that show a preference for living in transit-oriented communities. The HIPS report research, through the use of the database, created a methodology for assessing the unused development potential within walking distance of transit, which in turn was used to measure a region’s potential for TOD.

The Database also made it possible to understand current demographic and household trends near transit stations. Information assessed included household size and type, age of residents, income, home and car ownership and residents’ travel behavior. The Database also includes information about the transit zones, such as average density, land area in residential use, block structure, age of housing stock, block size and distance to employment centers.

Evolution of the TOD Database

CTOD continued to upgrade and maintain the Database as a tool to measure and project the demand for development near transit, and identify existing and potential TOD markets for CTOD work.

The FTA, along with the CTOD partners, used the data to carry out research and write policy papers to further the body of knowledge in support of transit-oriented development. Additionally, the GIS station location file was updated with each iteration of the Database, which now allows CTOD to track New Starts projects as they progress through the FTA funding timeline.

Beginning in 2007, the database was restructured as a web-managed tool, and a user-friendly website was developed in 2009. Tables were migrated from a file-based database (Microsoft Access) to an Open Source enterprise database (PostgreSQL with PostGIS). Additionally, CTOD developed a web-based reporting tool to upgrade the user interface, ease the use of database queries, and allow query results to be downloaded in a Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel file format. Station location revisions were also part of this phase, which included moving potential projects that had been built to existing stations. Progress in the FTA process was also noted and tracked, and non-FTA, locally-funded projects, such as the Tucson Streetcar were added. Additional data fields were incorporated, including all 2000 Decennial Census fields and Census Transportation Planning Package data, Local Employment Dynamic (LED) data, as well as aggregated data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Housing + Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index.

The TOD Database was released to the public in October of 2010. In the year leading up to its public release, the Database was reviewed by a group of beta testers that included developers, planners, university researchers, Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and regional planning agency staff, transit agencies and transit advocacy groups. Feedback was collected from this users group and, where feasible, incorporated into the Database.

An updated website was released in February of 2012 that incorporated newly released American Community Survey, Census 2010 and LED data. Where available, existing transit stations were updated with General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data. Additional planned and potential stations were also added to the Database and all station locations were made available for download as a CSV file.