Traffic Reducing Housing (TRH)

Carbon Reducing Housing Preference (CRHP)

Original Version, Fall 2005

TRH & CRHP are two names the same concept.

 

For new apartments and condos, Carbon Reducing Housing Preference (CRHP) selects residents with fewer cars who will drive less. CRHP is the most cost-effective residential auto trip reduction policy and results in the largest commute mode shift change away from solo commuting. Two well-known Palo Altans, State Senator Simitian and County Supervisor Kniss, helped pioneer CRHP for the nation, via first application at Stanford West Apartments. Commute driving at Stanford West is a tiny fraction of the average Palo Alto resident. CRHP saves 3 tons of CO2 per home per year. Thanks to Cities21, Redwood City has recently pioneered this policy for the 800-condo market rate Peninsula Park project (the project has not received environmental approvals yet). Peninsula Park has four preference tiers:

  • Households that have no adult members who commute.

  • Incoming households where all employed adults agree to commute to work via commute alternatives 80% of the time.

  • Incoming households where one employed adult agrees to commute to work via commute alternatives 80% of the time.

  • Incoming households with one adult member with a 4.0 mile or shorter commute. 

 

Without such housing preference, South Bay Area TOD dramatically underperforms compared to East Bay TOD. Housing in cities such as Palo Alto is so desirable that high driving commuters “crowd out” green commuters in the battle to reside next to Caltrain. Per Travel Characteristics of TOD in California (Caltrans funded research authored by Lund, Cervero, and Willson), residential TOD by East Bay BART stations produces 40% transit commute mode share (and 50% auto share).  Residential TOD by South Bay Caltrain commuter rail stations produces only 17% transit mode share (and 80% auto share). Thus, South Bay TOD, while outperforming adjacent non-TOD (5% or less transit mode share), is still very auto-centered. CRHP can leapfrog Palo Alto TOD commute market share beyond East Bay TOD. Further, CRHP encourages all forms of green commuting, including biking and carpooling. 

How important is CRHP? Crucially important!

  • "The most cost-effective peak hour trip reduction in the Bay Area is to provide housing for workers. Stanford makes money on the housing when they match housing and jobs. This is a traffic reduction measure with a 'negative cost.' " - Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal, Nelson Nygaard Associates transportation consultants.
  • Governor Schwarzenegger's housing vision: "each community should house its own."
  • "An increasing number of Silicon Valley workers have been forced to live farther and farther away from th eir jobs, with thousands having to commute two to three hours a day, one way, to get to work. This underlines the importance of creating housing in the Silicon Valley not only to improve workers' quality of life but also to cut down on traffic and air pollution" - Carl Guardino, CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group (Portsmouth Herald, March 2001).
  • Palo Alto Weekly's Sue Dremann covered Palo Alto's global climate change efforts in the June 21, 2006, lead article.  "Getting people out of their cars is one solution, and closely related would be creating a blueprint for making home and work spaces easily accessible without driving.  One working model is at Stanford University, where priority in housing is given to people who work there.  At Stanford West, people who work at the hospital can bike to work." Palo Alto Councilmember Peter Drekmeier characterizes the CRHP opportunity: "Proximity is more important than the efficiency of a vehicle. Our biggest impact on climate change is driving." See pages 14-15, 17-19: http://www.paloaltoonline.com/weekly/morguepdf/2006/2006_06_21.paw.section1.pdf

Is there another answer besides CRHP? No!

While Anthony Downs (Brookings Scholar and author: Still Stuck in Traffic) advises commuters to learn to cope with traffic congestion delay in the short run, he believes that, in the long run, jobs and housing will eventually move together or "co-locate." From an analysis of current research, Berkeley's Robert Cervero disagrees that co-location will come about without intervention. He concludes that the natural incentives for people to reduce the distance between work and home have not been working. "Average journey to work distance has been increasing; jobs/housing balance continues to exacerbate." Thus, we conclude that co-location is very important, but we need to implement policy measures to reduce the distance between jobs and housing. 

Is transit-oriented developed (TOD) without CRHP actually transit-oriented?  No.  Suburban residential TOD serving auto-supportive jobs results in "auto-centered TOD."  Per Travel Characteristics of TOD in California (Caltrans funded research authored by Lund, Cervero, and Willson), residential TOD by East Bay BART heavy rail stations serving “auto-hostile” job locations in San Francisco produces 40% transit commute mode share (and 50% auto share).  Residential TOD by South Bay Caltrain commuter rail stations serving auto-supportive job locations with free parking produces only 17% transit mode share (and 80% auto share).  Thus, South Bay TOD, while outperforming adjacent non-TOD (5% or less transit mode share), is still very auto-centered. CRHP can transform South Bay TOD mode share to 80% "green commutes."  

Many Bay Area cities have preferences (or have considered preferences) for teachers, public safety officers, and/or public employees, but none of these programs provides significant traffic reduction compared to CRHP.  These cities include Cupertino, Larkspur, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Milpitas, Mountain View, Oakland, San Anselmo, San Carlos, San Jose, San Francisco, San Rafael, Sunnyvale, Tiburon, and Walnut Creek.  

Three pioneering CRHP examples: Stanford, Santa Barbara, Redwood City

1) Stanford West: 628 apartments

Stanford provides priority to local workers with very short commutes, saving 2.6 million annual vehicle miles traveled and 2.6 million annual pounds of CO2.  Stanford West residents with green commutes receive a 10 percent monthly rent discount.  Stanford provides a top-notch shuttle bus system and an extensive dedicated bike path network.  Stanford charges $51 per month for employees to park on campus, and that parking isn't very convenient.  

2) Santa Barbara's Casa de Las Fuentes

For 42 affordable downtown apartments with excellent access to jobs, shops, recreation, and transit, Santa Barbara adopted green commute housing preferences:

  • First priority: for residents who work downtown who do not own a vehicle and agree to not own one during their occupancy.  Rent is $50 per month less for residents who do not park a car.  All employed household members must work only in the downtown area.  
  • Second priority: for residents who work downtown

The 42 unit development has only TWENTY CARS! 

3) Redwood City's Peninsula Park - 800 condos

This project is still in the planning stages, but represents the U.S.'s first proposal to apply CRHP to market rate condos.  Redwood City has a vibrant mixed-use downtown with a Caltrain commuter rail station. There are 85,000 jobs within 3 miles of the project site. The Peninsula Park project will feature a 0.8 mile bike path to downtown and a 1.4 mile shuttle bus route to downtown.  The developer's banker has already approved CRHP - that's an important occurrence that should be noted.  Innovations such as these are not readily supported by the real-estate lending community.   

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