Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Vermicious TRIDs

Saw this today in the P-G (and the Trib for that matter) and felt it deserved a comment:

The city is making its first application for state funds used to boost development near transit stations.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is sending legislation to city council today to apply for $300,000 in-state Transit Revitalization Investment District funds, to write redevelopment plans for transit hubs in three city areas: Beechview/Mount Washington, East Liberty and Homewood/North Point Breeze. The Urban Redevelopment Authority is also going to Allegheny County Council and Pittsburgh Public Schools for approvals.

TRID plans are under way for developments by light rail transit stations in Mt. Lebanon and Dormont. The city hopes to spur similar development near the South Hills Junction station as well as East Busway stops in the other neighborhoods.
So I did a little digging to try to uncover what this whole thing is about.

Basically, the bill is supposed to be a tool to encourage economic development at transit stops (subway, light rail, busway, and train stations) and encourage more public transit ridership. Take an existing or proposed busway stop (for example), draw a half mile wide circle around it and you got yourself a TRID district.

Now, here's where it gets interesting:
Consistent with the existing authority or limitations of public transportation agencies to condemn and acquire land for public transportation purposes, such entities are hereby authorized to acquire and improve property located within a designated TRID for real estate development purposes...
If I read that correctly, it gives PAT the authority to assemble property via eminent domain for development purposes within the TRID boundary.

Yes, the same Port Authority that has a half vacant garage sitting next to South Hills Village. Yes, the same Port Authority that dug a giant tunnel under the Allegheny River. Yes, the same Port Authority with persistent budgetary woes. Yes, the same Port Authority. But I digress.

If we go further on:
In conjunction with the formal establishment of the TRID boundaries, a coterminous value capture area shall simultaneously be created to enable local municipalities, school districts, the county and the public transportation agency to share the increased tax increment of real estate and other designated tax revenues generated by new real estate investment within the TRID.
Or, as the folks down at PNC call it "a TIF". Y'all remember what TIFs are, right?

I can see this portion being used to support the improvement of roads, sidewalks, transit stations and water and sewer systems and the construction of new amenities like parking garages that support the economic development investment.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think that this a particularly bad idea (apart from the whole PAT involvement) and I think certain neighborhoods in the East End and the South Hills could potentially benefit from this project.

However, if this was truly forward thinking, we shouldn't be focusing on where transit is, but where transit should be and focus our regional development strategies on that.

And believe me, I got a few ideas where PAT can go.

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