Urban Transformation

London to Miami-Dade: an integrated approach to developing equitable and thriving communities

On November 13, the Better Bus Network launched in Miami-Dade County, offering a vastly improved network of routes for communities..

Miami-Dade and London offer case studies for how diverse communities can leverage TOCs. Image: Miami-Dade County

Steven Lewis
Global Head of Insight, JLL
Daniella Levine Cava
Mayor, Miami-Dade County
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SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

  • Transit-oriented communities can combat the affordability crisis by delivering much-needed housing and transportation.
  • Successful TOCs mobilize public and private resources, while supporting economic, social and climate resilience goals of the locale.
  • Miami-Dade and London offer case studies for how diverse communities can leverage TOCs to achieve local sustainability and equity goals.

Miami-Dade County, where one of us is Mayor, has developed with a pattern of urban sprawl flanked by protected environmental areas. The county is facing an affordability crisis; it boasts a limited public transit network and lacks sufficient affordable housing to accommodate its burgeoning population and growing economy. So too does London, but London is a dense urban environment with seemingly nowhere left to build and a complex transportation network.

Both locales have found success with innovative and context-dependent transit-oriented communities (TOCs) to deliver much-needed housing and transportation. These efforts have sought to address local sustainability and equity goals.

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While TOCs are not new, they need to be scaled up dramatically to meet the new density, resilience and affordability demands of today. TOCs must now be considered holistically through innovative funding mechanisms, integrated land-use and transport planning, public private partnerships, and streamlined planning processes that reduce completion times.

A burgeoning Miami-Dade

Miami-Dade County consists of 34 individual cities. As a county, it operates within the complex US federal and state system that has at times slowed its ability to advance affordable transportation and housing infrastructure.

To combat the economic impacts of traffic congestion and the existential threat of climate change, Miami-Dade County is working to direct growth into mixed-use urban centres that are walkable, connected by premium transit corridors, less vulnerable to the impacts of storms and sea level rise, and include land use patterns that reduce emissions and promote energy efficiency.

The recently implemented Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) program identifies corridors for public transport expansion while reducing planning-to-implementation time. The county benefits by containing costs on a project-by-project basis, and communities benefit by seeing infrastructure sooner.

The county recently enacted new policies to encourage more TOCs across the 34 municipalities and unincorporated area, bringing with them affordable and workforce-oriented units. Miami-Dade is also advancing the Better Bus Network (BBN), a reimagined bus service that prioritizes improved transit services with greater frequency for more people, and was co-created with both public and private community stakeholders such as Transit Alliance Miami.

Together, these new initiatives and policy changes have helped to increase Miami-Dade Transit ridership to 245,700 averages weekday riders, which is a 101% recovery from pre-COVID levels on all four transit modes.

Earlier this year, Miami-Dade County also unveiled a new flagship TOC, called the Link at Douglas. This 7-acre master-planned development has transformed Miami-Dade County’s Douglas Road Metrorail Station into a mixed-use transit hub. The project’s first phase includes two residential towers with a total of 733 apartment units anchored by a locally owned supermarket. This new public-private sector partnership also includes more than $17 million in public infrastructure improvements, including a fully renovated Metrorail station, and the development of a public plaza that connects with a section of a countywide linear park.

Battersea Power Station pre- and post-regeneration, Southwest London.
Battersea Power Station pre- and post-regeneration, Southwest London.

Transit as a tool for urban regeneration

For over 30 years, the iconic Battersea Power Station sat unused in Southwest London. Along with it, the greater Battersea area was left behind and lacked core infrastructure to support community regeneration. This was one of the last remaining areas readily available for large-scale development near Central London, providing a location adjacent to rapid population and employment growth.

Confronting high land costs and the need to connect an area without rapid transit to existing infrastructure, the Greater London Authority created an Enterprise Zone which allowed them to borrow nearly £1 billion to finance the extension of the London Underground’s Northern line to two new stations in the Battersea neighbourhoods. This use of a tax increment financing scheme with master-planned development provided capital and connectivity to regenerate a “heritage at risk” site.

In 2022, the Battersea Power Station reopened following a £9-billion regeneration of the 42-acre former industrial site with shops, bars, restaurants, housing and office space, and now connection to the London Underground. When complete, the area will have over 18,000 new homes (4,000 affordable) and sustain up to 25,000 new jobs. The resulting increase in local tax revenues will be used to pay off the initial cost of borrowing for the extension.

Leveraging innovative financing tools enabled an accelerated timetable for the redevelopment of underutilised land, creating significantly more housing development than could be accomplished through more incremental methods. Financial constraints at both the national and local government levels would mean a much longer wait for any expansion of rapid transit to Battersea, pushing demand onto an already heavily burdened smaller set of existing housing stock.

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3 essential components for successful TOCs

Public authorities have a strong role to play in guiding the planning process to ensure that it is context-dependent and is fit-for-purpose. Additionally, investments in infrastructure (and the type of mechanism to finance it) will need to be tailored to the needs of both the region and regeneration area in question.

Building regulations need to be clear and easy to interpret, and prioritize the creation of community hubs (near transit, protected from immediate impacts of climate change, and with increased density that keeps costs affordable), rather than a rigid division of land uses. Design-based codes can ensure that outcomes for the built environment (greenery, street activation, setbacks) are met, but with greater flexibility to create a mix of uses.

Phasing can be used to reduce financing challenges and improve flexibility in both logistics and uses as market demands shift, limiting risk and responding to the needs of the region more broadly. Tax increment financing and master planning that incorporates resident input will create longer-term stability and ensure that the step-change in density and development can be handled.

While there is no singular ‘best’ method for delivering needed development that also addresses sustainability, active transportation and building infrastructure, design specifications should be clear from the outset, just as regeneration visions should try to mirror longer-term infrastructure planning where possible.

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Related topics:
Urban TransformationClimate Action
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