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TODs make child friendly environments
Detail: Reconnecting America’s center for transit oriented development has estimated that by 2025, 79% of TOD households in US will be childless. The implication is that families with children are irretrievably drawn to a car dependent life in leafy suburbs.

Yet well-designed multifamily TODs that de-emphasize car usage and parking can be perfectly suited for kids. Making private cars less dominant in the residential landscape lowers accident rates, noise levels, and air pollution. It creates safer and more enjoyable environments for play, in part by replacing surface parking (which consumes half the land of many suburban multifamily complexes) with green spaces.

The TODs studied by Robert Cervero and Cathleen Sullivan in Europe and Australia are specifically designed for and marketed to families. They are kid friendly in three key ways. They de-emphasize the car and emphasize pedestrian infrastructure, including sidewalks, internal pathways, and crosswalks. They require a mixture of uses in order to create an active street life. And they have high levels of transit service, which allows children to take advantage of local museums and sports venues and when they are old enough to get to school on their own.

Researchers at the Center of Cities and Schools at the University of California Berkeley, noted in the recent study for TODs designed with needs of children in mind allow greater independence for preteens and teens. Instead of creating couch potatoes, child friendly TODs foster what some call free range kids.

Kid friendly TODs are part of a larger global effort to create child friendly cities. Yet such cities are more the exception.

Many of the child-friendly TODs the authors looked at in Europe were built on brownfield sites. An example is Amsterdam’s GWL-Terrein , a 15 yr old TOD project built on a 14 acre site once occupied by the municipal wastewater treatment plant.

In Stockholm, another much larger brownfield redevelopment called Hammarby Sjostad was originally planned for empty nesters. Today however only 5 % of the 20,000 residents are over 65 and 22 % are families with children under 19.

A German Greenfield TOD, Kronsberg in Hanover is a young district with a high proportion of young people: almost one third of 7000 residents are under 18 and the average age is 31 (as compared to 42 in Hanover itself). What makes it so popular with families? Open space, underground parking, and lush residential courtyards with play areas are some of the attractions.
Source: “TODs for Tots”, by Robert Cervero and Cathleen Sullivan, Planning, February 2011.
Date: August 23 2011