Just a short walk away from the city’s central business district, the Harbor Point development, and green affordable housing, Stamford’s Transportation Center is one of the busiest transit hubs in Connecticut. But the station area is not the welcoming gateway to the city that it could be. As the city continues its work to create a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly district around the roughly 30,000 passenger per day facility, a ConnDOT plan to redevelop station-area properties and replace a parking facility must be designed to help—not hinder—these efforts.
The agency is seeking private proposals to redevelop two state-owned properties near the transit hub, as well as demolish an existing 727-space parking garage and provide 1,000 new spaces within 1/4 mile of the station (planners generally find that people are willing to walk up to a quarter-mile to access transit, though research suggests commuter rail users may walk upwards of half a mile, especially if the pedestrian experience is pleasant). ConnDOT has selected five firms to submit proposals for the development initiative, which are due by September 24. According to its request for proposals [pdf], the agency will base its assessments on financial and technical considerations—with the latter including the design of the garage; transit-oriented development improvements; “Commuter Safety, Convenience, and Amenities” including signage, art, and pedestrian and bicycle improvements; schedule; and makeup of the developer team. The financial criteria mainly include maximizing revenue to ConnDOT and minimizing the agency’s financial risk.
As it reviews the design proposals, the agency must prioritize designs that emphasize pedestrian and bicycle connections and transit-oriented development criteria. As Tri-State and the Regional Plan Association noted in a recent letter to the Stamford Advocate, it’s “important to remember that the percentage of people who arrive by car, park, and board the train is far outstripped by the numbers of people who access the station by other means and by those who arrive at the station, destined for nearby locations.”
Tri-State’s comments on the Stamford project [pdf] state that ConnDOT’s selection should build on the transportation center area pedestrian improvements that will be funded by a federal TIGER grant [pdf]. The grant will fund several enhancements from the city’s Stamford Transportation Center Master Plan [pdf], including pedestrian bridges, sidewalk widening, and bike lanes.
As Tri-State has argued before, Connecticut’s state agencies must be more proactive about supporting opportunities for transit-oriented development, both around existing stations and those planned for CTfastrak and the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line. The Stamford project is an excellent opportunity for ConnDOT to put this philosophy into action and support redevelopment that is good for transit riders, downtown residents and businesses, and city and state taxpayers.