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Transit Oriented Development that is Healthy, Green & Just

Puget Sound Sage’s Equitable Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project puts low-income communities and communities of color at the center of Seattle’s development and environmental sustainability future. Through promoting equitable TOD, Puget Sound Sage is building an economy grounded in good jobs, responsible development and healthy sustainable communities.

Puget Sound Sage is proud to announce the release of our new report: Transit Oriented Development that's Healthy, Green & Just.

Our Recommendations:

  • Protect and expand community institutions
  • Ensure permanently affordable, mixed-income housing development
  • Support and grow People of Color owned and community-oriented Businesses
  • Connect People to Living Wage Jobs

Project Background

The first segment of the Puget Sound region’s new Link Light Rail runs through Rainier Valley, home to Seattle’s most racially and economically diverse neighborhoods. Light rail has the potential to make transit easier for south Seattle residents to reach employment, to spur affordable housing (and good jobs) around stations, and to reduce climate change impacts.

While many long time residents of Rainier Valley welcomed a significant infrastructure investment in their neighborhood, the light rail brought with it cuts to critical bus service and new development pressures that have significantly raised the price of land near transit stations. These land price increases are due in part to the promise of transit-oriented development in Rainier Valley.

Over the last decade, transit oriented development (TOD) has emerged throughout many U.S. cities and here in Seattle as the most desirable model for focusing new regional growth and development. However, the combination of the light rail as a targeted public investment, the pressure for new TOD projects and the gentrification patterns that have already taken hold in Seattle, have and will continue to put Rainier Valley low-income, communities of color and ethnic small businesses at risk for displacement.

Our Strategy

Puget Sound Sage is building a broad based coalition to ensure that new transit oriented development in Rainier Valley roots rather than displaces communities of color. Our equitable transit oriented development work moves stakeholders past siloed interests and towards a holistic model that lifts up the core elements communities and families need to thrive: racial diversity, stable mixed income communities, healthy people and environment, and access to good construction and permanent jobs.

Our Program

In 2010, Puget Sound Sage formed a partnership with the Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition and worked with community, faith and housing organizations to organize and train grassroots leaders on transit equity issues. We trained our first group of diverse, grassroots leaders (LeaderLink).

In 2011, we built upon our partnership with RBCEC to adapt our LeaderLink to recruit and train 10 Rainier Beach youth in a Transit Justice Leadership Program. We also engaged our Leader Link graduate organizations and 10 additional allied organizations to support new funding to postpone severe Metro bus cuts and more equitable services guidelines. Sage provides research, analysis, advocacy, and coalition building support to ensure that that social equity is achieved under the implementation of the new guidelines. In addition, we continue to work with a coalition of SE Seattle community organizations to mitigate and improve issues around neighborhood connectivity, safety, and fares that occurred when Light Rail came on line. In addition, we are active members of the Growing Transit Communities Equity Network where we push for policies that promote good jobs as the key to achieving equitable TOD, and have helped key grassroots community organizations secure Equity Grants to build capacity to engage in transit justice and TOD issues.

In 2012, our Rainier Beach Transit Justice Youth Survey Team conducted over 200 surveys and incorporated key priorities identified from their findings into the City of Seattle’s official neighborhood update plan for Rainier Beach. In May, Sage released a “brown paper” on transit/TOD equity issues in the metro area, to serve as a tool to define our vision and reframe local and regional transit/TOD policies. Our policy paper will also frame future Leader Link trainings, and provide a focus for a South Corridor Alliance of community, labor, and faith organizations to ensure that TOD is a tool to advance equity for all, and not a catalyst for gentrification and displacement.