Spotlight on Zoning Practice
From Mobility Hubs to Mobility-Oriented Development
Public transit, on-demand ride service, and shared micromobility trips are still down from pre-pandemic levels. But usage is trending upward again, and recent spikes in gas prices and more workers returning to downtown offices may cause more people to get out of their cars (even if it's just to get into someone else's).
Planners have long advocated for linking transportation networks and services at key nodes. However, the proliferation of shared mobility services offering either alternatives to public transit or last-mile connections to and from transit-stations has made these interconnections increasingly vital to urban and regional transportation systems. And, as Andrew Crozier, AICP, and Lisa Nisenson contend in the March issue of Zoning Practice, "Planning and Zoning for Mobility Hubs," this is where the concept of mobility hubs comes in.
Transit-Focused Hubs vs. Land-Use-Focused Hubs
Mobility hubs are places where multiple modes meet and multiple systems or service operators interface. They use shelters, wayfinding signage, real-time information, and other types of supportive infrastructure to help people safely and efficiently transfer from one mode to another.
In Crozier and Nisenson's conceptualization, some mobility hubs serve as extensions of existing fixed-route transit stops or stations. Others reflect the mobility needs of specific land uses or subareas of a community. And within these broad divisions, there are varying combinations of modes, mobility services, and adjacent land uses that can give each different type of hub a distinct flavor.
Transit-focused hubs range in intensity from large intermodal centers in the downtowns of major cities that provide connections between nearly all modes and services to individual-bus-stop hubs that integrate bike racks, pick-up and drop-off zones, and shared micromobility docks or parking. Similarly, land-use focused hubs range from entire mixed-use districts to individual structures, such as a parking garage or a large residential or vertical mixed-use building.
The Role of Zoning in Facilitating Mobility-Oriented Development
As Crozier and Nisenson see it, mobility hubs should be focal points for an evolution of transit-oriented development into mobility-oriented development. In their conceptualization, a key ingredient for success is a mobility-supportive land-use and development pattern.
Planners can help the communities they serve outline a vision for this mobility-supportive pattern through mobility-hub-area planning processes. And to realize the vision, planners will need to pursue a mix of land-use and transportation planning strategies, including partnerships with network operators and service providers and new land-use and development regulations.
To that end, zoning is one of the most important tools cities, towns, and counties have at their disposal to help transform the areas around mobility hubs from mobility-adjacent to mobility-oriented.
Planners and other code drafters can use base– or overlay–district standards, such as build-to lines and ground-floor transparency requirements, to establish or maintain a pedestrian-friendly environment around mobility hubs. And they can incentivize or require space for mobility hubs and hub-supportive amenities, such as vehicle charging stations and package lockers, in use-specific standards for large mixed-use and multifamily residential structures.
Crozier and Nisenson's detailed inventory of supportive amenities for each distinct type of mobility hub provides a starting point for conversations about potential zoning changes. But there is still plenty of room to experiment and adapt to a rapidly changing mobility environment.
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Top image: City of Minneapolis / Flickr