Title: The Transit-Dependent Shall Be First, Not Last
This essay is the fifth of a six-part series. The HousingNOW! Task Force will be reviewing the housing opinion survey distributed to Faith Action members in May 2021. This series is intended to equip members with more knowledge before the next legislative session.
Eighty two percent of members agreed housing subsidized by the state near transit should have limited parking to encourage mass transit use. This essay is about my experience living without a car, and how the conversation about affordable housing is also a conversation about transportation.
My Life Without a Car
I have lived in different U.S. cities without a car. I lived a transit-dependent life because I could not afford an automobile on top of my other living expenses. I navigated life constantly thinking about bus routes and schedules, writing down times and intersections on paper when I didn’t own a smart phone. But I still had a thriving life in my communities without a car.
I was fortunate to have grocery stores, restaurants, clinics, etc. nearby; for what I could not reach on foot, I could reach by bus or rail. My housing didn’t come with a parking space; therefore, I wasn’t paying for something I did not need. I had two criteria when looking for housing: 1) Could I pay less than 30 percent of my income to pay for it? 2) Was it conveniently located near frequent public transportation?
Whose Needs Should We Prioritize?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, seventy percent of people who rely on public transportation to get to work earn less than $75,000 annually. This is the cost burdened ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, employed) population identified in the previous essay. There is significant overlap between the transit-dependent and housing cost burdened.
When you can’t afford a personal automobile, your options for finding affordable places to live are limited. You think, “How many buses will I need to take between home and work, groceries, school, friends and family…? Are my work hours going to be compatible with the transit schedule? Will personal automobile costs offset all the savings of finding cheaper, less convenient housing?”
We have an opportunity to address the housing needs of our transit-dependent population by following a strategy called transit-oriented development (TOD). TOD is a pattern of different uses—housing, jobs, and services located conveniently near affordable rail and bus transit. Housing developed in TOD areas may therefore be constructed with fewer parking spaces, which reduces construction costs and leaves floor area for more housing units. This enables units to be rented or sold at lower costs to residents.
“How is that going to work? You won’t convince people to get out of their cars!”
The answer is to deliberately prioritize new housing for non-automobile-owning households, which account for ten percent of our population. Since transit-dependent households already use public transportation, they will make parking-reduced, transit-oriented development successful. Unfortunately, their voices are the least likely to be heard at public meetings about housing and transportation.
Not all low-income, nor all housing cost burdened households are transit-dependent. However, TOD is an opportunity for which our community’s ALICE population should have priority—to see that the last shall be made first.
Increasing low-cost housing options that are conveniently located near transit will make lives easier in terms of time and money. Households will be less so transit-dependent and more so transit-oriented, which will make them an example to the car-using population of how we can all re-think our relationships with the built environment. TOD will empower us to reduce our impacts on the natural environment and make our community more sustainable.
This essay was authored by Faith Action HousingNOW! member and Chair, Foo Pham. If you are interested in being more involved with the HousingNOW! Task Force, please e-mail email@example.com.
✨ Unit Investment Drive ✨
✨August 1st – 31st, 2021✨
It’s that time of year again! Faith Action’s mission to address the root causes of social injustice is funded annually through the following four sources: grants (49%), corporate investments (33%), member unit dues (9%), and personal investments made by YOU (9%).
Your continued support is what makes it all possible. By partnering with your Faith Action ʻohana, you are investing in a brighter future for you, your family, and your community. Together, we can make this year’s goal of $20,000.
Ways to Invest:
- Cash or check given to your unit representative
- Visit www.givebutter.com/faithactionhi
- Click ‘Donate’ (top left of the page).
- Select Unit Rep or Member Organization. (For example, select Unit Rep’s name if they referred you to the site)
- Enter in your information and investment type (i.e., credit, debit or PayPal).
- You can opt in/out of publicly posting your name and investment amount on our page.
- A confirmation receipt is auto sent to your email.
- Check by Mail
- Please make the check payable to Faith Action for Community Equity
- Tax receipts will be sent out in January 2022, via mail or email. Please be sure to include your correct mailing address if it is different from the address on the check. If you prefer to receive your receipt electronically, please include your email address.
- Mail directly to:
Faith Action for Community Equity
P.O. Box 235950
Honolulu, HI 96823