Setting the Example for BRT + TOD

As part of the City of El Paso/Sun Metro’s effort to develop a more robust RTS system, RNL is working with our partner EXIGO Architecture in El Paso, Texas to design one of the nation’s first major transit-oriented developments associated with BRT. Members of the RNL team were on-hand for the groundbreaking earlier this month.

The El Paso RTS transit-oriented development is the first of its kind to receive major federal funding and will hopefully serve as a national model for transit-oriented development stimulated by BRT in cities of similar size to El Paso.

This mixed-use development in El Paso will feature a new transfer center and station-like transit terminal, associated ground-floor retail, an awesome community plaza and a parking garage. The finished project will be an inviting, community-centric space that will promote BRT use by bringing people together and providing convenient access and a quick connection throughout the city. And, importantly, this public investment will anchor what will be a 30-acre mixed use residential and retail community on a site that was previously a deteriorated shopping mall.  

What makes the Northgate Transfer Center project special?

In a number of previous attempts, BRT development has failed to generate private investment because the transit service is seen by the development community as “transient”. The worry was the impermanence – a BRT station could be moved just as a regular bus service station could. Without the commitment of public investment, there was just not enough “there-there” with BRT to stimulate real TOD investment, and the projected ridership is just not enough to demonstrate the viability of real TOD development.  

This project is different.

El Paso is making a commitment that will be permanent, with real transit amenities, a dedicated transit way, a high quality terminal, and a high level of amenities – all focusing on creating a polished environment for an elevated level of service. This is coupled with the catalyst of building anchor retail space as a part of the publicly funded project, and a parking garage that will support the retail in a very typical suburban environment that normally only supports surface parking.

This investment in structured parking is a huge incentive to the development community to build retail space, and residential development that will complement the public investment being made to support the BRT system. This is why the Northgate Transfer Center in El Paso will be a stimulus for private investment in public amenity and viable community redevelopment.

Ultimately with new transit options comes revitalized neighborhoods and developmental boosts. For every one dollar invested in transit four dollars is generated in economic returns. Bus and even more so BRT transit facilities have the ability to provide not only convenient transportation, they can also give new life to neighborhoods, promote a sense of community and even save commuters time and money.

And we think that is pretty cool.