The first thing we noticed when we arrived at the train station in Delft was the extensive amount of construction underway. So much of the station area was fenced off and in various states of disrepair that it was really difficult finding our way out of the station. We had to scale an elevated guideway over the tracks to get from one platform to the next with all of our baggage, and take a long detour around the station, through the bike parking lot, and finally out onto city streets. As we learned later that week, the station is undergoing a major expansion called the Spoorzone Delft project. The scope of the project is astounding, especially given the recession and sluggish recovery. Total project costs are estimated at 650M Euro and the work is scheduled to take 10 years to complete. 330 Million Euro has been authorized from the National Ministry of Transport, and additional funding has been secured from the Ministry of Housing, Haaglanden regional government, Rotterdam Metropolitan Area, the City of Delft, and a host of private investors. The project includes the construction of a new 1.5 mile four-track underground tunnel with a new main station and municipal office building above,1,200 new residential units, 400-450 capacity underground parking structure, 9,000 capacity bike parking structure, new access roads and tram platforms, a new park, public squares,and the historic preservation of the 400 year old Windmill De Roos and 500 year old Bagijn Tower. It will occupy nearly 100 acres southwest of the old city center. The concept for the interior has raised more than a few eyebrows.
That aside, the Spoorzone Delft project is an excellent example of transit-oriented development and integrated transportation and land use planning. This massive redevelopment project has so many components and moving parts it’s on another scale altogether. The Dutch rarely construct mixed-use projects within individual buildings on single lots. Vertically mixed ground floor retail with residential/office space above is not very common. Because they plan at the block or multi-block scale, they are – to varying degrees of success – able to agglomerate individual single-use buildings across areas slightly larger to create integrated or mixed area developments or zones. This is similar to smart growth movements in the U.S. to plan at the neighborhood or district level. Affordable housing developments are constructed in a similar fashion. That is, there are no true mixed-income housing projects constructed. So as not to concentrate poverty (of which there is very little to begin with), individual affordable housing developments are mixed with other market rate developments at the neighborhood/district scale. Similar to Portland, the national government maintains a 30% set aside for affordable housing. Revenue is generated through land sales as opposed to Tax Increment Financed revenue.
Regional land use regulations reinforce mixed-use zones by confining all new office space to transit stations/hubs. This is really remarkable when you consider that in the U.S., 60% of all transit trips are work commute trips. By concentrating both residential units and employment at transit stations, the short and long-term costs associated with trips, VMT, congestion, energy, and pollution are all reduced. The local municipalities in the Netherlands, are further able to exert even more stringent controls. Transportation, land use, and environmental regulations dictate what happens where. Financial incentives for transit-oriented development are seldom provided for private developers. An extensive outreach effort and public process is required by law. Residents have multiple opportunities to submit comment on projects, and that feedback must be incorporated in future plans.
The political and economic realities here are very different, but examples from Delft offer a lot of guidance about how to be more strategic with our policies, planning, and investments. High density housing and employment located at station areas gives residents quick and convenient access to very high quality train, tram and bus service.Transit service planning at the Delft Station (or any other station in the regional network) doesn’t focus exclusively on peak commute trips to the Hague nor Rotterdam, but is designed to accommodate all travel needs, all day, everyday (10 departures per hour). The Historic central city of Delft is (nearly) car free, and there are plans to extend that to the new adjacent residential development as well. It’s already a nightmare driving in the area given its dense urban form, limited roadway capacity, and prioritization of transit, bicycle, and pedestrian travel. On-street parking around the central city costs 2.50 Euro/hour all hours of the day (compared to $1.60/hour in Portland from 8-7). Parking garages managed by the City of Delft cost 2.20 Euro/hour all day long. These are the kinds of goals we need to set and pursue.
It’ll be really neat to return in another ten years to see how things have changed when the project’s complete. I only hope, by that time, we’ll be able to say we’ve accomplished at least of few of these things as well. For more information, visit spoorzonedelft.nl.