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Transit-oriented development is the smart way to grow [Letter]

Your recent article did a good job of updating readers on the status of transit-oriented development in Maryland ("After delays, transit-oriented development starts to arrive," June 6). The economic recovery and renewed interest in living in smart growth, mixed-use communities is prompting developers to build around transit from White Flint to Owings Mills.

However, the article lacked an explanation of why Marylanders need transit oriented development. Building housing, offices and stores next to transit in already-built communities is a key strategy to curb sprawl, protect the environment, create vibrant communities and make the best use of public investments in infrastructure. This is very important when you realize that Maryland's population will increase by 1 million people who will need 500,000 new homes over the next 25 years.

Transit-oriented development enables efficient development patterns that decrease the need to drive. Concentrating growth near public transportation rather than building on forest and farmland is a smarter way to grow because these areas typically have roads, schools, water and sewer already in place. It also creates a healthier environment. Research has shown that residents of transit-oriented development neighborhoods drive less and walk more, and that those areas produce 43 percent less emissions than conventional suburban development.

Well-done projects are complicated, requiring long-term planning, investment and partnerships as well as patience. As the article shows, some of those efforts are bearing fruit.

To build on transit-oriented development and related efforts, the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission is working on to collect best practices, case studies and other information that will result in a report and recommendations about advancing strategic redevelopment. This will help us continue to grow smart together.

Richard E. Hall, Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning.

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