“Contrats D’axes” As a French Way to Make TOD Happen? About Some French Recent Experiences Furthering the Integration of Public Transport Supply and Land Development Strategies



“Contrats D’axes” As a French Way to Make TOD Happen? About Some French Recent Experiences Furthering the Integration of Public Transport Supply and Land Development Strategies

Authors

Gilles BENTAYOU, CEREMA - Central East Territorial Directorate, Martine MEUNIER-CHABERT, CEREMA, Emmanuel PERRIN, CEREMA - Central East Territorial Directorate

Description

This proposal is based on the findings of a comparative case-study analysis of French “line contracts” and TOD developments projects in Northern America and China.

Abstract

[N.B. This proposal is based on the findings of a comparative case-study analysis of French “line contracts” and TOD developments projects in Northern America and China. This work has been done by a group of transport and land planning experts funded by the French Ministry for Sustainable Development.]

Since the beginning of the 2000’s, the French legislation has tried to favour a stronger integration of land use and public transport policies. Then, many efforts have been made to build a convergence between the planning documents at regional and local levels, in order to promote a sustainable land use strategy based on public transport networks. Meanwhile, trends on urban development have confirmed the role played by car infrastructure. Urban sprawl has carried on, whereas dense urban developments close to public transport nodes where rather rare and exposed to many implementation difficulties.

Within this national framework, and in order to go further on this topic, some local experiences have initiated new approaches: “line contracts” (“contrats d’axes”). More precisely, they can be considered as “public-transport line-oriented” development contracts. These innovative tools have been promoted by a few local authorities (Paris, Toulouse, Grenoble, also in the French suburban area of Geneva) in the last six years. They aim at bridging the gap between land use and public transport policies by sealing the mutual engagements of two types of local institutions: the transport authorities, who commit themselves on realizing a new transport infrastructure (tram or metro); and the local municipalities concerned by this improvement, who agree to initiate dense and high-quality land developments close to stations in a short delay. These contracts are based on a “win-win” strategy: improving the use of public transport and favouring dense and mix-use locations near stations.

These recent experiences can appear like French attempts to make TOD happen, even if they don’t adopt this well-known denomination. The first experiences have met certain delay in their starting and in their implementation, mainly due to governance challenges and to the real estate crisis since 2008. However, these innovations have spread on other territories: some French “regions” have recently initiated “line contracts” policies, on corridors supplied by regional rail services. These tools concern territories at wider scales, in lower-density suburban areas, such as the surroundings of Avignon, Nîmes, Pau, Périgueux, in the southern part of France. Though diverse in their local conditions, “line contracts” strategies could further develop in France, and perhaps contribute to design new local policies models.

These singular conditions reinforce the need for a comparative approach between both policies. TOD has been developed in the USA since the last two decades, whereas “line contracts” are still young experimentations, which still have to be implemented. But both face common challenges.

First, they have to create the best conditions for a wide and open governance of these territorial issues, aiming at discussing a polemic subject: the feasibility and the political acceptance of higher urban densities near transport nodes.

Both policies also have to cope with the competition in the attractiveness of residential areas. For the time being, car-ownership and car-use still have a role to play in this competition. Can these policies effectively promote projects relying on a drastic reduction of the place dedicated to car-parking and on the “walkability” of new areas? Or do they tend to choose a more realistic approach that tries to ensure multimodal access qualities?

One other major issue concerns the fact that “line contracts” and TOD aim at promoting high-quality places, which raise land values and contributes to the gentrification of neighbourhoods. How can both policies ensure that renewed areas or new land developments will remain affordable, especially for low- or medium-income population?

Comparatively, “line contracts” appear like a new governance pattern, mainly concerning public authorities, whereas TOD policies usually involve a wider coalition of stakeholders. However, the frontier between public and private initiatives and duties appears to be far different from one side of the Atlantic to the other, and the TOD experiences in the US also show a rather high level of public incentive.

The French experiences mainly focus on the frame conditions required to make TOD happen, while TOD in the USA mostly concentrates on concrete land development projects. A common goal – promoting a sustainable land development strategy – but different means and different governance schemes, this could sum up the comparison between these tools.

Publisher

Association for European Transport