Simply put, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is an expensive way to create any visible signs of economic improvement. But it is kind of like growing carrots. You have no idea how those carrots are doing while they grow underground. The new fertilizer that your neighbor swears by seems to be doing the trick, and their pretty green tops shot up so fast. Then you pull one out of the ground to find this weird, oblong, mutated claw-shaped thing that kind of resembles a carrot.
You still got a carrot, but it definitely was not what you were expecting. Believe it or not, government-subsidized economic development programs often end up with the same result. It may seem like these new Transit-Oriented Developments will create jobs and attract new investment to the area. And you might see some new stores pop up and think, “Wow, this is progress.”
But what is underneath? In the Saint Louis area, governments provided about $2 billion of economic development incentives for retail development from 1990 to 2007. Over this time, only 5,400 retail jobs were added to the region. You might say, “That is better than no jobs, Kacie, stop being such a Debbie Downer.” But the East-West Gateway Council of Governments released a report that estimates each one of these jobs costing about $370,000 each.
That is insane! If you knew the real cost before these types of projects were put into place, would you still support them?