Rhode Island Center, a recent mixed-use proposal that development opponents forced to shrink. Image by MRP Realty.

When development opponents succeed in shrinking housing projects, they're not only hurting the city's overall affordability and vibrancy. They're also taking money and riders directly out of Metro's hands, reducing the quality of transit for everyone.

So says this report from WMATA, focusing on the effects Transit Oriented Development has on Metro's bottom line.

One example: Rhode Island Center, where developers had originally planned 1,631 badly-needed housing units, but scaled back to 1,450 after development opponents attacked in court the PUD zoning process that the original proposal relied upon.

That's 181 households that could have lived there, but now won't be able to. It's also, according to WMATA's report, a 200 riders-per-day hit to Metrorail, which translates to a $121,500 per year hit to Metro's operating budget.

Metro riders and revenue lost due to shrinking just one development proposal. Image by WMATA.

“Take one floor off and it'll look better” is a refrain that we hear constantly in DC. And, when each development proposal is seen in a vacuum, it's easy to think that shrinking buildings is a reasonable compromise. This report highlights the costs of that mindset.

$121,500 per year, from just one (admittedly large) example. After ten years, that's $1.2 million. Rinse and repeat, over and over all throughout the region, for development after development, year after year.

It adds up to real money, to real ridership. Losing it hurts WMATA's ability to run enough trains and buses. Your train comes less often because thousands of housing units that should be there, aren't there.

And of course, it's real people's homes.

This is why GGWash has been working with a diverse coalition of housing advocates to, among other things, try and fix the PUD zoning process. We knew removing thousands of housing units from the city is bad housing policy. Now we can quantify that it's bad transit policy too.

This post reflects my own views and is not an official statement of the DC Housing Priorities Coalition.