Transit design impacting the culture and function of the heart of a city

by Chris Zegras

On Friday, 8 December, 2017, the Honorable Enrique Alfaro, Mayor of México’s second largest city, Guadalajara, visited MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP). The Mayor and members of his team came to participate in students’ final presentation from the graduate class, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in Guadalajara, which identified TOD strategies around the city’s new light rail line.

The Mayor’s visit started with a meeting with SAP Dean, Hashim Sarkis and DUSP Head, Eran Ben-Joseph, together with the class co-Instructors, Prof. Brent Ryan, Dr. Onésimo Flores, and Prof. Chris Zegras. They Mayor then gave a public talk to the MIT Community, which outlined the history of sprawl in Guadalajara Metropolitan Area, the challenges of low income housing provision, initial TOD housing projects in the city, and his bold new strategy for capitalizing on the new rail line (Line 3) to physically, culturally, and functionally transform the heart of the historic city.

After his talk, the Mayor heard the final presentation from the TOD class, which included 15 graduate students at MIT with backgrounds in real estate, architecture, urban design, transportation, urban planning, and business administration. The presentation was a culmination of a semester which included: two weeks of field work in Guadalajara, including discussions with city officials, development professionals, citizens and other stakeholders; research on TOD cases from around the world; detailed contextual analysis of the 18 Line 3 stations, using eight urban indicators; real estate financial modeling, transit ridership modeling, and three-dimensional building massing simulations; and, a site-planning and urban design charrette.

The final product from the class aims to help Guadalajara in moving forward its TOD vision by demonstrating viable development schemes and strategies for two stations in the northern part of the city center, showing what a desirable increase in density would look like in Guadalajara’s center, its impact on Line 3, and the development strategies and policy initiatives required to make it happen. Mayor Alfaro recently announced he will be stepping down as Mayor to run as Governor of the State of Jalisco. As the State has responsibility for building and operating Guadalajara’s light rail system, the students’ proposals have a good chance of contributing to a TOD strategy for the Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara.