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Defining 'Underutilized parcels within 1/2 mile of train and bus stations


I am working on a study which requires the use of GIS to begin to identify both vacant and under utilized parcels within 1/2 mile of train and bus stations. GIS parcel and zoning data are being used as a first cut to narrow down the universe of parcels focusing in on those parcels that are vacant and undertutilized. The identifying vacant parcels based on available parcel attribute data is readily obtainable. However trying to create a definition for underutilized parcels has been frustrating. The GIS is just the first step in a process to identify then inventory vacant and underutilized parcels that could benefit from transit oriented development planning. There will be extensive outreach to municipal officials, community groups business organizations and residents to identify parcels that would benefit from intensive TOD planning. A small number of sites will be selected and then master plan and zoning amendments, prototype access standards, transit and access improvements, educational and promotional materialsand sketch plans will be developed for each site through a public participation process along with a charette.

Any person or group that can provide guidance in identifying a rule of thumb using GIS parcel attribute data to determine a scale to identify underutilized parcels located near transit or train stations is much appreciated. I have 11 train stations and seveal bus routes to analyze using county GIS parcel and tax data. However developing a query to use with our ARCview GIS to identify potentially underutilized lots has not been successful to date.

I am sure that some research has been undertaken and published somewhere that addresses this exact point however I have been unsuccessful at finding infromation that will allow me to develop a rough tool or some type of bench mark to to narrow the number of lots to be investigated as being undertutilized and or vacant.


Kenneth Wedeen, AICP/P.P, Principal Planner
Somerset County Planning Board
Somerville, New Jersey 08876
tel 908 231-7000 ext. 7239
fax 908 707-1749


Some definitions are easier than others. This isn't one of them. The obvious starting point is to look up the definition of "blight" in state statutes. Any property meeting that criteria would be likely to qualify. Land use would be my second consideration, but then who is to say that parking, for example, is an underutilization if that parking makes a commercial property economically viable, or if that lot provides a decent return on investment?

As an alternative, you might come at the problem from a market demand perspective. This would require a detailed analysis of the commercial and residential market to determine demand for space, and an analysis of the existing space inventory and business mix to identify opportunities for new business and residential uses. Then you might evaluate the area to determine the best locations for those uses.

While I think a GIS can help in making these evaluations, I would think that a good deal of the work should be done in the field. This is an excellent example of a project in which both economic development and planning staff should be working as a team to do the analysis, planning, and implementation.