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H+T Applications

The H+T Index was designed to enable individuals, planners, and policymakers to more fully grasp and act on the relationship between development patterns, transportation behavior, and household transportation costs. Since CNT began releasing H+T Index data for public use in 2008, a diverse group of communities and organizations have used it for a wide variety of planning and policy applications. Users range from Boston to Boise, federal agencies to private planning firms, and housing counselors to streetcar advocates. The list below provides an overview of how and where Index data are being used.

H+T data is used in trend analysis, goal setting, performance measurement, scenario evaluation, competitive award processes, site selection, and housing counseling services. For inquiries about using H+T Index data, contact Sofia Becker at sbecker at cnt dot org.

CNT also conducts in-depth analyses using H+T data (see sidebar for recent publications). A related tool, Abogo, is a consumer-friendly web resource that lets people type in an address and see how transportation costs impact affordability and sustainability in a neighborhood.

Regional Planning Applications

  • Washington, DC (2011): The Washington, DC, Office of Planning collaborated with CNT to customize the H+T Index by incorporating market rate housing costs as well as local land use data and transit network data, and supported the publication of a detailed technical report showing the significance of each variable to the estimated outputs.
  • Chicago, IL (2010): To support the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) during its long-range comprehensive planning process, CNT refined the transportation cost model for the Chicago region by including a CMAP-designed proxy for walkability and by using CMAP’s 2001 land use files to construct a measure of land use mix and refine the calculation of residential density. CNT’s resulting analysis of housing and transportation costs in the Chicago region, Driving: A Hard Bargain.
  • Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, OH (2010): A study funded by Living Cities allowed CNT, in collaboration with the Ohio Governor’s office, to use the H+T Index along with other tools to lay out urban revitalization strategies for the state that reduce the household cost of living and identify opportunities for redevelopment in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus.
  • San Francisco, CA(2009): The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) commissioned an H+T analysis of the Bay Area to better understand the burden and geographic distribution of housing and transportation costs on lower-income households, and to begin to frame long-term strategies to address regional affordability. Bay Area Housing and Transportation Affordability: A Closer Look is available online.
  • El Paso, TX (in progress): As part of an ambitious strategy to integrate smart growth principles into El Paso development practices, the City of El Paso has contracted with CNT to receive H+T data after the 2009 update is available to support the planning process that will result in its 2012 Comprehensive Plan.

State, Regional and Municipal Policy Development

  • San Luis Obispo, CA (2011): The San Luis Obispo MPO has included location efficiency and reduced housing and transportation costs as a guiding policy for the Preliminary SCS element of its Regional Transportation Plan, a new plan element required by State law SB 375.
  • State of Illinois (2010): The measure of combined housing and transportation affordability was adopted by law, with bipartisan support, as a planning tool for five agencies and as a consideration for those agencies’ investment decisions in metro areas; the economic development, transportation and housing agencies can use H+T to screen and prioritize public investments in metro areas, while two financing agencies will recommend the use of the Index for new siting decisions.
  • El Paso, TX (2010): The City Council directed the City Manager to use the H+T Index for affordability determinations, to initiate the use of the Index as a tool to benchmark costs, and to adopt a 50% H+T affordability standard for all City funding and policy decisions.
  • Chicago, IL (2010): The region’s MPO, CMAP, included the H+T Index as a measure in its Go To 2040 regional plan, along with a goal to reduce combined housing and transportation costs for working families to 53 percent of income in 2015 and 45 percent in 2040.
  • Mercer County, NJ (2010): Housing and Transportation affordability is a long-range indicator of economic sustainability in the 2010 update of the Mercer Co. Master Plan.
  • Washington, DC (2010): Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) set an accessibility target for combined housing and transportation costs at 45% of Area Median Income by 2050 in 59 Regional Activity Centers.
  • San Francisco, CA (2009): In its 2035 Plan, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) set a 10% reduction goal for the cost of housing and transportation among the region’s low- and moderate-income residents, and worked with the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to set a matching goal for the region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy.
  • Los Angeles, CA (2008): As part of its Compass Blueprint initiative to help redress unsustainable development patterns, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) commissioned a customized H+T analysis and published case studies on six communities that are working to reduce H+T costs. An “Affordability Index Toolbox” synthesizes results from the case studies and recommends potential policy tools for local planners, and elected officials.

Siting of Affordable Housing

  • San Francisco, CA (2011): MTC has publicly credited the establishment of the Bay Area Transit Oriented Affordable Housing (TOAH) Fund in part to the H+T Index, which helped them make the case for tackling the issue of housing and transportation affordability head-on; the TOAH Fund received $10 million in seed capital from MTC, to which other sources added another $40 million.
  • State of Illinois (2010): As a result of an H+T analysis of existing multi-family properties undertaken by CNT in collaboration with the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the agency adopted Local Employment Dynamic data from the Census’ OnTheMap website as the job access metric in its 2011 QAP and opted to schedule the next QAP revision in one year instead of two.
  • Asheville, NC (in progress): In collaboration with the City of Asheville, CNT is using the H+T Index to study the cost implications of historical City investments in affordable housing, the factors that influence the location of affordable housing, and potential incentives to encourage the siting of affordable housing in areas with low transportation costs.

Transportation Planning Applications

  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (2011): The Funders’ Collaborative for the Central Corridor uses H+T affordability as a performance indicator for the Central Corridor light rail line as part of its effort to maintain public support for the investment and to ensure balanced community benefits.
  • Denver, CO (2011): Impresa, Inc., a research and planning firm, used modeled vehicle miles traveled (VMT) data from the H+T Index to insert land use and transportation issues into the regional air quality planning process.
  • Chicago, IL (2011): The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) used data from the H+T Index in a corridor selection analysis designed to identify potential BRT alignments while balancing community goals of increased livability, reduced travel time and lower environmental impacts.
  • Cincinnati, OH (2010): H+T data used in an analysis of a proposed streetcar’s benefits (see Regional Planning Applications above) helped the City secure $24.9M in FTA Urban Circulator funds.
  • Ann Arbor, MI (2010): A respondent to a 2010 survey of H+T users reported that the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study is using H+T in an effort to expand public transit and link its presence with affordable housing.

Scenario Evaluations

  • Washington, DC (2011): The District of Columbia’s Office of Planning commissioned a scenario evaluation tool for household transportation costs (developed by CNT) to examine how the development of housing, jobs, and transit would affect the average transportation costs for a neighborhood’s residents.
  • Chicago, IL (2009-2010): The region’s MPO, CMAP, has used the H+T Index to compare how alternative development scenarios would affect future affordability in the seven-county region, which contributed to their selection of a preferred scenario, and will inform agency policies to strategically direct growth and maximize affordability.

Rural Regional Planning

  • Fayetteville, AR (2011): To support its work through the Sustainable Cities Institute, the Home Depot Foundation contracted with CNT to develop an H+T analysis to identify the current status of housing, transportation, and job access in the four cities that comprise the northwest Arkansas region, supplemented by extensive interviews of business leaders, elected officials, municipal staff, and local advocate groups.
  • Grand Rapids, MI (2010): The Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness and Grand Valley State University commissioned an H +T analysis to better understand the status of affordability in Grand Rapids and eight largely rural counties; the resulting custom dataset of transportation costs for households of different sizes and income levels demonstrated the viability of the H+T approach in rural areas.

Homebuyer Counseling

  • El Paso, TX (2012): The City of El Paso deployed H+T educational materials for prospective homebuyers within two organizations contracted to deliver housing counseling services for the City.
  • Santa Fe, NM (2011): A housing non-profit is using a specially developed H+T training to help prospective homeowners understand and better control transportation costs while saving for a home, and as part of an eventual location decision.

Calculators/Derivative Tools

  • Abogo Gas Slider (2011): A supplement to CNT’s Abogo tool was developed during the Spring 2011 gas price spikes to help consumers check how gas prices at different levels would impact their costs, assuming no change in their transportation behavior; a link at the bottom of the page sends the user to a set of suggestions for reducing one’s transportation costs.
  • Abogo (2010): To support the use of H+T data in everyday decision-making by the general public, CNT developed a consumer-oriented application of H+T data called Abogo, which allows users to look up estimated transportation costs in a neighborhood simply by entering an address.
  • DC, Bay Area and Boston Calculators (2009/2010): The Terwilliger Center and CHP commissioned H+T cost calculators for three regions to accompany the custom analyses produced simultaneously for each. The calculator tools allow individuals to estimate their combined housing and transportation costs in these regions using their own input parameters, see how changes to those parameters can impact expenses, and view the characteristics of urban form that explain the variation in transportation expenses across locations.

Affordability Awareness

  • Austin, TX (2011): The City of Austin used maps and data from the H+T Affordability Index in its Draft Community Inventory to illustrate the link between the location of development and the impacts of development.
  • St. Louis, MO (2011): The 6th edition of the MPO’s Where We Stand report series used H+T affordability as a performance indicator of household income and wealth, and estimated transportation costs as a performance indicator for the region’s transportation system, presented in the form of rankings to show how the St Louis region compares to 34 peer regions.
  • Arlington County, VA (2011): The government is using the combined cost of housing and transportation as a baseline for tracking the 30-year Columbia Pike Land Use and Housing Study, as well part of its community demographic profiles in this major county of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.
  • San Francisco, CA; Washington, DC; and Boston, MA (2009/2010): To expand awareness of the housing and transportation challenges in three key regions, and to build support for the resources and high-level policy attention needed to effectively address the issues, ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing and the Center for Housing Policy collaborated with CNT to produce region-specific analyses of affordability using more recent data to update the underlying variables and cost factors in the Bay Area, Washington, D.C. and Boston.
  • San Francisco, CA (2009): Bay Area advocacy organization TransForm sought to build support for more compact, transit-oriented land use patterns by examining the full economic and environmental impact of transportation policies, drawing especially on H+T data to derive a novel neighborhood-based analysis of the potential for CO2 reductions and private savings by improving public transportation.
  • State of Florida (2008): The Florida State University Healthy Communities Program and the Florida Department of Health Division of Environmental Health produced four Smart Growth and Public Health Abstracts to help inform decision makers in Florida, one of which uses the H+T Index to illustrate the link between development policies and public health.