Posted by | Jun 26, 2011 | 1 Comment

Generally accepted definitions of Transit-Oriented Development:


“Transit-oriented development is a mixture of housing, retail and/or commercial development and amenities integrated into a walkable neighborhood and located within a half-mile of quality public transportation.”     ~Reconnecting America (



 "Transit-oriented development (TOD) generally refers to higher-density development, with pedestrian priority, located within easy walking distance of a major public transit station or stop(s).  TODs are viewed as offering the potential to boost transit ridership, increase walking activity, mitigate sprawl, accommodate growth, and create interesting places."    ~Transit Cooperative Research Program sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration (



The Center for Transit-Oriented Development uses a performance-based definition, and believes that TOD projects should also:

  • Increase "location efficiency" so people can walk and bike and take transit 
  • Boost transit ridership and minimize traffic
  • Provide a rich mix of housing, shopping and transportation choices
  • Generate revenue for the public and private sectors and provide value for both new and existing residents
  • Create a sense of place


 "We believe that TOD is really about creating attractive, walkable, sustainable communities that allow residents to have housing and transportation choices and to live convenient, affordable, pleasant lives -- with places for our kids to play and for our parents to grow old comfortably."  ~Center for Transit-Oriented Development (



According to David Wood and Allison Brooks with the Boston College Institute for Responsible Investment and the Center for Transit-Oriented Development, respectively, successful, equitable and sustainable TOD includes:

  • Easy public access to transit that links homes to places of work, entertainment, education, and other regional destinations
  • A diverse mix of incomes in residential development
  • A diverse mix of uses in commercial development
  • Access to quality public spaces and civic amenities
  • Easy and safe environment for walking and biking for residents, employees, and visitors 



One distiction they make is that "the evaluation of equitable and sustainable TOD takes place at a district, transit corridor, and regional scale, rather than just a project or neighborhood level.  The elements listed here can be linked together in a variety of built environments - from job centers and main streets to neighborhoods and suburban centers - linked together by well-coordinated transit systems."   ~Fostering Equitable and Sustainable Transit-Oriented Development: Briefing Papers for a Convening on Transit-Oriented Development, held by the Center for Transit-Oriented Development, Living Cities and Boston College's Institute for Responsible Investment at the Ford Foundation, February 24-25, 2009


Objectives of Transit-oriented development:

TOD projects typically involve a more diverse group of stakeholders than traditional development projects, including the involvement of transit agencies and government funding sources.  These stakeholders may have common or competing objectives.  

Travel-related objectives may include:

  • Increasing the opportunities for residents and workers to meet daily needs by taking transit or walking.
  • Attracting new riders to public transit, including so-called "choice" riders - riders who could otherwise choose to drive.
  • Shifting the transit station mode of access to be less reliant on park-and-ride and more oriented to walking.
  • Reducing the automobile ownership, vehicular traffic, and associated parking requirements.
  • Enhancing the environment, through reduced emissions and energy consumption.  

Non-transportation objectives may include:

  • Providing desirable and affordable housing choices
  • Enhancing sense of community and quality of life
  • Supporting economic development or revitalization
  • Shifting development from sensitive areas
  • Minimizing infrastructure costs
  • Reducing sprawl


Principles of transit-oriented development:

The principles of  transit-oriented development are much the same as the New Urbanism which include:

Walkability:  A mass transit station should be within a 1/4 to 1/2 mile walk of the TOD.  The pedestrian connection is ideally a tree lined sidewalk with storefronts, residential homes and/or offices facing the street.  The visual interest, comfort and perceived safety all contribute towards a more leisurely walk than is otherwise experienced without.

Connectivity:  Streets should be in a grid pattern to allow for accessible smaller blocks that facilitate ease of way-finding and orientation. 

Mixed-Use / Mixed-Housing:  In addition to multiple uses within walking distance such as retail, office, medical, and entertainment to  provide for TOD residents' necessities and conveniences; transit-oriented developments should provide a variety of housing choices for different income levels.  Mixed-income housing creates a more stable and dynamic environment that is more sustainable than strictly "high-income" or "low-income" housing.

Quality Architecture and Urban Design:  Architecture defines space and creates place.  There is no prototypical architectural type that defines transit-oriented developments.  Unique character that identifies a development with the community based on it's history or culture is embodied in the architecture of the project.  There are generally accepted principles of quality architecture and urban design that extend beyond the intent of this website, for more information you are encourage to visit the Congress for the New Urbanism website at

Traditional Neighborhood Structure:  Before auto-dependency in our country became prevalent, neighborhoods developed around a town center with access to nearby resources available by walking.  The old town square with the courthouse, shops, restaurants, and offices with residential homes just beyond was the norm.  As the auto-mobile became more prevalent people started moving further and further away from the "heart" of the city until most cities lost their heart.  The traditional neighborhood structure embraces the concept of a neighborhood with a heart and ancillary businesses to support the residents all within walking distance. 

Density:  Higher densities should be encouraged and provided at and within close proximity to the transit stop, decreasing density moving away from the transit stop.  Densities will depend on the specific market of the TOD but residential densities could average 25-40 units per acre and floor area ratios of close to 1.0.  This compact development is a more efficient and productive use of land.

Smart Transportation:  Residents of TOD would ideally have a range of transportation choices including bus rapid transit, commuter rail, high-speed rail and light-rail. 

Sustainability:  Transit-oriented development is inherently more sustainable by its nature than other types of single-use and auto-dependent development.  Rail lines are perceived as more permanent infrastructure than roads and highways and in-turn allows for more concentrated and compact development to occur preserving land and resources.  Less reliance on automobiles reduces carbon emissions which improves air quality, reduces household transportation costs which increase disposable incomes and available dollars for savings and investment.  

Overall Betterment of Life:   Less reliance on automobiles has enormous implications to our quality of life.  As mentioned, more disposable income, better air quality, more efficient and productive land use, healthier lifestyles due to walking, diverse communities all contribute toward the betterment of life.  

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One Response to “Ideology”

  • Ritika says:

    Good blog George. I enjoy reading it. In rfecrenee to Mass transit. Density is the necessity with any business, especially transportation, due to the associated costs. When you increase the cost per seat mile to a point that exceeds the automobile cost, then time become the economic drive. Trains seldom reduce time and I’m sure the infrastructure is costly too. If you do the math, It’s cheaper to fly now than drive when you consider hotels, food stops, fuel and ownership costs. Therefore the only reason trains would ever be viable is if Americans can’t afford to fly or drive. In essence, this is a pure gamble on fuel prices going to an unsustainable level that makes the only travel alternative become government travel or trains .