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Transit-oriented development (TOD)

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is urban development that relies on public transport, while maintaining a closely knitted urban fabric through high-density, mixed land use and human-scale design, within walking distance from transit stations. Key features of TOD include: high-quality public spaces which are sensitive to community needs; variety of housing types and prices, frequent reliable, fast and comfortable transit; and measures discouraging the use of private cars, including walkable and cycling-friendly environment, parking management, traffic calming measures promoted through street design and others. TOD can create socially vibrant communities, contribute to economic development and enhance environmental quality. TOD is a key strategy for integrating land use and transportation planning and enabling sustainable urban mobility.

While this Solution has urban planning at its core, TOD cannot function without well operating mass transit systems or good performance on non-motorized transport modes, among other aspects. To obtain more information on these complementary Solutions and processes, visit the other Solutions within the Sustainable Mobility Package, such as Public Transport Development.

In TOD, the Local Government plays a key role in planning, coordination, stakeholder engagement and partnerships, public investment in urban infrastructure, and operation of mass transit, among others. In the implementation of this Solution, Local Governments need to be well familiar with the existing national and regional spatial and transport planning governance frameworks.

Mass rapid transit, is a high-capacity passenger transportation service, usually local in scope, that is available to any person who pays a prescribed fare. It is designed to move large numbers of people at one time. It usually operates on specific separated tracks, according to established schedules and along designated routes or lines with specific stops. [14]

Motivation / Relevance

In cities worldwide, 75% of the Local Governments have direct control over their transit system, 80% have control over roads [7], and their mandate usually includes urban planning (in a sample of 63 megacities, 53-76% Local Governments have the mandates to set/enforce urban development policies at community-scale[8]).

TOD helps to prevent problems associated with urban sprawl, low-density, dispersed urban development, large mono-functional urban areas, excessive dependence on individual automobiles and poor access to public transport (mass transit or simply transit), including:

  • Social, such as exclusion from economic development opportunities; poor access to services, amenities and high-quality public spaces; poor public health resulting from excessive use of cars, etc.; high cost of living associated with the need to own individual cars and travel long distances, etc.;
  • Economic, such as high fuel expenses and productivity loss due to congestion in cities, lack of opportunities for local economic development due to insufficient commercial activities and investment in the neighborhood, low property and land values;
  • Environmental, including increased pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels; built-up of agricultural land and green space, etc.

As an example, in the US it has been found that people drive 20-40% fewer miles in enhanced transit neighborhoods due to increased use of transit, walking and cycling and shorter trip lengths for cars. Similar findings hold for Latin America. [6]

Main impacts

  • Contribution to low emission, sustainable mobility.
  • Investment in urban infrastructure that is smart and resource efficient.
  • Sustainability, efficiency and productivity gains from improved integration of transportation, land use, development and urban infrastructure systems.
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Contribution to a green economy.
  • Urban resilience as a result of a more compact urban form.

Benefits and Co-Benefits

Environmental benefits:

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption due to a decrease in the need to travel and travel time by automobile;
  • More efficient use of existing urban land and conservation of agricultural land, green space, wetland, water body, habitats and ecological communities arising from prevention of space-intensive, automobile-oriented development;
  • Better air quality associated with reduced automobile use and traffic congestion leading to lesser emissions of particulates, ozone and volatile organic compounds.

Economic benefits:
  • Stimulation of local economic development through:
    • Better connectivity
    • attraction of investment to the neighborhood;
    • increase in commercial activity and local revenues;
    • creation of value for commercial and residential land and property;
    • opportunities for capturing and reinvesting generated value in local communities;
  • Contribute to economic viability of mass transit systems by resulting in higher occupancy rates. Increase in transit agency’s revenues potentially leading to network expansion and/or improvement in service quality;
  • Economic opportunities arising from greater connectivity and proximity of housing, services and jobs;
  • Increased commercial activity due to people-friendly public spaces;
  • Potential for reduced healthcare costs associated with lack of physical activity, and respiratory diseases caused by poor air quality.
  • Reduced economic losses associated with traffic congestion (e.g.: fuel, productivity, etc.).
  • Relief of traffic and congestion pressures on city center through i) decentralizing employment spots; ii) mixed-use approach to development; iii) shift of individual travel patterns to public transportation modes;

Social benefits:

  • Greater affordability due to decreased transportation costs.
  • Social inclusion associated with better access to transportation, housing, services, jobs, education, etc.;
  • Opportunities for greater social interaction, sense of community and heightened sense of place associated with more and better quality public spaces, improved pedestrian environment, etc.;
  • Potential for greater social diversity associated with mixed-use and mixed-income development;
  • Potential for meeting employment, housing, civic, recreational and other community needs;
  • Potential for improved public health outcomes associated with increased physical activity on active travels (walking and cycling) and better air quality;
  • Potential for improved public safety associated with reduced traffic and crime.
  • Creation of more livable and walkable communities.