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Transit Oriented Development




In order to understand why transit-oriented development is not more prevalent, we must first

consider what it means. One of the first things that becomes apparent with a scan of the literature

and interviews is that there is no universally accepted premise about exactly what TOD should

accomplish. Many projects that fail to provide the full range of synergies and benefits made possible

by TOD are proclaimed successes because there is no standard benchmark for success. For

example, some developments are labeled TOD by virtue of their proximity to a transit station,

regardless of how well they capitalize on that proximity.

The following discussion of transit-oriented development presents a framework that can be

used for planning and analysis of projects. Specifically, it creates a framework that allows the


1. A focus on the desired functional outcomes of TOD, not just physical characteristics.

Although appropriate physical qualities (e.g. density, distance, and urban form) are essential

for making TOD work, an exclusive focus on these characteristics can obscure the main goal

of transit-oriented development, which is not to create a particular physical form but to create

places that function differently from traditional development. TOD projects should capitalize

on the synergy that results from a functional integration of land use and transit, such as

reduced auto dependency, which in turn leads to other benefits. Physical characteristics are

a means of achieving those desired ends, not ends in and of themselves.

2. Acknowledgement of a continuum of success. The degree to which a TOD project

achieves desired functional outcomes can vary depending on the quality of the project and

the characteristics of the place. This provides criteria that can be used as performance

measures to assess how well projects fulfill certain goals. A high-density development within

one quarter mile of a transit station may fail to take advantage of the full range of synergies

made possible by TOD, even if it is better in some ways (e.g. mode split3) than more

conventional  development. Focusing on functional outcomes allows such a project to be

labeled a partial success rather than wholly labeling it TOD on the basis of physical characteristics.

3. Adaptation to different locations and situations. Transit systems and locations vary

greatly in their characteristics and their suitability for TOD. We should not expect the same

results from a project in the core of a metropolitan area and one in the distant suburbs, just

as we cannot necessarily hope for the same outcome in Dallas as in Chicago or Sydney, Brisbane and

Melbourne. Focusing on quantifiable functional outcomes accounts for both different degrees of success

and the uniqueness of individual places. Just as a project can be judged as more or less successful

TOD, so two projects with the same functional outcomes in very different places can be

assessed within the context of those places.

# Mode split refers to the percentage of travelers who use different travel methods (e.g., car, bus, walk, etc.) and can be measured by a variety of means and groups.

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