Even a cursory glance around the country reveals almost
exponential growth in interest in transit oriented
development (TOD). New TODs are on the drawing boards
everywhere, from Alaska to Florida. Potential benefits
range from more compact development and less automobile
dependence, to new retail opportunities and improved
quality of life.
Many developments that are touted as transit oriented
development, however, fail to live up to their potential
- even if they are located close to rail stations
or frequent bus routes. As a result, the potential
benefits, including increased transit ridership, are
Indeed, these pseudo-TODs are often little different
from their auto-oriented counterparts. We now have
"transit oriented" big box retail and single-story
office parks, set in seas of parking. In many cases,
housing developments with just six units to the acre
are being advertised as TODs.
Many developments labeled transit oriented
would in fact be better described as transit adjacent
They lack the density, design and mix of uses necessary
to take full advantage of their transit resources.
One of the most obvious signs is parking provision,
If conventional parking ratios are used, derived from
suburbs that have little or no transit, the developers
and planners are by definition assuming that the travel
behavior of residents and workers will not be influenced
by the availability of transit. This can then turn
into a self-fulfilling prophecy, since the availability
of abundant, free parking is a key factor promoting
Nelson\Nygaard has developed a 12-point checklist
to assess the difference between true transit-oriented
development, which will deliver the promised economic
and social benefits, and transit adjacent development.
A true TOD will include most of the following:
- The transit-oriented development lies within
a five-minute walk of the transit stop, or about
a quarter mile from stop to edge. For major stations,
offering access to frequent high-speed service,
this catchment area may be extended to the measure
of a 10-minute walk.
- A balanced mix of uses generates 24-hour ridership.
There are places to work, to live, to learn, to
relax and to shop for daily needs.
- A place-based zoning code generates buildings
that shape and define memorable streets, squares
and plazas, while allowing uses to change easily
- The average block perimeter is limited to no
more than 1,350 feet (a five minute walk). This
generates a fine-grained network of streets, dispersing
traffic and allowing for the creation of quiet
and intimate thoroughfares.
- Minimum parking requirements are abolished.
- Maximum parking requirements are instituted:
for every 1000 workers, no more than 500 spaces,
and as few as 10 spaces, are provided.
- Parking costs are "unbundled," and full market
rates are charged for all parking spaces. The
exception may be validated parking for shoppers.
- Major stops provide BikeStations, offering free
attended bicycle parking, repairs, and rentals.
At minor stops, secure and fully enclosed bicycle
parking is provided.
- Transit service is fast, frequent, reliable
and comfortable, with a headway of 15 minutes
or less. Technology choice - heavy rail, light
rail or bus rapid transit - is far less relevant
than service frequency and speed.
- Roadway space is allocated and traffic signals
timed primarily for the comfort and convenience
of pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders.
- Automobile Level of Service (LOS) standards
are met through congestion pricing measures, or
disregarded entirely. Transit, pedestrian and
bicycle LOS standards are defined and prioritized
over auto LOS in the station area.
- Traffic is calmed, with streets physically designed
to limit speeds to 30 mph on major streets, and
20 mph on lesser streets.
Read the full article, from
the May 2003 issue of Planning. (2.9 MB)
Reprinted with permission from Planning magazine;
copyright 2003 by the American