Thursday, January 6, 2011

Some Definitions for Transit-Oriented Development

by Houshmand E. Masoumi

Transit-Oriented Development is a type of Neo-Traditional Development and is based on urban transportation planing and public transit.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is a type of Neo-Traditional Development which had emphasis on public transit and transit-friendly urban environment. It is also known as other names, such as transit village, transit-supportive development, and transit-friendly design. However, the most used phrase is Transit-Oriented Development.

What is Transit-Oriented Development?

TOD seeks to set a pleasant relationship between node and place, neighborhood and region, or house and job. This relationship is normally and mainly meant to be provided by urban transportation.
In practice, TODs are mixed-use, dense neighborhoods around public transit stations. The main aim is to encourage people to use public transit instead of personal cars. This is done through optimal use of public transport and urban form. Powerful transportation facilities like urban trains, trams, and buses are used in urban and regional scales and also most of the house are tried to be located within the walking distance of the transit stations.

One of the leaders of TOD is Peter Calthorpe, who was one of the first scholars who introduced TOD as we know it today in his book titled the Next American Metropolis: Ecology, Community, and the American Dream. This book was published in 1993.

The Definitions of Transit-Oriented Development

The first definition that is presented here is from Peter Calthorpe: “moderate and high-density housing, along with complementary public uses, jobs, retail and services, are concentrated in mixed-use developments at strategic points along the regional transit systems”. Dittmar and
Poticha define TOD as ““a mix of uses, at various densities, within a half-mile radius around each transit stop”. According to Boarnet and Crane, TOD is a developing or intensifying of residential land use near rail stations.

In 2002, Parker and his colleagues conducted a research for the California Department of
Transportation and in a prat of their report noted: “Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is moderate to higher density development, located within an easy walk of a major transit stop, generally with a mix of residential, employment and shopping opportunities designed for pedestrians without excluding the auto. TOD can be new construction or redevelopment of one or more buildings whose design and orientation facilitate transit use”.

The Main Goals and Characteristics of TODs

Peter Calthorpe summarizes the main characteristics and goals of TOD as follows:
  1. Organize growth on a regional level to be compact and transit-supportive.
  2. Place commercial, housing, jobs, parks, and civic uses within walking distance of transit stops.
  3. Create pedestrian-friendly street networks which directly connect local destinations.
  4. Provide a mix of housing types, densities, and costs.
  5. Preserve sensitive habitat, riparian zones, and high quality open spaces.
  6. Make public spaces the focus of building orientation and neighborhood activity.
  7. Encourage infill and redevelopment along transit corridors within existing neighborhoods.
During the past years, the success of TOD has been almost apparent to most of the planners and media. It has also been an effective way for containing urban sprawl. It is not so hard to say that it has been the most successful type of Neo-Traditional Development ahead of the British urban village and even New Urbanism.


  • Boarnet, M. and Crane, R. (1997), “L.A. story: A reality check for transit-based housing”, Journal of the American Planning Association 63 (2): 189- 204.
  • Calthorpe, P. (1993), “The next American metropolis: Ecology, community, and the American dream”, New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
  • Dittmar, H. and Poticha, S. (2004), “Defining Transit-Oriented development: The New Reginal Building Block”, pp. 19-39, in Dittmar, H. and Ohland, G. (ed.), “The New Transit Town, Best Practices in Transit-Oriented Development”, Island Press.
  • Parker T., McKeever, M., Arrington, G. B., Smith-Heimer, J. (2002), “Statewide Transit-Oriented Development study: Factors for Success in California”, Final Report, California Department of Transportation.
More articles about Transit-Oriented Development:

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