Sustainability 13: Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs)

Conserve precious water
Conserve precious water

The sustainability of our cities and towns can also be enhanced through the creation of Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs).

Quite simply, a TOD is any MXD centered about a transit facility or node: a subway station, train station, metro station, or bus station or stop. The TOD typically has higher density and intensity of development in the immediate vicinity of the transit node, and decreasing density and intensity of development at increasing distance from the transit node.

The purpose of TODs is to create synergistic mixed-use development while encouraging pedestrian activity and the use of public transit, and also simultaneously discouraging auto use. Many TODs therefore include significant pedestrian amenities — narrower, more intimate streets; better crosswalks; shade trees; benches; bike racks; sidewalk retail, restaurants and cafes. Auto parking may often be limited, expensive and either difficult to access or remote from the heart of activity. TODs are typically concentrated within a ½-mile radius (an effective pedestrian distance) of the primary transit node.

TODs are most successful when they combine an effective and complementary mix of uses, and when they nurture urban life around the clock. They then develop a clear and distinct identity, apart from that of any surrounding city, becoming a known destination in their own right. The area surrounding the Ballston Metro Station in Arlington, VA, is a good example. Including office buildings, a shopping mall, street level retail, housing, recreational facilities and both a DC Metro Station and bus station, the area gained the city of Arlington the EPA’s first award for smart growth excellence in 2002.

Though the TOD terminology is relatively new, the concept is not. When the Van Sweringen brothers planned the Village of Shaker Heights, Ohio, in the 1930s, it was developed around the spine and nodes of the Shaker Rapid Transit light rail system. A number of European and Asian new towns built in the 1950s and 1960s incorporate many of the principles of TODs.

The TOD concept has since been put into use in many cities and countries around the world, most notably the San Francisco Bay region; Curitiba, Brazil; Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto, Canada; Melbourne, Australia; Hong Kong; and Guatemala City, Guatemala. In some large cities, developers can gain valuable concessions from local authorities by committing to TOD principles.   

The Terminal Tower in Cleveland caps off a massive mixed-use development anchored by a transit station.
The Terminal Tower in Cleveland caps off a massive mixed-use development anchored by a transit station. | Source

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