To remedy the effects of several decades of sprawling development patterns, cities throughout the United States are pursuing the development of high-density pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods oriented around transit stations. "All that would encourage people to walk, bicycle and use transit instead of driving," says Marlys Harris. "Air would get cleaner, dependence on foreign oil would drop, and a thousand flowers would bloom."
"But here's the crucial question: Does TOD really decrease driving?"
"Studies have come down on both sides of the issue," she notes. "The latest, from Daniel G. Chatman, assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, made a pretty thorough investigation of the matter and concluded that people living in TOD areas did drive less, but — and here's the surprise — not because of the availability of transit."
"Instead of making multi-billion dollar investments in rail transit, Chatman argues, we may be able to reduce energy use and pollution just as much by creating incentives for higher-density mixed-use developments (incorporating housing, retail and offices) in certain areas while strictly limiting parking. Problem is, the local inconveniences of greater congestion and less parking would probably tick off neighbors and their elected representatives. Working all that out, he says,'is the planning puzzle that deserves our focused attention. The pursuit of rail-oriented development may be a distraction.'"