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Transit Oriented Development

Transportation and land use are deeply connected, but decades of planning and development ignored the consequences of only paying attention to one side of the equation. Transit oriented development takes a more holistic approach.
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Transit oriented development is planned and designed to locate high-demand land uses at, or near, the most efficient modes of transportation, like light rail lines, subway lines, and frequent, high-capacity bus routes.

As a goal of planning and land use policy, transit oriented development is intended to decrease the use of automobiles. Benefits of transit oriented development include reduced cost of living for residents and workers, reduced pollution and emissions from automobile trips, and reduced economic and social costs from automobile congestion.

Transit oriented development can be encouraged by zoning for compact residential projects, with larger numbers of units (also known as density), near transit stations and stops. Office, retail, and civic uses can be considered as transit oriented development—in addition to multi-family residential buildings like high-rise apartments and condominiums. Allowing a mix of uses is a popular way to maximize the effect of a transit oriented development.

Other methods for encouraging transit oriented development include streamlining the approvals process and providing financial support, through special funding or tax arrangements, for developments near transit stations and stops.

Design standards and other building requirements to encourage walking and ensure the seamless integration with non-automobile modes of travel might also be necessary to maximize the potential of a transit oriented development.

Transit oriented development is a popular phrase, deployed by politicians and developers for marketing or public relations purposes. Often times, however, transit oriented development projects can fall short of the promoted intentions, if they are not carefully held to high standards.

Editor's note: some media publications and other written sources will prefer to punctuate the term as transit-oriented development. The distinction is a matter of preference, but should be used consistently in either case.


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