Have you met TOD?
By Catherine Velarde.
Transit-Oriented Development (or TOD) has tremendous economic and social implications. TOD was first coined by Peter Calthorpe in the late 1980’s and has since become a popular planning approach which clusters high-density, mixed-use neighborhood/business centers around transit corridors and stations. TOD embodies a “smart growth” approach, focusing on the coordination of transportation and land use to maximize infrastructure and land efficiency. Importantly, TOD has several key characteristics, including a defined center, greater density (than community average), a mixture of uses, and a high-quality pedestrian environment.
TOD can provide significant economic benefits for localities. Research and experience has shown that TOD increases property values, rents, and lease revenues. For example, one case study of a TOD corridor outside of Washington, D.C. found that the land values within the TOD increased by 81% in just 10 years. In addition to growth in land values, TOD enhances local economic development as it stimulates private investment, increases foot traffic for local businesses and increases tax revenues. One great example is the Village of Arlington Heights, IL which since 1997 has invested $27 million into TOD redevelopment for its historic downtown. As a result, the village has received over $225 million in private investment.
TOD boasts numerous social equity and health benefits. Firstly, TOD fosters walkable communities which leads to more active lifestyles for residents. One study in Charlotte, NC found that access to a new light rail transit station dramatically improved health outcomes for users. TOD also has the capability of improving social equity by increasing access to jobs/economic opportunities for low-income and working families (particularly when coupled with affordable housing measures). A study in California found that lower-income families drove 50% less when living within a ¼ mile from a TOD area- resulting in significant transportation cost savings.
Simply put, TOD is a sustainable strategy which efficiently utilizes land, resources, and energy. In addition to aiding the conservation of open space, TOD lowers oil and gas consumption, minimizes traffic and improves air quality. One well-documented benefit of TOD is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, resulting from an increase in transit ridership. A case study of TOD redevelopment surrounding Los Angeles’ Gold Line (light rail) and Orange Line (bus transit) looked at the potential for greenhouse gas emission reductions as compared to the business-as-usual scenario. The study found that each household surrounding the TOD could avoid emitting as much as six metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, a reduction of over 35% compared to the business-as-usual scenario.
Transit-oriented development is a powerful planning tool which seeks to maximize the use of transit in strategic areas. Pegasus is currently working with Horizon City, TX to create a TOD ordinance which will enhance the walkability of their city center, while improving connections to major employers and educational institutions.
Access Magazine. (2015). Life-Cycle Impacts of Transit-Oriented Development. Retrieved from https://www.accessmagazine.org/fall-2015/life-cycle-impacts-of-transit-oriented-development/
Metro. (2018). Affordable Housing. Retrieved from https://www.metro.net/projects/tod-toolkit/affordable-housing/
Shephard, R. (2011). The Effect of Light Rail Transit on Body Mass Index and Physical Activity. Yearbook of Sports Medicine, 2011, 110-111. doi:10.1016/s0162-0908(10)79784-1