What is “Development Oriented Transit”?

Chuck Marohn of the excellent organization Strong Towns doesn’t like transit-oriented development (TOD), and instead recommends “development-oriented transit” (DOT?) in a 2014 piece quoted by Rachel Quednau today. Debates about TOD and DOT have been around for a while, but are they really about anything?

Here’s Marohn:

 Transit-oriented development is the transit-advocate’s response to highway strip development in the same way that the early planned New Urbanist developments like Seaside were a response to greenfield suburban development. I’m sympathetic, but this isn’t the answer.

Instead of transit-oriented development, we should have development-oriented transit: Identify places where things are happening now and then connect them with the lowest level of viable transit possible. Make sure those places allow the next increment of development by right (without extensive permitting). This will ensure that the transit is viable and that it supports that next level of growth and expansion.

When that next level of growth and expansion happens, everything moves up a notch. Upgrade the transit to the next level — from jitney to shuttle bus, from shuttle bus to city bus, from city bus to streetcar, from streetcar to light rail, from light rail to subway — and repeat.

This is a beautiful idea that will make no sense to an actual transit planner.  It would be nice if you could start out with a low commitment to transit and then grow it as demand requires. But this approach routinely fails when communities do grow to the scale that requires high capacity transit, only to find that there is nowhere to develop effective transit because it wasn’t considered at an early stage.

This is the argument for ensuring public ownership of key rights-of-way, like abandoned railway corridors and utility corridors, and retaining the option for putting transit there in the future.  That much is usually not controversial.

But if we accept that, then it implies a greater challenge.  New towns need to be along a possible future right of way, so that future transit will serve them.

One of the most common mistakes of New Urbanist development is to build “transit-oriented” villages in places where efficient transit could never reach them.  Usually, this is because the village is in a cul-de-sac location position with respect to the larger network, so that transit can’t run through it on the way to anywhere else. I explain this problem more fully here.  In my book Human Transit I call out one of the earliest examples, Peter Calthorpe’s Laguna West, but I still encounter them constantly across the US.  (Here’s one in Davis, California, for example.)

So we transit planners are entitled to point out where development patterns make transit easier or harder to provide.  If the developers want to claim transit as a possible outcome, they must deliver development forms that are adaptable to transit in the future.  As Calthorpe and others have pointed out, the worst kind of sprawl is high-density sprawl, where travel demand is intense but the layout makes it impossible to serve with anything but cars.  Geometrically, this can only lead to high congestion, high vehicle miles traveled, and a range of other awful outcomes.

So what is “development-oriented transit”?  To be frank, I’m sure I’m not the only transit planner who finds the term insulting.  What exactly do you think we do all day?  Transit planning is a response to transit markets, which arise from the built form, i.e. “development”.  If development determines where people are and where they need to go, then all transit is development-oriented, and it always has been.

There is plenty to dislike about certain transit-oriented developments.  We must be suspicious of aesthetic objections that could be resolved only at high cost, as this amounts to dismissing the imperative of affordability, but even within that limit there are many ways to make development better or worse.

But in the end, transit-oriented development isn’t some architect’s theory, or even some set of prototypes.  It boils down to the idea that transportation infrastructure drives urban form as much as urban form drives infrastructure.  Virtually all authentic towns are located and configured in response to some kind of transportation: a port, a rail junction, a road junction, etc.  In cities, almost all of the inner city fabric that people love is transit-oriented development, in that it grew around early transit lines.

Transit-oriented development is not the opposite of “development-oriented transit.” All transport is development-oriented, and all development is oriented toward some transport mode.  If you want that mode to be public transit, then you need to plan development — not just its layout but also its location – with transit in mind, just as all urban planning did before 1945.  That’s all that the term “transit-oriented development” says, and all that it should mean.

37 Responses to What is “Development Oriented Transit”?

  1. Charles Marohn April 26, 2018 at 9:16 pm #

    You have forgotten in the past week more than I know about transit, so I defer to you in nearly every way.

    My question, then, is… London? Paris? Rome?

    New York City?

    I’ve been in all of these places, as well as many small and mid-sized European towns, and they all have fantastic transit. Were these places planned in anticipation of that transit? Did people during the Renaissance anticipate future transit needs or did we — in a sometimes messy, inefficient and perhaps even sub-optimal way — find ways after-the-fact to make transit work really well in these great places?

    Here’s what I wrote to some of the responses we were getting on Facebook to our piece:

    >”In an age where the governments build and operate the transit AND does little to nothing to capture the value created in that investment (taxpayers make private millionaires from public investments and don’t recoup any of that wealth) AND controls, through antiquated and arbitrary regulation best suited to the assembly line construction of suburbia, all private investment….

    >What happens when we make the wrong transit investment? (Note, these are often in the billions, even tens of billions of dollars.)

    >What happens when we make the wrong private sector development investment?

    >The former can sink us for generations, worsen our municipal insolvency crisis and rob our communities of productive energy. The latter will put a few developers out of business and negatively impact some investors.

    >In America 2018, it’s not chicken or egg. Development has to come first.”

    I suspect we agree on 95% of this and, of that remaining 5%, I’m wrong on at least half of it. Still, I’d be interested to know what here I’m not grasping.

    • Daniel Costantino April 27, 2018 at 10:54 am #

      With respect to Paris, it’s worth noting that Paris’ boulevards were deliberately carved out in the late nineteenth century, at extremely high cost and not without resulting unrest, of a rabbit warren of tiny streets, for a combination of traffic, real estate, military and political reasons (containing recurring revolutions) in the nineteenth century. That made it possible to run omnibuses, and later on trams and city buses in a reasonable pattern.

      But then again, the cost of making wider streets was so high, and density was so high, that it made economic sense to literally carve out the earth underneath the city to make one of the world’s first subway systems, decades before tunnel-boring machines existed.

      So, yes, there 100% is value to considering how to set aside right-of-way for future transit needs. Partly because a subway is not the first increment in developing transit (bus lanes, anyone?), partly because even when you get to high-capacity rail it’s very often still cheaper to build at or above grade rather than below, and partly because even if you decide to build a subway, as a side-benefit you get this great land to do wonderful things with.

      • el_slapper April 30, 2018 at 3:36 am #

        and don’t forget that in those times, manpower was much cheaper, which made the metro affordable. Today’s new lines are wonderful, but their cost is insane, which explains the very long delay between the decision and the opening.

      • Charles Marohn April 30, 2018 at 8:14 pm #

        It’s interesting that you would bring up Paris and cite the expense involve in the that retrofit. It’s my understanding that the government acquired the land at pre-retrofit prices and then sold it back to the private sector at post-development prices, using the difference to pay for the improvement.

        Might not be the most efficient, but seems pretty sound financially.

        • Kenny Easwaran May 4, 2018 at 5:55 am #

          Most of the “expense” of the “retrofit” of Hausmann’s boulevards involved the Emperor Napoleon III empowering a Baron to arbitrarily evict and dispossess the poor people and even middle class landowners in the city.

          “Beginning in 1854, in the centre of the city, Haussmann’s workers tore down hundreds of old buildings and cut eighty kilometres of new avenues, connecting the central points of the city. Buildings along these avenues were required to be the same height and in a similar style, and to be faced with cream-coloured stone, creating the signature look of Paris boulevards. Baron Haussmann achieved Paris being of a particular shape, uniform. Victor Hugo mentioned that it was hardly possible to distinguish what the house in front of you was for: theatre, shop or library. Haussmann managed to rebuild the city in 17 years. “On his own estimation the new boulevards and open spaces displaced 350,000 people; … by 1870 one-fifth of the streets in central Paris were his creation; he had spent … 2.5 billion francs on the city; … one in five Parisian workers was employed in the building trade”.”


          Paris as we know it really is the vision of a radical central planner, and not the result of incremental development the way many other cities are.

    • Mike April 27, 2018 at 11:45 am #

      All development before the 1920s was walkable villages because for most of history, walking was the only mode available. Horses and boats were secondary, but only the ultra-rich or a self-sustaining farm could afford to live beyond walking distance of a village. And manor houses required a live-in or village staff to do the cooking and cleaning before electric appliances and processed food were available. When streetcars and railroads appeared, they took the role of omnibuses — connecting villages and neighborhoods — but the villages and neighborhoods themselves remained compact. So New York and London were able to overlay transit on an already successful urban system, and it just enhanced what they aready had.

      The biggest difficult in introducing cars and trains was in areas with very narrow streets, sometimes wide enough for just one car, but not for many cars or through traffic. So those cities widened streets if they could, or pedestrianized the old center and built new centers around it. Paris rebuilt the city with boulevards, but that was a half-century before cars.

      The problem in much of the US is postwar development was automobile-scaled, non-walkable, non-transit friendly, without transit rights-of-way, and previous rail rights-of-way were built over.

    • Jarrett Walker April 27, 2018 at 11:56 am #


      The great European cities you mentioned had to be retrofitted with metros in the 20c, at great expense. (It was expensive enough then, without labor rules and environmental laws; it’s staggering now.) My point is that scaling up transit later, as it’s needed, is almost impossible if you haven’t thought about that transit at every point in the town’s development, which is rarely done. We would have much better urban transit in the US today if we had preserved space for it, and organized new development in patterns that it could serve.

      New York is a good example. A crucial good idea, reached fairly early in the city’s history, was the Manhattan grid with its wide n-s avenues. The next generation of that city’s transit development will involve making better use of that space, but it’s important that the space was protected as the city grew. Most European cities look on those avenues with envy as they try to squeeze sufficiently scaled transit through their medieval mazes. (My firm is trying to do this in Dublin as we speak.) And as Daniel mentions, Paris achieved such streets only by bulldozing much of the city in the late 19c.

      Basically: Either you plan ahead, or you have to destroy a lot of your city later. And if you plan ahead around future transit, you are effectively doing transit oriented development. Which is a good thing, right?


      • Georgist Economist May 3, 2018 at 12:13 pm #

        I have counterexamples to that. Look at the old town of Prague (e.g. Staroměstská metro station, literally means old town), for instance. Many buildings erected in the Middle Ages are still around, and the street network reflects that. Yet the Czech managed to run tram lines on a handful of those streets just fine. Sure, in some places there are two tracks, two sidewalks, and then building walls on each side. Sure, there are some single-track sections, because that’s all that fits. But the tram network does fit!

        In my opinion, the exact reason transit planners envy the wide streets of New York — the relative ease of taking space from its current use and putting transit or bike lanes on it — demonstrates that the space is being used inefficiently. Were it used as efficiently as space in a city with skyscrapers ought to be used, taking it would be much more difficult. But as the example of Prague (and other central-eastern European cities) shows, that’s not at all impossible. However, it is an unusual task, requiring unusual solutions.

        In my opinion, the street structure of New York is oversized in multiple, related ways. The obvious one is that even residential streets have space for (currently) a pair of car traffic lanes plus a pair of parking lanes plus sidewalks; every single street is 15 meters wide. European and Japanese cities show that residential streets need not be wider than 6 meters. And this excessive width of streets eats up a lot of valuable area inside isochrones.

        The less obvious one is that a block size of 80×275 meters is simply much too large a scale for walking. 275 meters? Simply walking from the middle of a block to its end (over a hundred meters) is a significant fraction of the distance people are willing to walk. Such a coarse-grained street network significantly limits the area people are willing to walk to, especially from “unluckily” placed points. Yes, it’s not quite as bad as a disjointed suburban street network, but that’s not a great achievement. There are some even less obvious effects that the size of blocks has on the nature of buildings, e.g. a plot depth of 40 meters tends to cause one of: (a) very narrow rowhouses (b) very large plots (c) large apartments. However, this is aesthetic rather than transit-related.

        Thus in my opinion, envying the wide streets of New York is a mistake. On the one hand, those oversized blocks ought to be cut up into smaller ones with cross-streets, greatly improving pedestrian connectivity, as well as creating plots of less absurd dimensions. On the other hand, it’s a complete waste of very valuable land. Perhaps that waste makes the work of transit planners easier, but on the level of society it’s still a loss.

    • Cererean April 28, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

      A lot of those cities grew up around their transit lines. London is a lot bigger than it was before the development of the railways, and it’s development was shaped by them (for example, Metro-land). A lot of the “underground” is actually above ground, and I don’t think those rights of way were acquired *after* buildings had been constructed around them.

    • Henry April 30, 2018 at 4:17 pm #


      In the case of New York, the train came first.

      In fact, the subways that came after the development were notable for running massively over budget to the point of bringing the City to the point of fiscal collapse.

      • Charles Marohn April 30, 2018 at 8:15 pm #

        Were those PUBLIC investments? My understanding is that this risk was borne by the private sector, which is an entirely different situation.

      • Andrew Price May 9, 2018 at 9:51 am #

        They weren’t public investments. What today is Brooklyn and Queens were just farmland, until a private land owner decided to buy up cheap land and run a ferry across. Likewise with horse drawn buses, the electric street car, the commuter rail, and even, until 1932, the subway. The most the government got involved was issuing a charter so a private company could build and operate in the public right of way.

        We produce better outcomes if the person with skin in the game is the decision maker. With public spending fueled by debt, it’s the next generation of tax payers.

  2. Richard Gadsden April 27, 2018 at 1:19 am #

    The only sense in which development-oriented transit is different from serving the transit market as it exists would be building transit on the basis of planned development, rather than waiting for the development to be built, and only then building transit to serve it.

    One example that comes to mind is London’s Barking Riverside, where a rail line is being extended into a new development as part of the original construction – the developers needed the transit link because their property wouldn’t sell without.

  3. TomH April 27, 2018 at 6:27 am #

    A pertinent illustration of Jared’s point about US development patterns is by the redoubtable R. Crumb’s “Short History of America
    NOTE: the bottom 3 panels illustrate potential futures: disaster, techno-fix, ectopia.

  4. Rob Fellows April 27, 2018 at 7:35 am #

    I prefer “pedestrian-oriented” development, because places that work for pedestrians are also places that tend to work for transit. I think of transit as an extension of the pedestrian mode. In my mind, the key difference between transit and car-oriented development is whether buildings, streets and neighborhoods are built to accommodate walk-in retail and walk-to schools and with some minimum level of density close by. I think most of the time people talk about transit-oriented development they’re talk about walkability, and the problem with calling it transit-oriented is that places that aren’t getting a monumental new train station tend to get ignored.

    • Sean Gillis April 27, 2018 at 8:22 am #

      “… the problem with calling it transit-oriented is that places that aren’t getting a monumental new train station tend to get ignored.”

      Hits the nail on the head.

      “I think of transit as an extension of the pedestrian mode. In my mind, the key difference between transit and car-oriented development is whether buildings, streets and neighborhoods are built to accommodate walk-in retail and walk-to schools and with some minimum level of density close by.”

      And provides reasonably direct routes – at a local and regional scale – for surface transit.

    • Erin April 28, 2018 at 12:13 pm #

      The redevelopment marketplace at Brownfield Listings has a Pedestrian Oriented Development (POD) tag: https://brownfieldlistings.com/market-taxonomy

    • Chad N April 30, 2018 at 11:39 am #

      Urban planners preferring “pedestrian-oriented development” as opposed to useful transit is, I think, Jarrett’s main point in this discussion.

      Narrow, twisting lanes set away from busy streets are great for pedestrians, and often feature in new urbanist plans. But they are nearly useless for useful, efficient transit.

      For residents of new pedestrian-oriented developments to use public transit instead of cars to access the wider world, the site plan needs to be designed to facilitate useful, direct through transit. Which means at least one route through the development needs wide, fast traffic lanes. Even developments around rail stations should accommodate a surface through route for buses from outside the development to feed the train station.

      • Georgist Economist May 3, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

        Only that one single main avenue with transit needs to be straight and “wide”. How wide, exactly? Two dedicated streetcar lanes plus two automobile lanes plus two sidewalks is somewhere around ~15 meters or 50 feet overall. Within ~400 meters of that “wide” transit avenue, on both sides, is the area from which walking to stops on the line is possible if stops are 4-500 meters apart (or less) and the street network is not stupid. All of those smaller streets need to be …well, 6 meters (20 feet) is enough for two trucks to pass each other; and these streets will be mainly used by pedestrians. A single, 6 meter wide surface between building walls (or fences) is a perfectly functional pedestrians-first street. And because there’s no transit running on these streets, they can be somewhat twisty without any problem.

        If there is an intermodal junction, there’s perhaps a heavy rail line running slightly above grade, and two transit avenues crossing at the station. OK, that double-track rail line takes some 10 meters, the two transit avenues are ~15 meters, and at their point of meeting there is a railway platform, an underpass for passengers, a few bus/streetcar stops, and an underpass or two for the transit avenues to go under the rail line. None of these takes too much space if you don’t throw in non-transit-related stuff. If there aren’t commercial buildings within 30 meters (straight line) and 50 meters (walking) of the rail platform, something’s off.

  5. Sean Gillis April 27, 2018 at 8:17 am #

    I’m a land use planner, and I feel that Marohn is getting at something really important. Most land use planners have a lot of support for transit, and transit oriented development. But, there is a tendency among professionals, elected officials and the public to think of rail transit as useful, and buses as inconvenient. So the word TOD tends to mean dense, neo-traditional development patterns within 500 metres or so of a rail station (Robert Cervero has lots of good advice on this idea in Transit Villages for the 21st Century). Essentially TOD is seen as a specialized sub-set of good urban development. Not only that, it’s often portrayed as a type of master-planned, large scale development. Personally, I would prefer to use the term transit-oriented communities, as that more clearly encompasses that old, new and future developments can all be made friendly for transit.

    Development oriented transit may seem obvious as a transit planner, but I refer you to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Massive amounts of money has been spent, is being spent, or will be spent on sending high capacity subways and/or heavy rail service farther into the suburbs. Meanwhile, the downtown core and inner city relies on buses, slow streetcars, and a handful of hugely crowded subway lines. A relief line (development oriented transit to a tee) is a clear need in Toronto, but politicians aren’t making it a priority.

  6. Sean Gillis April 27, 2018 at 8:57 am #

    “It would be nice if you could start out with a low commitment to transit and then grow it as demand requires. But this approach routinely fails when communities do grow to the scale that requires high capacity transit, only to find that there is nowhere to develop effective transit because it wasn’t considered at an early stage.”

    As described, no it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but hoping to create a community that during it’s build out and maturation gains better transit service is reasonable. Many of our master planned communities take decades to fill out – developers build in phases, and lots are sold of to builders over long periods. So as the build-out happens, perhaps transit becomes more frequent and the service day gets longer. Perhaps new road connections are finished during built out and new lines are possible. This clearly takes an understanding of the geometry of transit, at the regional and local level, and a commitment to spending money to provide decent service.

    High-capacity transit – how much is that a dramatic need in North America? There is a clear need in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, NYC and others for more transit capacity. Some of these places are running subways every 2 minutes in the downtown core, and still not keeping up with demand. So you have downtown cores and inner cities with high-capacity, rapid transit, but a need for even more high-capacity transit. These needs generally go unmet – the 2nd Avenue line in NYC was an idea for decades and only 1 phase is open. The Downtown Relief line in Toronto is still just an idea – nothing has moved past a concept phase and there is certainly no funding. I guess my thought is many of the areas needing high-capacity transit (whether the particular solution is a full metro, robust BRT or LRT) are places where people would have had to identify a need a long time ago. There are solutions in these very dense, built out areas, but they require going underground (extremely expensive), acquiring surface right-of-ways (expensive and disruptive) or taking road space and dedicating it for transit (challenging to implement).

    The really challenging places seem to be where it is tough to provide direct transit service of any type – places with poor road connectivity. These places are often low density and have a poor mix of uses. Much of our post-war suburbs doesn’t generate much transit demand. Does North America have many suburban areas where the major problem is building high-capacity transit? Or is the major problem simply making reasonable bus service attractive and cost-efficient? Those aren’t rhetorical questions. I’m truly wondering if outside of the central neighoubrhoods of a few big cities, are there very many places that generate high transit demand?

  7. Randall April 27, 2018 at 9:35 am #

    I think we’re in the territory of semantic confusion.

    Consider an example, Vancouver BC: Decent regional transit (i.e. a fairly reliable and very expensive Skytrain system that links sprawling suburbs and exurbs to the city), and barely mediocre (I’m being polite) in-city transit consisting of a mix of electrified and diesel buses that move people around neighbourhoods.

    When Chuck says transit and Jarrett says transit, I get the sense that the discussion is about two different patterns, just like in Vancouver. The “Jarrett narrative” rhymes with rights-of-way and high capacity inter-urban systems between major development areas. The kind of large transit project that makes transit planners and consultants giddy (to the extent that they benefit from consulting fees). The “Chuck narrative” is about transit in-place . The kind of hyper-local transit that connects adjacent neighbourhoods and that a city resident would use every day to conduct their affairs in their city. Not mega budget and not “sexy”.

    And, most importantly, this latter form of transit is what makes a strong town Strong. Planners who find the places that already have people moving about them and then make that movement easier in an incremental and pragmatic way that reinforces neighbourhood bonds are acting in the Strong Towns spirit. Move people “just fast enough and just far enough”.

    • Jarrett Walker April 27, 2018 at 5:56 pm #


      But Jarrett spends most of his time designing bus systems, which is exactly what “a city resident would use every day to conduct their affairs in the city. Not mega budget and not sexy.”

      Thing is, even that kind of transit has to be thought about when development is designed, because it’s very easy to lay things out so that efficient transit, of any scale, is impossible. In fact, it’s being done all the time.

  8. Ken April 27, 2018 at 12:10 pm #

    Let’s try to define DOT: Frequent, all-day service, every day if the week, connecting to many destinations, that is attractive for a variety trip purposes and lengths. Vehicles, regardless of mode, are clean, quiet, with preference over auto traffic.?Stops and stations are attractive and widely-spaced with safe, direct and attractive accessibility. A welcoming and relevant choice for a livable lifestyle”

  9. Jonathan April 27, 2018 at 9:32 pm #

    I just want to say that for my money, Jarrett Walker and Charles Marohn are the two most articulate, levelheaded individuals in the transit/urbanism blogosphere. It makes me happy that you two know each other, since you both do a lot to promote sanity in a world increasingly intent on dividing itself up into factions. Keep being excellent!

  10. Jeffrey Klein April 28, 2018 at 11:26 am #

    It seems there has to be a certain back and forth that goes on between transit planning and incrimental organic growth.

    But the kind of “transit oriented development” that Chuck paints in a negative light most certainly exists. It’s a vestige of the kind of transit that was planned in the 1980s -1990s, plans that we’re still often working on implementing, that prioritize the movement of suburban communters into the city at great expense while there’s nothing on the table for simple improvements in busses that would dramatically help actual existing users in actual urban places.

    This planning is speculative in that it chases new riders who are difficult to impress because they exist in a car-friendly world: the infrastructure has been put in place for them and they are sufficiently well-off that their car commutes are incredibly comfortable. I want vastly more transit ridership, but that’s a consequence of building places with land use that supports it, not chasing suburban park and riders with wifi-enabled buses.

    I know it exists because my city, Minneapolis, currently has planned not one but two $2B light rail lines that dead-end in corn fields. This, I think, goes way beyond the push and pull needed to have advance transit planning before it’s too difficult. This is sprawl by way of transit, and transit planners actually are doing it.

  11. Jeffrey Kirton April 28, 2018 at 12:14 pm #

    Allow me to propose a third way of looking at the question of DOT.

    Before ever reading about it, the word “development oriented transit” has organically crossed my mind.

    It came when thinking of this type of example:
    Picture a shopping big mall with large surface parking areas that is located in inner ring suburbs, built just after WWII. The catchment area isn’t dense, but the street pattern is fairly connected and has direct routes to downtown.

    Current density doesn’t justify any type of BRT line (although it’s on the cusp), there’s a bus line connecting to downtown but it is low frequency and commute times would be double of those taking a car.

    Now, let’s say a developer retrofits the mall into a dense mixed-use community with a couple thousand residents (and jobs to create a two-way commuter flow).
    To me… this Development would be enough to Orient the Transit (planners/politicians) into building a bus rapid transit line to this area.

    Large scale developments built along a potential brt/lrt line (but one that doesn’t yet have the demand to justify its construction) could spur the development of a brt/lrt line.

  12. Dan Allison April 28, 2018 at 8:22 pm #

    I think the whole transit and development question would be greatly simplified if we simply stopped doing greenfield development, and then we’d need no transit to greenfield development. We have plenty enough space within the existing footprint of cities/suburbs that we don’t need, and should not build, one more acre of greenfield development, anywhere, ever.

    • el_slapper April 30, 2018 at 4:44 am #

      Maybe true in the USA. Certainly not in most parts of Europe. At least not here in Montpellier, Hérault. Cities are already dense, and when you need to grow, you need to go for more greenfield.

      It’s sometimes dense, like my new home(not as luxuous as it seems on the website, of course) : http://www.cogim.eu/residence-luminescence/

      if you look at the second image(“un cadre unique”), you’ll notice a park. This park can’t be built. It’s a necessary evil : the town is prone to flooding, and needs deep parks like this one. They are currently digging the part next to my home right now, and they are improving the water circulation in the likely event of a flood there.

      The next step of city’s development is the dense buildings you see at the very top of the same image(on the third image, the plan, it’s where it’s written “direction les plages”). Dense buildings again, surrounding the already existing tram station. Right now, there are exactly 2 houses, and former fields invaded by wild plants. Will be 1800 flats, 28,000 sqm of commercial area and offices, 4,700sqm of state structures.

      Once again, Montpellier is surrounded by either other towns(especially to the North), of hills you can’t build on(especially between Montpellier and Saint-Jean de Védas), and all ther rest is already build. The former vineyards in the south-east are the last area that is still buildable.

      What is also done, and should not be, is individual housing in the countryside, that sprawls endlessly, eating valuable arable land(grapes in the area are crap, but apricots are great) in great numbers, and making transports a nightmare. It’s driven by the unrealistic dream of many people who dream of having their own garden(and are too lazy to tend it properly, if at all). those people vot for more dispersed houses, get them, and then protest that transport to their house in the middle of the swamps(to the East is the Delta de Camargue, a labyrinth of swamps beginning to be invaded by sparse housing. a shame) is shitty.

      if you target only the second kind of greenfield development, I agree with you. The first kind, with already working(and working well) mass transit(initially built for linking the southern towns of Pérols and Lattes), and massive density, is unavoidable IMHO in a quickly-developping city as Montpellier. We speak of a city of 250,000 inhabitants, nearly 500,000 counting the suburbs, and that grows by 8,000 inhabitants a year.

  13. Kevin Love April 30, 2018 at 1:28 pm #

    Dear Jarrett,

    The West Village Apartments that you link to in Davis California are right next to the University. I presume that the plan is that the people who live there will have their transportation needs provided by bicycle. From that point of view it is very well situated indeed.

    Yours truly,

    Kevin Love

    • Begonia May 3, 2018 at 1:07 pm #


      From my point of view (bicyclist, former transit planner, current bike/ped planner), the site was developed wrong.

      The “city center” of the West Village Apartments, with the highest densities should be on the south edge, by the south-most roundabout. It would make sense to run an E-W bus along Hutchison Drive that would serve the University and, eventually, new developments to the west (along Hutchison Drive). It does NOT make sense to deviate that bus route north into the “city center area” the developers created. People hate riding those kinds of routes.

      Eventually, I hope, Arthur Street will punch through the north end of the development, and the current bus route on Arther Street can be extended down.

      Leaving aside questions of how the site was developed, I hope that Davis fixes that freeway interchange so it’s more bike friendly. I would hate to be pedaling through that half-cloverleaf interchange with my kid in a bike trailer on the way to daycare before work.

      • Dorian May 6, 2018 at 10:00 am #

        Out of luck! the plans actually call for emergency access links, not roadway links for buses. (Presumably pedestrians could use the emergency access links).


        ^ page 5 shows the plans. essentially there will be a “transit green” I assume dedicated bus lane through a park which makes a dead-end in the center of the development..

        at least today though, this development gets a frequent bus every 15 minutes (though it might not be very economical for the transit agency). Unitrans V Line

        Yet another example of such a village as Jarrett outlined is in San Jose though, closer to home.


        communications hill… gosh

        not even a bus. not once an hour, nothing (of course this would be coverage and not ridership). It’s too far from anything and you end up with a grid of apartments densely packed with no transit at all. Probably does not make sense for the VTA in ridership terms.

  14. Sam May 1, 2018 at 10:32 am #

    Two of my favorite TODs in places that can’t possibly be served efficiently by transit are in Iowa City. The first is in a dead end peninsula behind a golf course and the second is the new (also dead end) suburban transit station a mile and a half off the main suburban strip. Both involve a lot of empty buses.

  15. Jack Whisner May 1, 2018 at 4:28 pm #

    Pedestrian oriented development is great. The main objective of transit is to extend the range (liberty, freedome, or access) of pedestrians.

  16. albaby May 2, 2018 at 10:02 am #

    I think that this difference of terminology reflects a disagreement on what part of the transit/development relationship ought to be given priority when conflicts arise.

    Both sides probably agree that transit, and the development it serves, should be designed to be compatible with each other. The question is – which should bend towards the other? Should we change the way we live and work to make things easier (ie. more efficient) for the transit network, at some opportunity cost to be born on the developed environment? Or should we change the transit network to accommodate how we have developed/will develop the built environment, even if that means that the transit system may be more costly to build or operate?

    IOW – Should we design our cities around the transportation network, or design the transportation network around our cities?

    That’s obviously a falsely binary choice, but implicit in the TOD v. DOT question is the assumption that we can definitely lean towards one side more than the other. Marohn (I suspect) leans towards the latter – that where we have to make choices, we should emphasize designing the transportation network to meet the needs of what we want in the city, rather than changing what we think is good about a city to make the transit work better.


  17. Brent May 2, 2018 at 2:31 pm #

    I confess to only having heard “development-oriented transit” in a derogatory sense. As in, an agency has urgent transit needs in a traditionally transit-supportive area, but instead is building a high-priced, gold-plated fixed-route line to an un- or under-developed site because (a) it has promise of development at some point in the future (that ultimately end up getting scaled back), and (b) developers or landowners have well-placed political connections that let that project “jump the queue” and/or cause it to be scaled up to a sexier, more expensive technology.