Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)

Transit’s Role in “Sprawl Repair”

Duany Plater-Zyberk, one of the leading planning firms associated with New Urbanism, is thinking about “sprawl repair,” a process by which utterly car-dependent landscapes could be transformed into something more walkable, and thus more resilient.  Galina Tachieva of DPZ has an article explaining the concept at Planetizen.  Continue Reading →

The Perils of Average Density

In his 2010 book Transport for Suburbia, Paul Mees notices a fallacy that seems to be shared by sustainable transport advocates and car advocates.  Both sides of this great debate agree that effective transit requires high density.

Sustainability advocates want higher urban densities for a range of reasons, but viability of public transit is certainly one of them.  Meanwhile, advocates of car-dominance want to argue that existing low densities are a fact of life; since transit needs high density, they say, there’s just no point in investing in transit for those areas, so it’s best to go on planning for the dominance of cars.  Continue Reading →

Can Local Buses “Stimulate” Development?

One of the troubling side-effects of the streetcar revival movement in North America is that streetcar advocates often need to argue that buses don’t stimulate development, whereas streetcars really do.  But now and then someone says something like this:

Now, in Seattle, I picked my current apartment in large part because it was right next to a trolleybus (the 44).

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Learning, Again, From Las Vegas

Tired of arguing about streetcars?  Let’s take a break and talk about something we’re more likely to agree on — Las Vegas!

While the city plays a crucial role in American culture as a test-site for exotic street names, I suspect we’d mostly agree that it’s not going to be a leader in sustainable urban form anytime soon. While the grid pattern of the city has some advantages (more on grids soon), Las Vegas has a particularly bad habit of building blocks of apartments in places where efficient transit will never be able to serve them and where basic commercial needs are still too far to walk. Thus achieving all of density’s disadvantages and none of its benefits.

But there are surprises.  I just completed my annual trip to Las Vegas, to see family there, and thought I’d update this 2007 item from my personal blog about this capital of churn:

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Be on the Way

Botw 3 One of the problems with discussions of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is that the term sounds much too specialized.  We hear talk of TODs as a special class of developments with special requirements and possibilities, and perhaps requiring special expertise.  We often hear that a certain development is or isn’t aTOD, as though transit-orientation were not — as it obviously is — a matter of degree.

Moreover, most of the urban development decisions that will determine the future viability of transit are not decisions about TODs.  Most of them are not even conscious decisions about transit.  The literature of “how to build TODs” is useless in these situations.  What people need are simple guidelines about transit that they can keep in the back of their minds, and on their checklists, as they plan ALL kinds of urban development.  The same principles could help institutions and individuals decide where to locate.

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