Transit-oriented development

In the past 50 years most development in the United States has been oriented to the automobile. It's been a spread-out, low-density form of development that has largely ignored other forms of transportation, such as transit, biking and walking.

As a result, our society has become increasingly dependent on the automobileand we're suffering from greater traffic congestion, air pollution and reliance on foreign oil. In addition, many people are realizing that they don't like the "feel" of auto-oriented development. The ring road around the mall just doesn't give them the inviting, human-scale experience of a traditional Main Street.

The alternative to this automobile sprawl is transit-oriented development (TOD). According to urban planner Peter Calthorpe, "TOD is a mixed-use community within an average 2,000-foot walking distance of a transit stop and core commercial area. TODs mix residential, retail, office, open space, and public uses in a walkable environment, making it convenient for residents and employees to travel by transit, bicycle, foot, or car."

Calthorpe lists the following basic design principles for TOD:

  • Areas within walking distance of light rail or high frequency bus transit should contain a mix of moderate- to high-density residential, commercial and employment uses that create a place with a high degree of pedestrian activity and a focal point for transit trips.
  • Place commercial and civic uses next to transit stops so that a number of errands can be done with only one stop.
  • Provide multiple and direct street connections from neighborhoods to transit stops and local commercial destinations.
  • Design for pedestrians and transit, without excluding the auto.
  • Bring natural features into the urban area and connect to regional green spaces.

Benefits of TOD

These principles can be applied both to existing urban areas and to newly developing areas. Across the country, communities are realizing that TOD brings many benefits:

  • Increased transportation choices and access, especially for those without cars.
  • Reduction of traffic congestion, air pollution, and energy consumption.
  • Reduced need for costly road widenings.
  • Revitalization of compact urban communities and reduction of sprawl development.
  • Increased ability to manage growth by planning land use in relation to transit.

Exploring TOD opportunities in Cleveland

In past several years, a local group has been exploring how TOD concepts can be applied in Cleveland. The group has involved representatives from community development corporations, environmental groups, the business community, planning agencies and the Regional Transit Authority. EcoCity Cleveland has been facilitating.

To make TOD happen, there needs to be coordination of public transportation plans, community development projects and private investments. Indeed, one of the exciting aspects of TOD is the potential for new partnerships. The recent discussions are forcing all the groups involved to stretch their thinking about what's possible and what their role in the community should be. Neighborhood-based development groups, for example, are thinking about transit stops as development tools. And RTA is gaining a better appreciation of how Rapid Transit stops relate to the surrounding community.

For more information about local TOD efforts, contact EcoCity Cleveland's .



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EcoCity Cleveland
3500 Lorain Avenue, Suite 301, Cleveland OH 44113
Cuyahoga Bioregion
(216) 961-5020
Copyright 2002-2003

Cleveland's Shaker Square is a classic transit-oriented development, featuring a mix of shops, offices, and housing in a walkable environment with a light rail line running through the square.

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