A recent concept that has gained considerable attention from decision makers is Transit Oriented Development (TOD). It promotes growth of medium density, mixed land use developments around transit hubs to reduce auto use. This essay evaluates the available literature on TOD in order to investigate its claims and potential for success in Southern California.
There is a demand for TOD among young professionals, childless couples and “empty-nesters.” However, the current residential preferences of Americans are for large, single-family lots in an auto-oriented community. TOD also faces difficulties in attracting and maintaining businesses. Local governments can provide an appealing environment for commercial investment in a TOD through improving sidewalks, infrastructure and providing tax breaks.
The effect density has on vehicle travel are unclear in the literature. Compact development could reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) from 20-30% compared with sprawled areas. To significantly reduce VMT, a TOD must connect to a quality transit system, have street connectivity, provide greater access to desirable locations and contain a diverse set of land uses. TODs also need to incorporate demand management practices such as maximum parking requirements and unbundling parking costs with housing costs.
The extent that TODs can alter the broader urban form is tentative at best. Residents are mainly self-selected to live there, and thus do not reflect the broader desires of Americans. TOD, therefore, cannot be expected to significantly decrease auto use on a large scale. The potential for TODs to reduce auto use or VMT in Southern California may be more limited than in other regions due to its built environment characteristics. However, there are certainly locations where TOD would be viable and attractive, but these locations would have to be evaluated at a site-specific scale.
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