Transit-Oriented Development


Transit-Oriented Development

At a Glance

Type: Development type
Where tool is used: Downtowns/transit corridors
Timeline: Medium-term
Who implements: Developers
Relative density impact: High

Trestle Glen transit

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is a development pattern that integrates residential and commercial uses with other amenities located within a half-mile of high-capacity public transit.1 TOD is most commonly located near fixed-rail transit, such as BART, Caltrain, and light rail. Projects often include one or two floors of retail or office space with residential units above.

The key benefits of TOD include reduced reliance on single-occupancy vehicles, and corresponding reductions in household spending on transportation (car ownership and fuel costs), traffic congestion, and pollution. With transportation as the second largest expenditure in the average household’s budget (after housing), reducing transportation costs allows households to save or spend that money for other purposes.

As demand for walkable and transit-accessible development grows, large employers are increasingly turning away from office parks in favor of locating near transit stations. Transit-accessibility is increasingly an employee recruitment and retention tool.

TODs often face significant opposition and challenges in the planning and development phases. These barriers include zoning ordinances that limit density and require large amounts of parking, community opposition to high-density development, and higher land values near transit that make TOD more costly and complex than traditional single-use development on undeveloped land. Due to their prime location, higher land costs, and new construction costs, new TOD projects typically have higher rents or home prices than comparable properties in other locations. Including a proportion of affordable units, whether through an inclusionary housing policy or other means, is critical to ensuring that TOD contributes to overall housing affordability.

With 18 BART and Caltrain stations, TOD projects have increased throughout San Mateo County. In recent years, many cities in the County have adopted new specific or precise plans for their downtowns that emphasize higher-density residential and commercial development near stations, and projects such as Bay Meadows in San Mateo and Radius apartments in Redwood City have gone up.

icon_benefits-orange Key Benefits

TOD can provide the following benefits:

  • Accommodating residential growth more efficiently due to higher densities and transit proximity.
  • Promoting walkability and active transportation in transportation corridors and downtowns.
  • Increasing transit ridership and fare revenue.
  • Supporting local economic activity by increasing the population, foot traffic, and local spending in transit-oriented districts.
  • Improving access to jobs and services, especially for low-income households, seniors, residents with limited mobility, and households with no or limited access to a car.
  • Enabling residents to save money on transportation costs, and reduce or eliminate dependency on cars, freeing up income for other purposes.

icon_community-orange Community Considerations

  • To best support transit service and maximize the value of land near transit, TODs should be developed at the maximum allowable density.
  • Parking policies in transit station areas must be developed carefully to support development opportunities. High parking requirements in transit areas are a significant barrier to creating viable transit-oriented developments.

icon_engage-orangeCommunity Engagement Strategies

  • Educate your community: Demonstrate how higher-density TOD makes other amenities possible: additional cafes and restaurants, streetscape improvements, public spaces, etc.
  • Engage your community in-person: Host “TOD tours” to enable community members to see the finished products.
  • Promote success stories in your community: Profile residents of TOD projects who can speak to the benefits of living close to transit, jobs, services, and amenities.