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Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) has emerged as a popular urban planning concept, aiming to create sustainable and livable communities centered around public transportation systems. Although TOD has a rich historical background and offers numerous benefits, it is essential to understand its principles and potential drawbacks.
The Roots of Transit-Oriented Development
The idea of TOD is not new; it has historical roots dating back thousands of years when people naturally gathered around heavily trafficked corridors and nodes for practical reasons. However, the modern sense of TOD can be traced back to Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City movement in England during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Howard envisioned clusters of planned communities connected by roads and rail lines, seeking to address the issues of overcrowded and problematic cities at the time.
TOD gained momentum in the mid-20th century, responding to the sprawl caused by the automobile. Rising oil prices, concerns about air pollution, and traffic congestion prompted renewed interest in creating compact, walkable communities centered around public transit. The 1980s and 1990s saw the widespread adoption of TOD principles, championed by urban designer Peter Calthorpe, who helped establish it as a mainstream approach to urban planning.
Understanding Transit-Oriented Development
At its core, TOD emphasizes the development of compact, high-density, walkable, and mixed-use communities centered around transportation nodes and corridors. Its principles aim to promote sustainability, reduce dependency on cars, and foster a sense of community. TOD offers a variety of benefits and challenges, which we will explore in the following sections.
Benefits of Transit-Oriented Development
- Improved Public Transportation: TOD encourages greater use of public transit, leading to reduced traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, promoting a more sustainable urban environment.
- Increased Access to Jobs and Services: By locating residential areas close to transit hubs, TOD allows residents to access jobs, education, healthcare, and other essential services conveniently.
- Increased Affordability: Compact and mixed-use developments can offer more affordable housing options, providing a range of housing choices for residents of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Improved Health: Walkable neighborhoods in TODs encourage physical activity, leading to better public health outcomes and reduced instances of chronic diseases.
- Environmental Benefits: By reducing automobile reliance and promoting sustainable practices, TOD can help combat climate change and preserve natural resources.
Drawbacks and Challenges of Transit-Oriented Development
- Decreased Affordability and Property Values: The increased demand for housing in TOD areas may lead to rising property values and rental costs, potentially displacing existing low-income residents.
- Displacement of Marginalized Communities: Gentrification can occur in TOD neighborhoods, pushing out long-time residents and causing social and economic disruptions.
- Social and Cultural Homogenization: The emphasis on mixed-use developments might inadvertently lead to the homogenization of local cultures and businesses, eroding the unique character of the community.
- Increased Pressure on Infrastructure: High-density developments can strain existing infrastructure, such as transportation networks, water, and sanitation systems, necessitating costly upgrades.
- Unequal Distribution of Benefits: Without inclusive planning and involvement of all stakeholders, the benefits of TOD might disproportionately favor certain segments of the population.
Transit-Oriented Development presents an innovative and promising approach to urban planning, emphasizing sustainable, walkable, and mixed-use communities centred around public transportation. While it offers numerous benefits, including improved public transit, increased accessibility, and environmental advantages, TOD also poses significant challenges. To harness its full potential and ensure equitable outcomes, urban planners and policymakers must engage all stakeholders, address issues of affordability and displacement, and design context-specific solutions. By doing so, we can create vibrant and inclusive communities that stand the test of time.
With files from Erick Villagomez, from the original article in Spacing Vancouver, 24-July-2023 (http://spacing.ca/vancouver/2023/07/24/s101s-explaining-trainsit-oriented-development-benefits-and-drawbacks/)
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