Transit Oriented Development (TOD)

A transit-oriented development (TOD) is a mixed use, walkable neighborhood located within a quarter mile of a transit stop or station and is designed to encourage the use of public transit. These developments use a compact, village-like land use pattern that mixes residential and local-scale retail and commercial land uses at densities that are typically higher than found in conventional suburban development.

TODs are similar in some respects to traditional neighborhood developments. Higher intensity land uses are located near the transit facility, with decreasing densities as distance from the facility increases. The proper siting of development pattern in proximity to transit systems is crucial for successful TOD projects. Commuter rail lines, bus routes, and the County's major arterial highways are good candidates for considering this design.


Transit Oriented Development offers the following benefits:


The following limitations may be associated with Transit Oriented Development:

How To Use This Tool

Municipal Inventory

Municipalities considering Transit Oriented Developments should follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate Community Policy and Support: The municipality should review its comprehensive plan to determine whether the principles of TOD are supported by the community. If the community supports the concept, the municipality should establish any additional policies that may be necessary, such as promoting more dense development patterns.
  2. Community Profile: The municipality should determine how the TOD concept can fit within the community's character and can be appropriately supported by public transit infrastructure and by municipal services. The municipality should determine whether there is adequate access to utilities and transportation facilities for potential TODs. Can potential TODs be placed near compatible land uses? Can other municipal services such as recreational areas, schools and open spaces be provided?
  3. Designate Transit Corridor: Transit corridors include commuter lines and major highways which have existing bus service or have been planned for such service by a transit provider. The amount and type of development as well as the amount of vacant land within one-quarter mile of either side of the highway should be considered.
  4. Municipal Ordinance Review: After completing the previous steps, the municipality should evaluate its current zoning and subdivision regulations to determine how TOD can be integrated into the municipality's ordinances, and also identify any provisions that may complicate or preclude appropriate TOD designs. Zoning and subdivision regulations should support TOD-type developments with at least six units per acre, and permit a mix of land uses.
  5. Ordinance Mapping: Identifying appropriate location(s) for a TODs is important. TODs should be adjacent to public transportation networks, an also near but not necessarily fronting on major highways and the collector road network. Unlike traditional neighborhood developments, TODs should generally be permitted as a fixed zoning district due to their dependence on the transportation network although they can be created as overlay districts that can be anchored along proposed transit routes.
  6. Ordinance Revisions: Zoning and subdivision and land development ordinances should be amended to support TOD, which should be offered as a "by-right" land use, with specific standards for land uses, density and designs. For example, lots as small as 7,500 square feet (or smaller) should be encouraged. Standards such as "build-to" lines instead of deep yard setbacks should be included to encourage structures to be located near roadways and to define street space and a "sense of place". Mixed uses that would be appropriate near transit facilities should also be encouraged, such as restaurants and coffee shops. Ordinances should also ensure safe provisions for non-motorized vehicles such as bicycles and pedestrian movement.
  7. Partner with Transit Providers: The municipality should consider joining with a transit provider, the business community, developers, and others to establish an integrated TOD that serves all users and investors.

Common Design Elements

Transit Oriented Developments typically reflect the following design elements:

Legal Basis

The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, Act 247, Section 619, enables municipalities to establish land use policies through the comprehensive plan and land use controls such zoning and subdivision and land development, which can accommodate Transit Oriented Developments. The Official Map, as provided in Article IV of the Municipalities Planning Code, can help establish the road network and infrastructure rights-of-way needed for TODs.


Related Tools

Landscapes2 Relevance

TODs provide the opportunity to live, work, and shop in proximity without the need to rely on the automobile for all modes of travel. The close and convenient access to public transit allows for higher density development, reduces space needed for parking, and promotes non-motorized travel. Landscapes2 policies encourage TODs in appropriate landscapes by promoting land use diversity, density, and design that supports public transit services. Landscapes2 specifically recommends linking land use and transportation elements, and supports the improvement of the inter-modal transportation network.

This tool also promotes energy conservation by reducing the reliance on individual automobiles, which is consistent with one of the primary objectives of Landscapes2 as expressed in Objective EC 1: Reducing Demand and Consumption, seeks to "Promote energy conservation that reduces demand by individual consumers, the county, and other public and private entities."