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:
- Reduces energy use and conserves future energy use by reducing the reliance on individual automobiles;
- Provides transportation choices for residents;
- Recognizes the direct relationship between land use and transit;
- Provides a greater ridership potential for transit;
- Assists transportation providers in targeting future services and stops;
- Reduces dependence on the automobile, particularly for the non-driving population;
- Reduces the amount of required new infrastructure, such as sewer, water and road facilities;
- Reflects early 20th Century town patterns, characteristic of Chester County's heritage and provides an alternative to conventional "sprawl" development;
- Could be paired with Transferable Development Rights programs to direct growth out of rural areas and into areas better served by infrastructure;
- Promotes opportunities for public transit services through compact development; and
- Encourages a sense of community.
The following limitations may be associated with Transit Oriented Development:
- The municipality must be currently served by or have the commitment for public transit services;
- TODs may require significant revisions to most municipal land use ordinances;
- Acceptance of a compact, mixed land use pattern may be difficult to achieve;
- TODs may require public infrastructure such as sewer and water;
- TODs are best implemented with a single, master, coordinated plan; and TODs
- May require inter-municipal cooperation.
How To Use This Tool
Municipalities considering Transit Oriented Developments should follow these steps:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- "Anchor" in the center. The central feature of the TOD is the transit stop, station or terminal. Supporting land uses could include a retail store, post office, entertainment center, or another important place where people will congregate. When busses represent the primary transit opportunity, sufficient clearances and pull-offs should be integrated into the development's design.
- Service Area and Size. TODs feature sizes similar to villages and a one-quarter mile distance equates to approximately a 5 to 10 minute walk; this should represent the distance from the TOD core to its edge.
- Mixed land uses. TODs combine a variety of land uses including residential areas, commercial areas, institutions and office areas. First floors can contain retail land uses while residences can occupy upper floors. Non-residential land uses typically are located closest to the core of the TOD.
- Street network. TODs include organized blocks and patterns of lots and alleys that allow for a flexible circulation pattern that often includes street vistas that terminate with public space or public buildings.
- Sidewalks and pedestrian amenities. Walking in safe surroundings should be encouraged in the TOD, as well as provisions for bicycles.
- On-street parking. Parked cars provide a buffer between vehicles moving on the streets and pedestrians on sidewalks, and also create a traffic calming effect. Overflow parking areas should be located to the rear and sides of buildings, often accessed through service lanes and alleys. Garages should be located to the rear of buildings to preserve the streetscape.
- Shallow lot setbacks. Pedestrian activity can be accommodated best by placing structures close to the road. Building fronts should generally be not more than 60"80' across each side of the road because this encourages a human-scale design.
- Context. Surrounding areas should be developed at compatible densities or appropriate transitional areas (such as open space) should be used to separate the TOD from incompatible land uses.
- Minimum area. The TOD ordinance should establish a minimum tract area that can support the elements of a successful design. The minimum tract area will depend on the overall density of the development and its anticipated transit demands.
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.
- Willistown Township's "TD" Transportation District is an example of a TOD that is located in the Paoli area.
- The areas of Paoli and Berwyn are excellent examples of TOD-type development patterns in Chester County. These communities developed along the "Main Line" rail corridor, now served by SEPTA and Amtrak. Both transit service and land use patterns have been influenced by each other and successfully co-exist.