15.7 Urban Design: Transit Oriented Development

Author: Olivia Miller

ABSTRACT: One of the most significant steps to reducing a city’s carbon footprint is to minimize the number of cars on the road. This has proven effective in cities like New York where there is an increasingly large population, yet the city’s carbon emissions are nowhere near proportional to its population. This is due to the great use of public transit and other forms of transportation such as cycling and walking (Owen, 2011). How can this transit oriented structure be implemented into other big cities to reduce emissions?

Image: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)


Transit oriented development (TOD) focuses efforts on creating cities based on efficient and low carbon modes of transport such as biking, walking, and public transit. Through thoughtful design, TOD has the power to develop cities that emphasize sustainable living and most importantly cities that encourage moving away from the use of cars and shift toward a more efficient long-lasting transit plan (Alter, 2021). There are eight principles involved in transit-oriented development: walk, cycle, connect, transit, mix, densify, compact, shift.

The emphasis on walking and cycling is easily understood and easily implemented. For short distances and weather permitting, these two modes of transport are incredibly effective as they are not dependent on much other than requiring a certain amount of physical effort. The principle of connecting ties into the two prior ones as it is essential that the community to be accessible for walkers and cyclers ensuring multiple routes and access to other forms of transit. The fourth principle of TOD is transit. The ideal use of public transport in a transit-oriented city is to have many stations all around to promote movement between stations rather than just moving people from one side of the city to another. TOD suggests every station be no more than 1 kilometre apart (Alter, 2021).

Next is the principle of mix which explains that if there is a wide range of activities and placed within one community such as residential, commercial, retail, etc. this will result in people having to travel less. The proximity of these varied establishments allows for essentially everything to be available at a walking or cycling distance. The sixth principle of transit-oriented development is densify which explains that a densely populated area creates a demand for these mixed establishments while giving people access to these goods and services in close proximity. Along the same lines of this idea is the principles of compact. Creating compact urban cities ensures that everyone live close to all their daily necessities such as schools and jobs which drastically reduces the need for daily long-distance travel that requires cars.

Finally, the eighth principle of transit-oriented development is shift, which is by far the most complex concept because it requires physical re-allocation of space. Shift’s goal is to reclaim the spaces that were once used for cars such as roads and parking lots which would no longer be needed in a TOD city and transform them into urban spaces for the community (Alter, 2021). Transit-oriented development’s goal of creating thoughtfully designed cities that offer easy access to low carbon modes of transport and have all necessities accessible for residents in a close proximity is an efficient way to generate more sustainable lifestyles. The eight principles must all work together to establish a solid foundation for permanent change in the way we all live.


Alter, L. (2021). Transit Oriented Development Is the Key to Better Cities. Retrieved 27 March 2021, from https://www.treehugger.com/transit-oriented-development-key-better-cities-4858210

Image from https://www.itdp.org/library/standards-and-guides/tod3-0/what-is-tod/

Owen, D. (2011). Green metropolis: Why living smaller, living closer, and driving less are the keys to sustainability. In Green metropolis: Why living smaller, living closer, and driving less are the keys to sustainability (pp. 3-11). London: Penguin.


Olivia Miller is a fourth year Fashion Communications student who currently lives in Toronto. She hopes to take her knowledge from her time at Ryerson and work toward creating more sustainability in the fashion industry as well as in other fields of design.

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