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Transit Oriented Development

By Dan Zack, AICP, Downtown Development Coordinator

What is Transit Oriented Development?

Transit Oriented Development, or TOD, is basically what its name implies. It is development that located very close to transit stations and is designed to create a place where residents have easy access to quality transit service. Such neighborhoods are compact in size, pedestrian-friendly in design, can be customized to offer a wide variety of housing options, with convenient access to services, jobs, and plenty of ways to get around. Below is a more detailed description of the physical characteristics of TOD.

Higher Densities

The density of TOD neighborhoods is typically fairly high. This is due to the fact that higher densities, meaning many homes per acre, put more potential riders in close proximity to the transit station. Public transit is a big investment, and high densities help to ensure that that resource will be fully and efficiently utilized.

Located Within Walking Distance of the Transit Stop

The main goal of TOD is to encourage the residents to walk to the transit station as frequently as possible. In order for them to do this, they must be within walking distance. A quarter of a mile takes about 5 minutes to walk and is considered a very comfortable walking distance and most TOD should be located within ¼ mile to the transit station. For very high quality transit service, some people will walk up to 10 minutes, which means that TOD can be located up to ½ mile from the most significant transit stops.

Pedestrian Scaled Street Pattern

TOD must be laid out on an interconnected street grid. This provides pedestrians with direct routes to the station. The disconnected circuitous street patterns of suburbia unnecessarily lengthen walking trips and are not appropriate to TOD. It is not merely enough to be close to transit—the neighborhood must be connected to the transit.

Mixed Uses

In order to make the high densities of TOD enjoyable and convenient, transit oriented development should have a mix of uses. This means that there should not only be homes in the neighborhood. There should also be offices, shops, restaurants, and services—usually near the transit station—that the residents can use. This cuts down on the need for driving and parking, creates safe and lively streets, and also increases public safety by placing eyes on the street.

Does Redwood City Have Any TOD Yet?

Downtown Redwood City is the home to a station on the Caltrain line, which is a rail transit service that connects us to both San Francisco and San Jose. Transit oriented development has already been constructed near the Caltrain station, and the City and RDA Successor Agency are working hard to ensure that more is built in the future.

Three excellent, existing examples of TOD in Redwood City are City Centre Plaza (1999), Franklin Street Apartments (2002), and Montgomery Villa Apartments (2007). These developments are all within ½ mile of the Caltrain station, and are dense, mixed-use, and pedestrian-oriented. Architecturally they are very attractive, and they serve as excellent housing for Redwood City citizens.


The Downtown Precise Plan, approved in the spring of 2007, will create a very transit-oriented future for Downtown Redwood City. It calls for 2,500 new housing units in the Downtown area over the next several years, as well as more office, entertainment, and retail uses. All of this new development will be placed close to the Caltrain station and will be designed in a compact, walkable, well-connected manner, making Downtown Redwood City a showcase of transit-oriented development.

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