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.
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.
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.