Growing populations are prompting planners and local officials to rethink the way land is used in cities. Sustainability has become an important consideration in the planning of future urban areas, and one way to achieve that is through the application of transit-oriented development principles.

High-density development around High Park subway station in Toronto, image by Marcus Mitanis

Transit-oriented development (TOD) maximizes access to public transportation and discourages the use of private automobiles. It considers how to accommodate residential, office, and retail uses in compact developments that foster welcoming environments for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders. It asks how transit service can be integrated into the design of new developments. 

Hong Kong's Union Square is integrated with Kowloon Station, image by Flickr user Wilfredorrh via Creative Commons

A transit-oriented development neighbourhood typically features a transit stop at the centre that is surrounded by a dense built form with progressively lower-density development in the outlying regions. Transit-oriented developments are generally located within a 400- to 800-metre radius from the central transit stop. 

The Bridges in Calgary is one of Canada's best examples of transit-oriented development, image retrieved from Google Street View

Cities around the world are constantly developing strategic plans and policies that implement TOD principles. Numerous post-war neighbourhoods in Japan and across Europe were developed to be human scaled and pedestrian friendly, promoting cycling instead of driving. In North America, where automobile dependency is more common, there has been an innate struggle to craft an environment that stresses transit and walkability. Several cities are leading the charge though, particularly Portland, San Francisco, and Vancouver, which have each embarked on the creation of sustainable communities. 

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