Encouraging Transit Villages
What is transit-oriented development (TOD)?
What’s a transit village and why would we want one here? A transit village, often called transit-oriented development or TOD, is a district with frequent public transit, taller buildings, a mix of commercial and residential, and a lot of people walking. In other words, it looks a lot like an older downtown or neighborhood shopping district built before 1940.
In a transit village decisions about density, building heights, street design, sidewalk widths, crosswalks, flow of traffic and parking are made with the intent of encouraging people to walk and use public transit rather than giving priority to cars. Although cars are the fastest to get around most suburban areas, once traffic reaches a certain level the cars become part of the problem and getting people away from driving becomes part of the solution.
The basic idea behind a transit village is that for buses, light rail and subways to be convenient for riders, they must run frequently. In order to run frequently, they need to have a lot of passengers going to the same place. Higher density areas have more destinations, drawing more passengers and therefore making more frequent transit economically feasible for the transit agency and more convenient for the people using it.
Studies have found that people who live in transit villages use their cars less and walk and take public transit more. This more urban lifestyle is attractive to a lot of people, although not to everyone, of course. Although conventional wisdom tells us that you have to have a car to live in Los Angeles, one in six households in the City have no car at all. A transit village would be a smart choice for the 57% of households in the City that have one or no car at all.
A transit village is not a one-size-fits-all model for development, but rather a way of coordinating our local land use and transportation planning so they re-enforce each other.
While support for smart growth and transit-oriented developments is growing, most developers still perceive these projects as high risk. By creating incentives for developers to build TOD and smart growth projects, cities and counties can help lower the risk for developers while encouraging efficient land use and the creation of urban transit villages.
Reducing the minimum parking requirements
or setting maximum parking requirements
around major transit stops lowers the construction costs of development. Less parking
also encourages transit use by making it less
convenient and more costly to drive. (See Rethinking
Increased density allows a developer to take
advantage of greater economies of scale. Allowing
higher densities near transit gives more people
easy access to transit from their home or work,
encouraging transit use. Creating compact,
pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods can also help
support neighborhood-serving local businesses.
Restricting car-oriented uses
Limiting businesses that generate a large number
of car trips or require significant amounts of
parking ensures that we put higher densities where it makes sense near major transit stops where people have workable alternatives to driving.
Location Efficient Mortgages
A "Location Efficient Mortgage" is a new type of
mortgage that rewards households with lower
transportation expenses by allowing them to
qualify for larger loan amounts. LEMs enable more
households to purchase a home while giving
incentives to live in areas that are well-served by
Property tax abatements
Oregon and Washington State allow cities and
counties to grant property tax abatements to
developers of higher-density, mixed-use, residential
developments to help with the creation of
affordable housing and transit villages.
Planning for transit villages
The State of California encourages TOD
development by offering various incentives
to cities and counties that adopt transit
City of Los Angeles
- Grants a 35% affordable housing
density bonus by right for
developments within 1,500 feet
of a major transit stop.
(Citywide Affordable Housing Incentives)
- Permits one parking space per unit for affordable housing
developments with 1,500 feet of
a major transit stop. (Citywide Affordable Housing Incentives)
- Allows 15% parking reduction
within 1,500 feet of Metro Rail
(Vermont/Hollywood Station Area
Los Angeles County
- Allows 40% parking
reduction for new
and 60% reduction for some
commercial and civic activities
in TOD districts established
around the Metro Blue Line
stations at Slauson, Florence,
Firestone and Imperial.
(Transit Oriented Districts)
City of Pasadena
The City of Pasadena is currently
considering a TOD ordinance that
would apply to development
within one-quarter mile of Metro
Gold Line stations and would:
- Prohibit non-transit-oriented uses,
including drive-thru businesses,
auto-repair and service stations,
car washes, warehouses
and public storage, and car
- Reduce minimum parking
requirements by 25% and
establish parking maximums for
both residential and commercial
Visit these websites to learn more about transit-oriented development: