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Transit Oriented Development

Conflicting urban forms

Urban form which is well suited to movement and access by public transport (including the ability to walk to stations and stops) has to be compact. The urban layout will need to be of a reasonable density and be configured in a combination of corridors and nodes. Urban form designed to cater for car movement and access is the opposite: dispersed activities without significant density. 

The way to go

Development should be configured so that its occupiers can conveniently use public transport (transit).


Our towns and cities developed first with access on foot and with assistance from animals. They spread further with motorised public transport, and the resulting urban structure was mostly compatible with travel by rail, tram and bus. The relationship of the urban form to the transport mode was to a large extent self regulating, and it was not necessary to control the way places were developed. It was the coming of individual motorised transport (the car) that upset this relationship. It became necessary to choose between an urban form that provided well for the car, and a form that enabled people to get about on foot or by public transport.

In north America, the urban structures that support public transport (transit) were rapidly eroded from the 1950s onwards, aided and abetted by the scandalous destruction of the streetcar (tram) systems by oil and tyre compainies.

Problems resulting from sprawling suburbs that are reliant on the car have increasingly been acknowledged in since the latter decades of the 20th century, which led to the promotion by some of  "Transit Oriented Development" and the spatial concepts that it encapsulates. It is nothing new, it had just been swept aside for half a century.

Thankfully, more compact and corridor-based urban structures have survived in many European cities, which explains their much higher public transport mode share than in most north American cities.

Argument(s)Transit Oriented Development (so much neater than "Public Transport Oriented Development") is diametrically opposite to "Car Oriented Development". Urban structures cannot be optimised for both car and public transport.
Protagonist(s)Peter Calthorpe, Peter Newman, Wendy Morris, Peter Hall, Tim Pharoah, many others


Transit, public transport, America, urban form, Transit oriented development, public transport, TOD, PTOD