Transit Oriented Development is Not Just for Urban Cores
TOD toolkit a useful guide for all communities


February 27, 2020: Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is a hot buzzword in the planning field – but what does it actually look like and mean? If images of mixed-use buildings with a light rail train passing by come to mind, that’s not wrong, but TOD does go beyond some of those first assumptions and is useful to more than just urban cores.  

TOD is a result of several different policy and planning strategies. While planning for their own growth and future transportation investments, the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento took on the challenge of identifying key policies and strategies and developed a Transit Oriented Development Toolkit for other jurisdictions and communities to build off of and incorporate into their own planning processes.  

The toolkit goes over key themes for fulfilling TOD, which include zoning and land use planning, infrastructure studies and financing plans, design guidelines, gentrification/displacement, public outreach, and development incentives and streamlining. These key themes are implementable across community types and can help address infill needs at various density levels.  

An important section of the toolkit is the gentrification and displacement policies and strategy recommendations that focus on preventing displacement while building social capacity. Building social capacity in anticipation of gentrification can reduce the amount of displacement that could follow. Social capacity building begins with understanding the socioeconomic and culture of the existing community and could look like work-force development that allows residents to gain the skills incoming businesses are looking for. It could also look like providing services, local business support, and economic development focused on low-income groups.  It is important to establish social capacity efforts in anticipation of the changes to come and establish anti-displacement policies in advance of project implementation, and not as an afterthought, when it is often too late.  

Additionally, all jurisdictions can gain from the strategies that are under the infrastructure studies and financing plans section. Planning is about envisioning the future, and at its core, infrastructure such as sewage, electricity, and roads. A key guiding principle is to “identify the infrastructure improvements upfront that are needed to accommodate future development to provide communities with the information to determine their potential costs and to prioritize improvements.” It’s planning for how the community grows, and ultimately the investment in infrastructure should support the land use patterns, and land use should support the investments.  

This toolkit provides many guiding principles that go beyond traditional ideas of TOD and can help cities of all sizes and community types grow more sustainably and provide higher quality of life for their residents.  

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