Are TOD neighborhoods effective? true enough

TOD neighborhoods effective? True enough 0

An expression dear to urban planners, theTransit-oriented development, or TOD, approach is often presented as a panacea, as much for reducing urban sprawl and limiting car travel as for facilitating the use of public transport. Rightly and wrongly, nuance the Rumor Detector.

What is a TOD district?

Transit-oriented development(TOD), ordevelopment focused on public transport, is above all a way of articulating real estate development and the growth of cities around public transport. 

Projects labeled TOD are areas of medium to high population density (more than 40 dwellings per hectare) structured around train stations, metro stations and bus stops. 

< p>The inhabitants of these communities live within walking distance (less than 1km) of these mobility hubs, but also of shops, public spaces and other places of employment and services. 

An old concept

The TOD approach was created in the early 1990s by American urban planner Peter Calthorpe. The concept he then imagined is based on four fundamental principles. 

  • The growth of a city must first of all rely on the structuring axes of public transport. 
  • The city must naturally favor active transport thanks to densification and a mix of uses. 
  • It must be on a “ human scale ”, which means dotted with spaces numerous, varied and quality audiences. 
  • Its neighborhoods must be real places where life is good, and not just real estate projects. 

In fact, cities have essentially been built in this way through the history of humanity, for obvious reasons of efficiency, and this, until the middle of the 20th century. What changed things was the democratization of the automobile, which led to the explosion of the suburbs.

The TOD approach can therefore be perceived as bringing old principles up to date, with the aim of curbing the excesses caused by a recent car-based urban planning model. 

Very real benefits for TOD neighborhoods

In Quebec, the TOD vision is reflected in the urban planning of several municipalities, especially in the greater Montreal area. In 2015, the Metropolitan Community adopted a plan which provides that 60% of new households in its territory will be housed in TOD areas by 2031. 

A handful of real estate projects around the metropolis are already claiming development focused on public transit — the Pointe-Nord district in L'Île-des-Sœurs, the TOD at the Candiac station, etc. 

The TOD approach theoretically makes it possible to achieve several simultaneous objectives, particularly in terms of the environment. For example, the reduction in car trips in favor of those made by public transport – or for pedestrians and cyclists – obviously translates into a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an improvement in air quality.&nbsp ;

The impacts of this type of development have been the subject of at least 300 studies, according to a literature review published in 2020. It seems that the development of TOD neighborhoods results in an increase in the use of transport in common by neighborhood residents, as well as by an increase in real estate prices. We also talk about positive impacts on the economy, well-being, social interactions. However, as the ensuing densification can take years, these impacts sometimes take time to manifest or can be difficult for researchers to measure. 

Some criticisms

While several real estate developments claim the TOD label, not all meet stricto sensuto the criteria as defined by Calthorpe and the early thinkers. Urban planning choices, such as the proximity of a large shopping center, which generates car travel, have thus been criticized. 

Residential and commercial gentrification is also a risk. Failure to take into account the needs and expectations of the populations already in place can indeed lead to a surge in real estate prices, making new housing less accessible to less well-off households. The solution to this problem would be to allocate a portion of all new TOD development to affordable residences. 

The final downside has often been underestimated since the 1990s: the ideal of TOD comes up against our strong dependence on the automobile. If we add an insufficient supply of public transport to the equation, we can end up with a status quo that is difficult to change.


Public transit-oriented development does indeed make it possible to meet several urban challenges specific to the 21st century. But the necessary conditions for the establishment of TOD neighborhoods still need to be met.

An idea that attracted conspiracy theories
Surprisingly for an approach that is urban planning and rooted in the history of cities, TOD has recently become a magnet for multiple conspiracy theories. In particular, the so-called “15-minute city” concept — where all essential services would be within a 15-minute walk or bike ride — has been described, notably in TikTok videos, as a form of confinement, a neighborhood whose residents would no longer be allowed to go out. The idea of ​​imposing pricing on car travel at certain times of the day, discussed here and there in the world, has been transformed, in the imagination of defenders of smoking theories, into barriers prohibiting entry and exit . You should know that cities like Paris and Montreal adhered years ago to the concept of “15-minute city” and that TOD neighborhoods are part of this same trend which seeks to reduce greenhouse gases and slow down urban sprawl.

Link to the original article /tod-efficient-pretty-true-neighbourhoods

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