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Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is an urban planning tool aimed at improving the quality of life in Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) cities. Through investments in transportation and the management of urban components, such as land use and occupation, the distribution of public spaces and the promotion of economic activities, any city can put TOD into practice.
Why should a city implement TOD? Because TOD encourages the concentration of housing, commerce and services near mass transit corridors and stations. In other words, TOD makes the transportation system the catalyst for denser, more livable, accessible, and sustainable urban development in terms of mobility, economy, society, and environment.
In the Housing and Urban Development Division we are organizing three webinars to support cities in the region in understanding what TOD is, its benefits, and how to put it into practice. The first of these took place last week (see recording below):
Keep reading to learn all the details of the first DOT webinar.
Transit-Oriented Development Opportunities
TOD promotes efficient and accessible public transportation systems and urban densification around transit stations. This means that areas around bus stops and train stations become places of economic and social activity. In addition, TOD seeks diversity of land uses, which facilitates a mix of residential, commercial and leisure areas in the same area. Also, TOD can stimulate the economy by encouraging local commerce and infrastructure investment.
When all of the above elements come together, TOD can also generate the following benefits:
- Increased real estate values and property tax revenues
- Reduced emissions and air pollution
- Reduced economic, environmental, and social costs associated with traffic congestion
- The promotion of urban regeneration
TOD seeks to generate 3C cities: compact, connected and coordinated
TOD has an even greater benefit than all the previous ones: it promotes an improvement in the quality of life and health of citizens. How is this achieved? By making it possible to reduce travel times and encouraging the creation of pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly infrastructure, thus reducing dependence on the automobile, promoting more active lifestyles, and reducing environmental pollution. It also makes it possible to think of more viable, humane, safe, and healthy cities. In this way, habits such as walking, jogging, or cycling are prioritized over other means of transportation.
This way of planning the city is in line with the concept of “15-minute cities“. This city model advocates the creation of communities where daily needs, such as work, shopping and recreation, are within a 15-minute walk or bike ride.
The combination of TOD and the 15-minute city concept offers a roadmap for planning cities that are more sustainable and in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement and national carbon reduction targets (NDCs). By concentrating activities in areas close to public transport systems, it promotes sustainable mobility, reduces the carbon footprint, and creates a more livable urban environment.
The case of Bordeaux: an integrated urban model
The city of Bordeaux in France has demonstrated how TOD can shape sustainable population growth. Through urban planning that prioritizes efficient public transportation and the integration of residential and commercial spaces around transit nodes, Bordeaux has achieved more connected and sustainable neighborhoods. Strategies such as the development of green spaces and mixed-use zones have contributed to a more balanced distribution of services and a higher quality of life.
The example of Guadalajara, Mexico: a polycentric city model
Guadalajara, in Mexico, has adopted a polycentric approach to urban development through its Metropolitan Land Use Plan (POTmet). This plan encourages the development of areas around public transport stations, which generates greater interaction between residents and services. The city has established metropolitan transportation corridors and centralities that promote integral mobility and intermodality, creating a more accessible and connected city for all.
Challenges of Transit-Oriented Development
Despite the benefits, TOD is not widely adopted in the region due to some challenges. Its success requires integrating urban planning and mobility, addressing urban design, transportation investment and sustainable policies. However, some factors, such as the following, hinder the transition to a TOD model:
- Resistance to change from developers and residents themselves
- Inadequate infrastructure
- Poor urban planning
- Possible gentrification and forced displacement of vulnerable groups to other areas of the city
The successful implementation of a TOD model requires coordinated planning, investment alignment, institutional collaboration and an adequate legal framework. It is also vital to promote affordable housing, safeguarding communities, in those areas where TOD is applied.
Joining forces for a sustainable future
TOD is an essential strategy for addressing mobilityand urban development challenges in LAC. By integrating urban planning and transportation, TOD can transform chaotic cities into livable and sustainable environments. Despite the challenges, the opportunities are significant and cities in the region can achieve real change towards a more accessible and equitable future.
At the IDB, we support the region’s cities in implementing TOD to achieve more sustainable and connected cities. For this vision to materialize, it would be important to strengthen local governments and promote active collaboration among all stakeholders.