Policy & Tools: Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is mixed-use development that purposefully occurs near public transportation nodes. TOD is characterized by a mix of residential, commercial, and civic uses within walking distance (a half-mile radius) from a transit stop; pedestrian-friendly streets with sidewalks and walkable destinations; reduced parking; high-density development; preservation of open space; and a variety of housing types and prices. The primary environmental benefits of TODs include reducing sprawl, reducing traffic congestion and car dependency, improving environmental quality and open space preservation.

TOD and Equitable Development

Most of the focus on TODs surrounds their environmental benefits and urban design innovations. While the value of these features is undeniable, the Partnership’s main interest is in the ways that TOD can serve the needs of working families and contribute to the equitable development of our nation’s cities.

More than simply infrastructure, transportation represents opportunity: the opportunity to participate in one’s community, to access good jobs and nutritious food, and to live in affordable housing.

TOD projects have the potential to expand these opportunities for working families. Because the costs of owning a car can be prohibitive for many low- and moderate-income people, the ability to live and/or work near transit can connect people to job opportunities to which they may otherwise have no access. The high-density housing patterns that characterize most TOD facilitate lower-cost units. By creating entertainment and employment destinations and integrating transit into neighborhoods, TOD can help support lively and vital communities.

However, TOD’s potential is limited if it is not developed equitably. A critical element of TOD is the inclusion of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households. Mixed-income TOD can successfully address the rising costs of urban living by tackling housing and transportation costs together—while expanding access to jobs, educational opportunities and prosperity for a wide range of income groups. When TOD includes truly affordable housing, it offers a stable and reliable base of transit riders, broader access to opportunity, and protection from the displacement that often accompanies new development.

Community Benefits from TOD

Community benefits agreements (CBAs) can maximize the contribution of TOD to urban equity. Across the country, our Partners have been involved in community benefits coalitions that have negotiated CBAs with TOD developers. These agreements ensure that the needs of low- and moderate-income workers receive full attention. By agreeing to participate in local hiring programs and provide living wage jobs, developers enable TOD projects themselves to become opportunities for good jobs for local residents. When CBAs require the developer to include a substantial amount of affordable housing, people who cannot afford cars can both live and work near the new development.

To learn more about how our Partners have used CBAs to enhance TODs, explore the projects listed below:

Other TOD Resources


  • Making the Connection: Transit-Oriented Development and Job. Sarah Grady with Greg LeRoy. Good Jobs First, March 2006.
  • The Mixed-Income Housing TOD Action Guide The Center for Transit-Oriented Development and the Great Communities Collaborative.
  • The Transportation Prescription. Judith Bell and Larry Cohen. Policy Link and Prevention Institute.
  • The Case for Mixed-Income Transit-Oriented Development in the Denver Region. Dena Belzer, Robert Hickey, Wells Lawson, Shelley Poticha and Jeff Wood. Center for Transit-Oriented Development, March 2007.