Transit Oriented Development

Transit-oriented development (TOD) refers to development at a transit access point—typically a train or ferry station or bus stop—surrounded by a mix of land uses, including housing, stores, employment centers, parks, schools, and other community amenities. TODs can occur in any community, whether city, suburb, or town. Providing good connections between transportation facilities and the surrounding land uses helps to support public transit systems and to reduce sprawl, traffic congestion, and air pollution.


TODs share many of the following components:

  • A walkable design around a transit node.
  • A waiting area for transit users.
  • Activities used by transit riders either before or after their transit trips, such as convenience retail shops and services.
  • Higher density residential uses and higher intensity retail and office uses.
  • Mixed-uses, frequently with residential uses above commercial uses.
  • Easy access for pedestrians and bicyclists to and from the point of transit access.
  • Special facilities such as bicycle storage and day care facilities.

During the Housing Element Process:

  • Review General Plan Policies. The local government should adopt general plan policies that encourage TODs.
  • Identify Sites. Working with the transit providers, identify current and future sites for TODs, including sites served by rail, bus, and ferries.
  • Review Zoning. Ensure that zoning and other ordinances support higher density, mixed-use development near transit access points.
  • Work with Transit Providers. Work with transit providers to plan for and develop the land immediately surrounding transit access points.
  • Involve Other Entities. Involve for-profit and non-profit developers in the planning and development of TOD projects.

Potential Programs and Actions

  • Address Design Issues. Develop specific plans or design guidelines for TODs to ensure that they are integrated into the fabric of the community.
  • Revise Parking Requirements. Revise parking standards to allow TOD parking standards to be established on a case-by-case basis.
  • Encourage Services to locate at TOD sites. These districts are key areas for community and civic uses, such as daycare, adult education, health clinics, library services, etc.
  • Provide Transportation Alternatives. Provide facilities for bicycle and electric vehicle rental at TOD sites.
  • Provide Mortgage Information. Provide information on special mortgages that may be available to people who live in TODs.
  • Look at Funding Alternatives. Explore the use of transit funds to help fund the planning and development of TODs. 


As part of the FOCUS program, local governments are partnering with regional agencies to create a development and conservation strategy for the San Francisco Bay Area. FOCUS unites the efforts of four regional agencies (ABAG, MTC, the Air District, and BCDC) into a single program to create complete, livable communities and protect environmental resources. FOCUS encourages future growth in Priority Development Areas-infill development opportunities within existing communities that are committed to creating more housing choices in locations easily accessible to transit, jobs, shopping and services. These are complemented by Priority Conservation Areas-regionally significant open spaces for which there exists a broad consensus for long-term protection. They are near-term conservation opportunities in the Bay Area for purchase or conservation easement. Regional agencies will support local governments' commitment to these development and conservation goals by working to direct existing and future incentives to these priority areas.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)
MTC has a number of policies and programs to support TOD in the Bay Area. In order to support the development of such communities around new transit lines and stations, MTC adopted a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Policy (PDF) that applies to key transit extension projects in the Bay Area. The TOD Policy is designed to promote cost-effective transit, ease regional housing shortages, create vibrant communities and preserves open space. MTC’s TOD policy was developed through an extensive analytical and outreach process that assessed the opportunities, benefits and barriers for increased levels of TOD in the San Francisco Bay Area TOD Study. In July 2006, the first review of the policy was conducted and an interim report (PDF) is available online.

All around the Bay Area, transit villages are being developed that provide housing, jobs, retail and community services in vibrant walkable communities close to transit. 10 shining examples of transit-oriented development are showcased in New Places, New Choices: Transit-Oriented Development in the San Francisco Bay Area using color photos and a display of key information.

People living and working close to transit walk and use transit more than those living farther from transit. A recent MTC analysis of the travel choices of people living close to rail stations and ferries in the Bay Area describes the travel patterns, mode choices and other key characteristics in the Station Area Residents Survey (STARS) Report.

California Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Searchable Database
This is a Caltrans database that contains 21 Bay Area and Southern California TOD sites.

Center for Transit-Oriented Development
The Center for Transit-Oriented Development, part of Reconnecting America, is a national nonprofit effort dedicated to providing best practices, research and tools to support market-based transit-oriented development. We partner with both the public and private sectors to strategize about ways to encourage the development of high-performing TOD projects around transit stations and to build transit systems that maximize the development potential. The Center for TOD is a joint venture with the nonprofit Center for Neighborhood Technology, an urban policy and GIS center based in Chicago; and Strategic Economics, an urban economics firm in Berkeley. Its report page, has links to interesting new research and best practices.

Great Communities Collaborative
The Great Communities Collaborative’s primary goal is to ensure that half of all new homes built in the Bay Area by 2030 are in walkable communities located near transit, at a range of prices affordable to families of all income levels. The Collaborative partners will work with community groups to ensure that plans preserve local assets and identify and fund needed services and amenities, such as parks, childcare centers and libraries. We will help local groups make sure that new growth does not displace residents and disrupt the local economy. And we will work with these groups over the long term to make sure exemplary plans gain vocal and widespread support. Collaborative partners will achieve these outcomes by working with local advocates and decision-makers to: involve key stakeholders in planning processes, provide education about best practices, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of draft plans, and help advocates develop effective media strategies.

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