Creating transit-oriented developments (TODs) is one way to build a more sustainable city with lower car use and higher density, says University of California, Berkeley, city and regional planning professor emeritus Robert Cervero.
TODs refer to public transport hubs evolving into a “place to be”, compared with a “place to pass through”.
Transforming these stations into hubs where people can live and enjoy some leisure time – building a community – can lead to the development of a more sustainable city.
“Build it and they will come,” says Cervero.
However, public transport stations are, by nature, “messy places”, he adds.
To turn stations into places where people want to have a cup of coffee – to transform it from a logistical staging area to a people friendly place – requires a certain degree of planning.
Also, in order to become attractive destinations, stations must be comfortable. They require amenities, green spaces, links to shops and they must be architecturally friendly, notes Cervero.
“How cities are built shapes how people move about them. You need a good urban vision to then drive transport infrastructure.”
As TODs evolve further, that can turn into PODs – pedestrian-oriented developments.
If cities make it possible for the inhabitants near TODs to walk in a radius of roughly 5 km around public transport stations – to find almost everything they require – they’ll ensure that people travel less.
By walking to their nearby school or job, TOD dwellers are almost surely set to use public transport, as opposed to private car, when they are forced to travel longer distances from their residence.
Or, should a car be necessary, cities can ensure the availability of car-sharing and ride-hailing services.
Once TODs are established, they can further transform cities by becoming links in a transit-oriented corridor, with a number of TODs linking together like a string of pearls.
As cities densify, the demand for public transport will increase.
In the end, says Cervero, fewer cars also mean a decline in demand for parking space, with the possibility then to transform these redundant parking lots into green spaces.
The cities around the world that are happier places to live, all manage to contain the vehicle kilometres traveled per capita, he adds.
TODs, even pedestrian-oriented TODs, can still go one step further, explains Cervero, by becoming inclusive TODs, promoting the concept of shared prosperity.
This concept means that everyone benefits from the development of public transport and TODs, and not only the rich.
For example, Bogota’s bus rapid transit system, in Colombia, does not see a large degree of affordable housing near the stations, says Cervero. In places like the Central Saint Giles station, in London, however, an effort was made to make available below market-rate housing near the public transport hub, in the spirit of shared prosperity.
* Cervero spoke at the recent Southern African Transport Conference, held in Pretoria.