Research and Development on the Regional Implications of Transit-Oriented Development

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) means more dense and compact development around transit stops, in particular, rail stations. TOD is sometimes called Transit-Focused Development.

The research of Global Telematics in association with Integrated Transport Research, Inc. is focused on exploring the likely overall regional results of major investments in rail transit.  The results we have sought but failed to find are increases in the use of transit over use of automobiles that are sufficient to justify the high expense of rail. Market share gains in rail transit mode use are hard to accomplish because automobile use is well-established and land use patterns reflect and support automobile access.

In general, planners intend for rail ridership to grow over time as a gradual result of changes in land development stimulated by the introduction of transit, namely, Transit-Oriented Development.  More dense and compact development of homes, businesses, and stores around transit stops will in theory cause more people to ride transit instead of driving their cars.  The theory is not yet well demonstrated in new rail transit constructed since the mid twentieth century. 

Click here to read article from Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce

TODs: Look beyond the physical characteristics

More research needed on what makes TOD successful

By Dick Nelson, Integrated Transport Research

We have concluded that changes in the urban transportation planning process are necessary to make the TOD theory work as conceived, or else to find more cost-effective alternatives to TOD.  We have our own new consulting service called the Regional Transportation Reality Check SM to show the way to such changes. One of our major recommendations is that transportation planners first need to understand the spatial patterns in the way that the marketplace for goods and services now operates in urban regions. Understanding the role of advanced telecommunications is another recommendation.

Our main funding source for this research is the Mineta Transportation Institute at Jose State University.  The baseline project we conducted there is called "A Planning Template for Nonwork Travel and Transit-Oriented Development."  Read the project overview here.  This research has included an extensive literature review, and a book of maps (in a pdf file) detailing the dispersal of retail services in the Puget Sound metropolitan area of Washington State..

Research papers on Transit-Oriented Development prepared to date by Dick Nelson and John Niles include:

These papers follow up on work by Dick Nelson on least-cost transportation planning.

Global Telematics and Integrated Transport Research have developed consulting and contract research services for government and civic interests seeking to increase their understanding of forces and trends shaping urban growth, land use, travel behavior, and human activity at non-work destinations. Our main service offering is The Regional Transportation Reality Check.  Call 1-206-781-4475 or email


Last modified, February 07, 2011