How would you like to live in a community where your grocery store is right around the corner, work is a 10-minute walk and everything else you need just a quick light-rail ride away? No car is necessary!
Sound too good to be true? It’s becoming a reality. The idea of transit-oriented development (TOD) — conceptualized in the 1980s by architect Peter Calthorpe — places travel centers like light rail and bus stations at the heart of a well-planned neighborhood. The goal is to reduce dependence on cars, increase ridership, and create vibrant neighborhoods where residents enjoy many valuable conveniences.
In Denver, Colorado, a TOD project aims to help reduce gridlock traffic, reduce urban sprawl and breathe new life into an old city center. Since 2004, the city has been working on a $6.5 billion expansion of its FasTracks light rail system, setting up TOD hubs along the way. Lower Downtown’s Union Station is the central hub for transit-oriented development in the city. Union Station revitalized an old train station, making it a hub for taxis, buses, the airport and Amtrak. The area includes office buildings, public plazas, and nearby, convenient apartment living. The development is planned to be complete by 2014.
The foundation of the TOD idea is that centralizing all the best aspects of city living will lead to better, more appealing places to live. City planner Daniel Chatman of the University of California-Berkeley studied car use and the elements of transit-oriented development, sharing recently in the Journal of the American Planning Association his finding that transit itself wasn't necessarily the most important piece of the puzzle. He found that the qualities which best characterize TOD communities include related factors like rental housing, available jobs and walkable downtown. Parking availability — or more often, the lack of it — was telling. For many, living in a place where you just don't need a car may be the real appeal.
You might start your apartment search with a city’s transit opportunities in mind. Look for the positive facets of TOD design to lead you home to a modern, connected apartment community.