Context-Sensitive Zoning for Transit-Oriented Development

Zoning Practice — February 2015

By David Morley, AICP


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The term "transit-oriented development" (TOD) typically refers to higher-density mixed use development in close proximity to a fixed-guideway transit station. Most TOD experts and advocates also clarify that the development pattern of the station area must support both walking and transit use in order for that area to qualify as transit oriented, rather than merely transit adjacent.

While some commentators treat TOD as though it is one distinct development model, it's probably more helpful to think of transit-oriented development as a spectrum of development patterns and densities. For example, a commuter rail station in a sleepy bedroom suburb cannot support the same types and intensity of development as a rapid transit hub in the downtown of a major city.

This issue of Zoning Practice summarizes factors to consider when planning for new station-area development or redevelopment, highlights key considerations for communities hoping to encourage TOD through special zoning districts or overlays, and provides examples of context-sensitive TOD zoning standards from communities across the country.


Page Count
Date Published
Feb. 1, 2015
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American Planning Association

About the Author

David Morley, AICP
David Morley, AICP, is a Research Program and QA Manager at the American Planning Association in Chicago, where he manages and contributes to sponsored research projects; manages the development of the Research KnowledgeBase; develops, organizes, and participates in educational sessions and workshops; and writes for APA publications. Mr. Morley also edits Zoning Practice.