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Transit-oriented development refers to a design of the area to maximize the access to so as the use of public transport to achieve sustainable transportation, and the sustainable transportation can help achieve sustainable society as a whole.
Sustainable transportation is encouraged by promoting compact development around the major public facilities, improving the pedestrian walking experience, and increasing the accessibility to the public transit. . A TOD neighborhood typically has a center with a transit station or stop of public transport, such as bus stop and railway station. It often incorporates the features to encourage transit ridership. It is a strategy to deal with dense population and it is a development to integrate with the transit system. (Online wikipedia, 2012)
High density population with mixed land use within short distance, TOD aims that people can access to place more easily with shorter time which would require less vehicle travel, save energy and emit less pollutants. Planning for compact growth of an area, rather than letting it sprawl out, it greatly increases the quality of the environment. It prevents problems of traffic congestion and the environmental degradation associated with urban sprawl.
TOD contains specific features that are designed to encourage public transport use and prevent urban sprawl. These features include the neighborhood is designed for cycling and walking, with adequate facilities and attractive street conditions. The streets have good connectivity and tracffic calming features to control vehicle traffic speeds, such as narrow streets. Mixed-use development is found that includes shops, schools and other public services, and a variety of housing types and prices, within each neighborhood. Efficient parking management to reduce the amount of land devoted to parking to take advantage of the parking cost savings associated with reduced automobile use. Transit stops and stations are convenient, comfortable and secure. (New urbanism)
As discussed by Newman (2009), some strategic planning frameworks are needed as a set of policy tools to help implementing TOD. He suggests four strategic planning tools (Newman, in Curtis, 2009, p. 13):
1. A strategic policy framework that asserts where centers need to occur and at what kind of density and mix.
2. A strategic policy framework that links centers with a rapid transit base, almost invariably electric rail.
3. A statutory planning base that requires development to occur at the necessary density and design in each center, preferably facilitated by a specialized development agency.
4. A public-private funding mechanism that enables the transit and the TOD to be built or refurbished through a linkage between the transit and the centers it will service.
An area is created based on a set of urban design standard and zoning guidelines with a dense population and transit system. Regional planning techniques are used to control and shape the area into compact, high-density, mixed-use neighborhoods, towns, and cities, forming a hierarchy. Compact development provides sufficient population and demand to support transit system with dense network coverage. TODs generally are located within a radius of 400-800 meters or up to 15-minute walk from a transit stop, it increases the location efficiency so people can walk and bike to take transit as it is considered as an appropriate scale for pedestrians and the flow of automobiles is reduced. The area becomes an attractive and cohesive mixed-use area with commercial, retail and residential uses as self-sustaining.
Many cities are difficult to get the right residential density because the density tends to be very low. But TOD is suitable in Hong Kong, given the high density of population, it is able to support the development in transit system and develop the transit network into a comprehensive coverage with high accessibility.
Hong Kong as an example of TOD
Hong Kong has a total land area of 1098km2 and a population of 7 million in 2012.
(Census & Statistics Department, 2012) The land supply is scarce and residential use is dense. Even worse, large proportion of the land is hilly while a certain portion of the land is designated as reserved area that are not feasible for development, such as country parks and catchment areas for reservoirs.
With the rapid economic development, urban area in Hong Kong expands in a uncontrollable manner to the countryside which can be regarded as urban sprawl. This has created lots of unpleasant problems. To control urban sprawl and better utilize the limited land resource in Hong Kong, new towns are developed to relocate the soaring population and design them into a self-sustaining community with mixed land use. New town development with TOD is an appropriate planning strategy to deal with the dense population in Hong Kong.
In early 1970s, the government implemented the New Town Development Programme in which new towns were planned to be served by railway linking to the urban area, for example, the New Towns such as Tai Po and Fanling in Northeast served by East Railway. Since the introduction of the Third Comprehensive Transport Study in 1999, the Government began to combine land use and railway development. Railway becomes the backbone of the transport network. Railway stations synchronized with land use development and become the hubs for transport interchanges.
Some places were chosen to develop into new towns as the first planning tool mentioned above. New towns are designed to house a targeted number of dense population with the sufficient provision of public facilities and mixed land use. The new towns are developed into densely-populated area, we can know from the figures shown in the table below.
The buildings in new town are high rise and constitute a number of estates to concentrate the people, so stops and stations can be built to link them up and for more efficient transport. The housing estates are in various types, including public housing, private housing and so on at different price as choices to the residents. Cycling and walking lane are designed to improve the pedestrian experience and increase the accessibility to the public transit. Mixed land use with public facilities are developed based on the threshold of the goods and services to provide, many lower order goods and services can be found to make new towns self-maintaining, such as daily necessities in shopping malls and primary and secondary education. For example, Tin Shui Wai is a new town with many high rise buildings to house a very high density of population of 63000 persons/km2 , with the transit system of light railway among itself, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long, and West railway connected to urban areas.
For the second planning tool, the area is designed with a transit base. The compact growth of new towns can support every station of railway system and develop as a TOD neighborhood. Each new town is accessible nowadays by different lines in mass transit system.
http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/getting_around/images/MTR_routemap_510.jpgLook at the map of MTR, we can see most of the area can be reached by railway. The railway network is dense and covers most of the dense populated area in Hong Kong. Populous area in daytime, Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui and Central, populous area in nighttime, Tin Shui wai, Tuen Mun and Shatin, all are linked by the railway system. The distance between every station is close, people can take railway to any destinations, and the walking distance from home to the stations is not long, within the radius of 15-minute walk.
The planning and development of transit system and the new towns should be synchronized, the new town development was failed in the past decades when the land use and transit development were not synchronized. Tseung Kwan O line and Ma On Shan Rail were constructed after two areas have been densely populated, the inaccessibility hinders the development of two places. These are the examples of the lack of co-ordination between the land use development and transit system.
The third and fourth tools are the development in a center is preferably facilitated by a specialized development agency or funded by public or private mechanism. It can be illustrated by the example of Taikoo Shing as one of the first successful TODs was Taikoo Shing by Swire Properties Limited. The development started in 1970s. When the Island line started its operation in 1985 plus the opening of the East Harbour Crossing Tunnel in 1989, Swire realized the land use development is profitable. In order to capture the potential gain from MTR system, Taikoo Shing has been diversified in different land uses, with retail, office, commercial and residential functions, and leisure amenities, such as a large shopping mall called City Plaza and the office in the upper part of the building. The development of Taikoo as a TOD is facilitated by Swire as a development agency.
Benefits of TOD
More intensive mixed-use development allows an increase in walking and bicycling within the neighborhood, when a transit connection is added to the mix then auto-free travel to other parts of the metropolitan area become more feasible. Less automobile use means less consumption of fossil fuels, less air pollution, better to the environment. (Reconnecting America)
Both individuals and community can capture monetary benefits, in the form of greater mortgage borrowing power and lower development costs of building expensive parking. In short, TOD can be a development paradigm that is more socially and environmentally sustainable, and that contributes to higher quality of life. Moreover, existing historic neighborhoods can be preserved and enhanced by the proximity of more diverse housing, shopping and entertainment choices while the increases in traffic are minimal.
The railway transit system is still under extension and Hong Kong population is surging, believing that Hong Kong will continue to develop at a fast pace. The development of TOD is beneficial to Hong Kong in the sense that sustainable transportation can be achieved and the government should try to better plan the development of land use so as to utilize the limited land resources.