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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. It often incorporates the features to encourage transit ridership. TOD is a strategy to deal with dense population and it is a development to integrate with the transit system. A TOD neighborhood typically has a center with a transit station or stop of public transport, such as bus stop and railway station, surrounded by relatively high-density development with progressively lower density development spreading outward from the center. (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, has the potential to greatly increase 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 differentiate the development from urban sprawl. Examples of these features include (Renne, 2009) 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 compared with conventional development and 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, and
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. Increasingly, regional planning techniques are being used to control and shape of growth into compact, high-density, mixed-use neighborhoods, villages, towns, and cities, forming a hierarchy. Compact development provides sufficient population and demand to support transit system with a 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. By improving the pedestrian walking experience and increasing the accessibility to the public transit, more people will take public transit and reduce the flow of automobiles. The area becomes an attractive and cohesive mixed-use area with commercial, retail and residential uses as self-sustaining.
Many cities have faced the challenges of getting the right residential density because the density tends to be very low. Especially in the North America where people often rely on driving vehicles as their main transport mode, the higher-density residential development near transit system can limits the negative impacts to the environment. 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. Worse still, large proportion of the land is hilly. While a certain portion of the land has been designated as country parks and catchment areas for reservoirs, much of the land are not feasible for development.
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 take a proactive role in integrating land use and railway development. Railway would form the backbone of the future passenger transport network. Railway stations would synchronize 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 dense population with the sufficient provision of public facilities such as schools and shopping malls, and mixed land use. The new towns are developed into densely-populated area, we can know from the figures shown in the table below.
Time of development
Population (in persons)
Population density (persons/km2)
Tseung Kwan O
Tin Shui Wai
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 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 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 taking 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 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 (completed in August 2002) and Ma On Shan Rail (completed in 2004) 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 (Swire). The development started in 1970s when the MTR Island Line was not yet in operation. When the Island Line started to operate in 1985 plus the opening of the East Harbour Crossing Tunnel in 1989, Swire realized the land use development is profitable from MTR system. In order to capture the impacts of mass transit system, development in Taikoo Shing has been diversifying in land use with retail, office, commercial and residential functions, and leisure amenities, such as a large shopping mall called City Plaza.
As a result of the New Town Development Programme, a major railway in the New Territories has linked with the Hong Kong Island line; more housing developments including private housing grew along the major railway arteries. The closer distance to the MTR stations, the denser the residential development. And as the population increases, development also expands to meet the demand. TODs are thus well developed in Hong Kong.
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, and lower the spending on transportation. (Reconnecting America)
When the characteristics of a particular place are recognized as supportive of lower personal transportation costs, the monetary benefits can be captured by both individuals (in the form of greater mortgage borrowing power) and the community (in the form of lower development costs stemming from reduced need to build expensive parking). In short, transit-oriented development can be a central part of a development paradigm that is more environmentally and socially sustainable, and that contributes to higher quality of life. Moreover, existing historic neighborhoods are being preserved and enhanced by the proximity of more diverse housing, shopping and entertainment choices, and the increases in traffic are minimal.
The railway transit system is under extension and Hong Kong population is surging, believing that Hong Kong is 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.