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Transit Oriented Design

Transit Oriented Design

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Published by Vc Hefti
TOD Research Paper.

Completed in fulfillment of curriculum LA471:Urban Design //Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, NDSU.
TOD Research Paper.

Completed in fulfillment of curriculum LA471:Urban Design //Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, NDSU.

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Published by: Vc Hefti on Mar 15, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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TOD: The Urban Planning Problem

The Point

by v.hefti

Urban planning issues arise from poor or lack of planning. Often this poor planning is due to disregarding the human experience that the city ought function for. A major shift in the strategy of urban planning toward the human experience is Transit Oriented Development. Planned and implemented well, TOD can increase the development of pedestrian-scale communities, minimizing the centricity of automobile use thereby increasing, amongst other things, green space. “According to a recent poll, most Americans (56 percent), if given the choice, would now prefer a rural life; 25 percent would opt for the suburbs, and only 19 percent for an urban living environment” (Simonds, Starke 300). In Rhetoric, Aristotle asserts the blame for this is to the planners, who lack persuasiveness or more compelling concepts. “Truth and justice are by their nature better than their opposites, and therefore if decisions are made wrongly, it must be the speakers who (through lack of effective powers of persuasion) are to blame for the defeat” (231).

The Planning Problem

Urban landscape issues/problems root in improper or lack of planning. This ‘lacking’ can involve strategy, coherent relationship and plan continuity, economic analysis, amenity, optimal function, ecological needs, and the aesthetic. The consequences of improper urban planning lead to a vast number of issues including suburban sprawl, ecological issues, traffic congestion, impervious surfaces, lack of green/public space, lack of aesthetic, etc. There is no quick fix solution. Urban solutions can take place over decades, as the areas in most need are those that have been developed, sometimes, for over a century, whereas new developments have the clean-slate opportunity to plan properly from the beginning. A well thought-out plan taking into account all factors, both current and potential is needed. The plan ought to be stringent enough to solve the issues/problems with the greatest efficiency (greatest benefit with the least cost), maximum functionality, including ecological sensitivity, variable uses and amenity, and aesthetic, yet flexible enough to allot for an array of potential factors that may arise over the possible decades of implementation.

The Strategy Problem

James Corner suggests “a move away from scenographic designs toward more productive, engendering strategies…to more prosaic concerns for how things work, why they do, how they interact and what agency or effects they might exercise” (24). “These bleak new Utopias are not bleak because they have to be; they are the concrete manifestations–and how literally–of a deep and at times arrogant, misunderstanding of the function of the city” (William H. Whyte Jr., Simonds, Starke 302). Many planners have disregarded that “the basic tenet of urban design is disarmingly simple: the best city is that which provides the best experience of living” (Simonds, Starke 301).

To approach mending the cities, to once again serve the human experience, it is necessary to deal with what they currently serve first, which seems to be the automobile. Transit Oriented Development (TOD) attempts to reorient the city toward the pedestrian by limiting automobile access within the city limits, but also not neglecting the need for transport by instead utilizing public transit. Public transit is not the only solution to the problem. The problem then becomes integration of uses, proximity, and access. The urban planning of TOD requires defining districts, their use, and allotting the proximity of uses maintain reasonable walking access to basic amenities. Integrating the strategy of New Urbanism, that “public spaces like streets, squares and parks…be a setting for the conduct of daily life; a neighborhood should accommodate diverse types of people and activities; it should be possible to get to work, accomplish everyday tasks (like buying fresh food or taking a child to daycare) and travel to surrounding communities without using a car” (Katz xxv). Over time, the city transitions toward closing unused roads for plazas and parks, slowly the rigid pattern of block softens, and in places, dissipates. The city will become “integrated with nature. And it will invite nature back into its confines” (Simonds, Starke 315).
The Historic Overlook

The problem of today, in what we lack, is best stated by Rasmussen commenting on Renaissance Rome, “Great artists formed the city, and the inhabitants, themselves, were artists enough to know how to live in it.” Cities that uphold this statement conceive the city as three-dimensional civic art with patterns of form and open space through plazas, piazzas, courts, squares, fountains. These cities have a distinctive, indefinable spirit. So, perhaps today, it is the artistry of the craft that requires retaining.


Aristotle. Rhetoric. 123 Bressi, Todd W. “Planning the American Dream.” The New Urbanism: Toward an Architecture of Community. Peter Katz. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1994. Xxv. Corner, James. "Operational Eidetics: Forging New Landscapes." Harvard Design Magazine Fall 1998: 24. Rasmussen, Steen Eiler. Towns and Buildings. Cambridge: Harvard Unveristy Press, 1951. 257. Simonds, John Ormsbee, and Barry W. Starke. "Urban Design." Landscape Architecture: a Manual of Environmental Planning and Design. New York: McGrawHill, 2006. 300-315.

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