Overcoming Obstacles to Transit-oriented Development (TOD) Planning

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MTI study evaluates barriers that impede TOD construction and success
October 15, 2020
San José, CA

New research from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), Promoting Transit-Oriented Developments by Addressing Barriers Related to Land Use, Zoning, and Value Capture, examines transit-oriented developments (TODs) and existing obstacles impeding further construction and success. Across the nation, these compact, mixed-use developments constructed near transit stations provide accessible travel mode choice, increase transit ridership, and help meet other policy objectives—such as greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

Researchers first examined existing literature and TODs in major cities, including Boston, Denver, Oakland, and Seattle. They then conducted national surveys of 101 U.S. transit agencies and cities similar to those previously mentioned to identify barriers that prevent TOD construction and to propose recommendations to overcome these barriers.

Researchers found that many U.S. cities have TODs but barriers related to land use, zoning, and value-capture (VC) often create issues for them. VC tools, such as joint development projects and tax increment financing, capture land value increases from public improvements such as rezoning. Additionally, most transit agencies are not only restricted from purchasing land for TOD construction, but are also unable to attain the necessary land use or zoning powers. Finally, cities rarely use eminent domain (the right of a government or its agent to seize private property for public use, with payment of compensation) to assemble land parcels in already-developed areas to facilitate TODs.

To overcome these barriers, MTI researchers recommend zoning and land use changes, such as:

  • Considering land use, zoning, and VC in an integrated manner,
  • Allowing for flexible land use, zoning, and VC tool use, and
  • Providing more power to transit agencies over station-area land use and zoning.

They also recommend public agencies:

  • Focus on reducing developer risk,
  • Use land assembly and eminent domain to assemble land parcels, and
  • Press for systematic and comprehensive assessment of property value increases, and more.

Another sorepoint in TODs’ success is parking. “Parking in a TOD should be based on the characteristics of the transit system, the station, and the surrounding area– too much discourages the use of the transit system and too little lowers the TODs’ market success,” explains report author Dr. Shishir Mathur.

Based on existing literature and TOD case studies, the researchers also recommend regional and state promotion of reduced ground-floor retail requirements to enable TOD success.


At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

Dr. Shishir Mathur
is an MTI Research Associate and professor of Urban and Regional Planning at San Jose State University. Aaron Gatdula is a Planner based out of Chicago, IL, working towards climate resilience and justice in transportation and land use.


Media Contact:

Irma Garcia,

MTI Communications and Operations Manager

O: 408-924-7560

E: Irma.garcia@sjsu.edu


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