How we move around determines how we live and the ultimate livability of our cities. With modern transportation systems’ over-reliance on the one mode—the automobile, mobility has been privileged over access―speed and distance over convenience, equity, and choice in transit mode. Whereas automobiles and buses distribute populations, rail transit concentrates populations. Historically, all transportation systems are revenue-losing operations, so the pertinent question concerns the collateral benefits (as well as negative externalities) and best uses attending each transit investment.
Unlike other motorized transportation modes―airplane, bus, or automobile―only a fixed guideway system (i.e., light rail, street car, and trolley) prompts the market to build walkable mixed-use neighborhoods. Rail transit not only optimizes a region’s transportation efficiency, it generates downtown revitalization, lowers a region’s land and energy consumption footprint, and facilitates neighborhood-based commerce beyond the big box economy. A transportation system that includes rail provides more mobility options, increasing access for transit-challenged populations while reducing congestion and individual transportation costs.
Transit-Oriented Development diversifies transportation ecologies through multi-modality, enhancing the feasibility of bus, pedestrian, and cycling modes. Most importantly, TOD reconnects transportation planning to land use planning, indispensible for sustained economic development and building a sense of place.