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Urban Planning: Transit-Oriented Development Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Jun 24th, 2021


Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) aims to stimulate the free movement of urban community members across distinct residential, commercial, business, and leisure spaces. Therefore, efficiency may be viewed as one of the major criteria for its assessment. Lynch defines efficiency in terms of cost: the less costly the creation and the maintenance of a system is, the more efficient it can be considered (118). However, the efficiency of a transit-oriented community (TOC) can also be measured by how easy its various elements can be used by individuals who live there and if their use allows community members to achieve their transit objectives well. It means that efficiency refers to the overall functionality of systems and their usability.


The dimension of accessibility is pivotal to take into account since it is much harder to use different functions and elements of a system if they are scarce. Noteworthily, opportunities to perform certain transit-oriented tasks (for instance, travel through public transport hubs and road infrastructures) constitute merely one aspect of accessibility.

Lynch indicates that access to various services, information, and places is also important in TOCs as these resources allow meeting the diverse needs of their inhabitants more feasibly (118). As such, the availability of necessary intangible and tangible resources, including infrastructures and facilities, largely defines whether a TOC is usable or not.


The availability of different types of resources is linked to the criterion of diversity. However, in the context of TOD, the diversity of activities is particularly important. For instance, Jabareen notes that “lack of concentrated diversity can put people into automobiles for almost all their needs” (5). In contrast, the presence of diverse transit modes, including public transport, paths for walking, and cycle tracks means that people can utilize a greater variety of means to reach their goals. The same applies to types of residential areas, services, opportunities for leisure, and so forth. The more diverse these resources and possibilities are in one area, the higher quality of life and the greater community sustainability may be achieved.


Diversity is always associated with complexity, yet it does not mean that a community must be developed in a disorganized manner. It makes coherence, which refers to an orderly manner of arrangement, an essential dimension for the assessment of TOCs as well. From the perspective of Ewing et al., coherence, as an evaluation criterion, must mainly be used to analyze the visual character of an urban area and, in particular, consistency and complementarity in the way different buildings and landscape elements are placed in a community (S226). However, the same criterion may be utilized to assess the social environment of a TOC by focusing on the consistency of available services and activities with various residents’ interests and needs.


Compactness is another dimension of a special arrangement of buildings and landscape elements in a community. The term “compactness” implies that an urban area has reasonable limits and is well-bounded. The latter characteristic implies that in a compact TOC different transit points and can be reached within a justified distance that can be measured, for example, in terms of time required to travel from one place to another. Thus, compactness not only maximizes the positive experiences of transit system users but also contributes to the greater sustainability of TOCs (Jabareen 46). The fewer time residents need to invest in transit, the better the ecological effects can be.


Considering the rising trend for environmental sustainability, the degree of urban areas’ greening is important to measure. Greening is proven to induce favorable outcomes in terms of the pollution rate decrease, public health, and overall quality of life (Jabareen 46). This dimension can be measured by the extent and number of green community areas (parks, conservation zones, forests, and so forth), as well as the level of various “green” technologies’ integration into TOCs.


Tidiness may be viewed as a crucial aspect of order in a community. Ewing et al. refer to this concept as “the condition and cleanliness of a place” (S226). It is valid to say that similarly to greening, tidiness improves the attractiveness of a TOC, residents’ perceptions of their community, and the overall quality of life. This dimension can be measured by analyzing the visual appearance of a TOC and identifying spaces requiring repair and maintenance.


It is also essential to plan TOCs taking into account how different social and physical elements of the environment affect people. Thus, justice or, in other words, the distribution of environmental costs and benefits among all residents and urban areas must be assessed (Lynch 118). Besides, justice can be measured in terms of equality of access to various resources. If it is easier for some populations of a TOC to certain resources and if it is easier for them to use those resources than for others then TOC is not developed justly.


The criterion of vitality incorporates many of the abovementioned dimensions, including efficiency, accessibility, compactness, and diversity. The term refers to “the degree to which the form of the settlement supports the vital functions” (Lynch 118). It means that to be able to sustain itself, a TOC must have all the necessary and diverse resources and arrange them in a way that supports various activities of individuals and the community as a whole. Thus, it is valid to say that the assessment of this dimension must start with the understanding of overall community needs and then proceed towards the analysis of its capacities to meet those needs.

Sense of Place

Like vitality, the criterion of the sense of place comprises multiple previously discussed dimensions. The concept refers to a degree to which residents can mentally differentiate and comprehend their community in terms of time, space, and suitability of various urban elements of a TOC with their values and views (Lynch 118). Thus, a sense of place is simultaneously a physical, social, psychological, and cultural measure. As such, it can be measured by identifying the subjective perceptions of residents and by looking at whether various TOC elements fit well in the cultural background of the community.

Sense of History

This criterion is interrelated with the abovementioned as it refers to the historically determined identity of a settlement. However, while the sense of space emphasizes the importance of congruity between psychological and environmental dynamics, the sense of history is even more specific (Lynch 134). It points to the significance of old cultural artifacts in endowing physical urban spaces with meaning. However, the dimension refers not to the presence of museums and galleries in a TOC but the integration of culturally and environmentally significant objects and elements into the urban space (Hough 186). The more such elements are present in the environment, the greater the sense of cultural and historical identity it has.


The dimension of livability encompasses all the previously discussed criteria. At the same time, it focuses exclusively on residents’ subjective perceptions of community qualities, meanings, functions, and usability (Bosselmann 155). Thus, to understand if a TOC is livable, it is essential to evaluate it based on such criteria as efficiency, accessibility, tidiness, justice, and so forth. However, what is more important, to measure the livability of urban space, it is pivotal to ask what people think about it and compare the actual situation in a community with their needs, preferences, and interests.

Works Cited

Bosselmann, Peter. Urban Transformation: Understanding City Design and Form. Island Press, 2008.

Ewing, Reid, et al. “Identifying and Measuring Urban Design Qualities Related to Walkability.” Journal of Physical Activity and Health, vol. 3, no. 1, 2006, pp. S223-S240.

Hough, Michael. “Principles for Regional Design.” The Urban Design Reader, edited by Michael Larice and Elizabeth Macdonald, Taylor & Francis Group, 2013, pp. 179-225.

Jabareen, Yosef Rafeq. “Sustainable Urban Forms Their Typologies, Models, and Concepts.” Journal of Planning Education and Research, vol. 26, 2006, pp. 38-52.

Lynch, Kevin. A Theory of Good City Form. MIT Press, 1984.

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