Innovating For Transit-Oriented Development

November 30, 2018
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One key way to reduce auto dependence and vehicle emissions is to increase transit ridership – and one key to doing that is Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). Across the nation, many communities are revising their zoning and development codes to include a mix of form, intensity, and building use controls to encourage TODs at a variety of scales. But creating development nodes and corridors that will support transit is harder than it sounds, in part because property ownership around transit lines and nodes is often divided, and also because TODs are usually developed over long periods of time. As a result, it is usually not wise to draft zoning at a detailed “end-state” picture of exactly what the TOD will look like. A more effective approach is to create regulations that will allow TODs to emerge over time as ownership, developers, tastes, and mobility options change. Recently, Clarion Associates has been partnering with several communities to do exactly that.

Rochester, Minnesota
Rochester, Minnesota’s, new Plan 2 Succeed Comprehensive Plan identifies a Priority Transit Network to move tens of thousands of Mayo Clinic employees to and from the downtown each day. Clarion Associates is working with the planning department to craft a new TOD zoning district with different development controls for defined nodes and corridors linking those nodes. In addition to addressing building heights, intensities, uses, and reduced parking requirements that support Rochester’s emerging bus rapid transit system, the new district requires greater pedestrian connectivity requirements for larger land assemblages and includes strong height, scale, and access protections for adjacent low-density neighborhoods.

Columbia, Missouri
Between 2014 and 2017, Clarion Associates and Ferrell Madden worked with Columbia, Missouri, to adopt an entirely new Unified Development Ordinance that includes multiple TOD tools based on the city’s Columbia Imagined comprehensive plan. The new UDO includes form-based zoning controls that treat the entire downtown core as a transit-and pedestrian-oriented node. Outside that node, commercial zones at collector and arterial streetcorners include two sets of alternative standards that reward more street-and pedestrian-oriented building forms, locations, and scales with reduced parking and greater development density.

Prince George’s County, Maryland
Prince George’s County, Maryland, is located on the east edge of the Washington, DC, metro area, and is home to 15 Metrorail and 11 existing or planned light rail stations. But development around many of those stations has not been transit-oriented and has not had the impact on walkability and sustainability desired by the County. Between 2014 and 2018, Clarion led a team of six consultants that had assisted the County in the creation of its first new zoning ordinance in over 50 years. One key part of that ordinance is a new set of four base and four planned development TOD zones, each calibrated to match the detailed transit- and activity-center place types identified in the County’s Plan Prince George’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan. The new zoning ordinance was adopted this past October, and the County is now moving forward to map those new districts as shown in the adopted plan.


The need for more innovative approaches to TODs will continue – and will always need to be tailored to the economics, demographics, technology options, and political will of each community. Clarion Associates looks forward to partnering with both old and new clients to keep finding combinations of TOD plans, incentives, and regulations that will stand the test of time.