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Transit-Oriented Communities: A Literature Review On The Relationship Between The Built Environment And Transit Ridership


Two goals in Translink’s Transport 2040 strategy are to have most trips in the region occur by walking, cycling and transit and to have the majority of jobs and housing in the region located along the Frequent Transit Network . Since the built environment is a major determinant of travel demand and mode choice, achieving these goals will require the creation of more transit-oriented communities – places that, by their very design, invite people to drive their cars less and walk, cycle and take transit more as no single agency or organization in the Metro Vancouver region has the mandate or capacity to address all of the various inter-dependent components needed to create transit-oriented communities, this effort will necessarily be a collaborative one between Translink, Metro Vancouver, local municipalities, and the private sector, as well as the wider public . This literature review provides a research foundation from which to facilitate this important regional conversation and to inform Translink’s work in fostering and supporting improved coordination of land use and transportation in the region.

The purpose of this literature review is to identify and summarize the current peer-reviewed research relating to transit-oriented communities . It asks the question: How does the built environment impact transit ridership?

This literature review focuses on key aspects, or factors, of urban form that affect transit use that are mainly within the sphere of influence of local government and developers. The research suggests that there are six key built environment factors that influence transit ridership: Destinations, Distance, Density, Diversity, Design, and Demand Management. Accordingly, the bulk of the literature review is organized under these headings.

The literature review also contains a short discussion of non-built environment factors that affect transit use. The amount and type of transit service affect transit use and are within the sphere of influence of a transportation agency. In addition, there are factors that are outside the influence of either a municipality or transportation agency, such as topography, demographics, and income levels which also impact transit ridership. These factors are discussed towards the end of this document.

Cervero and Kockelman in 1997 identified three “Ds” (Density, Diversity, and Design) as essential parts of transit-oriented development. This review of current literature builds on these by adding other influential factors as identified by the academic research, using “Ds” as an organizing structure.

It is acknowledged that metropolitan regions are complex and there are many complicated relationships at play. While the transit-oriented communities concept has been simplified under the “Six Ds” and other factors, it is recognized that these variables are inter-related and can affect one another. At times this complexity makes it difficult to isolate variables. Even when there is a strong correlation between two factors such as density and transit ridership, it is difficult to demonstrate definitively the causal relationship of such factors. The research aims to help the reader understand basic aspects of the relationships, recognizing that each community is different and that these findings will need to be adapted in a context-specific approach to communities within Metro Vancouver.