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The Odds On TODs: Transit-Oriented Development As A Congestion-Reduction Strategy In The San Francisco Bay Area


Transit-oriented development, which clusters high-density, mixed-use development around transit stations, has been proposed as a way to reduce automobile travel in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere.  This paper relates research on neighborhood characteristics and vehicle travel to specific Bay Area characteristics.  The analysis shows that, even using optimistic assumptions about travel behavior, redeveloping the area around most of the existing rail transit stations, coordinating similar development around feeder bus routes, and clustering close to one-fifth of the region’s population in these areas would reduce vehicle miles traveled in the Bay Area by just 5%.  If current trends continue, this would offset only three years of growth in vehicle miles traveled.  Thus, transit-oriented development is unlikely to have a significant impact on regional vehicle miles traveled and traffic congestion.  Although transit-oriented development may have other worthwhile benefits, it is inappropriate as the cornerstone of the Bay Area’s congestion management strategy.