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Transit Supportive Planning Toolkit

What is the Transit Supportive Planning Toolkit?

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Transit Supportive Planning Toolkit (the Toolkit) details specific policies and programs that can be used to promote Transit Oriented Communities (TOC). The Toolkit provides local governments, advocates, and developers in Los Angeles County (Metro’s service area) with strategies for integrating land use and transportation planning, in order to encourage reduced passenger vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) through increased rates of walking, biking, and transit usage. The Toolkit includes a wide range of policy and regulatory tools that have successfully been implemented throughout Southern California and across the State.

What is in the Toolkit?

The Toolkit contains a number of policy and regulatory tools, research on the characteristics of transit-supportive places, analytical models to evaluate the benefits of TOD, among other topics. The following information is in the Toolkit.

  • TOD Characteristics – A description of the 10 characteristics of transit-supportive places with research describing the benefits of each.
  • Policy & Planning Tools – Over 25 specific policy, planning and regulatory tools that address the topics of land use, urban design, transportation, market and economic, and community engagement
  • Environmental Analysis Tools – A description and link to analytical tools that allow communities to understand the benefits of transit-supportive places
  • Economic Benefits – A description of the economic benefits of transit-supportive places.
  • Outreach & Communication Best Practices – Methods for engaging the community in the decision-making process in a way that supports transit.

Case studies, many of which include projects from Los Angeles County, are included with each tool.

What is the relationship of the Toolkit to the LARC Regional Climate Action and Sustainability Framework?

The Transit Supportive Communities Website is part of a larger effort called A Greater LA: The Framework for Regional Climate Action and Sustainability currently under development by the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative (LARC) . This framework will provide local agencies with strategies to better adapt to climate change and respond to the State mandates regarding greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability, such as Assembly Bill 32 (AB32) and Senate Bill 375 (SB375) . Funding for both programs is being provided by the Sustainable Communities Program from the Strategic Growth Council. The Transit Supportive Planning Toolkit is a critical component of the Framework since it addresses transportation and land use, some of the biggest contributors to GHG emissions in the region.

Importance of Transit Supportive Planning

With the support of Los Angeles County voters and residents, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has committed to implementing significant investments in high-quality transit service and strategies to reduce traffic congestion through the projects proposed as part of the Measure R and Measure M sales tax ballot measures. As Metro continues the process to plan, design, and construct new transit service throughout the county, the agency is also increasing its outreach to Los Angeles County cities to encourage transit-supportive planning efforts. The objectives are to leverage the significant public investment that is occurring and to help distribute the anticipated public benefits of this investment throughout the county.

Transit-supportive planning has the potential to help transform Los Angeles County’s regional land use and transportation landscape towards a more sustainable, multimodal, and low-carbon design. These transit-supportive planning policies are also climate action strategies that can assist local jurisdictions in achieving state and regional environmental and sustainability goals to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These planning strategies also generate a range of potential benefits to residents, visitors, and businesses alike. Some key benefits to transit-supportive planning include:

  • More efficient use of land area and natural resources
  • Improved air quality
  • Reduced vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
  • Increased transit ridership
  • Improved economic development
  • Increased attraction of private development investment
  • Safer streets
  • Stronger sense of place

How to make the case for Transit Supportive Planning to elected officials

Elected officials play a key role in transit-supportive planning, serving as the legislative body that adopts and approves local plans and projects. Attaining support from elected officials and enlisting these officials as project champions can help create a successful community outreach process. As community leaders, elected officials are in a position to address uncertainty or concern regarding transit-supportive projects by assuring community members that these projects are civic projects that are aligned with the overall community interests and goals. Garnering support from elected officials also encourages private investment as it reassures developers of project longevity and backing from local government.

To encourage support from elected officials, engagement must begin early during the project planning process. Focusing on community benefits that would be provided by transit-supportive planning policies and projects is key. Project leaders should approach elected officials with the goal of highlighting a broad array of community benefits, rather than focusing on one or two areas. Holistic transit-supportive planning happens at the macro (community wide) and micro (location specific) scales. On a macro-level, transit-supportive planning integrates transportation and land use planning to ensure that policies and regulations support multiple modes of transportation, promote alternative modes of travel, and create a sense of place amongst communities. This often lends itself to macro-level benefits such as vibrant public spaces, increased transit ridership, added-value to adjacent properties, and increased property tax revenues. On a micro-level, transit-supportive planning addresses the interactions between various modes of transportation at and around transit facilities. This results in safer streets that are designed for motorists, transit riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists regardless of age or ability, as well as improved access to transit, reduced traffic congestion, and greater internal trip capture (i.e. trips that begin and end within the development without traveling on the external roadway system).

Providing case studies coupled with tailored strategies that show how transit-supportive projects can be implemented within each individual community will build a stronger case for these types of projects and will ultimately help in garnering the support of elected officials.

Six benefits of Transit Supportive Planning

Six Benefits of Transit Supportive Planning - Land Use, Transit/Mobility, Vehicle Miles Traveled/Greenhouse Gas, Public Health, Economic, and Affordability

The following section summarizes six key benefits of transit-supportive places.

  • Land Use Benefits - Transit-supportive land use policies and more compact development patterns provide the opportunities to create healthy communities that have a stronger sense of place, more efficient land use, lower transportation costs, and improved access to jobs, services, and activities. Healthy communities with a strong sense of place attract people to stop, linger, interact, and enjoy the activated public places inherent in transit-supportive communities.
  • Transit/Mobility Benefits - Planning policies that improve access to transit and expand the reach of transit can help retain existing riders and attract new riders. By reducing the barriers to accessing transit and by making transit more efficient and easy to use, transit can become a more attractive alternative to driving. Policies that improve access to transit also typically integrate multiple modes of transportation and include improvements to pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and connectivity.
  • Vehicle Miles Traveled/Greenhouse Gas Benefits & Transportation Demand Management -

    Transit-supportive places typically include a mixture of land uses and amenities that are integrated into walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly communities which reduce automobile dependency, carbon and GHG emissions, and improve air quality. A 2010 report published by the Center for Transit Oriented Development (CTOD) found households living in a central city near transit can reduce GHG emissions on average by 43%. Households in the most location efficient transit zones can reduce GHG emissions by as much as 78%. [1]

    Additionally, compact development projects inherent in transit-supportive communities reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) through internal trip capture. The 2010 CTOD report also found that an average Chicago household located near transit, in a walkable neighborhood with access to jobs and amenities has an average carbon output related to VMT that is 43% lower (4.07 tons of carbon) than an average Chicago household in a more remote suburban area (7.15 tons of carbon).

    Furthermore, transit-supportive communities encourage the implementation of transportation demand management (TDM) strategies. TDM strategies are designed to encourage the use of transit, ridesharing, walking, and biking through incentives or marketing efforts on behalf of local or regional organizations. Common strategies include parking management, congestion pricing, ridesharing, and subsidized transit by employers.

  • Public Health Benefits – Transit-supportive planning policies that support pedestrians and bicyclists (e.g. complete streets policies) can help make streets safer for these active modes of transportation and encourage more healthy activities such as walking and biking. By creating more walkable and bikeable streets, residents within a transit-supportive place will be more inclined to leave their cars at home and complete short distance trips by walking or biking to their destinations.
  • Economic Benefits – Transit-supportive planning provides significant opportunities to foster local economic growth. By shifting the transportation paradigm from driving to walking, it can help improve visibility of existing economic activity centers, stimulate the redevelopment of blighted areas, increase property values, increase property tax revenues, and attract private developer investments. Additionally, expansive and integrated transit networks provide improved access to regional job centers and more diverse economic opportunities.
  • Affordability Benefits – A mix of housing options near transit allows communities to provide equitable solutions to families of lower income and rely heavily on transit as their primary mode of transportation. According to Damewood and Young-Laing (2011) [2] , inclusionary zoning policies that requires or encourages developers to reserve a portion of housing for lower income residents may also minimize adverse effects of gentrification, such as displacement.

[1] Haas, Peter, et al. "Transit oriented development and the potential for VMT-related greenhouse gas emissions growth reduction." Report of the Center for Neighborhood Technology for the Center for Transit Oriented Development (2010): 1-64 .

[2] Damewood, R., & Young Laing, B. Strategies to prevent displacement of residents and businesses in Pittsburgh’s hill district (2011) .

How the toolkit will be used by local jurisdictions

The Metro Transit-Supportive Planning toolkit is intended to be used by local jurisdictions to assist in the development of their own local projects, plans, regulations, and ordinances. The toolkit contains a variety of state-wide, regional, and local best practices, as well as case studies that local agencies can draw from. Additionally, the transit-supportive planning toolkit acknowledges that there is no one size fits all solutions for transit-supportive planning and has provided case studies from a range of small, medium, and large communities.

Characteristics of Transit Supportive Places

Transit supportive places are locations where the presence of effective and predictable transit can be enhanced through appropriate patterns and types of development. Research has shown that the presence or absence of certain physical design features, transit characteristics, and other supportive polices that promote a diversity of land uses, compact design, greater transportation mode choice, and safe and walkable streets can reduce driving and increase transit ridership, walking, and biking (Cervero and Ewing, 2010; Rajamani, et. al. 2013; Niemeier, Bai, and Handy, 2011). Early research identified three “Ds” (density, diversity and design) as essential elements of transit supportive development (Cervero and Kockelman, 1997). Further analytical research revealed other common elements, including destination accessibility, distance to transit, demographics, and demand management.

Based on an analysis of the literature, 10 characteristics or elements were identified that are considered to be best practices that promote the creation of transit supportive places. These best practices form the organizational structure for the tools that will be used in the Transit Supportive Planning Toolkit. It is important to note that these practices need to be used together in varying degrees to achieve development patterns and transportation systems that create livable places while also increasing transit ridership and reducing GHG emissions.

Each of the 10 characteristics described below has a linked page, which lists potential strategies for implementation, and delves into the potential effectiveness of each strategy to reduce VMT, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and support transit ridership. The metric that is used to evaluate the relative effectiveness of an individual element is “elasticity.” Elasticity measures the percentage change in the dependent variable, such as walking or transit use, in response to a 1% change in an independent variable, such as transit service, land use density, or land use mix. A positive elasticity indicates the effect is the same as the cause. For example, a 0.07 elasticity for walking with respect to land use density means that each 1% increase in density causes walking to increase 0.07%.

Best Practice Characteristics

Compact Design Compact Design

Compact design, or density, refers to the number of people, homes, or jobs per unit of area. Higher density, especially within a quarter or half mile of a transit facility, can impact travel behavior by providing more opportunities to live in close proximity to transit. These residents have improved mobility choices, and if mixed-use is combined with greater density, they also benefit from reduced travel distances for daily activities and decreased reliance on the automobile. Compact design is also associated with other common characteristics of transit supportive development, including regional accessibility, land use mix, and more transportation options.

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Complete Neighborhoods Complete Neighborhoods

Complete neighborhoods refer to places where people have safe and convenient access to goods and services. Complete neighborhoods include a variety of housing options, retail and commercial services, and community services. Complete neighborhoods bring land uses and amenities closer together, reduce travel distances, and allow for more non-automobile trips. As with Compact Development, the common practice is that the greatest area of impact for Complete Neighborhoods is within a half mile of fixed guideway transit facilities, such as rail, and a quarter mile of major bus facilities.

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Street and Network Connectivity Street and Network Connectivity

Well-connected streets and non-automobile networks bring destinations closer together, reduce travel distances, and improve pedestrian and bicycle access to adjacent areas and uses. Poorly connected street and non-automobile networks with cul-de-sacs, frequent dead ends, and difficult-to-cross streets provide less accessibility than a well-connected network. Street connectivity is measured by the number of intersections per square mile, portion of four-way stops, percentage of cul-de-sacs, path directness, or road density, among other measures.

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Site Layout, Parking Layout, and Building Design Site Layout, Parking Layout, and Building Design

Placing buildings towards the edges of streets and public spaces helps to create walkable urban environments. Buildings placed near the edge of sidewalks help provide a sense of definition to streets and also emphasize the pedestrian access compared to locations where parking is located between the sidewalk and the building. Placing buildings behind parking lots isolates pedestrians from activities and uses, requires them to walk greater distances, and exposes them to more vehicular traffic. Curb-cuts, driveways, and service entrances and load areas further disrupt pedestrian access.

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Affordable Housing Affordable Housing

Low-income residents, including seniors, often have some of the lowest rates of car ownership and highest rates of transit ridership. Adding new affordable housing near transit can improve access to employment, health care, and education opportunities and reduce commuting cost for low-income families, while creating a more efficient transit system. Housing is considered affordable when it costs no more than 30% of the monthly household income. Designated affordable housing generally serves households earning less than 60% of the area median income. If economic conditions are right, transit investment may increase property values around the stations, which in turn creates a need to preserve existing affordable housing near transit. Challenges may include pressure to convert affordable units to market rate, loss of housing stock, and population displacement.

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Commercial Stabilization, Business Retention and Expansion Commercial Stabilization, Business Retention and Expansion

Increased property values near transit stations may put cost pressures on existing businesses by attracting new retailers and jobs that compete with existing neighborhood businesses. Commercial stabilization measures can help protect and encourage existing small, local businesses that serve the needs of neighborhood residents. These businesses may benefit from an increase in pedestrian activity and transit riders, while providing the goods and services needed by riders and reducing the need for additional auto trips.

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Transit Prioritization, Accessibility, and Area Design Transit Prioritization, Accessibility, and Area Design

Prioritizing transit and active transportation as the first and highest priority of a circulation network may result in increased transit service, through better travel times and speeds, which can result in significant transit ridership improvements. Transit-first policies prioritize transit and non-motorized transportation modes and can be used to support decision-making related to sustainable transportation. Policies can be used during development review, allocation of right-of-way, and planning and design efforts to ensure the expedited movement of transit vehicles and to improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists accessing transit stops. Transit accessibility refers to the ease of accessing that service by vehicle, walking, biking, or transit. Accessibility is a measure that considers both transportation and land use.

Improving transit station and stop design can increase the comfort, convenience, and attractiveness of transit, supporting TOD and increasing transit ridership. On average, transit riders spend 10% - 30% of the trip waiting for transit vehicles. Many transit riders are sensitive to the conditions where they wait, encouraging or discouraging ridership based on station conditions. Offering amenities and services, and providing a clean and safe environment, makes riding transit more convenient.

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Parking Management Parking Management

Parking management affects the relative supply, price, and regulation of parking facilities within an area. Efficient parking management can reduce the parking supply needed, allowing an increase in land use intensity, mix of uses, wider sidewalks, and bike networks. Parking management strategies may also reduce vehicle ownership and use.

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Transportation Demand Management Transportation Demand Management

Transportation Demand Management (TDM) refers to various strategies aimed at more efficient use of transportation systems. TDM strategies influence a variety of factors to encourage greater transportation system efficiency, including trip mode, trip timing, travel safety, and trip cost. Benefits of TDM include reduction in road and parking congestion, pollution reduction, increase in transit ridership, and more efficient land use.

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Pedestrian and Bicycle Circulation Pedestrian and Bicycle Circulation

Quality of pedestrian and bicycle circulation conditions affect travel activity including transit ridership. Adding pedestrian and bicycle amenities to station areas and connecting those facilities to the surrounding area can create a more accessible transit environment, encouraging new riders.

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The Toolkit is organized in five sections: Land Use and Planning, Transportation and Parking, Urban Design, Community Engagement, and Financing Tools. Even though the tools are categorized into different sections they should be considered holistically, as there is a great deal of overlap in how the strategies can be implemented and how they can work in concert with each other.

These sections include specific methods, programs, and strategies, or tools, for achieving Transit Oriented Development (TOD) goals. Each tool includes a description, the expected or desired outcomes of the tool, real-life examples of the tool being used in practice, and other relevant resources relating to the tool. Additionally, each tool in this report lists the Best Practices of Transit-Supportive Places categories to which it applies. These categories are defined in the Best Practices Memorandum prepared in support of this Toolkit and are listed again here for reference:

  1. Compact Design
  2. Complete Neighborhoods
  3. Street and Network Connectivity
  4. Site Layout, Parking Placement, and Building Design
  5. Affordable Housing
  6. Commercial Stabilization, Business Retention and Expansion
  7. Transit Prioritization, Accessibility, and Area Design
  8. Parking Management
  9. Transit Demand Management
  10. Pedestrian and Bicycle Circulation

Land Use and Planning

The Land Use and Planning section addresses how planning can be used to promote TOD. This is accomplished at a high level through General Plan and Vision Plan updates, as well as at a more detailed level with specific zoning strategies and incentive programs. These strategies generally aim to promote development and generate transit-supportive land uses in and around transit areas. Included topics are:

Transportation and Parking

The Transportation and Parking section details transportation programs that aim to improve transportation in and around TOD districts. Transportation is a central component of TOD, and as such it is important to find ways to move people around and accommodate automobiles in ways appropriate for the needs of TOD districts. This section provides practical and tested programs with two general focuses: promoting transit use and active transportation, and managing automobile travel and parking. Both of these are addressed through infrastructure, incentive, and other programs that improve mobility, encourage transit use, coordinate transportation programs, reduce car ownership and vehicle trips, and more efficiently plan for and utilize parking. Programs and plans discussed in this section are:

Urban Design

The Urban Design section offers strategies that focus on design elements of the built environment in TOD districts. These strategies encourage design features used in development projects and streetscape improvements that improve the built environment to be more conducive to walking, public life, transit use, and neighborhood identity. Strategies include:

Affordable Housing

There are a range of planning tools and models that local agencies in Los Angeles County can utilize to assess the environmental and/or health benefits and impacts associated with transit supportive development, as well as the development of transit-supportive communities and station areas. This portion of the Transit Supportive Planning Toolkit website lists available resources for local agency staff to utilize in the grant application process to support the implementation of transit supportive projects.

The benefit of these tools is their ability to provide data and metrics for use by local agencies in the pursuit of funding for implementation through various State and Federal programs. Obtaining government sourced funding assistance for transit supportive development projects, however, often involves an extensive application process that requires local jurisdictions to provide data on key performance metrics.  The following describes some of the environmental performance metrics often required as a part of the grant writing process:

  • GHG Emission Levels : Greenhouse gases (GHGs) include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and water vapor.  GHGs are the main contributors to global warming, as they trap the heat from solar radiation from passing through the atmosphere, thus causing the lower atmosphere to warm.  Some funding programs like the State of California Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities Program (AHSC) require projects to demonstrate reductions in GHG emission levels and require applications to quantify GHG emission reductions per GGRF dollar.
  • VMT : the measure of miles traveled by vehicles within a specified region for a specified time period. VMT is often used to measure carbon emission levels associated with automobiles.  As VMT decreases, carbon emissions associated with automobiles is also expected to decrease.  Demonstration of VMT reduction is a common requirement for many federal and state funding programs.
  • Vehicle Trips : a one way movement of a vehicle between two points.  Similar to VMT, vehicle trips is also used as a way to measure carbon emission levels associated with automobiles.
  • Mode Share : The percentage distribution of trips among the various travel modes.  Mode share is often used to measure automobile dependency and related carbon emission levels.
  • Disease Incidence : The number of newly diagnosed cases of a disease.  Disease incidences of respiratory diseases such as asthma can serve as potential metrics to measure air quality within a community.
  • Traffic Injuries : Traffic injuries involving automobiles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit vehicles are a growing public health concern and can serve as a metric to measure safety and infrastructure design within a community.  The City of Los Angeles recently implemented the citywide Vision Zero initiative that focuses on prioritizing safety for all users of the roadway and to reduce traffic deaths to zero by the year 2025.

The graphic below illustrates the relationship between policy areas, sustainability objectives, and the metrics noted above.

Environmental Tools

A brief overview of available environmental and health planning tools is provided in the figure below.  The link to the PDF to the right provides more detailed information and summaries of the planning tools.

Environmental Tools

Fiscal and economic tools are an important component of the Transit Supportive Planning Toolkit.  The objective of these tools and the memorandum linked to at the bottom of this page is to provide local agencies with the tools to effectively communicate the anticipated economic outcomes of TOD-supportive land use development policies and scenarios.

The economic benefits of compact, transit-supportive development are not always understood in terms that are accessible to or understood by policy makers and the public.  The memorandum below documents recent research and statistics regarding the economic benefits of these development types with regard to property tax revenues, sales tax revenues, jobs, and property values, providing local agency staff with the information necessary to help make the fiscal and economic case for transit-supportive development policies and patterns.

Economic benefits of TOD summarized in the memorandum include the following:

  • TOD increases property tax reviews
  • TOD increases sales tax revenues
  • TOD catalyzes economic development
  • High density development costs less than less compact development
  • TOD increases potential for retail and office space
  • TOD outperforms lower density development
  • TOD increases property values
  • TOD increases returns for developers
  • Transit locations provide more community amenities
  • Transit locations produce better health outcomes
  • Housing and transportation costs can be lower in TOD locations

Research cited throughout the memorandum consistently shows that communities embracing transportation and compact development policies experience improved economic performance, while development situated in walking distance of transit stations has the strongest potential for realizing economic resilience and quality of life benefits.

Fiscal and Economic Benefits Memorandum


The Financing Tools section highlights federal, state, and market tools to finance and fund TOD and transit investments.  Furthermore, these tools also identify Federal sources for TOD planning grants that local and regional agencies can pursue and apply for to establish TOD districts. Tools mentioned are:

This summary describes a selection of key best practices relating to community engagement for transit-oriented development.  While similar to engagement during other urban planning processes, transit-oriented development includes unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to how, where, and when to carry out community engagement in your community.  Key challenges may include: reaching out to a full range of stakeholders, such as people who do not currently live in the area but will visit or move there if the TOD were to happen, or being able to describe TOD in a way that focuses on the benefits rather than its negative impacts.  Key opportunities may include: an active and vocal constituency that is aware of the TOD project and transit system and has clear opinions, or the expanded set of resources that are available to you through private sector partners (i.e. developers).  Best practices included here were identified through the study team’s experience in developing transit-supportive plans and policy documents, the input received from interviews with local city representatives, research, and case study review.

Best Practices

1) Craft a Clear Outreach Plan

Craft a clear outreach plan . Develop a plan that establishes a schedule for meetings, workshops, pilots, presentations, newsletters, eblasts, social media presence, mobile messaging and all outreach processes to maintain an even and sustained presence. The Outreach Plan should lay out the goals for the project and identify why particular outreach methods were chosen, referencing developers’ forums, community visioning, charrettes, walking audits, etc. It can also contain a project brand and tagline, stakeholder lists, methods to reach non-traditional audiences, and a decision-making process diagram.

  • a. Example: Los Angeles New Community Plan for the South Los Angeles Area (SLA) . The City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning developed a detailed and clear plan for conducting outreach as part of the development and adoption of the new community plan. The outreach plan was tailored to the community and focused on garnering participation from the entire community. The approach included over 100 neighborhood council meetings, focus groups, outreach to faith-based groups, as well as advocates for affordable housing and healthy communities.
  • b. Additional Resource: Complete Housing Toolkit . The Puget Sound Regional Council provides an overview of the desirable elements of a community outreach plan.

2) Use Defensible Data

Use Defensible Data . Root project direction in quantifiable and defensible data that represents community sentiment. This will protect you against arguments about a biased process, as you will have real numbers to fall back on to explain choices and decisions. Make sure that this data is integrated into the decision-making process.

  • c. Example: Minneapolis Stadium Village University Avenue Station Area Plan . The City of Minneapolis, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and Hennepin County, created the Stadium Village University Avenue Station Area Plan for their light rail corridor project. The project kicked off with a public meeting that drew approximately 70 attendants and an online survey that gathered 450 responses. The city used the findings to determine their plan focus and priorities.

3) Use Multiple Modes of Communication

Use multiple modes of communication to get project information out and to gather information. This will extend your reach and make sure everyone feels heard. Key stakeholders will receive TOD information regarding benefits and mitigation measures for issues of concern, i.e. density, parking, traffic, noise, home devaluation, and stakeholders will have access to up-to-date information on the project and its progress. Furthermore, long term support will be coalesced, since people were involved early on and consistently. Outreach efforts should begin with one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders and community leaders. Goal-setting and “Big Picture” scoping with the community should take place early on to build relationships and partnerships. After the initial phases of public outreach efforts there should be mid-size information meetings with groups who share like interests. This will help identify specific needs in the community and where tradeoffs may need to be made. Throughout the project, keep stakeholders in the information loop and conduct large public meetings at critical milestones. Provide more engagement tools for young people and those unable to attend meetings, i.e. live streaming of meetings.

  • d. Example 1: Oakland Downtown Circulation Study . The Alameda County Transportation Commission, City of Oakland, and the City of Alameda are working together on a Comprehensive Circulation Study for Downtown Oakland. The study, which will propose transportation projects within several neighborhoods near BART stations, included several public outreach elements such as a public charrette, walking tours in two of the neighborhoods, a merchants’ meeting, a Project Stakeholder Group, a website, and a hosted digital survey. The walking tours were organized by community members and they gathered key stakeholders in the two neighborhoods. The Project Stakeholder Group draws from community groups including Asian Health Services, Bike East Bay, Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Oakland BID, Jack London Improvement District, Public Advocates, SPUR Oakland, Transport Oakland, and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland.
  • e. Example 2: Minneapolis Stadium Village University Avenue Station Area Plan . The City of Minneapolis used public meetings held at different times during the day, an online survey, steering committees, email updates that reached over 10,000 stakeholders, a report on the local evening news, articles in local newspapers, and staffing at other community meetings to spread information about the project. At each meeting, planners were sure to include members from different community groups.

4) New Technologies in the Outreach Process

Along with the more traditional methods of outreach, including workshops, community meetings, and hearings, consider using emerging and digital technologies, such as mobile apps, virtual open-houses, live chat sessions, and community comment forums. These methods can help to extend the reach of your transit-oriented outreach, for example by connecting you with people who are unable to attend a workshop in-person (or live along a future transit line, outside of your usual area of influence), or by integrating polling and social media to document and blast information out about your project. This section contains references to applications and websites you might find helpful. Metro does not endorse any particular website or resource, rather the intention is to let you know the range of available platforms, which can help strengthen your outreach approach.

Browsing websites like NextDoor , which allow neighbors to connect and share ideas, will allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of community in the areas where your transit project sits. Websites like and Citizen Investor , can help you engage your constituency in budgeting and investing for transit-oriented projects. Some of these websites engage constituencies directly in the decision-making process, while others let you gauge the overall interests and values of your community relating to budgeting. Several map-based tools make it possible for people to leave comments on a map, for example CrowdMap or Community Remarks , which would be especially helpful for a transit area-level planning project, such as a Specific Plan or Transit-Oriented Plan. Applications like Textizen allow you to send, receive, and analyze questions through text messages, while more web-oriented platforms like Crowdbrite , Neighborland , and MindMixer help you craft websites and portals for community engagement, including forums, areas for leaving feedback, and areas to get project information. Poll Everywhere , will allow you to create a poll that people can answer on their mobile devices, so you can imagine encouraging people to fill out a poll while riding transit or in-the-field at the site of a proposed or existing transit-oriented development.

5) Use Visualization Tools to Show the Benefits

Use Visualization Tools to Show the Benefits. Many people are afraid of new transit-supportive development because they do not know what it looks like or how it could improve the area. One simple, yet effective tool, is to graphically illustrate what the project or plan will look like once it is built. There are multiple tools to achieve this including: photosimulations (using Photoshop to superimpose improvements on a photo of the existing area), renderings (hand or computer sketches of the future of the area), and visual preference surveys (using existing photos of built projects in other locations to visually show what a project will look like).

  • f. Example. Vision Lennox . The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning undertook a community planning process to develop a shared vision for the future of the Lennox community. Using a highly collaborative and participatory process, County staff hosted a series of interactive workshops and meetings with community stakeholders to develop a vision document and poster plan. This plan expressed the long-term goals and aspirations of the community related to land-use, transportation, and economic revitalization. The team used photosimulations to show how Hawthorne Boulevard could transform from an auto-oriented corridor into a mixed use, pedestrian-oriented and transit-supportive environment.

Visual Preference Survey

6) Make it Fun

Make it Fun. Go beyond the traditional methods to engage stakeholders in fun ways. Using action-oriented, pilot, and in-the-field outreach makes it not only easier for people to digest dense planning topics, but allows you to revise, test, and fix ideas. It also casts a wider net because everyday citizens are encouraged to participate, not just the people who typically attend public meeting.

  • g. Example: City of Santa Monica’s Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway . The City used a “tactical” installation in the street to test out potential Greenway improvements along Michigan Avenue for a half day. The installation was coupled with a street festival with outdoor music, free food for those who participated, biking tours, and arts and community activities. While not explicitly TOD-related, the lessons applied from this project apply to TOD projects as well. Getting people to see, feel, and experience potential improvements helps move the project forward.
  • h. Additional Resource: Planning By Doing . Describes action-oriented planning goals, steps, and processes.

7) Reframe the Discussion

Reframe the discussion away from the idea of “density” and toward a focus on the improved lifestyle. This includes walkability, pleasant street life, good urban design, and eyes-on-the-street for safety. Have statistics relating to potential benefits in your back pocket, for example those relating to reduced individual transportation costs, reduction in governmental spending, and reductions in greenhouse gases. Identify particular sources of community pride and community concerns relating to the transit or related development. Typical concerns may include: loss of neighborhood character (perceived small town vs urban character); differing community visions for the future; fear of increased density; and parking and traffic concerns. Initial messaging should show that TOD can improve lifestyle and the economic health of a community. Provide TOD “branding” and templates for on-going, brief “TOD-benefits laden” messages. You can get these statistics and messages from internal resources, communications and public relations consultants, and from a variety of sources and compendiums that exist online. Messages can take the form of handouts, glossaries of TOD benefits, newsletters, social media blasts, mobile messaging, FAQ handouts, and Fact or Fiction quizzes. Make sure these materials are geared toward the lay-person. Raise awareness that quiet neighborhoods can remain peaceful through design criteria and planning regulations, while entertainment and dining opportunities can also be enhanced. Educate young people that they can remain in their communities and take the train to work thereby helping to revitalize older communities.

  • a. Example: San Leandro BART TOD Planning . The Center for Community Innovation at UC Berkeley tested out presentations and brochures that showcased carefully selected images showing attractive building design and landscaping to residents during TOD Planning for San Leandro around the San Leandro Crossings and found that focus groups liked the architecture shown, despite the fact that it was “high-density.” Community members liked buildings with particular characteristics relevant to the local content and those that showed lively active street fronts because they could imagine the lifestyle that the TOD would bring, rather than only focusing on the size and height of buildings.
  • b. Additional Resource: Measure the Benefits of Transit Oriented Development . Discusses the benefits of TOD in New Jersey around 8 train stations, relating to metrics like travel behavior, civic engagement, health benefits, and property values.
  • c. Additional Resource: Comprehensive Evaluation of Transit Oriented Development Benefits . Planetizen article about the impact of TOD on mode shift and other TOD benefits and provides links to additional resources.
  • d. Additional Resource: Communicating the Benefits of TOD (Case Studies) . Looks at the impact of the City of Evanston’s Transit-Oriented Redevelopment and the Hudson Bergen Light Rail Transit System.
  • e. Additional Resource: Transit-Oriented Development: Moving from Rhetoric to Reality . Describes how TOD can help address traffic congestion, air pollution, long commute time, and shortage of affordable housing.

8) Build Coalitions and Identify Project Champions

Build Coalitions that bring expertise, guide the decision making process, and help to more effectively engage stakeholders. Coalitions can be grassroots, volunteer, or staffed organizations. Some of the activities that transit-related coalitions can do, are consensus building, visioning, public education, advocacy, supporting or opposing certain development projects, and research. Local coalitions often help with direct outreach for specific TOD projects.

  • i. Example: The Transit Coalition, Southern California. The Transit Coalition is a grassroots advocacy organization that performs outreach and educates people about mobility alternatives. One of the Coalitions visions for 2020 is increased transit-oriented development. As one example of their TOD-related work, for a proposed new development, the Casden-Sepulveda Development, they advocated against the project to the City of Los Angeles because it was not transit-friendly enough, even though it was located near the Exposition/ Sepulveda Light Rail Station. They recommended less parking and less auto-orientation in the project’s design.
  • j. Additional Resource: Improving Outreach for Transportation Projects by Use of Citizen Coalitions . Describes how coalitions can be used effectively for positive impact on transportation and TOD-related projects.
  • k. Additional Resource: Strength in Numbers: A Guide to Building Community Coalitions . Discusses the formation, governance, structure, operation, and funding for community collations.

Finding Project Champions

Finding a project champion in the local community – beyond local politicians– helps assure that people perceive your project as a civic project, one that is aligned with community interests rather than imposed from the top down. It also encourages a project’s longevity despite inevitable changes in political leadership or project management on the municipal side, over the life of a project. Project champions can be local clergy, landowners, leaders of community groups, or other well-known public figures in a particular community. When considering a project champion, choose someone who:

  • is known for bring people together, rather than dividing a community
  • has solid relationships with people in his or her community, ideally relationships that span socio-economic classes, professions, and political beliefs
  • is able to speak articulately about the issues at hand

The role of a project champion is to participate in community events, bring people together, perform social networking, seek partnerships, and rally support. Because they are so connected on the community level, they can head problems off at the pass. If they see that people are very concerned about densification or traffic, for example, they can relay this information to you and/or provide concerned citizens with one-on-one attention and dialogue before the issue gets out of hand. Empower your project champion with facts and figures that support the plan, and give them the help that they need to run community forums and host community dialogues.

9) Make it Personal

Make it Personal. Include real-world narratives, case studies, and personal stories about how people have been positively impacted by TOD and transit in other communities. Expand the narrative and goals for TOD to include the needs and preferences of families, children, people with disabilities, multiple-income levels, and others. It is particularly important to ensure that TOD planning meets the needs of all members of the community. For many people, TOD can be associated with young urban professionals and empty nesters, and planners should counteract this association by accounting for other groups that are part of the community now or who will be in the future. Widening the net of who is included, will make for a more-friendly project, a “complete community” that will attract new populations and help retain existing populations. Think about organizing a TOD tour or peer to peer forums, i.e., community leaders to community leaders, councilmembers to councilmember, so people can see and feel first-hand the impact of TOD. As two examples: first, in South Gate, stakeholder messages were delivered by peers for example mom-to-mom and neighbor-to-neighbor. Second, in La Verne, planning staff, commissioners, and council members took field trips to TOD projects underway, for example to Portland and Vancouver.

  • l. Example: City of Long Beach’s Sidewalk Stories, Downtown and TOD Pedestrian Master Plan . The City is preparing a TOD Pedestrian Master Plan with a grant from LA Metro, which provides policies, guidelines, and standards to ensure best practices for pedestrian design and to identify catalytic infrastructural projects. After their first community outreach session, which consisted of an outdoor festival with temporary street improvements, interactive activities, and pop-up retail, the City held “Sidewalk Stories”. The event invited community members, local stakeholders, residents, property owners and visitors to share their personal stories of walking on the streets, sidewalks, and alleys of Long Beach. A survey at the event gathered community feedback. The personal stories, coupled with the temporary installations in the first round of outreach makes people connect personally with the ideas in the Plan.
  • m. Additional Resource: Families and Transit-Oriented Development . Lays out steps for creating TODs that are supportive of families.

10) Address Equity and Displacement Concerns

Address equity and displacement concerns. In order to adequately address equity and displacement concerns, engage all residents in the development process to make sure that the TOD meets their needs and interests. Work directly with Community Based Organizations who have longstanding relationships and trust within their community.

  • n. Example: Denver Transit-Oriented Development initiative . Partnerships with Community Based Organizations were central to their process. The organizations allowed the City to fill in gaps where they feel short and did not have deep enough relationships within the community. Specifically, the Community Based Organizations encouraged residents to get involved in the development process.
  • o. Additional Resource: A Guide to Community-Drive Transit Oriented Development Planning . Trust South LA’s summary of their participatory approach to outreach during the development of Rolland Curtis Gardens in a transit-rich neighborhood. Can be used as a helpful guide for others crafting their own process.

Additional Resource: Effective Practices in Community Engagement for Equitable Transit-Oriented Development . Presents best practices in community engagement around equitable transit-oriented development.