Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Transit oriented development is a misnomer

because really what the concept is about is the link between development patterns, walkable communities, and transit, which during the eras of the walking city (1800-1890) and the streetcar/transit city (1890-1920), were tightly integrated architectural and land use development practices. I use the keywords "" to tag related entries in the blog. Since that period, reorienting land use planning and principles to accommodate and focus upon the automobile has often diminished the quality of the outcomes from land use and transportation planning.

The concepts of TOD--transit oriented development, New urbanism, placemaking, and urban design are all focused, using similar methods and principles, are rebalancing the planning paradigm and refocusing it upon creating and maintaining great places.

Sadly, when people hear the term "transit oriented development," many think mostly it has to do with giveaways to developers, rather than being an effort to make great places. Because of its often pejorative connotations, I don't even use it.

But I am not sure that any of my alternative terms--POD, for "place oriented development" or place development, or PBD for place-based development--are any better.

The point is to focus on the values of place and how tightly linking development plans and transit yields a variety of benefits to current and new residents, as well as the municipality, and the region.

If you look at this DC Office of Planning publication from 2003, Trans-Formation: Recreating Transit-Oriented Neighborhood Centers in Washington, DC and these particular sections:

-- Designing a Transit-Oriented Neighborhood
-- Principle One: Orientation and Connectivity
-- Principle Two: Quality Public Realm and Amenities
-- Principle Three: Pedestrian Friendly, Safe Environment
-- Principle Four: Attractive Architecture and Design
-- Principle Five: Mix of Uses
-- Principle Six: Creative Parking Management

you will see that they are about reviving or bringing back the architectural and planning principles that were typical of the time period when great places tended to be built routinely.

I wish that both the DC Office of Planning and the DC Department of Transportation would convert many of the points made in this publication into large "boards" that should be taken to and displayed at just about every public planning process that these departments engage in. And planning efforts by other DC agencies such as the Dept. of Parks and Recreation, the DC Public Library System, and the DC Public School System, shouldhave to follow and achieve these principles as well.

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