Transit-oriented development, parking and NMT

Zoning, pedestrian realms, street and path networks, density, mixed use, parking, setbacks, and urban design

Far East Mobility's work on TOD is carried out with support from a Rockefeller Brothers Fund contract, and in cooperation with BRT Planning International.

See our series on TOD in Ji'an, a small to medium sized city in Jiangxi Province:

Part 1 - TOD in China: challenges and opportunities in Ji'an (Aug 2017)
Part 2 - Ji'an TOD: best practices for station area zoning, mixed use, and density (Sep 2017)
Part 3 - Improving parking, setbacks, pedestrian realms & street networks (Sep 2017)

TOD in China

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in China is a matter of grave concern to the world. The problem of climate change is most critically dependent on what happens in the next few decades in the energy and transportation sectors in China. While certainly China’s energy sector, heavily dependent on carbon-intensive coal, remains the greatest single threat to the global climate, its transportation sector remains a close second. While in recent years China has been making impressive strides to reduce its reliance on coal-fired power plants and replace these with renewable and less carbon intensive energy sources, on the transportation side, the outlook is far grimmer. China, which used to be a country of bicycles and tree-lined streets, in January 2016 reached 172 million cars, and is now the largest passenger vehicle market in the world. This is more than triple the number of cars registered in China in 2007. With car ownership of only around one in three households and 310 million licensed car drivers, there is plenty of room for this figure to grow. While the transport sector in China accounts for only about 10% of its total CO2-e emissions, emissions in the transport sector are projected to rise by 3.5% per year.

In the meantime, bus-based transit is failing to keep up. The focus in many cities, including Ji'an, has been on converting the bus fleet to electric buses rather than on improving bus frequency and service, and this is reflected in stagnant or declining mode shares. (In Ji'an, while the fleet has been converted nearly wholly to electric buses, the overall city bus fleet has not increased signficantly since 2012.) In the short term, in small cities such as Ji'an, people are relying initially on electric bikes, and later on cars.

Much of this motorization rate is being encouraged by outmoded planning and building regulations. To give one example, most planning and zoning codes in China require the developers of residential buildings to include somewhere between 0.5 and 1 parking space for each new residential unit. That means China is building cities designed to handle about 0.5 to 1 car per household. This is not the only element that is dysfunctional from the point of view of encouraging transit use, cycling, and walking. Most of China’s planning and zoning regulations follow the textbook modernist approach of separating not only noxious land uses from each other but also separating buildings from the surrounding streets by elevating them and setting them back from the property line. While the separation of noxious industrial land uses continues to be a good practice, many land uses are considered compatible with each other, such as residences and offices, offices and retail, and retail and residences. Rigidly separating these land uses has tended to add needless distance to people’s everyday life, distances that invariably induce the wealthy and middle classes to embrace the private automobile when it becomes an economic possibility.

While zoning codes which rigidly separate even compatible land uses are considered outmoded in almost all of Europe and in a growing number of US cities, they are still the dominant paradigm in China. In China, however, the outmoded nature of these regulations is having a particularly damaging long term effect because China is currently undergoing the largest housing construction boom in the history of humanity.

The view of a new administrative district from the Ji'an Municipal Government building illustrates many of the problems mentioned above, including gated single-use developments with large setbacks, discontinuous streetfronts, car parking yards between buildings and streets (with excellent landscaping underlining the priority given to car users), large pedestrian- and bike-impermeable blocks, lack of any bus priority measures, and a generally unattractive environment for transit, walking and cycling.


While TOD is well-established as part of mass transit rail projects as an excellent way to maximize the benefits of such large investment, TOD approaches in the field of BRT have not yet been achieved or even approached in any systematic way. BRT projects generally proceed without any TOD planning. While TOD planning was carried out in Guangzhou, Lanzhou and Yichang by ITDP and by the Energy Foundation in Jinan, Chongqing and Kunming, the approach was probably too design-focused in the former cities, and the BRT systems were unsuccessful in the latter cities. Some positive results were achieved in Guangzhou, Lanzhou and Yichang, but generally on an ad hoc basis in some selected station areas. Some of the achievements, such as the Tangxia BRT station area improvements, followed from a district-level urban village improvement project rather than from any direct relationship with the BRT station or corridor.

Far East Mobility's work in TOD aims to build upon and learn from the earlier approaches, with the goal of creating 'demonstration' best practice examples which can then be emulated by other cities. Ensuring that high quality station access and station area development improvements are incorporated into high capacity BRT corridor planning requires technical, policy, design and planning inputs which usually go beyond the boundaries of how a particular project is defined, since this work involves TOD, non-motorized transport, urban design, parking, traffic management and other aspects in addition to the transit elements.

Documentation of best practices in urban development

Far East Mobility also documents best practices and impacts of TOD and NMT measures.

Basic concept of BRT station area development, including a special zone around BRT stations (source: Li Yang).

TOD and urban development best practice case studies are documented here, including the following:

Greenfield/Brownfield ---- OCT, Shenzhen
Transit node ---- Shipaiqiao, Guangzhou
Mass transit ---- Guangzhou BRT
Waterways ---- Donghaochong greenway
Historical quarter revitalization ---- Lizhiwan canal, Guangzhou
Urban village regeneration ---- Tangxia Village, Guangzhou
Housing estate revitalization ---- Liuyun Xiaoqu, Guangzhou.

NMT and Complete Streets

"Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities" (definition from Smart Growth America). Far East Mobility works on road design and planning including complete streets and high quality pedestrian & bicycle facilities and policies, often as part of a BRT project.

TOD in Ji'an

Recent work in Ji'an has documented challenges and opportunities for TOD implementation together with the BRT corridor currently being planned and designed. See the part 1 article setting the context, the part 2 article looking at density, mixed use and station area zoning, and the part 3 article looking at setbacks, pedestrian facilities, road networks and parking.

Other cities

Far East Mobility experts' earlier work on TOD included intensive inputs to TOD planning along BRT corridors in Guangzhou, Lanzhou, and Yichang, as well as to BRT systems in planning in Vientiane, Johor Bahru, Tianjin, and other cities. More recently our TOD inputs are concentrated in Ji'an (as part of the BRT planning), Ulaanbaatar (as part of the BRT planning), Guiyang (also as part of ongoing BRT planning), and ongoing TOD best practice documentation.

Far East Mobility supports the TOD principles developed by an expert panel convened by ITDP and published in the TOD Standard (version 3), though their application needs to be adapted to the context of each city.

News & links

Sydney's new 65km walking track stretches from Parramatta to Penrith
Ambitious greenway network planning - 65km walking route.
Sydney Morning Herald, 13.10.2019

Pedestrian detection systems don’t work very well, AAA finds
Dismal results in all but the least challenging scenarios.
Ars Technica, 08.10.2019

北京首批公务电动自行车投用 解决10公里以内的出行难题
北京日报, 02.09.2019

国务院发文要求取消汽车限购 北京称没接到通知
Cities under pressure to remove car registration restrictions. 国务院发文要求取消汽车限购 北京称没接到通知,买车仍需摇号
经济观察网, 29.08.2019

Skateboarding does not need Games validation, says Hawk
“Skateboarding has so much more to offer young people in terms of self confidence, in terms of identity, in terms of setting their own challenges. And that is not competitive-based.”
Reuters, 11.08.2019

'No effective oversight': why the Opal and Mascot Towers cases may be the tip of a very large iceberg
"The design-and-construct model means a developer can get approval to start a project on the basis of partial concept drawings, a builder then tenders for construction and takes over the rest of the design work as construction takes place. Unlike the system which prevailed two or three decades ago, when an architect or clerk of works or engineer would see the whole process through from start to finish, in the design-and-construct model it can be a bit like pass the parcel."
Sydney Morning Herald, 22.06.2019

Airbnb likely removed 31,000 homes from Canada’s rental market, study finds
The McGill authors note that frequently rented homes “are still a small fraction of total housing” in any Canadian city. However, listings can be highly concentrated in some neighbourhoods. In parts of Montreal, for instance, one in five homes were listed on Airbnb.
Globe and Mail, 20.06.2019

Tokyo proves that housing shortages are a political choice
"The planning framework that underpins this supply is a simple zoning system that allows by-right development, rather than one that relies on granting planning permission for each individual site. There are only 12 zones, defined according to the maximum nuisance level they allow, ranging from sleepy residential to polluting industrial uses. The key is that pretty much anything can be built, provided it does not exceed the zone’s nuisance level – so in areas zoned for high street usages it is possible to convert a hotel into housing and vice versa, but this is not possible in residential only zones."
Citymetric, 31.05.2019

STEC allots B7.79bn for Mor Chit project
Value capture - US$250 million (7.79 billion baht) paid by developer for a site next to Mo Chit Skytrain station owned by the Skytrain operator.
Bangkok Post, 12.04.2019

Barcelona’s superblocks are a new model for “post-car” urban living
Plans to drastically reduce the motor vehicle network in Barcelona.
Vox, 11.04.2019

In Need of Housing, Barcelona Fines Landlords For Long-Vacant Buildings
"The law the city is using, which gives it scope to fine negligent landlords after two years of leaving a property vacant, has in fact been in place since 2007 (before Colau’s election) but wasn’t implemented until during her tenure. Since then, the scale of fines demanded has been rising dramatically."
Citylab, 15.03.2019

Welcome to Oslo! NO PARKING.
More and more European cities are effectively banning automobiles from their city centers — and it seems to be working out just fine for local businesses. The cities are "discovering that restoring these historic spaces to their pre-automobile states is as good for tourism, local business, and overall civic contentedness as it is for air quality and a shrinking carbon footprint."
NRDC, 01.02.2019

Why outer suburbs lack inner city’s ‘third places’: a partial defence of the hipster
Fairly obvious, but still interesting article about a 'third place' concept.
The Conversation, 30.01.2019

Cities on the World Stage: A ‘superblock’ design that inspires more like it
Superblocks to the rescue? "The Superblock has the potential to address a number of urban priorities, including air quality, noise pollution, public health and social isolation. Barcelona’s leadership and ambition with the Superblock is refreshing, and others around the world are taking notice.", 18.10.2018

A Step-by-Step Guide for Fixing Badly Planned American Cities
Active and thick facades.
Citylab, 09.10.2018

Robert Venturi: the bad-taste architect who took a sledgehammer to modernism
Robert Venturi, author of one of the 20th Century's best books on architecture, 'Learning from Las Vegas', has died. The Guardian: "Venturi was one of the most influential figures in 20th-century architecture, taking an erudite sledgehammer to the dogmas of modernism and arguing for a world that embraced history, diversity and humour."
The Guardian, 20.09.2018

College Park is pulling for south metro Atlanta’s first transit-based zoning
The proposed new rules detail very specific requirements on such aspects as height of buildings, lot sizes, building materials, facade designs, landscaping, parking and lighting, and also prohibit business types including vehicle sales, pawn shops, adult entertainment and tattoo parlours.
Curbed Atlanta, 04.09.2018

A Once-Maligned Concrete Megastructure in Seoul is Revitalized—Sans Gentrification
A focus on infill and re-use is example for some of the largely abandoned areas in cities like Ji'an, China. "Now, thanks to the Remaking Sewoon Project, which Seoul mayor Park Won-soon spearheaded in 2015, Sewoon Sangga is poised as an adaptive- reuse success story in the city’s post–2008 recession efforts to improve walkability, connect communities, and nurture creative growth."
Metropolis, 08.08.2018

Two Dockless Bikeshare Companies Have Left D.C., One Citing Tight Regulations
Mobike is leaving Washington DC citing a 400-bike cap that killed any chance of efficient or meangingful operations. Washington joins the long list of cities that rather than embracing dockless bike sharing and the potential to double or triple the proportion of trips made by bicycle, has instead focused on over-regulation and obstruction.
WAMU, 25.07.2018

Apartment buildings are illegal to build in 73.5% of San Francisco
"Apartment building" is defined to be a building with 3 or more homes. It is illegal to build a building with more than 5 homes in 87% of San Francisco. Many apartment buildings already exist in the red and orange areas but would be illegal to build today.
vadimg (data SF Gov, code Github), 19.07.2018