Transit-Oriented Development

Our work in transit-oriented development (TOD) helps people drive less, spend less, and enjoy a higher quality of life by encouraging development of livable communities around transit stations.

CNT recently hosted a series of workshops about pertinent equitable TOD (eTOD) topics such as parking requirements, new technology, and more. The workshops were also made available via webinar, and recordings are available to view here.

We help communities accelerate TOD to tackle some of the biggest issues of our day: community affordability, changing transportation needs, equal access to livable communities, and climate change.

Why TOD? Why Now?

For more than two decades, we have championed the potential of transit-oriented development (TOD) to breathe new life into urban communities. We promote TOD because it creates walkable and connected communities where people can own fewer cars and live closer to jobs, shopping, schools, and other destinations. When people drive less, they spend less and produce fewer greenhouse gases in the process. We strive to make sure that living in a TOD is affordable where transit stations already anchor growth, and we help distressed communities use TOD to spur neighborhood investment. When those things happen, major benefits accrue. Our research shows that equitable TOD can dramatically increase access to jobs via transit, reduce the cost of transportation, and provide alternative mobility options for low-income households.

As TOD becomes an increasingly accepted planning concept, questions remain for practitioners.

  • How do we ensure that it includes housing for all incomes?
  • How much parking does a TOD really need?
  • How can TOD meet climate change goals?
  • How can communities Affirmatively Further Fair Housing through TOD?
  • How much can households save on transportation within a TOD?
  • As households in TODs spend less on transportation, how does it support local economies?

That’s where CNT can help.

We’ve developed the tools and metrics to track environmental, economic, and cost-of-living savings. We’ve used our data to guide performance-based best practices for TOD in Chicago and across the nation. And we support progressive TOD policies at all levels of government.

We’ve done it as a founding member of the national Center for Transit-Oriented Development, and we’ve advanced TOD projects in our Chicago backyard.

Learn More



Program Contact
Drew Williams-Clark, Managing Director, Urban Resilience

“TOD can reduce dependence on cars, improve the cost of living, connect workers to opportunity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We’re working to ensure that households of all incomes and backgrounds can enjoy those benefits, in cities and in suburbs, and in regions large and small.”

Kyle Smith
Director of Housing Initiatives, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus

Research + Further Reading

Stalled Out: How Empty Parking Spaces Diminish Neighborhood Affordability

March 25, 2016

Stalled Out: How Empty Parking Spaces Diminish Neighborhood Affordability explores the relationship between unused parking and neighborhood affordability. Many cities, including Chicago, mandate the minimum number of parking spaces new developments need to build. As the report points out, however, these minimum requirements don’t always reflect real demand.

For this study, we interviewed multifamily developers in Chicago and went to the parking lots and garages of 40 apartment buildings, both market-rate and subsidized, to see how much parking was being used. Researchers went at 4:00 a.m., when most tenants have parked their cars and are asleep in bed. Consistent with our findings in the San Francisco Bay AreaWashington, D.C.; and King County, Washington, the study found that:

  • The supply of parking exceeds demand. Buildings offered two spots for every three units. According to our analysis, they only used one for every three.
  • As parking supply goes up, much of it sits empty. Apartments with fewer spaces saw a greater percentage of their parking used.
  • Apartment buildings near frequent transit need less parking. Buildings within ten minutes of a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train stop provided one spot for every two units. Even then, one-third of the spots sat empty.


Income, Location Efficiency, and VMT: Affordable Housing as a Climate Strategy

Gregory L. Newmark Ph.D and Peter M. Haas Ph.D
December 16, 2015

This paper combines detailed travel-survey, transit-service, and land-use data to estimate a model for predicting the role of income and location efficiency in reducing household vehicle-miles traveled (VMT). The research then applies this model to census data collected in the most transit-rich areas of California. The research finds strong justification for California’s current support of location-efficient affordable housing as a strategy to reduce VMT and mitigate climate change.

This working paper was first posted in July 2015. The California Strategic Growth Council commissioned an academic review of the paper in order to consider its use in funding formulas for the allocation of cap and trade funds for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program. The working paper was revised in response to review comments and reposted on December 16, 2015.


Putting Places First: Targeting Infrastructure Improvements to Spur Investment in Priority Development Areas

November 16, 2015

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) has helped chart a new framework for regional development focused on underutilized land in existing communities and anchored by walkable neighborhoods, transit, and freight. This report reveals that the transportation projects we’re funding aren’t aligned with—and sometimes are completely opposed to—that goal.

We need to overhaul the system and align it with a planning framework known as Priority Development Areas (PDAs), a commitment across regional governments to invest in transportation, housing, and economic development programs together and in the same places to spark infill development. Rather than thinly spreading limited public dollars without coordination, public agencies should leverage their resources to implement plans, encourage development around existing transit and freight systems, and maximize return on public investment.


Lakeview Transit-Oriented Development: Housing + Transportation Trends

CNT + Lakeview Chamber of Commerce
April 28, 2015

We collaborated with the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce on a report supporting greater transit-oriented development (TOD) activity in the Lakeview neighborhood. The paper found the number of households in the neighborhood on the decline, despite millions of dollars in development activity in the 2000s – perhaps because zoning makes TOD practically impossible in most areas. The report also found that while new TOD development has been proposed in the neighborhood, the lack of parking has been a contentious issue even though the rate of car ownership has fallen 6 percent and nearly one-third of Lakeview households own no car at all. We will continue to work with organizations like the Lakeview Chamber to accelerate TOD throughout the Chicago region.


Quality of Life, (e)Quality of Place

by CNT and Open Communities
January 15, 2015

Rail transit anchors downtowns and neighborhoods in communities throughout Chicago’s northern suburbs and across the region, but many of these communities are falling behind in creating mixed-income transit-oriented development. This guidebook offers case studies, policy recommendations, and public participation tools to help suburbs build affordable, accessible housing around transit.


Transit-Oriented Development in the Chicago Region: Efficient and Resilient Communities for the 21st Century

by CNT
May 7, 2013

In Transit-Oriented Development in the Chicago Region: Efficient and Resilient Communities for the 21st Century, CNT researchers evaluated the dynamics of the Chicago Region’s 367 fixed Metra and CTA rail stations and station areas between 2000 and 2010. Using the National TOD Database, a first-of-its-kind web tool developed by CNT that provides access to comprehensive information about more than 4,000 transit zones across the United States, researchers identified the transit zones that performed well: those that anchored vital, walkable communities that possess an affordable, high quality of life with minimal impact on the environment. While Chicago made significant investments in TOD during that time period, researchers found that peer cities (based on extensive transit system size) had more successful development of transit zones. Six case studies. Five recommendations.