Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Transit-Oriented Development - Tokyo-style

Tokyo-style Transit-Oriented Development, a Lesson in Variety and Interconnectivity

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in Tokyo resembles the streetcar suburbs of the US from the turn of the 20th century; private transit operators build high density suburbs along their transit lines to boost ridership. In Tokyo, however, each station area supplies access to most daily services by walking.

Furthermore, most TODs offer large numbers of service sector jobs and some professional jobs. This high level of mixed-usage gives each development a rudimentary independence concerning individual lifestyles; but the grouping of TODs interconnected by an efficient rail and bus system makes them successful. TOD stations are also served by feeder buses and the rail lines connect directly with subways, allowing seamless access to the city center.

Along with the built environment of the TODs themselves, the center which they encompass is fully navigable by foot, bus, or subway. As the TOD resident is freed from car use at both ends of their trips, cars, while owned by many, are only used for non-commute and non-daily activity trips. In many cases, the vast rail system allows TOD residents to carry out most leisure activities by mass transit.

Transportation Demand Management (TDM) further reinforces a transit oriented lifestyle. Relatively high gas prices, expensive and limited parking, and narrow roads (a capricious measure) further reduce the impulse to drive and make the cheaper mass transit option even more attractive. Along with its density, these measures make mass transit the only viable option for commuting

Although replicating Tokyo’s densities would be beyond imaginable, following its example of providing high service levels that make inter-TOD travel convenient id the primary lesson to take away from its experience. The Tokyo region developed its style of TOD from a near clean slate; but Japan’s allowing of private industry and transit operators to develop denser, mixed-use areas around transit stations is crucial as a means to realize these types of development at this level. This private development has also led to the efficient use of stations, where transit operators provide non-transport related services, such as shopping.

In closing, TOD in Tokyo is more than a type of development, it is a lifestyle. While car use is not precluded by Tokyo’s urban form, cars serve their function in a responsible manner. Furthermore, owning a car is a choice; thus all persons of all levels of ability are able to meet their needs, for which TOD in Tokyo allows millions to meet in a manner that is sustainable and equitable.

Gabriel Banks, PhD Candidate -
Professor Nobuaki Ohmori, Lecturer -
University of Tokyo Department of Urban Engineering,
Tokyo Japan

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