ITDP’s TOD Standard: Benchmarking Against International Best Practices

By: Audrey Friedrichsen, Esq., Scenic Hudson muestra-TOD2_Final2

The Transit Oriented Development (“TOD”) Standard was drafted by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (“ITDP”) as an assessment, recognition and policy guidance tool to benchmark practices and policies against what is considered international best practice in urban development.  The TOD Standard “recognizes development that is proactively oriented toward, rather than simply located adjacent to, public transport.”It analyzes whether a proposed urban development promotes high-quality, car free lifestyles through the ITDP’s eight Principles of Transport in Urban Life: (1) promote walking; (2) promote cycling; (3) create networks of streets and paths; (4) locate near high quality public transit; (5) provide for mixed use; (6) create density and transit capacity; (7) create short commutes; and, ultimately, (8) shift away from road use and parking for cars (the “Principles”).

A wide range of stakeholders, including governments, developers and investors, planners and designers, sustainable development advocates, and interested citizens may use the TOD Standard to evaluate existing and proposed development projects, guide policy, and advocate for higher-quality, transit oriented communities.  Its ultimate purpose is to minimize the use of personal motor vehicles and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The TOD Standard is only applicable to a development that satisfies all the following requirements:

  • The development is within an 800 meter walking distance (not radius) from a high-capacity transit station.
  • The development creates or transforms a minimum of four city blocks separated by publicly accessible walking paths or streets. A project that takes a single block and breaks it into smaller blocks is eligible.
  • The development creates a minimum of 20,000 square meters of aboveground gross floor area.

Once such a development is identified, a scoring system that distributes 100 points and 50 negative points across a number of different measurable indicators, or metrics, is applied. Under each Principle, there are a number of performance objectives, and each performance objective has one or more metrics, for a total of 24 metrics.  For example, under Principle 2, which is to prioritize non-motorized transport networks, i.e., promote cycling, there are two performance objectives: (A) the cycling network is safe and complete; and (B) cycle parking and storage is ample and secure.  Objective (A) has one metric: (2.1) cycle network, which is measured by the percentage of total street length with safe cycling conditions.  Objective (B) has three metrics: (2.2) cycle parking at transit stations, which is measured by whether secure multi-space cycle parking facilities are provided at all transit stations; (2.3) cycle parking at buildings, which is measured by the percentage of new buildings that provide secure, weather-protected cycle parking; and (2.4) cycle access in buildings, which is measured by whether buildings allow cycle storage within tenant controlled spaces.

To assign a score to a metric, the TOD Standard provides the means for quantifying it via a measurement method, scope, and suggested data source, and provides a table for assigning a certain number of positive or negative points.  For example, Principle 2, objective B, metric 2.1, cycle network, which quantifies the extent to which a safe cycling network connecting all buildings and destinations through the shortest routes is available, is scored as follows:

Measurement Method:

  1. Quantify the length of all street segments.
  2. Quantify the length of street segments with safe cycling conditions, i.e., streets with speeds above 30km/hr have exclusive or protected cycleways in both directions.
  3. Divide the second measure by the first to calculate the percentage of street length with safe cycleways.


Within development boundaries and peripheral streets.

Data Source:

Plans and designs of development, up-to-date aerial/satellite photography, on-site survey.


0     95% of streets or more have safe cycleways

-1    94% of streets or less have safe cycleways

-2   90% of streets or less have safe cycleways

-3    85% of streets or less have safe cycleways

-4   80% of streets or less have safe cycleways

-5   75% of streets or less have safe cycleways

A  similar process is followed for each of the 24 metrics.  A form is provided which sets forth the score for each metric and each principle and calculates the total score, which will fall in the range of -50 to 100.  By application of this scoring system, the TOD Standard quantitatively measures “the extent to which a given project leverages public transport infrastructure to create developments that reduce car use and increase the use of transit, cycling and walking” and therefore serves as a proxy for expected reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.  For comparison purposes, the authors list Hammarby Sjöstald in Stockholm and Västra Hamnen in Malmö, Sweden and Vauben in Freiburg am Brisgau, Germany, as examples of international best practices in TOD development.

The TOD Standard has been designed by its creators to measure urban design and planning characteristics that can be easily, independently and objectively observed or verified.  The authors caution that the TOD Standard does not directly address all aspects of good urban planning and design nor is it a model for measuring a project’s wider sustainability.  They note that several recommendable options for either of these are already available, such as LEED ND and BREEAMCommunities. The TOD Standard also does not assess the quality of the high-capacity transit system to which a project is oriented, so it is meant to be used in conjunction other tools and models which do so, such as ITDP’s BRT Standard.

The initial version of the TOD Standard launched in June 2013 and served as a pilot to refine the metrics and scoring system. ITDP launched the official TOD Standard, v.2.1 in March 2014 for use, alongside a recognition process for development projects to be conferred by the TOD Standard Technical Committee (e.g., Bronze, Silver, Gold).

Given the fairly stringent project applicability requirements established by the TOD Standard, not every TOD project proposal should be evaluated using the Standard. However, like other such development matrices, the principles articulated provide a robust auditing tool to determine the effectiveness of a given project in advancing TOD.

For more information and a complete copy of the March 2014 TOD Standard  v2.1, please visit:

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