Elisabeth Haub Law School of Law
Pace University
Land Use Law Center
Supervisor: John R. Nolon, Distinguished Professor
Blog No. 31 of the Land Use, Human Health, and Equity Project
Editor: Brooke Mercaldi
Contributing Author: William West [*]

Putting the “e” in TOD


Chicago recently evaluated the performance of the transit-oriented development (TOD) program that it adopted in 2013. Generally, TOD had accomplished many of its goals by positively impacting the economy and transportation. Areas with TOD activity had lower car ownership per household and higher bicycle accessibility. Homes in TOD areas have access to 1.73 times more jobs than homes not in TOD areas. 75,533 new jobs were created through TOD, and 3,000 new affordable housing units were built.

Demographically, however, TOD projects signaled displacement patterns. White populations increased in areas with TOD activity while Black populations decreased. Rent increased at a disproportionate rate near transit stations with TOD activity, and developers tended to select TOD project sites that had fewer people of color, higher incomes, and better education. This post will explore how Chicago, Illinois and Raleigh, North Carolina have begun to address these problems by implementing equitable principles in transportation development planning.

Overlay zones specifically designed for equity and TOD are central in creating equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD). These zones are added on top of existing zoning maps within a quarter- or half-mile of transit stations. Raleigh’s Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Guidebook outlines two types of equitable overlay zones. The first applies to mixed-use zones near the city’s planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations. This overlay gives height bonuses to developers who provide either affordable housing units or job-generating uses. Additionally, this overlay zone removes minimum parking requirements, widens sidewalks, requires buildings to front on the street, prohibits auto-oriented uses, and requires bicycle infrastructure. Raleigh’s residential eTOD overlay zone promotes the development of missing middle housing and infill development, limits the maximum lot size for single-unit residential use, and eliminates minimum parking requirements.

Similarly, Chicago’s Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Policy Plan calls for the creation of a flexible eTOD Overlay zone. The overlay zones of both cities recognize the need for promoting appropriate density according to the context of the relevant neighborhood. Density bonuses are relative to existing height limitations, and high-density areas that gradually taper off into low density neighborhoods are suggested.

Raleigh uses these eTOD zones as the geographical basis for targeting equity programs. This programming includes homeowner rehabilitation assistance, anti-predatory purchasing education, tenant legal assistance, local worker participation in transit construction, and small business retention. The city also plans to prioritize current residents in the eTOD zones for affordable housing as well as residents who have formerly been displaced by housing costs. Additionally, multiple sources of funding have been suggested to offset burdens of the development. An equity fund devotes a percentage of new tax revenue generated within a quarter mile of the bus corridors to affordable housing and other equity projects. A small business revolving loan fund would provide a competitive application process for businesses seeking support in maintenance, operations, or expansion.

Information gathering also plays a critical role in the municipalities’ eTOD planning. By combining household housing and transportation costs, the Center for Neighborhood Technology provides an expanded view of the cost of living, setting the benchmark at no more than 45% of household income. Chicago plans to use this index in combination with the Metropolitan Planning Council’s TOD calculator to create a tool that helps developers identify qualifying eTOD sites and potential impacts. A directory of all publicly owned land within TOD zones will also be published to help leverage the city’s vacant lots for public benefit. Raleigh also plans to implement a land acquisition program, partnering with private developers, non-profits, and community land trusts to produce affordable housing.

This information gathering is also used for evaluation and accountability. Chicago calls for health and racial equity assessments in its land use planning and zoning decisions as well as the creation of an eTOD scorecard

The community tools and examples discussed here are available in full on the Land Use Law Center’s Gaining Ground Information Database—a free research database featuring best practice models used by governments to control the use of land in the public interest. Please direct your search toward the Healthy Communities topic.

[*] William West is a second-year student at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law and Land Use Scholar in the Land Use Law Center.

Brooke Mercaldi is a second-year student at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law and Land Use Scholar in the Land Use Law Center.


The previous blogs in the series are listed here:

  1. Reframing Sustainability: Introducing the Land Use, Human Health, and Equity Project
  2. Planning for Public Health: A New Beginning for Land Use Law
  3. The Role of Density in Combatting Climate Change and COVID-19
  4. Novel Coronavirus Claims Implicate Age-Old Property Rights Questions
  5. State & Local COVID-related Emergency Powers: Individual Rights
  6. COVID-Related Land Use Regulations and Judicial Deference
  7. Mediation of Eviction Disputes May Hold the Key to the Survival of Small Businesses
  8. Using Zoning to Help Eliminate Food Deserts: A Few Steps Forward
  9. Urban Heat Islands and Equity
  10. Urban Heat Island and Equity: What Can Local Governments Do?
  11. The Recovery Lease: Preventing Evictions of Commercial Tenants During the Pandemic
  12. The Role of Hazard Mitigation Planning in Promoting Public Health and Resilience
  13. Hazard Mitigation Planning: A Case Study
  14. Complete Streets: Protecting Public Health
  15. Zoning and Lease Mediation as a Way to Retain Critical Small Businesses
  16. Segregation by Law and the Racial Inequity Pandemic
  17. Combating Food Swamps to Improve Equity and Public Health
  18. The Pandemic Plan for Healthy Buildings
  19. Remediating Distressed Properties to Improve Public Health
  20. Housing, a Crucial Determinant of Health
  21. ADU Introduction
  22. NIMBY Restrictions to Poison the Prospects of Accessory Dwelling Units to Address Housing Insecurity
  23. Zoning to Fill the Missing Middle Housing Gap
  24. Old Tools to Fight Housing Insecurity: Adaptive Reuse and Infill Development
  25. Racial Impact Analyses
  26. A New Era of Equity-Based Comprehensive Planning…Finally
  27. Equity-Based Comprehensive Plans: Land Use Policies to Correct Past Disparities
  28. Reversing the Legacy of Redlining: Reducing Exposure to Toxins and Pollutants Through Land Use Law Reform
  29. Addressing the Four Pandemics – A Case Study
  30. Health Impact Assessments: A New Tool for Analyzing Land Use Plans, Zone Changes, and Development Projects


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