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Policy Support for and Barriers to Transit-Oriented Development in the Inner City

The promise of transit-oriented development (TOD) for increasing transit ridership, enhancing economic development, and establishing a “sense of place” at  transportation nodes has been well documented in the literature. However, the majority of research addresses TOD in greenfield sites located primarily in suburban places in growing regions. The policies that are widely believed to be supportive of TOD are examined, the gap in knowledge about TOD in established city neighborhoods is addressed, and the challenges of TOD in different urban settings are compared.

Findings reveal that (a) the literature appears to be consistent and confident in outlining the public policies that encourage TOD; (b) researchers tend to focus on TODs in suburban and greenfield areas of fast-growing regions in the western and southern United States; (c) TODs in older cities are not well publicized and are largely ignored by the literature; and (d) researchers who study inner-city TOD usually focus on the lack of it, or any type of development, in economically depressed areas. The conclusion of several researchers that a strong local economy is key to successful TOD offers a clue as to why recently built TOD is largely absent from many older, slow-growth cities like Buffalo, New York, and St. Louis, Missouri. It also offers some insight into why the TOD trend is strongest in high-growth  metropolitan areas like San Diego, California, and why it seems to skip struggling neighborhoods within them, like South Central Los Angeles, California. Although pre-1950s TOD is common in older cities, that ubiquity appears to reduce the publicity and attention given to more recent TOD in those places.