Why Transit Oriented Development is The Only Step Towards Sustainable Urban Development- Since the invention of the rail engine and the transformation of mobility to a more mechanized means than ever before, we as a civilization have been drastically affected by the ease to commute from place to place without any physical efforts. The various mechanized means of transport such as railways, waterways, airways and surface transit has evolved since the industrial revolution to an extent that today our cities are constructed as concrete jungles and webs of limitless threads of transit modes. This affinity towards mechanized transport within the past century has influenced the further development of our urban fabrics in both positive and negative ways. With the development of highways, expressways and wide roads have allowed people to travel long distances on their private vehicles, the same private vehicles have now exceeded an explosive amount hampering the overall quality of life in prominent metropolitan cities in India.

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Transit-Oriented Development, and not Transit succeeded development or Transit preceded development, is the future towards a truly sustainable urban development. This development concept was introduced and conceived upon understanding the needs and aspirations of urban populations within the next century.

With the present scenario of urban fabrics in Indian metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, and Bangalore and with their common urban problems of traffic congestion, overpopulation, exploding urban stress levels, urban poverty, and decreasing quality of life are just some of the consequences of exponential urban migrations and imbalanced supply and demand of urban infrastructure. As highlighted by Amanda Burden, principal at Bloomberg Associates, the rising population of New York can only be accommodated in an efficient manner by designing settlements along the transit junctions such that people no longer need to use their private vehicles to work or anywhere else.

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Following are the 8 major reasons why T.O.D. is the only step towards truly sustainable future urban development:

1.  No more motorized vehicles

Scrolling through the news feed, one often finds the mention of the intolerable pollution levels in Delhi region with motorized vehicle pollution being the most significant reason. While owning a private vehicle in India is often considered a portrayal of higher standards, it surely doesn’t discriminate between intoxicating the richer ones and the poor ones. Here, transit-oriented development can take away a huge load of commuting from private vehicles to shared transit systems. When people would be living, working and enjoying near integrated transit junctions, why would they take an extra effort in driving miles to reach their destinations.

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2.  Walkable neighborhoods

With motorized vehicles out of the scenario, we can surely get to live in the nostalgic past of vibrant and walkable neighborhoods when the streets were more prominent as platforms for social and cultural interactions rather than deadly boundaries clogged up with noisy car engines. Transit-oriented development can take off a load of vehicles from the congested neighborhoods to underground networks thus opening up the lanes to the public thus offering them freedom of movement in the city. This can be a boon for the older parts of towns and cities which were designed to allow people to move and not vehicles.

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3.  Accommodates the exploding population

With heavy urban migrations, our cities are pumping up with populations from neighboring towns and villages in search of better employment opportunities and to experience the urban lifestyle. But our already occupied cities cannot expand exponentially in all directions as land gets scarce and expensive day by day. Certain physical boundaries such as water bodies also prohibit the growth of a city in two dimensions and fitting in the population with a quality of life to everyone is one of the biggest challenges for architects and urban planners across the globe like in New York and Mumbai. The only possible way here is through T.

O.D. where high-density vertical development around interlinked transit nodes is the only solution to avoid sprouting of informal settlements such as sprawls.

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4.  Healthy work-life relationships

People living in urban metropolitans are well conscious of their urban agendas where they spend more than half of their lives at their workplace and the rest of it commuting to work every day. The commuting struggle of every urban dweller is much of a non-compromisable waste of time that is the consequence of exclusive urban developments within the past decade. This situation is impacting the lives of people in the most negative ways where the stress levels are at peak, productivity at the workplace is decreasing, family relations are diluted and eventually, the lavish apartments are mostly deserted for most of their lives. With amalgamated working and living environments and efficient transit systems enveloping them, there’s a possibility to develop healthier lifestyles.

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5.  Intermodality and last-mile connectivity

Intermodality and multimodality are one of the upcoming trends in transport planning where the different modes of transport are integrated and monitored under a unified system to assist the commuter in having better first mile and last mile connectivity i.e. from their start place to their destination. This is the much-needed agenda for the current scenario of Delhi Metro wherein the metro stations are not well connected to the respective neighborhoods thus giving rise to chaotic congestion of autonomous vehicles such as auto-rickshaws which are not particularly authorized and safe to travel. With multi-modal integration of these existing transit junctions, the commuter will no longer feel stranded, the junctions will be livelier and the overall commuting time will decrease.

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6.  More urban public spaces

While today most of our fabric is spread out with wide congested roads, bleak parking lots and concrete jungles of overhead highways, T.O.D. can pave the path for opportunities to design and dwell the urban spaces as public plazas, flea markets, congregation spaces, sports grounds, urban forests, urban farms or wetlands, gardens, and many other possible spaces to generate a sense of place within the dwellers.

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7.  Improved public safety

With increasing air and noise pollution, traffic congestion, lack of public spaces, disconnected and isolated transit junctions and other functions, our urban spaces are no longer safe for the public. With shared transit systems, enough space for walking and cycling, mixed-use development within walking distance, transit-oriented development will transform the neglected, unsafe and desolate spaces fueled with social evils into more vibrant and safe neighborhoods.

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8.  Enhanced urban aesthetics

Currently, our globalized metropolitan aesthetics are dominated by concrete webs of flyovers, high rise towers reflecting the scorching glare of sun, eyesore parking lots, congested roads, clogged up drains and smog-filled environments. With much of the transit network transferred under the ground, private vehicles off the roads and highways broken or revamped, our urban aesthetics could be revived to a unique contextual glory as they were in the past.

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Author

Karan Gupta is an architect from S.P.A. Bhopal by accident and a storyteller by choice. He spent six  months in a french medieval town as an architecture intern during which he travelled across twenty  towns and cities across Europe by road. Disregard for conventional pedagogy and passion for  revolutionary archetypes. 

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