One of the great virtues of the LEED green building rating system (and similar systems) is that it encourages projects to employ site selection criteria early in the process that go beyond economic issues and instead deal with broader environmental concerns. Since automobile travel is one of the largest users of energy in the US and one of the major contributors to urban smog formation, it makes sense that commercial projects should locate near mass transit, so that workers have the option of using it, rather than being forced to drive. In many cities, such as Portland, Oregon, the cost of downtown parking now exceeds $150 per month, a strong incentive not to drive a car to work.
In the LEED system, projects are encouraged to locate within a quarter-mile of two or more public or campus bus lines or within a half-mile of a funded or planned commuter rail, light-rail or subway station. These are walkable distances in most cities (even in hot or cold or inclement weather) and are feasible locations in many older suburbs. In newer transit-oriented developments, access to transit is a key marketing feature of
office buildings. Companies are supporting transit use by employees through subsidized monthly bus or rail passes.
A transit-oriented development (TOD) is a residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership. A TOD neighborhood typically has a center with a train, light-rail or bus station, surrounded by relatively high-density development, with progressively lower-density development spreading outwards from the center. This type of arrangement contains specific features that are designed to encourage public transport use, including mixed-use (residential, retail, office) development that will use transit at all times of day, high-quality pedestrian crossings, narrow streets and tapering of building heights as they become more distant from the public transport node. Another key feature of transit-oriented development is the reduced need for parking spaces or additional parking garages.
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