The Transit Oriented Development Certification is a national project evaluation and endorsement program to promote sustainability by highlighting exemplary projects showcasing TOD best practices. The Certification program allows developers, transit agencies, design firms,
municipalities, and others to submit projects for official review and rating.

Eligible projects range from infill and
building conversions, to clusters of buildings that are part of a larger project, to entire new neighborhoods and large-scale developments. Eligible project stages include proposed, under construction, or already completed. Projects can be located anywhere in the world to be eligible for Certification.

For every project submitted, the TOD Institute prepares a brief report to accompany the rating and/or certification. Even projects that do not get certified receive a report. The report outlines the importance of TOD within the local context of the project, along with the elements of the project that meet TOD standards of design, mixed-use, placemaking, and pedestrian prioritization. The report provides an overall project analysis and explanation of the project rating

The report
can be used as an educational tool to distribute to the local community, elected officials, the media, and others to help build political and financial support for the project. The report will acknowledge the local context, and highlight the precedent, the need for, and benefits of transit oriented development in the region.

Projects are judged based on how well they meet the spirit, principles, and best practices of Transit Oriented Development, and specifically by how many of the 10 TOD Elements are met as outlined below. Projects that meet the criteria become Certified and receive one of the Stars of Excellence TOD Seals:  3 Stars (our highest rating), 2 Stars (second highest rating), and 1 Star (third highest rating).




The heart of successful TODs is close proximity to rail stations, plus the quality of the walking experience to enable and encourage high levels of walking and biking to and from the station. Projects should be no more than a 1/4 to 1/2 mile from a rail station (currently in operation, or under construction). Eligible rail includes high speed rail, commuter rail, metro, light rail, and streetcar. This close proximity enables people to get to the station within a comfortable 5-10 minute walk.

Ideally, the walk needs to be a high quality, pedestrian-friendly experience. Walking across large parkinglots, or along a busy 6-lane road with little or no protection from traffic is not an acceptable walking experience, and will discourage walking, even if its within the 1/4 to 1/2 mile distance. The walking route needs to be safe, comfortable, and pleasant to encourage widespread walking and bicycling to and from the station.




The combination of buildings and public spaces define a place. Great public spaces are the living rooms of the city - the places where people come together to enjoy the city and each other. Public spaces make high quality life in the city possible - they form the stage and backdrop to the drama of life. Public spaces range from grand central plazas and squares, to small, local neighborhood parks.

Successful public spaces have a sense of enclosure by attractive, human-scaled buildings that wrap a space like walls wrap a room. Active uses line the perimeter activating the space. Together these work as gathering spaces that bring people together. The combination of beautiful architecture with great public space creates exceptional places to live - places that express a life of richness and tradition.

  • Buildings are arranged to create ‘outdoor rooms’, with a sense of enclosure around public spaces
  • Active uses line the perimeter of the public spaces, to enliven the space and increase foot traffic
  • Public spaces incorporate elements of public art, fountains, green space, seating and lounge areas, and other pedestrian comfort amenities



A careful mix of uses in close proximity creates synergy and diversity, creates activity day and night, and forms the building blocks for complete communities. Appropriate mix of uses include commerical, retail, offices, shops, hotels, residential, institutional, and civic. Idealy, the uses are mixed within each neighborhood, block, and building, and are physically and functionally integrated with direct pedestrian connections. A diversity of space and unit size/price offers a wide range of options to an entire community.

Traditionally, human settlements have always been developed in mixed-use patterns because it made the most sense. Single-use zoning of entire communities is a bizarre anomaly without precedent in the 5,000 years of city building.

  • Diversity of uses within buildings
  • Diversity of uses in each block
  • Physical and functional integration of uses that enables direct pedestrian connections
  • Diversity of spaces, unit sizes, and rental prices to allow a range of business types to serve the community
  • Diversity of uses within the surrounding neighborhood (this can expand beyond the project boundaries)



Buildings and spaces sized to make humans feel comfortable and safe is the starting point for pedestrian scale walkable places. A compact, fine-grained network of sidewalks along blocks having a variety of uses in close proximity provides a comfortable balance for people to meet daily needs within a short walk. Uses include grocery stores, cafes, deli's, bakeries, newsstands, coffeehouses, personal services, vegetable stands, open-air markets, and public parks and plazas. Project should have a minimum Walk Score of 70.

This variety of shops and services adds interest and activity day and night. Buildings with active store fronts, lots of windows, and apartments above with balconies add interest and life to a place. Many of the best pedestrian spaces in the world are car-free, adding an extra level of peace, comfort, safety, and beauty.

  • Comfortable, safe, enjoyable pedestrian access to the project site from the station
  • A compact, fine-grained network of sidewalks and blocks, creating a porous site layout that is easy to navigate
  • Active storefronts with frequent doors and windows to encourage pedestrian life, and entrances directly accessible from the sidewalk
  • Quality detailing of the public realm with wide sidewalks, protection from traffic, street furniture (benches, lamps, seating areas), quality materials, and creativity in providing unique pedestrian moments
  • Minimum Walk Score of 70 (applicable in US, CAN, AUS)



Architecture is one of the most important elements that shape and define a place and give it an identity. Architecture sets the tone and mood of a place while providing the spaces for living. Architecture creates the backdrop and walls of a city by lining the streets and wrapping the public spaces.

Successful places are made up of a harmonious collection of human-scale buildings that blend with each other and the scale and language of surrounding buildings. Human-scale architecture includes limiting the overall size of individual buildings to avoid dominating a block and encouraging more variety. It also includes using an assortment of materials, surface treatments, facade articulation & detailing, and lots of windows and doors giving variety, interest, and human scale.

  • Attractive architecture and charming façade detailing that creates clear building identity
  • Façade treatments should be limited in length to break up ‘super structures’ or the appearance of mega-blocks
  • Frequent doors, windows, and balconies (if applicable) to add dimension and life to the façade
  • Use of a variety of materials, surface treatments, articulation, and decoration to create dynamic façades
  • Appropriate building scale that is compatible with surrounding development context



Active ground-floor retail is essential for any successful TOD. The continuous line of shops and cafes is what activates the sidewalk and gives life to a block. When done right, ground-floor retail can go on for many blocks, and is most successful when continuous without any breaks, blank walls, or non-retail 'dead' frontages.

The most successful places have a variety of store sizes with many small shops and narrow store fronts in each block. Larger stores are incorporated by tucking partly behind a line of smaller storefronts, and/or by going up to the second floor. Smaller spaces add more variety to each block and attract the unique, mom & pop type businesses - so important to giving places a unique character.

  • Continuous line of shops on primary streets - with few breaks, blank walls, or non-retail ‘dead’ frontages
  • Ample space for sidewalk cafes and outdoor dining along the sidewalk, and/or in a plaza
  • Variety of store sizes, types, and convenience retail offered
  • Emphasis on narrow storefronts that add more variety to each block, and attract unique, mom & pop type businesses
  • Larger stores are incorporated by tucking them partly behind a line of smaller storefronts, and/or by going up to the second floor, and below grade



Trees add beauty, grandeur, and a humanizing feeling to streets, spaces and places. The power of trees to add life to a place by providing pedestrian comfort and urban livability is beyond measure. Trees add a unique living, moving element of beauty that complements the architecture while lifting people's spirits.

The beneficial psychological healing effects of trees have been well documented. Trees also provide a host of valuable functions including producing oxygen, providing shade, cooling the air, filtering out toxic pollutants, providing UV protection, moderating winds, and absorbing large quantities of rain. This water absorption service greatly reduces the need for expensive storm water retention.

Trees increase property values and retail sales, and slow cars & improve the sense of enclosure of street space with their canopies. Trees provide a pleasant place to walk or relax in cafes and public spaces. Trees also provide a host of climate solutions including absorbing large quantities of carbon, and shading buildings - reducing overall
energy consumption used for air-conditioning.

  • Trees lining streets throughout the project, with a relatively even distribution and frequent spacing
  • Greatest density of trees in pedestrian areas – such as in plazas or along sidewalks – to create shade and beauty, increase retail sales and property values, and slow car traffic
  • Choice of trees and landscaping that are well suited to the local climate



Bicycles become a major mode of transport once a city is made bike-friendly. First and foremost, bikes need a network of their own dedicated, protected lanes physically separated from vehicles. This delivers real safety and protection to the riders, and generates very high ridership numbers. The most advanced bicycling cities (such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam) give bicycles a higher priority than cars, resulting in the world’s highest daily bicycle use.

In addition to dedicated bike lanes, installing bikeshare systems with a high number of bikes and docking stations throughout a city will encourage very high bike use due to the convenience of bikeshare. Providing convenient parking for bicycles throughout neighborhoods and TODs also encourages high daily bike use. Train stations should have parking for hundreds of bikes with convenient, ride-in access

  • Bicycle infrastructure to and from the project site, providing safe, convenient, and comfortable access by bicycle (prioritizing dedicated, protected bike lanes)
  • Ample bike racks and/or storage facilities located throughout the project
  • Bikeshare system in place with docking stations strategically located throughout the project



Parking and how well its incorporated into TODs goes a long way to helping create livable places, and transitioning places to become more walkable. Clustering parking in strategic locations can encourage walking and focus pedestrian activity along important commercial streets.

Successful TODs utilize reduced total parking numbers, and incorporate
central shared parking between different uses, thereby reducing overall parking numbers further compared to conventional development.

Hiding the parking behind buildings, or wrapping parking structures with active uses helps create safe, appealing, walkable places. Large expanses of surface parking lots, or large exposed multi-story parking structures dehumanize places making them 'feel' unsafe, thereby discouraging walking.

  • Clustering parking in strategic locations to encourage walking, and to focus pedestrian activity along important commercial streets
  • Shared parking between various buildings and uses
  • Reduction in total parking spaces on the project site compared to conventional parking requirements
  • Hiding parking behind buildings, or wrapping parking with active uses, to create safe, appealing, walkable places
  • Parking entrances located on secondary or tertiary streets ( B or C Streets) to minimize the impact on walkability



TODs encourage affordable living by creating viable lifestyles with everything in close proximity or easily accessible without the need for a car, saving the huge expense of vehicle ownership. Because TOD communities are compact, people spend less time moving around, living a more efficient, affordable lifestyle.

The goal of creating complete communities includes providing a range of lifestyles at all price levels making the community viable for everyone. While not every project will be able to deliver a complete community, it’s important for places to evolve over time providing everything needed for a community - the full range of housing, commercial, retail, and civic options. This includes a wide range of housing sizes and own/rent options, and a variety of retail spaces for large and small shops, including local family businesses
. Affordability also includes availability of high quality, low cost transportation options including rail, transit and bicycles.

  • Diversity of for-sale and rental units, with a variety of sizes and prices to allow for a range of housing types that serve the complete community
  • Nearby services, convenience retail, and grocery stores that are affordable to a broad range of income levels
  • Availability of multiple inexpensive transportation options nearby (pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and multi-modal public transit)



The ability to expand projects and have a catalytic effect on surrounding properties is important to creating the critical mass needed to create community. In an urban setting, expanding upon and blending in with the surrounding context, uses, and scale and language of the architecture is most important. Expanding the existing urban fabric by filling in missing pieces and adding uses that are in short supply helps fix our cities, and delivers complete communities.

In suburban settings, projects should be designed to set a new pattern of walkable urbanism and transformative development that can be expanded over time parcel-by-parcel. In this context, it's important to establish a neighborhood structure with a street and block network that can easily be expanded.

  • Projects designed to fit in with surrounding urbanism, if it already exists, or designed to created urbanism that grows over time parcel-by-parcel
  • The creation or extension of a neighborhood structure designed as an “attachable fragment of urbanism” with an expandable street and block network
  • Active frontages lining the project edges, that could catalyze future development of adjacent parcels/underutilized sites (if applicable)

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