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Transit-Oriented Communities

Two men walking away from a shuttle bus at a bus stop

Transit-oriented communities are places that, by their design, allow people to drive less and walk, cycle, and take transit more. This means concentrating higher-density, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development within walking distance of frequent transit stops and stations, in tandem with measures to discourage unnecessary driving.

Why foster transit-oriented communities?
Transit-oriented communities support sustainable transportation choices and other community goals, and result in lower levels of vehicle use, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved air quality, and healthier lifestyles.

A fundamental principle for creating transit-oriented communities is to concentrate growth in centres and corridors that are well served by frequent transit.

To advance the goals outlined in Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy, we introduced the concept of a Frequent Transit Network. The Frequent Transit Network is a network of corridors where transit is provided at least every 15 minutes in both directions, throughout the day and into the evening, every day of the week.

Transit-oriented communities come in many shapes and sizes. Transit providers seek to match the type of service to the observed and expected demand, which is influenced by community characteristics. Service types can be defined based on speed and access – attributes that are determined by the right-of-way, the station, or stop spacing.

The distances people are willing to walk to transit depend on:

  • Type of transit service

  • Trip length and purpose

  • Weather

  • Topography

  • Demographics

  • Quality of the pedestrian environment

Frequent transit services with limited stops, spaced every 1 to 1.5 km, tend to have faster journey times but less convenient local access. Frequent transit services with many local stops, spaced every 250 to 400 m apart, have more convenient local access but slower journey times.

On average, most people will walk 10 minutes (800 m) to access frequent limited-stop services such as rapid transit and 5 minutes (400 m) to access frequent local stop services.

Limited stop services generally support the highest concentrations of population density around the stops and stations serviced. Local stop services, on the other hand, support a pattern of development distributed more equally along the corridor.

TransLink works with Metro Vancouver, municipalities, and other stakeholders to coordinate and integrate land use and transportation.

Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy describes the goals, strategies, and actions agreed to by the regional partnership to pursue sustainable growth and development to 2040. It is based on containing growth inside the Urban Containment Boundary, and focusing this growth in Metro Vancouver Urban Centres and other areas well-served by frequent transit service. It aims to support sustainable transportation choices with an emphasis on a regional land use patterns that promotes walking, cycling, and transit.

TransLink’s Transport 2040 is the region's transportation strategy to keep people and our economy moving, strengthen our communities, and protect the environment. It sets out the goals for Metro Vancouver’s transportation system and outlines the importance of coordinating land use and transportation to be proactive in using transit to serve and shape land use. TransLink is currently leading the development of a new Regional Transportation Strategy called Transport 2050, in coordination with Metro Vancouver’s Metro 2050 strategy.

The greatest opportunities to influence land use rest with Metro Vancouver’s local governments and communities through their land use planning, development, and regulatory authorities. These decisions can support efficient and effective transportation service provisions when they’re conducted within the framework of the Regional Growth Strategy and Regional Transportation Strategy.

Official Community Plans are developed by local governments and communities. They lay out local objectives and policies to guide decisions on planning and land use management. They’re important in developing transit-oriented communities and providing the characteristics necessary to support investment in transit and foster walking and cycling.

Municipal transportation plans, community energy and emissions plans, corridor plans, and land use plans at smaller scales (neighbourhood, urban centres, etc.) also provide a greater level of detail on the local initiatives and investments that can foster walking, cycling, and transit use.

We work with our municipal partners to foster land use and transportation coordination through ongoing dialogue and collaborative planning processes.

The creation of a transit-oriented community requires coordination and action at all scales, from the regional scale down to the site scale, and by multiple stakeholders. We work with our partners to develop policies, processes, programs, and guidelines that assist in advancing more transit-oriented communities.

We’re working with our partners on several planning processes that support the development of transit-oriented communities:

Our TDM Guidelines for Development in Metro Vancouver provides developers and municipalities with best practice and insight on how to incorporate TDM strategies into new developments.

Our Transit-Oriented Communities Design Guidelines outline best practices and strategies for designing communities around frequent transit stops, stations, and exchanges that support walking, cycling, and transit. These guidelines serve as a resource for municipal planners, engineers, elected officials, developers, and others in achieving transit-oriented visions for their communities.

A summary version of the guidelines key concepts is also available in our Transit-Oriented Communities: A Primer on Key Concepts.


The Transit Passenger Facilities Design Guidelines provide a framework for designing and developing transit passenger facilities (transit stations, exchanges and stops) within their surrounding context. Intended for all parties involved in passenger facility planning, design, and maintenance, the guidelines ensure that new and upgraded facilities balance the goals of creating great places for customers and pedestrians, optimizing transit efficiency, achieving environmental sustainability, and being fiscally responsible, all with design excellence.

We use a set of Transit Service Guidelines to improve service quality for customers and evaluate proposed transit service improvements. The guidelines ensure that all transit services provide customers with acceptable levels of convenience, frequency, speed, comfort, and reliability.

The Bus Infrastructure Design Guidelines consolidate transportation design best practices for bus transit facilities in Metro Vancouver. It offers transit infrastructure design best practices for engineers, planners, and other parties involved in designing and building urban infrastructure. The design criteria is recommended for typical applications and provides guidance on operational efficiency, safety, and customer comfort. It is a living document that will be updated as technology and best practices evolve.

In consultation with TransLink and municipal agencies, Metro Vancouver developed a Guideline on Identifying Frequent Transit Development Areas to assist in implementing this concept from the Regional Growth Strategy. Adopted by the Metro Vancouver Board, it provides municipalities with information on how to respond to the Regional Growth Strategy policies on frequent transit development areas in their Regional Context Statements and the process for identifying these areas.

Both TransLink and Metro Vancouver are responsible for monitoring how the region is becoming more transit-oriented.

One of the key goals of Transport 2040 is to have the majority of jobs and housing in the region located along the Frequent Transit Network. We’ve already made considerable progress towards achieving this. Over half of the region's dwellings and about two-thirds of the employment are currently located within walking distance of the Frequent Transit Network.

TransLink's 2010 Sustainability Report and Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy provide additional information on transit-oriented community indicators.

Additionally, our annual Transit Service Performance Review measures ridership, cost, utilization, and reliability of bus, SeaBus, SkyTrain, West Coast Express, and HandyDART. It informs how we manage the regional transit network and allocate resources.

The 6 Ds

There are six key attributes (the "6 Ds") that contribute to high levels of transit demand and productive transit service: destinations, distance, design, density, diversity, and demand management.

To be most effective, all "6 Ds" are planned and implemented together at multiple levels of geography, including the regional, corridor, neighbourhood and site scales.

Destinations: Coordinate land use and transportation

When land use and transportation are well coordinated, transit can provide fast, direct, and cost-effective access to more destinations for more people. At the neighbourhood scale, transit-oriented communities locate most new development along reasonably direct corridors so that most destinations are 'on the way' to other destinations. At the regional scale, they locate the highest densities of development and the most important destinations at the intersection of several frequent transit corridors.

Distance: Create a Well-Connected Street Network

A well-connected street network shortens travel distances, making it possible for people to quickly and conveniently walk or cycle to places they want to go, or to easily connect with transit on the way to their destination.

Design: Create Places for People

Transit-oriented communities are carefully designed with the needs of people in mind. People of all ages and abilities should be able to access and enjoy a comfortable, safe, delightful, and inviting public realm.

Diversity: Concentrate and Intensify Activities Near Frequent Transit

Transit-oriented communities concentrate most growth and development within a short walk of frequent transit stops and stations. A higher density of homes, jobs, and other activities creates a market for transit, allowing frequent service to operate more efficiently.

Diversity: Encourage a Mix of Uses

A vibrant mix of land uses helps create complete, walkable neighbourhoods around transit stations and stops, and supports a transit system that is well-utilized throughout the day.

Demand Management: Discourage Unnecessary Driving

Transit-oriented communities use demand management strategies to discourage unnecessary driving and promote walking, cycling, and transit. Demand management provides incentives for travelers to shift auto trips to other modes by increasing travel options, setting appropriate prices for parking or road usage, providing information and marketing, and allocating more road space to transit, cycling, or pedestrian uses.

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