Transit-oriented development involves developing residential and commercial spaces as well as retail, healthcare and entertainment facilities in a manner that puts all of them within easy reach of the inhabitants.
All over the world, cities are facing the challenge of uncontrolled urbanisation. According to the United Nations, 54% of the population across the world today resides in urban areas, and that this figure will rise to 66% by 2050. An accompanying fact is that urbanization is happening too fast, and without adequate foresight and planning.
Urbanization rises, infrastructure declines
This phenomenon is very evident in India, where cities are growing with scant regard to the actual needs of their citizens. Aspects such as support infrastructure, clean air, waste management and reliable water supply are given the lowest priority, while the highest priority is given to the raising of buildings across every available plot of land. The alarming changes we have seen happening in Pune's real estate terrain over the past two decades stand mute testimony to this onslaught of urbanization.
In the frenzied scramble to consume all available land in Pune with development, we have seen a once peaceful, nature-blessed city lose almost all of its previous attributes. The inability to deploy support infrastructure in tandem with real estate development has led to a rapid erosion of Pune's traditionally high lifestyle quotient. Air pollution, monumental traffic issues, mercenary depletion of natural resources and inadequate water supply are just some of the problems that Pune's citizens have to contend with today.
Pune is by no means a unique case - a similar state of affairs has been noted in countless cities across the world, primarily in developing countries. One of the answers that urban development experts have come up with to counter this unwholesome trend is transit-oriented development (TOD).
What is Transit-oriented development?
Transit-oriented development is a fairly new model of community development. Essentially, it involves developing residential and commercial spaces as well as retail, healthcare and entertainment facilities in a manner that puts all of them within easy reach of the inhabitants. The standard equation that is applied in transit-oriented development is that all developments must be within half a mile of good quality public transportation, or within a walkable distance.
Transit-oriented development brings many benefits with it:
Inhabitants of transit-oriented development areas can reach their places of work easily and with minimal transit, and likewise get back home faster. This allows for more time spent with the family, which incrementally boosts well-being.
With significantly reduced commuting in transit-oriented developments as opposed to normal urban areas, pollution within the neighbourhood reduces drastically, leading to better health of the inhabitants.
Reduced traveling leads to increased household savings, and therefore better economic well-being. In fact, people can choose to dispense with maintaining cars and two-wheelers altogether and rely solely on public transportation.
As a combined result of the above, both housing and commercial spaces in transit-oriented developments command a much higher demand than in normal urban areas - and therefore superior investment potential
Reinventing the residential experience
The benefits of easy access to everything in transit-oriented developments make a very strong argument in their favour. Naturally, integrated townships which have been developed along TOD guidelines emerge as the default choice for home-buyers where they are available. However, no real estate development - no matter how integrated it is - can flourish in complete isolation.
In a city like Pune, linkages to the primary city are a very important element for overall quality of life. As a result, only transit-oriented developments which are close to the city really work well. In this context, the 170-kilometer Ring Road being developed around Pune and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) is proving to be a game-changer. This major road will provide connectivity to various important areas of the city. Locations along the Ring Road will benefit the most, and transit-oriented township development in such areas will be the clear winners.