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Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)

This page provides an overview of transit-oriented development (TOD) for local governments in Washington State, including useful resources and examples of local TOD plans and ordinances.


Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) creates dense, walkable, and mixed-use spaces near transit that support vibrant, sustainable, and equitable communities. A mix of uses, activities, and services allows TOD residents to commute to work, run errands, recreate, and meet basic needs without a car. A variety of moderate and higher density housing options located within easy walking distances from centrally located transit stations or transit corridors (about one-quarter mile, or a 10-minute walk distance) is typically part of the mix. Transit riders generally begin and end their trips by walking. As a result, safe, convenient, and attractive pedestrian networks that connect transit, residences, and other uses is a hallmark of TOD development. A well-designed bicycle system and associated facilities can also increase the radius that people will travel to access transit. Public spaces and amenities, like plazas and parks, as well as quality building design are also important elements of TOD.

Related Concepts

TOD is typically thought of in terms of light and heavy rail transit, but some communities also apply it to bus rapid transit (BRT), a bus-based public transportation system designed to have better capacity and reliability than a conventional bus system. Bus transit-oriented development (BTOD) is a particular type of TOD that has become quite common in practice, especially in cities where public transportation is provided primarily through bus systems instead of metro or light rail systems. BTOD projects are built at major nodes of bus networks and typically include housing units and commercial services.

Another related concept is transit-supportive development (TSD), which broadens TOD and acknowledges that not every community has the transit modes or development patterns typically considered most appropriate for TOD. Compact, mixed-use development served by transit can support many community goals, including climate action and a sense of place. This page primarily covers TOD plans, studies, and codes; it also includes examples of BTOD and TSD.

Policies and Subarea Plans in Comprehensive Plans

Washington’s Growth Management Act establishes goals to be considered in the development of local comprehensive plans (see our comprehensive planning page for more information). These goals include compact growth, transportation options, housing affordable to all income levels, and vibrant economies. TOD and TSD accomplish many of these goals through higher density, compact, mixed-use development.

In addition to statutes related to the GMA, RCW 43.21C.420 provides cities with populations greater than 5,000 the authority to adopt additional optional comprehensive plan elements and development regulations that apply within specified subareas that are either:

  • Designated as mixed-use or urban centers in a land use or transportation plan adopted by a regional transportation planning organization; or
  • Within one-half mile of a major transit stop, and the subarea is zoned to have an average minimum density of 15 dwelling units or more per gross acre.

Examples of TOD/TSD Policies and Subarea Plans in Comprehensive Plans

Below are examples of comprehensive plans with related goals, policies, and subarea plans from local governments in Washington State.

Examples of Local Government TOD and TSD Codes/Plans

To implement TOD and TSD policies, local governments have adopted related uses, standards, and design guidelines in their municipal codes. Also included among the samples are TOD-related plans, guidelines, and commissioned studies.

  • Bellevue East Main Station Area Plan (2016) – Describes the vision for the East Main Transit Oriented District, which encompasses an area one-quarter to one-half mile outside the boundaries of the light rail station, as well as recommendations for achieving the vision
  • Issaquah Municipal Code Sec. 3.09.120 – Includes multifamily tax exemption requirements for the Tibbetts Valley TOD Targeted Area
  • Kenmore Municipal Code Ch. 18.29 – Outlines uses, standards, and other requirements for the Transit Oriented Development District Overlay
  • Kent Midway Design Guidelines (2012) – Applies to pedestrian-oriented places located around several Sound Transit light rail stations and establishes a flexible framework of design options for creating interesting and high-quality commercial, multi-family residential, and public projects  
  • Kirkland Zoning Code Ch. 30 – Includes requirements for certain uses within the Totem Lake Business District TOD zone
  • Mountlake Terrace Municipal Code Ch. 19.50 – Catalogs regulations and standards to implement a vision for the town center as a blend of attractive transit-oriented uses connected to the light rail transit station, civic campus, and surrounding neighborhoods
  • Seattle Northgate Transit-Oriented Development - Urban Design Study (2012) – The goal is to help the community grow in a sustainable manner by focusing on: 1) building types, form, and character; 2) community assets; and 3) streets and other mobility connections.
  • SeaTac Municipal Code Ch. 15.310 – Includes standards for implementing the Angle Lake Station Area as set forth in the SeaTac Comprehensive Plan by promoting TOD, diverse uses, and other goals
  • Spokane TOD Framework Study (2022) – Identifies recommendations for aligning policies, regulations, and investments in public infrastructure along Spokane’s current and future high-frequency transit corridors and includes plans for integrated TOD and multi-modal access within a portion of the rapid transit line
  • Sound Transit: Transit-Oriented Development – Highlights partnerships with private and nonprofit developers to build TOD with affordable housing, retail, restaurants, offices, and community spaces
  • Tumwater Municipal Code Ch. 18.21 – Includes regulations for the CBC Capitol Boulevard Community Zone District, which is envisioned to incrementally change from strip commercial development and other low-intensity or non-pedestrian-oriented uses into a mixed use, pedestrian-, auto- and transit-oriented corridor
  • Tukwila TOD Housing Strategies Plan (2021) – Tukwila received a grant through the HB 1923 Grant Program to develop this plan. It focuses on the areas surrounding the TIB LINK light rail station, with the goal of increasing residential building capacity and minimizing displacement of existing residents in the area.
  • Vancouver Municipal Code Ch. 20.550 – Includes TOD-related densities, development regulations, and incentives

TOD Plans, Programs, and Related Material from Other States

Financing Strategies and Resources

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: March 18, 2024