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NESC@50 – ‘Progress Towards Transport Orientated Development in Ireland’: Presentation to the Department of Transport’s Open Policy Forum

‘Delivering a more sustainable form of urban development is as much a political science problem as it is a land use and planning problem’ – this was a key message in NESC’s recent engagement with transport policy makers.

On 15th November 2023, senior analyst Dr Cathal FitzGerald presented to an expert policy forum, hosted by the Department of Transport. The forum brought together interested parties from the policy system to consider the topic of Transport Orientated Development (TOD).

TOD is a very specific type of urban development, which seeks to maximise the provision of housing, employment, public services and leisure space within close proximity to frequent, high quality transport services.

The presentation is part of NESC’s ongoing research, dialogue and advice activities, and 2023’s NESC@50 programme.

The key elements of a transport orientated approach to development are:

  • Integrated land-use and transport planning and investment;
  • Compact, mixed-use, mixed-income development and communities;
  • Moderate to higher housing density;
  • Short distances to transport connections (400-800m); and
  • High quality and frequency of transport service, integrated into a network.

Presenting key findings from the Council’s research on TOD, Dr FitzGerald told the forum that, at its core, TOD is friendlier to public transport users, cyclists and pedestrians. “TOD is all about converting car trips to public and active transport trips. This then improves mobility and environmental conditions and delivers more efficient, sustainable urban development”, he said.

“TOD has been successfully adopted in many countries around the world. We have published two reports to help understand how it was applied and what we could learn”, Dr FitzGerald stated. “A few key lessons emerge from the Council’s case study research. Central to the successful application of TOD are four key factors: a vision; a decision; an institution; and bespoke funding”, he said.

“While the National Planning Framework does outline a vision consistent with TOD, and there have been some recent positive developments, we still do not have the necessary decision, institution, and funding”, he told the forum. “These missing factors should be processed and worked on in ‘parallel’, rather than as ‘serial’ factors. We should not wait until a decision on a site is made, before working hard on the necessary institutions and funding that will be necessary. In large part this is because, while delivering TOD is of course a land use and planning challenge, it is as much a political science challenge” Dr FitzGerald concluded.

The forum also heard updates on TOD from the Department of Transport, and from the Department of Housing on Compact Settlement Guidelines.

A copy of NESC’s presentation to the forum can be found here.