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What is TOD?

The State of Maryland has defined Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as a place of relatively higher density that includes a mix of residential, employment, shopping, and civic uses designed to encourage multi-modal access to the station area.  The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has actively sought to promote TOD as a tool to support economic development, to promote transit ridership, and to maximize the efficient use of transportation infrastructure. While TOD has been a widely understood planning and real estate development concept nationally, it is an important part of Maryland’s strategy to address traffic congestion, environmental issues, and sprawl.  In 2008, the legislature adopted a definition of TOD.  As defined in statute, a TOD is: "a dense, mixed-use deliberately-planned development within a half-mile of transit stations that is designed to increase transit ridership."

Featured DOT Real Estate Project, February 2019: Dorsey MARC TOD


TOD Characteristics:

TOD varies in scale, density, look, feel and function depending on where it is located, what types of transit service is available, and what the surrounding community context entails. However, TOD's are characterized by:

  • Density - relatively higher density development within walking distance of transit service, with highest intensity land uses located closest to transit;
  • Design - buildings, roads, walkways, and parking are designed to encourage walking and biking for short trips; and
  • Diversity of Land Uses - a mixture of residential, employment, shopping and civic uses to facilitate local trip making and balanced use of transit service.

The benefits of TOD are several. In general, TOD's 

  • Support the use of transportation alternatives including transit accessibility by bicycles and pedestrians;
  • Increase transit ridership, thereby supporting broader transportation network efficiencies and reducing congestion;
  • Promote community safety, convenience and economic development objectives;
  • Augment land use and environmental conservation efforts by helping minimize air and water quality impacts; and
  • Enhance accessibility to jobs, housing and other destinations for all residents.

TOD Programs:

  • Pre-Development Planning and Technical Assistance: MDOT provides assistance to local jurisdictions to develop land use and economic development strategies at existing and planned station areas.  Coordinating with local jurisdictions and stakeholders, the Department has conducted, for example, a broad range of feasibility studies, market analyses, and small area land use plans.  
  • Property and Infrastructure Resources: The Department has an active program of TOD development related to the disposition of public land.  In addition, we continually evaluate and invest in infrastructure investments for private sector development adjacent to our transit stations.  
  • Coordination with state, local, and private sector partners: MDOT coordinates with prospective partners to help navigate the complex development process, and to help identify needed improvements and recommend tools for supporting them.  Staff are actively involved in bringing outside resources to bear (e.g. from other state and federal agencies) where appropriate to achieve desirable design outcomes.

TOD Designation

Official designation of a TOD was enabled under statute in 2008.  The intent of designation is to facilitate MDOT’s more direct involvement in the above activities, by clarifying that in specific project areas (which must be within a half mile of a transit station), TOD is to be considered as a transportation purpose.  By statute, TODs are to be automatically included in the interagency Sustainable Community designation, which implies eligibility/prioritization for several state discretionary programs and expanded scope for local use of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) for related projects. The Process of Designation is as follows:

  • The local jurisdiction with land use authority may nominate a project as part of their annual “priority letter” for MDOT (generally due in April/May). Staff works with local jurisdiction to define the nomination and collect background materials. Final materials are vetted with the Secretary of Transportation and the Smart Growth Sub-cabinet for recommendation. 
  • The Secretary of Transportation conveys the outcomes of the review process, and offers official designation to local jurisdictions as appropriate.  Local jurisdictions then take action to formalize the agreement (including boundaries) by official resolution. When this step is complete, the project is considered to be officially “designated.”
  • TOD designation does not imply that any specific funding or assistance will be automatically allocated.  Needs and expectations of support from both state and local agencies should be clarified as part of the designation process.

As of May 2018, Maryland has designated 16 TODs for priority state support.
You can view and download Maryland's Active and Potential TOD sites from MD iMap

Potential Benefits Associated with TOD Designation:

In addition to the aforementioned general benefits of TOD in general. TOD Designation within the state of Maryland confers several additional benefits including:

  • Technical Assistance - Feasibility, Planning, and Market Studies, Pre-Development Assistance
  • Prioritization - in certain funding decisions, including preference in appropriate discretionary programs, enhanced consideration for capital funding, etc.
  • Financing Tools - A TOD designation enables localities more flexibility and opportunity by permitting the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and special taxing district bonds to finance TOD infrastructure, allowing them to partner with the Maryland Economic Development Corporation to finance TOD infrastructure.
  • TOD/Transit as Criteria in Locating State Facilities - A 2009 Executive Order incorporates and emphasizes Transit-Oriented Development for State facilities where appropriate and feasible.
  • Access Assistance - Both the State Highway Administration and Maryland Transit Administration will work in partnership to address transportation and access issues.
  • Sustainable Community Benefits - Designated TODs are automatically considered to be part of the state’s Sustainable Communities designation, which is a condition of eligibility for several state programs. For example, inclusion in this category supports eligibility for DHCD’s Community Legacy program, and also for Sustainable Community Tax Credits. Designated TODs also receive bonus weighting under DHCD’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

TOD & MDOT Real Estate - Joint-Development Program 

MDOT implements a Joint Development Program, which utilizes State-owned real estate assets to achieve successful Transit Oriented Developments throughout the state. MDOT's goals for joint development are to promote TOD and thus:

  • Increase Transit Ridership;
  • Provide revenue sources for transportation and/or attract private investment in infrastructure;
  • Support economic development; and
  • Promote efficient use of transportation infrastructure and land use resources

Maryland seeks to leverage its investments in infrastructure and real estate to promote TOD, through MDOT's Joint Development Program.  MDOT-owned real estate surrounding transit stations may be utilized to support TOD.  Where the State owns land that can help achieve TOD outcomes, the State can more directly partner with local jurisdictions and prospective developers to help design, build and finance mixed-use development at station sites. MDOT aggressively seeks opportunities to partner with the private sector to achieve TOD.  Property is generally conveyed through long-term ground leases, to development partners. When initiating new projects, MDOT focuses on predevelopment planning, to ensure properties are ready for development. It evaluates existing land uses and physical characteristics, the perspective of surrounding communities, regulations, market strength and other issues. MDOT promotes new development on its property through solicitations, including request for Proposals and request for Qualifications. Additionally, the Transportation Public Private Partnership Program (TP3) offers a process for MDOT to receive unsolicited proposals for the development of its transportation facilities. Development proposals that meet transit oriented development principles may be submitted at any time on any property that MTA owns. 

For questions regarding the TOD & MDOT Real Estate Joint Development Program, please contact:

Nimisha Sharma 
Office of Real Estate & Economic Development
Maryland Department of Transportation