Santa Clara County (in California’s Bay Area) includes highly suburban and notoriously sprawled cities (such as San Jose— look up “urban sprawl” and you’ll literally find a picture of San Jose). Approximately 77% of Santa Clara County residents drive alone to work daily. This reason, along with various others, have spurred Santa Clara County to approve many planning initiatives that call for denser development, improved transit services, and environmental sustainability. Some of the specific initiatives include banning plastic bags, stopping development from going into green belts, and building transit oriented developments.
Building TODs has been one of the most talked about methods in battling auto usage and its side effect, congestion, for a while now. Despite the growing amount of research on TODs and their ability to reduce auto usage/ownership, many people (and planners) are still critical of whether TODs really work, especially in suburban areas such as Santa Clara County. Based on a study I worked on this past Spring, initial findings show that residents living in TODs in suburban areas have been walking, bicycling, and using transit more often. 45% of people who moved to TODs used transit more often and 59% walked or bicycled more often.
As transit systems improve, more local amenities are made available near TODs or transit-adjacent development, and streets are made more pedestrian/bicycle friendly, suburban (as well as urban) areas can become more sustainable places— places that are not so auto-oriented.
The charts I created are based on a graduate study I worked on with various colleagues at San Jose State University.