During the last decade or more, the concept of ‘transit oriented development’ (TOD) has received widespread consideration as a way of promoting ‘smart growth’ or ‘compact city’ development patterns, primarily through reducing aggregate travel demand and increasing transit ridership, particularly in North American cities. A substantial literature focusing on TOD and related ideas has emerged and has influenced the formulation of urban land use and transport planning strategies in many different cities throughout the world.
In South Africa, since the mid 1990s, legislative and policy frameworks have emerged which seek to promote patterns of urban development deemed to be more accommodating of the effective and equitable operation of public transport systems. While much current policy discourse has been framed in terms of establishing high density, mixed use public transport ‘corridors’, little explicit or systematic attention seems to have been paid to the potential relevance of TOD and related approaches to achieving the overarching policy objectives. In this paper, I explore the concept and rationale of TOD and discuss what might be entailed, in broad strategic and institutional terms, in implementing it in a South African city, Cape Town. I conclude that, while there appear to be significant difficulties or obstacles involved, adaptation of the TOD approach nevertheless represents a potentially fruitful way of addressing important current policy concerns about the interaction of public transport and land use patterns.