dense urban downtown with public transportation

Density-Bonus Incentives

Higher development densities directly support TOD objectives, primarily by placing more potential transit riders near stations.

They can also increase the potential return-on-investment for developers, and the potential tax base for local, regional, and state governments – creating stronger TOD investment markets and more sustainable funding levels for maintaining/improving transit services and other public resources to enhance TOD.
Allowing higher densities in TOD zones also presents an important opportunity to incentivize TOD-supportive parking, mobility, and travel demand management (TDM) components in new projects. Rather than simply increasing height and floor-area allowances, codes can offer density bonuses in exchange for incorporating:

  • Desirable parking management practices – charging for parking, providing shared or public parking, electric-vehicle parking, etc.;

  • Transit-use promotion - information media, fare subsidies, on-site pass vending, etc.; and/or

  • Multimodal amenities – bike parking, bus stop/shelters, car-share parking, etc.

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Key Benefits

  • Incentivizes parking-management, mobility, and other TDM commitments

  • Attracts denser, transit-supportive development patterns

  • Increases the potential return-on-investment for TOD opportunities, increasing development interest in TOD areas

  • Increases the tax-generative potential of realized TOD on eligible sites

Case Studies



Site Plan Development

Arlington, VA

The primary strategy responsible for Arlington County’s remarkable concentration of growth along rail corridors has been the Site Plan Development option offered to developers looking to build in these areas. This option allows developers to build to a significantly higher density in return for agreeing to a review process that is much more rigorous than a typical zoning review and focused essentially on fostering “smart growth” characteristics in approved projects. Density bonuses are significant enough to attract the majority of new development projects into this process, resulting not only in growth that is concentrated along rail-transit corridors, but projects built to meet exacting standards of multimodal accessibility and traffic mitigation. A central component of this review process is an emphasis on TDM requirements applied to Site Plan Review projects. These requirements generally focus on workplace commuter travel and opportunities to reduce peak-hour single-occupant vehicle trips. The following is a list of core requirements for all Site Plan Review projects.

  • A TDM plan for each development, including conditional requirements for implementation;

  • On-site parking provisions that extend preference to vanpools, carpools, and bicycles;

  • The encouragement of travel to and from the workplace by modes other than single occupant automobile through various educational and incentive measures;

  • Coordination and cooperation among employers, building owners, and management companies, and engagement with Arlington Transportation Partners

Form-Based Codes

Dallas, TX

The form-based code produced for City of Dallas’s walkable urban mixed-use (WMU) and walkable urban residential (WR) districts is “intended to create walkable urban neighborhoods where higher-density mixed uses and mixed housing types promote less dependence on the automobile.” This code notably aspires to reduce automobile dependency in a variety of ways, including setting standards for sidewalk development and building frontage visibility to help make the walking experience more desirable. Specific to parking, the form-based code permits reductions in parking for developments for a variety of provisions, including:

  • Proximity to active car-sharing spaces;

  • Affordable housing units with proximity to alternate transportation;

  • A transportation demand management (TDM) program;

  • Pedestrian amenities at a level above the requirement

  • Underground office parking; and

  • Preserving trees that would have been otherwise removed;


Provisions like these not only incent the expansion and availability of alternative modes of transportation for residents and tenants of developments, but they also encourage parking construction to not come at the expense of using valuable land area solely for surface parking.

Implementation Considerations


Role of Public Sector

  • Establishes incentives in the development code, linking increased development scales/densities to commitments to align on-site parking and mobility with common TOD objectives


Role of Private Sector

  • Commits to parking and mobility polices, programs, and amenities sought by the community for its TOD areas, in exchange for increased development scale/density limits



  • Viable for future TODs