Early Railway Suburbs and Their Links to Contemporary Transit-Oriented Developments

Zahra Zarabi, Vikram Bhatt


Since the late 1980’s, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) has emerged as a sustainable interpretation of neotraditional community design that promised to address a myriad of spatial planning issues. Being first introduced in North America, the concept highlighted the importance of integrating land use and transport systems with the aim of decreasing automobile dependency. Although, urban planners and transportation scholars have raised TOD’s profile in practice, the origins of this concept go back much further. There are some remarkable examples of large-scale real estate developments across North America, established on properties owned by transit companies, with the aim of generating revenue for the transit company and the government. One of the most successful Canadian examples of this type of development is the Town of Mount Royal located in Montreal. This suburban development, which emerged at the dawn of the twentieth century, predates, by almost a century, the contemporary concept of TOD. This paper looks at this development comprehensively and discusses the lessons learned from it. Additionally, using several recent Canadian TODs the study compares old and new developments and challenges faced within their design and operation process. By evaluating the first generation of transit-oriented development, the paper is meant to serve as a guideline for further work that seek to define the origins of TOD and propose standards of practice for the next generation of projects.


transit-oriented development; early railway suburbs; Town of Mount Royal; sustainable development

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