With transit-oriented development (TOD) catching on around the world, more and more cities are making an effort to combine transit planning and urban development. Among the cities looking to TOD as a solution is Almaty, Kazakhstan. As one of the biggest cities in Central Asia, Almaty is facing rapid motorization and increased urban sprawl. In the last ten years, car ownership in the city doubled, while the road network has remained the same since Soviet times. The need for integrating land use around transit has never been more pressing, as congestion delays during peak commute times continue growing. With these issues threatening Almaty’s economic and environmental future, Almaty is getting serious about transit-oriented development.
Recently, city leaders convened experts from around the world to strategize on how transit-oriented development can help Almaty grow in a sustainable way. A conference in Almaty brought together many key government officials, as well as TOD experts from ITDP, Gehl Architects, UC Berkley and urban planners from Moscow, the Netherlands and more. Organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) City of Almaty Sustainable Transport (CAST) project and the Municipality of Almaty, the conference looked to encourage transport authorities, municipal policymakers and developers to work together in designing strategies and projects for sustainable and healthy urban transport.
Speaking at the event, ITDP Global Research Manager Michael Kodransky encouraged Almaty not to construct new highways, but to focus on prioritizing public transport, cycling and walking.
“In the long-term, roads built for high speeds deceive expectations. Many cities have come to understand how these roads exacerbate traffic congestion and air pollution” Kodransky explained. “Waiting in a traffic jam, people spend less time with their families. But if you build more roads to solve traffic, you have less city. When you just invest in big roads, future growth will all be car-oriented developments. Development should really follow public transport investment and investment in cycling and walking infrastructure.”
To support Almaty’s efforts to encourage high quality transit-oriented developments, the UNDP-CAST Project “City of Almaty Sustainable Transport” translated the TOD Standard into Russian.
Transit-oriented development helps cites reduce driving, and thereby reduce congestion and emissions. By emphasizing mixed-use development with different land uses, TODs lead to more self-contained districts. Developments oriented to transit decrease driving trips. This model can help Almaty, and thousands of cities like it, improve the quality of life for its citizens.