Is a Half-Mile Circle the Right Standard for TODs?

Planners and researchers use transit catchment areas—the land around stations—as geographic units for predicting ridership, assessing the impacts of transit investments and, recently, for designing transit-oriented developments (TODs). In the US, a half-mile-radius circle has become the de facto standard for rail-transit catchment areas.

There is surprisingly little evidence to justify any particular catchment area. Why a half mile? Why not a quarter mile or two-fifths of a mile? Is there anything special about a half mile or is this simply a convenient figure that has become an industry standard? A half mile roughly corresponds to the distance someone can walk in 10 minutes at 3 miles per hour and is a common estimate for the distance people will walk to get to a rail station. The half-mile ring is a little more than 500 acres in size.

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