Transit-Oriented Communities (TOC) Policy

Transit-oriented communities (TOCs) feature housing and business development that is near to transportation, putting public transit in reach for more people and improving the quality of life in the Bay Area.

Noah Berger

Transit-oriented communities (TOCs) enable people to access and use transit more often for more types of trips by centering housing, jobs, services and shopping around public transit. They are places where people of all ages, abilities, income levels, and racial and ethnic backgrounds can live, work and thrive.

MTC’s TOC Policy is just one piece of Plan Bay Area 2050, the region’s long-range plan for transportation, housing, the economy and the environment. The TOC Policy supports two high-impact Plan Bay Area 2050 strategies that will help the region reach ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Strategy H3: Allow a greater mix of housing densities and types in Growth Geographies
  • Strategy EC4: Allow greater commercial densities in Growth Geographies

TOC Policy Goals

TOC Policy helps advance Plan Bay Area 2050. The four goals below will make it easier for people in the Bay Area to live a car-free or car-light lifestyle:

  1. Increase the overall housing supply in part by increasing the density for new residential projects. Prioritize affordable housing in transit-rich areas.
  2. In areas near regional transit hubs, increase density for businesses and commercial development.
  3. Prioritize bus transit, active transportation and shared mobility (such as bike share and car share) within and to/from transit-rich areas, particularly to Equity Priority Communities located more than one half-mile from transit stops or stations.
  4. Support and build partnerships to create equitable transit-oriented communities within the San Francisco Bay Area.

TOC Policy Requirements

The TOC Policy applies to locations within a half-mile of existing and planned stops and stations served by one of the following:

  • BART, Caltrain, SMART, Capitol Corridor and ACE stations
  • Muni and VTA light-rail stations
  • Muni and AC Transit bus rapid transit stops
  • Ferry terminals

View the map of existing TOC stations to learn more about where the TOC Policy applies. Planned stations where the TOC Policy also applies will be added to the map at a later date.

The policy requirements address the following:

  1. Minimum residential and commercial office densities for new development;
  2. Affordable housing production, preservation and protection, and stabilizing businesses to prevent displacement;
  3. Parking management; and
  4. Transit station access.

View the TOC Policy Overview and TOC Policy Requirements Checklist to learn more.

Additional Details

Draft Administrative Guidance

Following adoption of the TOC Policy, MTC staff have been developing administrative guidance to explain the details of policy requirements and how local governments can submit compliance documentation. Since January 2023, MTC has engaged in an extensive outreach process to receive feedback on the TOC Policy administrative guidance. This feedback process has included presentations at all county-based Planning Director and Planning Collaborative meetings as well as opportunities to submit written comments to MTC.

In September 2023, MTC released final draft guidance, which is the latest version of the administrative guidance incorporating feedback from jurisdictions and other stakeholders. Overall, changes made in response to comments have resulted in policy requirements that are less prescriptive and allow for greater flexibility for local conditions, while still having guidelines in place to ensure effective policies and meaningful outcomes. After this final round of engagement and feedback in September 2023, final guidance is expected in early 2024.

TOC Policy Compliance and OBAG 4

Future One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) funding cycles (i.e., OBAG 4 and subsequent funding cycles) will consider funding revisions that prioritize investments in transit station areas that are subject to and compliant with the TOC Policy. To ensure eligibility for OBAG 4 funding and any other discretionary funding that may be linked to TOC Policy compliance, jurisdictions should anticipate demonstrating compliance prior to adoption of OBAG 4 (expected in 2026). Compliance with the TOC Policy is voluntary for jurisdictions that want to advance the goals of Plan Bay Area 2050 or to be eligible and/or competitive for some MTC discretionary funding. The process to confirm compliance will begin early 2024 and continue on a rolling basis until an anticipated deadline corresponding with OBAG 4. MTC will provide technical support to assist with the compliance process.

TOC Policy Requirements for Transit Extension Funding

In October 2023, MTC adopted an amendment to the TOC Policy, which details TOC Policy compliance requirements for fixed-guideway transit extension projects seeking awards or allocations of regional discretionary capital funding. There are different expectations for TOC Policy compliance based on a transit extension project’s delivery stage, as follows:

  1. Project Development/Environmental Review: Project sponsors, and local jurisdictions as applicable, must provide a letter or resolution acknowledging that future allocation requests to MTC will be subject to the TOC Policy pursuant to later phases.
  2. Project Design and Early Right-of-Way Acquisition: Jurisdictions must commit in writing to take steps toward achieving compliance by 2026 for the station area(s) seeking funding.
  3. Project Construction: Jurisdictions do not need to submit a letter of commitment, but they should work with MTC staff to achieve compliance by 2026.

The project sponsor/implementing agency must include an acknowledgement or commitment letter or resolution, as applicable, in its request to MTC for regional discretionary funding. Project sponsors and local jurisdiction staff can use the following templates for developing the required letter or resolution:

Advancing Transit in Communities

MTC’s 2022 TOC Policy builds on the Transit-Oriented Development Policy, adopted in 2005. The TOC Policy reflects changes in regional transportation and land use trends since 2005, as well as new information from Plan Bay Area 2050.

What are Growth Geographies?

In Plan Bay Area 2050, Growth Geographies are locations used to guide where future growth in housing and jobs would be focused over the next 30 years. These locations are identified for growth either by local cities and counties or because they are located close to transit or access to opportunity. The four types of Growth Geographies in Plan Bay Area 2050 are:

  • Priority Development Areas (PDAs): Areas generally near existing job centers or frequent transit that have been identified by towns, cities or counties for housing and job growth
  • Priority Production Areas (PPAs): Locally identified places for job growth in middle-wage industries like manufacturing, logistics or other trades. An area must be zoned for industrial use or have a strong industrial use to be a PPA
  • Transit-Rich Areas (TRAs): Areas near rail, ferry or frequent bus service that were not already identified as PDAs. Specifically, these are areas where at least 50% of the area is within 1/2 mile of an existing rail station or ferry terminal (with bus or rail service), a bus stop with peak service frequency of 15 minutes or less, or a planned rail station or planned ferry terminal (with bus or rail service)
  • High-Resource Areas (HRAs): Places identified by the state that have well-resourced schools and access to jobs and open space – among other advantages – that may have historically rejected more housing growth. This designation only includes places that meet a baseline transit service threshold of bus service with peak headways of 30 minutes or better