At the November 22 Common Council meeting, Alder Heck, Alder Foster, Alder Vidaver and Mayor Rhodes-Conway introduced legislation to promote transit-oriented development along high capacity transit corridors in Madison. Transit-oriented development (TOD) is a pedestrian-oriented, compact, mixed-use development style focused along high quality public transit. It typically includes a mix of housing, office, retail, neighborhood amenities and other uses within walking distance of a transit station.

The legislation would create a TOD overlay zoning district, based in the policy direction of the City’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan, Imagine Madison, to focus much of our future population growth to areas best equipped to serve it – along public transit corridors. Madison has grown by nearly 70,000 people since 2000, and is expected to grow by another 70,000 people in the next two decades.

“Part of providing affordable housing is making sure it’s connected to affordable, accessible transportation options,” said Mayor Rhodes-Conway. “By focusing development in areas with great transit service, we can offer future residents walkable and amenity-rich neighborhoods, and avoid making traffic worse.”

The current proposal permits modest, context-sensitive increases to allowable residential development limits within about a quarter-mile of corridors with frequent transit service – that is, transit that comes at least every 15 minutes. It also removes minimum parking requirements, adjusts site layout regulations, and makes small adjustments to heights to accommodate a more compact development pattern.

“While we are proposing some increases in density, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” said District 2 Alder Patrick Heck. “This legislation makes small, incremental adjustments to the base zoning that allow us to accommodate more growth without dramatically changing neighborhood character.”

As an example, in some areas, the TOD overlay will allow a 6-story building instead of a 5-story building, or a 4-story building instead of a 3-story building. In single-family neighborhoods, the TOD overlay will allow a duplex instead of just one housing unit.

“The TOD overlay will help the City deliver on its housing and sustainability goals,” said District 15 Alder Grant Foster. “We are creating the opportunity for more housing to be developed, and making it easier for residents to opt for the bus instead of their cars.”

To keep up with population growth, the City estimates it needs to be building around 2,000 new housing units per year. However, the average number of new units created each year has fallen short of that target over the last decade, which puts pressure on house prices and rents.

“We desperately need more housing, and this is one of many tools that can help deliver it,” said District 5 Alder Regina Vidaver. “An increased supply of housing and the ability to get around without a car are both important aspects of keeping Madison affordable in the long-run.”

The proposed legislation will be reviewed by the Transportation Policy and Planning Board on December 5 and by the Plan Commission on December 12. It is scheduled to return to the Common Council for a final decision on January 3.

To learn more about the proposed TOD overlay, visit

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