It is the oldest subway in the United States and has more fame than its size and efficiency would otherwise command thanks to the Kingston Trio's song about Charley who got permanently stuck on Boston's MTA.

Today it is called the MBTA or the "T" and, in addition to its small number of subway lines that radiate out from Boston to some of the close in suburbs it has a number of high speed rail lines into the city from as far away as Providence Rhode Island and a huge network of bus routes throughout the metropolitan area

Boston is one of a number of cities participating in a variety of development projects generally known as Transit Oriented Communities or TOCs. The T along with smaller transportation agencies throughout the state are, in fact, currently planning 50 TOCs with a total of 17,000 housing units. The most recent large scale TOD in the area is located at the last stop on the Green Line in Newton, a neighboring city to Boston, where one of the older parts of the subway runs above ground. This new project will include 180 upscale residential units, a parking garage, fitness center, swimming pool, and a Zip car that will be available for resident use.

TOC is a catchall phrase. There does not appear to be any single TOC program although there are a number of funding sources and a lot of academic and economic research going on under the umbrella of the term. Basically TOC refers to residential or commercial developments which are designed to maximize access to public transportation, bringing housing, shopping, educational institutions, and working opportunities within walking distance - usually defined as 1/4 to 1/2 mile - of a transportation hub.

While the definition of a TOC can range from a day care center located at a transit hub to a full scale neighborhood renovated or built from scratch to be transit oriented, most have features that encourage the use of mass transportation such as nearby availability of employment, shopping, and housing, and ease of access for pedestrians and bikes (wide sidewalks, safe road crossings, narrow streets, amenities such as benches and bike racks or lockers.)

Arlington, Virginia is part of the Washington, DC transit system which may never be completed as it continues to crawl out into the suburbs in both Maryland and Virginia and is augmented by Amtrak which provides commuter rail service from as far away as Delaware. Arlington is widely regarded as one of the best managed counties in the country and boasts at least two large and successful TODs. One of these is the Ballston neighborhood which contains, within 1/2 mile of the Ballston Metro Station a major although not terribly successful shopping mall, a 20 story independent and assisted living residence for seniors operated by the Marriott chain (and the availability of mass transit just steps away is a major draw for its younger and more lively tenants) numerous condos and rental units, mid-rise office buildings, a few stand-alone retail facilities such as Staples and Harris Teeter, a multiple screen theater, and dozens of restaurants of all types; there is a Ruby Tuesday at the entrance to the subway station, an upscale Thai restaurant down the street, barbeque joints, fern bars, a half dozen quick stop lunch places, and of course banks, dry cleaners, and convenience stores.

Ballston is a lively place with foot traffic from very early morning until hate at night which also makes it a very safe neighborhood. New buildings are still being completed in Ballston and whether or not the County thought in terms of creating a TOD two decades ago, the area has certainly evolved into a large and successful one.

The term TOC has been around for 20 years and there may be excellent examples of these types of development within your own communities even if you have never heard the name or really thought about the relationship between a development and the nearby transit facility. However, if gas prices continue to be $3 per gallon or more it may be inevitable that the transit oriented community becomes the centerpiece of development, not only in the cities but in outlying suburbs. Since trains run in both directions the availability of housing, jobs, or recreational opportunities at either end of the line will encourage transit ridership.

We found examples of recent TOCs in dozens of cities from New York to San Francisco to Orlando to Austin. While it has been metro areas with subways or other rapid mass transit that have attracted the large scale developments they are now beginning to pop up in places with well developed bus line hubs or at the end of high speed rail lines in distant suburbs.

During the Clinton Administration the Federal Transit Administration did much to encourage TOC using a program called the "Livable Communities Initiative" which awarded grants to cities, counties, and public transit agencies to fund projects. The project was never well-funded but it did have the capacity to seed projects in order that they could put together a mix of other financing sources. The successful projects have usually been joint efforts between cities and private developers with substantial input from the public so the growth of these communities will depend on the latter two groups seeing the value (in terms of profit for the one and enhanced lifestyle for the other) and private sector financing sources sensing an opportunity.

A number of cities with some form of mass transit have reported substantial increases in ridership over the last few months as the cost of driving a car has increased by 25 to 30 percent. This might be what it takes to encourage not only the expansion of existing transportation systems and the creation of new ones but the development of pedestrian and people friendly communities at every stop along the line.