Transit Oriented Development (TOD)
Suburban
Case Study

Canton, Massachusetts

The town of Canton, Massachusetts, with a population of 20,775 , is located 18 miles southwest of Boston. Two commuter rail stations provide daily service to Back Bay and South Stations in Boston. The Canton Center station is located in the downtown business district within walking distance of retail shops, offices, and the center of government.

Incorporated in 1797, Canton developed as a center of industry, with the town's waterways provided excellent sources of water power. Paul Revere sited his copper rolling mill in Canton shortly after the American Revolution, and later rubber, chemical and woolen manufacturers located in the town. As industry expanded, the downtown grew to accommodate industry and the growing population.

In more recent decades, however, Canton's industrial base contracted and its economy declined. Many businesses in the town center closed in response to competition from shopping malls, leaving vacant sites in and around the downtown. In the late 1990s, hoping to reverse this economic trend, the town developed a vision plan and action strategy for the revitalization of Canton Center. The plan identified the Canton Center commuter rail station as a key catalyst for downtown redevelopment.

Walkway from train station to condominium development.
Walkway from train station to condominium development
Zoning for TOD

The revitalization strategy led to the adoption by the town in 2000 of the Canton Center Economic Opportunity District Bylaw. The town created several components of the bylaw to directly encourage transit oriented development and better connect the station itself to the downtown. Prior to the adoption of the bylaw, the downtown was divided into three distinct zoning districts. Overall, mixed uses were not encouraged, and residential development was limited to one or two apartments above retail uses. The new bylaw increased allowable densities to one unit per 2000 square feet unit and 3000 square feet of commercial development per 10,000 square feet of land area, and encouraged mixing residential and commercial uses. It also allows shared parking for two or more uses that can demonstrate different peak demand.

Creating a Pedestrian-Friendly Environment

In an effort to enhance connections between the downtown and the train station, the town recently issued a request for proposals for a streetscape improvement project in the overlay district. It will include brick sidewalks, new signage, historic traffic lights, enhanced pedestrian crossings, planting areas, recessed curbing and public parks and seating areas. The state awarded Canton a $1.86 million PWED grant to finance the project. The town is now working with a consultant to design the project, and construction will begin in the summer of 2005.

Ground floor retail with housing above, across from station.
Ground floor retail with housing above, across from station

Concentration of Mixed Uses around Transit

The zoning proved to be the catalyst for a constant stream of new housing development in the downtown, concentrated around the transit station. Since 2000, five new housing developments totaling 207 new residential units have been built within a five minute walk of the train station. Three of these projects are directly adjacent to the train station and include landscaped walkways between the station and the residential developments. Two others located within a few minutes walk, include ground floor retail. Several more projects are in the planning stages, and will include several units for low and moderate income residents. All of these projects have been built on underutilized sites, and one of the planned projects will be built on an existing brownfields site.