The Transient Oriented Density Framework

The term ‘high density’ occurs often in discussions of global urban planning. But what exactly does it mean? There is much support internationally for the idea that high levels of urban density benefit cities environmentally, socially and financially. Compact cities are considered more sustainable. In post-apartheid South Africa, urban policy discourse has constantly included the aim of achieving higher density. Among the expected benefits are greater efficiencies in public transport. The country’s focus on increasing urban density is therefore closely linked to the development of public transport systems. This is stated in the National Development Plan (NDP) (2011):


The premise is that high density is an essential element in achieving the 2030 vision of the NDP. Specifically, the argument is that locating high density development close to public transport stations will alter the ways in which people are able to travel in the country’s cities and towns. Walking, cycling and public transport are favoured over private transport. This envisaged future, with its orientation towards public transport, requires high density urban living. However, what does this look like and how do we know if current developments will achieve this goal?


While much work has been done on urban density generally, there is little information about the relationship between urban density and public transport. This report investigates the links between them. It applies a framework which, in its present or an improved form, may assist municipal officials, built environment practitioners and citizens to assess the extent to which transit adjacent neighbourhoods share a strong functional relationship with public transport.


The report first examines the concept of density generally, and urban density specifically, highlighting its multi-faceted nature. It then discusses the connections between density and public transport to inform the aspects to be included in an assessment framework. Each of the ten measures of the framework is introduced and explained. The outcomes of piloting the framework, in the case of three selected study areas, are presented to test the extent to which the framework assists in assessing how urban density is oriented towards and intrinsically connected to public transport. The report then compares the results that emerged from piloting the framework in three diverse sites in the Gauteng City Region.