Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs) in Malaysia: Challenges, Progress, and Sustainability

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Despite nearly two decades of government efforts to promote Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs), misconceptions about these projects persist among the majority of Malaysians. While many developments claim to be TODs based on their proximity to public transportation stations, true TODs go much further. So, where does Malaysia stand in its TOD journey?

According to PLANMalaysia’s general guidelines, there are three tiers of TODs: tier-one TODs are labeled as high intensity, tier-two as medium-high intensity, and tier-three as medium intensity. These developments prioritize pedestrian-friendliness, walkability, and permeability.

PLANMalaysia’s director general, Dr. Alias Rameli, noted that tier-one TODs are currently limited to major city centers at regional, national, or global levels. However, the expansion of LRT and MRT networks, the new ECRL, and potential high-speed rail projects offer opportunities for some tier-two developments to transition into tier-one TODs. This expansion aligns with the government’s support for TODs, including the proposed Penang LRT project and Kuching Hydrogen Smart Tram.


Tier-one TODs are characterized by their location in major cities of regional, national, or global importance. They often serve as hubs for multiple types of public transportation and are mixed developments encompassing residential, commercial, and more.

However, high-intensity TODs can vary from country to country, and each nation may have specific policies related to TODs. For instance, the United States, particularly Los Angeles, requires on-site affordable housing for TODs, with a tier-four classification for high-intensity TODs. In Malaysia, the government aims to ensure that 30% of a TOD development is affordable to make it inclusive yet attractive.

To achieve this inclusivity, the government has proposed incentives such as allowing increased density or plot ratio in exchange for more affordable housing and additional amenities like schools, open spaces, and mosques within TOD areas. Additionally, car park allocations can be reduced by up to 100% based on proximity to the TOD center, with less parking needed at the core of TODs.

Affordability and Accessibility

Demand for TOD projects in the Klang Valley region is rising, largely driven by improved rail infrastructure. However, a 2021 study found that most TOD units being developed were unaffordable for the majority of the M40 and B40 income groups. Achieving affordability across all income levels is vital for TODs to fulfill their role as efficient land and transportation solutions.

Judy Ong, Senior Executive Director of Research and Consultancy at Knight Frank Malaysia, explained that in Klang Valley, residential components within TOD projects typically range from RM600 to RM800 per sq ft, pricing them beyond the affordability of B40 and M40 households. Nevertheless, some TOD projects, like The Atera in Petaling Jaya, Residensi Serasi in Putra Heights, and Jernih Residence in Kajang, offer affordable housing units for these income groups.

PR1MA Corp, for example, focuses on PR1MA transit-oriented developments, with projects like Residensi Astrum Ampang providing affordable housing options within TOD contexts.

Challenges in TOD Planning

Planning and developing TODs present unique challenges for both planners and developers. These developments require unconventional planning methodologies, emphasizing efficient land use around transit stations, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly environments, and harmonious integration of structures and open spaces.

Effective property management from the project’s inception is crucial, with early engagement of property management teams being vital. Neglecting this aspect can lead to complications in later stages of development. Comprehensive planning within specific radii of TOD areas, integrating essential components and facilities, such as pedestrian networks, commercial zones, green spaces, and place-making, is essential.

PLANMalaysia’s Transit-Oriented Development Guideline 2018 outlines nine fundamental planning principles for TODs. Regardless of their location (inner cities or suburbs), TODs should prioritize place-making. Developers should be involved early in the planning process to ensure successful management.

Sustainability in TODs

Sustainability is a core aspect of TODs, aiming to optimize land use and reduce individual vehicle usage to lower carbon emissions. However, challenges such as overcrowding at stations must be addressed. Malaysia’s commitment to preserving forests and the increasing urban population make higher-density developments like TODs essential for reducing urban sprawl.

Green building certifications, like GreenRE, play a vital role in making TODs more sustainable. These certifications guide design teams in incorporating elements that reduce carbon impact, resource use, and waste while enhancing the well-being of residents.

To enhance sustainability, TOD projects should utilize low-carbon concrete, adopt passive and active design for energy efficiency, incorporate green spaces, and focus on greenery applications such as plant species and locations.

As TODs continue to evolve in Malaysia, a concerted effort from both the public and private sectors is crucial. Encouraging people to live and work in TOD enclaves, promoting inclusivity, and intensifying TOD applications are essential steps forward.

In conclusion, Malaysia’s journey with TODs reflects the nation’s commitment to sustainable urban development and efficient transportation solutions, with challenges and opportunities paving the way forward.

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