Transit Oriented Development Strategy

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Main actors

City Government, Supranational / Intergovernmental Institutions, Private Sector, Community / Citizen Group

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2013/03

A strategy focussing on social inclusion, urban regeneration and the environment is being implemented in Quito.

The city government of Quito has commenced a large infrastructure project based on a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) strategy and Land Value Capture (LVC) Plans. The project will maximize residential, business and recreational space within walking distance of public transportation and have a positive impact on the welfare of a large portion of the population. Together this will allow investment in economic growth, provide inclusive employment and safe housing, environmental benefits and simultaneously strengthening municipal resources.

This project has been chosen by the city of Johannesburg to be peer-reviewed in the frame of the Sustainable Cities Collaboratory:

Sustainable Development Goals

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Quito, Ecuador

Size and population development
Quito follows Guayaquil as the second most populous city in the country. However, if we were to take the Metropolitan District of Quito in comparison to Guayaquil, the former would lead the demographic charts with 2.7 million people living there. The MDQ extends 4,183 square kilometres, with a very low population density in comparison to other Metropolitan capitals of Latin American.

Population composition
In the entire province of Pichicha, in which Quito is located, has around 140,000 indigenious people.The largest racial group identified by the Ecuador’s national census are mestizo, a classification with its origins in the original colonisation of the Americas, with it referring to the children of criollos (Latin Americans of Spanish origin) and indigenous, although the term now simply means mixed ethnicity, with this grouping making up over 80 percent of the population. The remainder is divided into various groups, the most significant being indigenous, largely speakers of Quechua; Afro-Ecuadorians, the dependents of slaves; and a small white population. There is also an immigrant population, with around 2% of the populous speaking a language other than Spanish or Quechua;

Main functions
San Francisco de Quito is the capital of the Province of Pichincha, and moreover the capital of Ecuador. Known simply as “Quito”, it is the second most elevated capital city in South America after La Paz, Bolivia, which stands at 2,580 meters above sea level and sits amid mountains and deep valley in the eastern Andes. The city is crossed by four tectonic faults, 192 ravines and is surrounded by 20 volcanoes, of which three are active. The Metropolitan District of Quito is 55% vegetation and is a recognized bio-diversity hotspot (Tumes-Choco-Magdalena). Moreover, Quito is known as a cultural capital, with its historic centre being a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site since 1978 because of its status as one of the least-altered and best-preserved central districts in the American continent. In recent years, there has been a noticeable influx of Venezuelan migrants who have fled their country due to internal struggles, and it has become a challenge not only to Quito but to the whole of Ecuador to manage their arrival, which amounts to hundreds of thousands. Ecuador has long been Latin America’s largest recipient of refugees, with the majority fleeting violence and repression in Columbia.

Main industries / business
Quito provides the highest percentage of Ecuador’s GDP. The main industries of Quito belong to the three sectors: the city exports coffee, cacao, sugar, palm oil, and bananas—with Ecuador being the world’s largest exporter of bananas. It is also known for its textiles and for being a popular touristic destination. In 2015, an approximate of 1.5 million international tourists visited the capital, according to the Office of Tourism, largely from Colombia, United States and Perú. Tourism in the city is greatly directed to places of Catholic heritage (churches, sculptures, etc.), museums, and to the textile and night life scenes. According to Ecuador’s Central Bank, Quito receives significant remittance funds from the one million plus Ecuadorians living abroad. It is also the place were most of the strongest national companies and many transnational ones have anchored themselves, such as the nation’s biggest corporation Petroecuador, and is also the hub of the nation’s automotive industry and the headquarters of TAME, Ecuador’s national airline.

Sources for city budget
Quito has a high rate of tax collection when compared to other capital cities in South America, with a 12% sales tax, a 22% corporate tax rate, and a progressive personal income tax rate that sites around 35%. The province which houses Quito has two types of budget, one designed according to the needs of the province, the Preassigned Budget of Income, and the second being used to fund the institutions, programs and prioritized projects, and it is paid for with federal funding.

Political structure
Quito is at once the capital of Ecuador, of the Province of Pichincha and the seat of the MDQ canton, while houses all of the diplomatic offices from other countries. It is governed by the Metropolitan Council made up of 21 council members. The front man of the council is the Mayor, who is both mayor of the Quito seat and of the Metropolitan District. The council is tasked with promoting the city, ensuring public services, tax collection, public and private transport regulation, and city development planning.

Administrative structure
Ecuador is a country that for administrative purposes is divided into provincias (provinces), cantones (cantons), and political parishes. Quito belongs in the Pichincha province, and in its form of Metropolitan District of Quito it is a canton. Quito, in its most local definition—equivalent to a parish—is the seat (centre) of the MDQ canton. The canton is made up of 55 parishes, and the urban parishes are what is known as Quito. The administration of all the parishes is handled by 9 administrative zones. In each of these, there is a council person assigned by the mayor of Quito in charge of managing the parishes within the zone. These zones were created to decentralize institutional arrangements and to manage civil participation.

Local governments are increasingly working towards low carbon urbanism and mass transit mobility systems. To this end TOD strategies and LVC instruments have become an attractive and feasible option that require robust and integrated urban planning supported by strong institutions with sufficient technical capacity.

The Municipality of Quito is undertaking the single most important infrastructure investment of its history, the First Line of the Quito Metro (PLMQ for its Spanish acronym). The PLMQ brings about significant changes to the existing transport system and will greatly impact the citizens of the city. The strategy looks to foster urban developments that suit each station enhancing its social, economic and environmental potential, while providing secure places to live and improve the urban quality of many public places in Quito.

The project has the following objectives:

Environmental and Social Sustainability

  1. Shift away from private automobiles to public transit, aimed at reducing energy consumption, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and improving local air quality,
  2. Through fostering civic participation, contribute to people’s ownership to meet social demands for better services and quality public space.

 Economic and Social Contribution

  1. Increase productivity by reducing daily commuting time.
  2. Increase density and diversity of land uses to create agglomeration economies and help revitalize urban centers and neighborhood.
  3. Make public services and facilities available for as many citizens as possible.


  1. Include strategies and interventions that increase road safety, particularly for pedestrian and bicyclist intermodal connections, access and crossings to transit stations.
  2. Design urban interventions to improve safety/reduce crime by increasing activity in the public realm, improving lighting, introducing monitoring systems and increasing “eyes on the street.”

 Economic Efficiency

  1. Configure an incentive for the local real estate and construction market to create quality jobs in the city.
  2. Maximize the benefits associated to having people to live and work near transit stations and use transit stations with greater convenience, especially for the less advantaged classes in society, thereby increasing Metro ridership and reducing journey times, travel distances and congestion, hence increasing the efficiency of the transport system.

Resilience against Natural Disasters

  1. Support planning for high densities in low risk areas and help shift from growth into the periphery to more a compact growth of Quito.
  2. By identifying natural and/or manmade threats around the metro stations that can interrupt the service of the first metro line of Quito, or any other mobility option associated to the station areas, or that can endanger user’s wellbeing, and proposing strategies to decrease existing risk.
  3. Plan a city wide mobility system based on redundancy, integration and efficiency of all its components.

 Adaptation to climate change and avoiding the creation of new risks

  1. Contribute with affordable housing in safe places instead of far located and illegal options provided by the informal market,
  2. Avoid displacement of low-income families.

The rollout of the project includes the following key dates:

2010 – Project design by Metro Madrid
2013 – Construction of stations El Labrador and La Magdalena
2016 – Start of the construction
2018 – Civil works completion (tunnel and underground stations)
2019 – Project completion

The construction of the first metro line has commenced and it is expected that the system will be operational by the end of 2019, simultaneously the city government has put in place a regulation that encourages real estate development around the different systems of existing mass transport.

Specific activities

  • Integrate current bus transit system operated by private companies
  • Appropriation by the citizens and future users
  • Urban development and reactivation of areas served by the metro line
  • Transform Quito’s transportation system to a more sustainable system
  • Enrich the metro line with pedestrian and bicycle transportation networks
  • Establish a fare and a collection system that enables users to travel through different components of the public transportation system
  • Design the public space around stations.

A city-wide migration to renewable energy sources must become a priority in order to develop a coherent public transportation system.

The investment slightly surpasses 2 billion USD.


The general results expected include:

  • Increase in buildability, adequate densification and improvement of urban compactness
  • Improvement of urban quality and safety in public spaces
  • Economic income to be invested in urban improvement projects in the city
  • Decrease in risk in the face of natural events of transport infrastructure
  • Decrease in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and improvement of air quality
  • Diversification of the types of uses in buildings to increase the supply of activities and decrease the need for private car mobilization
  • Increase in the real estate market supply of new, affordable and safe housing at walking distances from public transport

TOD is a market driven strategy. The main challenge is to propose interventions that are both, attractive to the supply market and brings both environmental and economic benefits for the city and its citizens. Another challenge is to make sure that the risk factor and the different climate challenges, current and future, are taken into account and included in the interventions.

Critical issues include:

  • Economic debt needed for financing the project.
  • 16 months away from inauguration there haven’t been any negotiations with the bus operators.
  • First metro line only covers 22 out of 45 kilometers of Quito’s upper plateau.
  • There is no public transportation solution to connect Quito’s upper plateau with the valleys.

On the Map

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Want to know more about this project?

Sustainable Cities Collaboratory
Berlin, Germany

Sustainable Cities Collaboratory

Institution | Network

David Jácome Polit
Quito, Ecuador

David Jácome Polit

Individual | Resilience Adviser

Antonio Salvador
Quito, Ecuador

Antonio Salvador

Individual | Director de planificación estratégica urbana

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