Siena, Italy

A Model for Transit Oriented Development in the North Bay

For understanding what works best, local examples are generally more convincing. That is why most of the examples of Transit Oriented Development included on this site are in California. Although they are instructive in many respects, there is great value in models that are more mature, especially where all the local examples share a common deficiency.

Why choose a model from a distant country? The Tuscany region of Italy has some strong similarities to the North Bay, but the bulk of its development occurred long before motorized transport, and more recent development was constrained by a lack of cheap fuel. When our fuel prices rise to account for the diminishing oil supply, we will envy the pedestrian orientation of Italian cities, as well as the ease of travel between the cities by rail and bus.

The Tuscany region is agrarian, but most of its people live in compact and highly walkable cities. Siena is a prime example. With a population of 54,000, it is reasonably comparable to the cities in Sonoma and Marin counties.

To be even more specific, it is just the very old walled city within the current municipal boundaries of Siena that is being compared to the area around the planned rail station at Railroad Square in Santa Rosa. In the overlay below, the old city walls are positioned so that the central focal point of the city, the Campo, is at the rail platform area.

Real models can't be found to demonstrate every aspect of TOD. In this case there is no rail station in the walled city itself. Due to the elevation of the walled city above the surrounding countryside, the railroad doesn't go through the middle, but along its (northern) edge. The purpose of using the ancient Siena model here is not to show a rail station per se, but rather to show what a walkable and complete community might be like at Railroad Square.


Siena overview

Siena at street level

The Campo

A Siena Food & Wine Center