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Integrating Land Use & Transportation

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For years the transportation profession has emphasized mobility in the development of plans, programs, and projects. This emphasis on mobility –- moving people and goods conveniently and efficiently between places -– has surely increased our society’s productivity and economic wealth. But it has also fostered the creation of homogeneous and inaccessible places, striking in their lack of character, comfort, and variety.

We tend to deal with mobility and livability as separate, often competing, concepts. The tools of the transportation planner are geared toward measuring and providing mobility. While we have institutionalized measures of traffic congestion (volume-to-capacity, average travel speed, and vehicle hours of delay), we have too often ignored measures of livability and community character –- those factors that determine the quality of the places we are striving to reach so quickly.

Man crossing busy arterial roadway.

This article looks at the connection between land use and transportation -– and how one metropolitan area, Gainesville, Florida, has begun to rethink its approach to transportation planning.

If All Your Tools are Hammers …

It has been said that if all your tools are hammers, then everything begins to look like a nail. Using traditional transportation measures based on travel speed and delay, urban area transportation plans and corridor studies emphasize building new or wider roads, or increasing the efficiency (read: increasing speed) of existing roads. They are Visine plans (not Vision plans) –- as they seek to “get the red out” (red meaning severe congestion on most transportation planning maps) by using measures of speed to determine needs and project priorities.

Such plans say nothing about the desired growth pattern or community character and only incidentally consider impacts on land use and the quality of the developed environment. They rarely consider how transportation can support land use objectives to create highly accessible places with a true choice of travel options.

Too often, quality of life or “livability” concerns are only considered as a reactionary response when neighborhood groups protest a proposed transportation project. Until our planning processes for land use and transportation are more closely integrated, we can expect more of the same. …

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