A study released by Johns Hopkins last November gained widespread attention for demonstrating that 9-foot lanes are often safer than wider lanes. The researchers note, however, that most state DOTs set minimum lane widths between 10 and 12 feet and require design exceptions for anything narrower. Even in Vermont, where 9-foot lanes are allowed, the researchers found they have not been implemented. Therefore, paving the way to narrow lanes means understanding all the factors that make them challenging in the first place.
Cities are looking to the Smart Growth principles of walkability, gentle density, compact development, and multi-use zoning to bring destinations closer together and improve the lives of residents. Providing people an alternative to driving everywhere they need to go can improve a community’s safety and health. It can also distribute access to opportunities more broadly and equitably, and help communities become more economically sustainable. One such widely adopted policy that advances these principles is transit oriented development (TOD).
Mixed land uses are associated with greater social cohesion, according to a new study. Dense places without diversity, however, can have the opposite effect. As walkable cities become a growing focus of urban planning and decision making, the social impacts on health, vibrancy, and social cohesion are often harder to quantify. The authors use open-source data to quantify and find correlations between urban infrastructure and form types with social cohesion. Understanding these relationships offers insights into the future of urban planning and decision making that balances density, diversity, and community connection.
Complete Streets have been critiqued as to whether they improve safety for all users. Research shows that integrating Complete Streets effectively results in significant increases in walking and bicycling. Effective policies require thoughtful implementation and accountability. Smart Growth America scores the latest Complete Streets policies to determine the strongest and most effective approaches for safer and more equitable streets. New policies are a good start to creating healthier and more equitable transportation networks, but implementing and monitoring them represents a complete overhaul of the decision-making process.
The Biden administration, in accordance with the Paris Agreement, targets a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in order to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change. Because it contributes almost 30% of GHG emissions the transportation sector is a ready focus for transformation. Reducing the amount people drive, increasing the use of transit, building better infrastructure for people to safely walk and bike, and electrification are common goals. But changes to land use policy are often missing from this equation. To this end, the researchers at the Rocky Mountain Institute have begun to examine how changing land-use patterns might help curb GHG emissions.
Local governments often rely on traffic impact analyses to review and approve projects, charge impact fees, and ask developers to go above and beyond the basic requirements. These traffic studies, however, are often based on “junk science,” and may not hold up in courts much longer, according to a new Viewpoint article published in the Journal of the American Planning Association.
The interstate highway system is arguably the largest and most impactful project in American history—not just in terms of its cost and the way it connected businesses and cities across the country, but also because of the devastating impact it had on people of color and low-income communities in central cities. All levels of government played a role in pushing interstates through cities. Now it is everyone’s responsibility to confront the long-term consequences. The federal Reconnecting Communities program marks an important turning point in addressing these impacts, but also represents the beginning of a decades-long process to address and correct past damages.
Critics argue that car-free streets do not reduce overall traffic. Several new studies counter these claims and illustrate the benefits of creating areas that put people first.
The goal of investing substantially in public transportation infrastructure and complementary transit oriented development (TOD) is to create positive outcomes for communities, including reducing carbon emissions, increasing access to jobs, and reducing reliance on personal vehicles. Two new studies highlight additional impacts of these investments; transit infrastructure leading to increased levels of physical activity and TOD residents forgoing driving for non-commute trips.
Housing and transportation are the top two expenses for the average household in the U.S. Increased housing near high-quality transit can reduce transportation costs, but does not come without the risk of higher housing costs and potential displacement. Two studies released this year can help us understand the ways in which transit can be a net benefit, and some of the pitfalls to watch out for.