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.
Reworking the “greatest public works project in history”
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.
Low-income communities can benefit most from accessible cities
America’s outward, car-oriented growth has meant that people now travel much farther for basic needs. According to new research, only 12.1% of trips to basic amenities happen within a 15-minute walking radius of residents’ homes in the median U.S. neighborhood, and the frequency of those types of trips varies greatly depending on income.
Evidence shows that car-free streets can reduce traffic
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.
Gas prices can have ripple effects on development patterns and travel options
Gasoline prices have clear impacts on development patterns, according to recent research that adds new evidence for the long-term impacts of transportation pricing signals. The new study shows that wage growth and low gas prices contributed to high rates of suburban growth in the 1980s and 1990s, measured in terms of deforestation. Those trends have reversed as gas prices have risen.
Dog owners drive more, but policy and design changes could help lessen the need
We all can identify a walkable neighborhood, whether we live in one or know what we expect to see in one: good sidewalks, connectivity to surrounding areas, and many destinations. But new research suggests those considerations might be significantly different for dog owners. Since more than one third of households own dogs, complexity is thrown into concepts like the “15-minute city” or cities designed for all age groups and abilities.
Pedestrians respond to built environment changes, according to study
With consistent growth in most urbanized areas around the world, changes to the built environment to accommodate multimodal travel will become one of our most important adaptations. A recent study from Melbourne, Australia, of pedestrian flows over five years found that built environmental changes accounted for 50-60% of the increase in foot traffic in the downtown region.
Major roads undercut safety benefits of highly accessible places
In working with transportation agencies across the U.S., our team often faces questions about the role of safety in accessibility analysis. While we know the safety and comfort of streets clearly impacts access for people on foot or bicycle, the effects of accessibility on overall safety haven’t been clear. Fortunately, leading experts in both accessibility and traffic safety recently teamed up to answer this question.
The argument for ending single-family zoning
An article in the latest issue of the JAPA makes a case for getting rid of single-family zoning in U.S. cities. The authors argue that single-family zoning exacerbates inequality and promotes the inefficient use of valuable urban land. By excluding other types of development, R1 zoning produces a housing scarcity in desirable places, which pushes prices up and excludes all but wealthy residents.
Exploring the relationship between transit supply and parking demand
In a recent study, researchers from Australia look closely at the relationship between parking demand and proximity and quality of service supply of public transit. When other socioeconomic factors were considered, the quality of transit service became much more important than proximity alone in determining parking demand. This will be helpful in the ongoing discussion about where and how to reduce or eliminate required parking as part of development.