Todd Litman's blog

Todd Litman is the executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
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Land Use Impacts On Travel: Current State of Knowledge

As discussed in my previous column, An Inaccurate Attack On Smart Growth, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) sponsored a research program intended to raise doubts about smart growth’s ability to reduce vehicle travel, conserve energy and reduce pollution emissions.

An Inaccurate Attack On Smart Growth

Note: This column was originally titled, "A Stupid Attack on Smart Growth," intended as a pun on 'smart' and 'stupid.' However, that sounds harsh so I retitled it. - T.L.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has a well-financed campaign to discourage communities from considering smart growth as a possible way to conserve energy and reduce pollution emissions. They contend that compact development has little effect on travel activity and so provides minimal benefits. The NAHB states that, “The existing body of research demonstrates no clear link between residential land use and GHG emissions.” But their research actually found the opposite: it indicates that smart growth policies can have significant impacts on travel activity and emissions.

Dagwood Should Be Fat, Sick and Impoverished

By all logic, the comic strip character Dagwood should be fat, sick and impoverished due to his gluttonous eating, sedentary habits, and automobile-dependent lifestyle. Blondie should worry about his high blood pressure and clogged arteries, and the Bumsteads should struggle to bear rising automobile expenses. Yet they are all thin, healthy and financially secure, protected from all consequences of indulgent consumerism.

 

Planners' Sacred Trust

Most professions have special responsibilities to society. Physicians are expected to observe the Hippocratic oath. Police officers must apply the law fairly and refrain from abusing their power. Lawyers and accountants are expected to offer accurate advice and protect client confidentiality.

And planners? We have a special responsibility to consider all perspectives and impacts. When evaluating public policy questions most people ask selfishly, “How does this affect me?” Planners, in contrast, should ask selflessly, “How does this affect the community, particularly disadvantaged and underrepresented groups?”

A War On Cars? Let There Be Peace!

Our job as planners is ultimately to manage change, which is often fun but occasionally ugly. A good example is a current debate over a supposed “war against the car.”

Threats of Gridlock are Greatly Exaggerated

A few weeks ago the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) released its latest Urban Mobility Report, and yesterday INRIX released its National Traffic Scorecard 2010 Annual Report. Both paint a grim picture of roadway conditions.

“America is back on the road to gridlock,” warns INRIX.

How Would MLK, Jesus or Che Plan?

I spent last week at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquarters in Manila, in the Philippines, where we are starting on an exciting but humbling project: developing a more comprehensive framework for transport project evaluation. Among other factors, this project will develop better methods for incorporating social equity impacts into transport planning. This is important in any community, and particularly in developing countries where many people are extremely poor. What transport policies and planning practices respond to their needs?

Development Versus Growth

Healthy children grow bigger, but once people reach maturity at about age 20 continued physical growth is harmful - it makes us fat. It is certainly possible to develop our skills, strength and knowledge, but most adults should not pursue growth as an end in itself. This also applies to communities.

Highways And Labor Markets II

One accurate measurement can be more insightful than a thousand expert opinions.

In a recent blog titled, Livability and All That, highway expert Alan Pisarski argues that highway-oriented transport systems are necessary for efficient consumer and labor markets.

Who's Driving This Public Transit System?

Virtually every modern economy is mixed: governments produce some goods and services and private companies produce others. Governments generally provide those goods and services that are either considered essential and should be available to everybody regardless of ability to pay, or that require strategic coordination, including police protection, basic education, transportation infrastructure, parks, and public health services.

Transportation facilities and services are among these basic government functions.

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