Todd Litman's blog

Todd Litman is the executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
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"Dreams From My Father," A Planner's Perspective

I recently read President Obama’s autobiography, “Dreams From My Father.” It is well written and insightful. Obama uses personal stories to explore issues of identity, race, class, politics, power, and what it means to be ‘United Statesian.’  Let me share some observations about  transportation and land use planning issues mentioned in the book.

Dreams from my Father 

Accessibility-Based Planning

Should society encourage parents to drive children to school rather than walk or bicycle? Should our transportation policies favor driving over walking, cycling, ridesharing, public transit and telecommuting? Probably not. There is no logical reason to favor automobile travel over other forms of accessibility, and there are lots of good reasons to favor efficient modes, so for example, schools spend at least as much to accommodate a walking or cycling trip as an automobile trip, and transportation agencies and employers spend at least as much to improve ridesharing and public transit commuting as automobile commuting.

Home Location Preferences And Their Implications For Smart Growth

Location, location, location. Choosing a smart home location can help households become healthy, wealthy and wise, since it affects residents’ physical activity levels, long-term financial burdens and opportunities for education and social interaction.

Socially Optimal Transportation Emission Reduction Strategies

The recently released report, Moving Cooler: Transportation Strategies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which recommends various VMT reduction strategies (also called mobility management, transportation demand management, TDM), has raised debate concerning the best way to reduce climate change emissions. Critics argue that that reducing vehicle travel is difficult and costly to consumers and the economy, and instead support strategies that change vehicle design (increased energy efficiency and alternative fuels).

Moving Cooler Report: Solutions and Criticisms

The new report, Moving Cooler: Transportation Strategies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, written by Cambridge Systematics and sponsored by a variety of organizations, identifies several dozen transportation climate change emission reduction strategies, including improvements to efficient modes (walking, cycling and public transit), pricing reforms and smart growth land use policies.

A Trillion Dollars, Or Cents Per Day

The current U.S. healthcare reform proposal is often described as costing a trillion dollars. That will make it difficult to pass. However, the same program could legitimately be described as costing residents just cents per day (or, “less than a cup of coffee”), which would enhance its chance of success (a trillion dollars over ten years is $100 billion annually, about $320 annually per capita, or less than $1 per day, which can legitimately be called “cents per day”).

Memo From Future Self: Hope For The Best But Prepare For the Worst

Planning issues are often considered to be conflicts between the interests of different groups, such as neighborhood residents versus developers, or motorist versus transit users. But planning concerns the future, so it often consists of a conflict between the interests of our current and future selves.

VMT Reductions: An Excellent Idea When Correctly Evaluated

OK Bob – I’ll Take Your Challenge

Last year, California, passed SB 375, which requires regional governments to develop smart growth-oriented land use and transportation plans aimed at reducing VMT.

Comprehensive Evaluation of Transit Oriented Development Benefits

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) refers to communities with high quality public transit services, good walkability, and compact, mixed land use. This allows people to choose the best option for each trip: walking and cycling for local errands, convenient and comfortable public transit for travel along major urban corridors, and automobile travel to more dispersed destinations. People who live and work in such communities tend to own fewer vehicles, drive less, and rely more on alternative modes.

The Automobile Industry and National Economic Development

Automobile industry subsidies are an inefficient way to support economic development. Even worse, policies intended to support automobile manufacturers and recover loans can be economically harmful. 

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