Todd Litman's blog

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?”

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?

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.

Incorporating Health Objectives Into Transport Planning

Planning decisions often have significant indirect effects. As planners, our challenge is to clearly describe these impacts and quantify them as much as possible so they can be incorporated into decision making. An example of this is the effect that transportation planning decisions have on human health. These impacts are significant but often overlooked or undervalued in the planning process. I have worked on several research projects that explore the nexus between transport planning decisions and public health, and are developing practical tools for incorporating them into planning. Let me share some of my current thinking about this issue.