I spent the last week teaching a professional development course for young planners in Buenos Aries, Argentina. It’s been a wonderful experience – my students are smart and enthusiastic, and Buenos Aries is a vibrant city with old-world charm. The buildings, plazas and old statues are beautiful and dignified, although a little frayed around the edges.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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”).
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.
Last year, California, passed SB 375, which requires regional governments to develop smart growth-oriented land use and transportation plans aimed at reducing VMT.
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.