Approaching Land Use and Transportation as Interconnected Issues

One researcher argues that the division between transportation and land use policymaking at the federal level has harmed communities of color and encouraged unchecked sprawl.

2 minute read

May 20, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

San Jose Arterial Street

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Despite how deeply intertwined the issues of land use and transportation are, writes Yonah Freemark in Urban Wire, the two remain, administratively, "divided at the federal level." Freemark argues that "better planning and collaboration across the federal government could improve how communities are built and ensure their residents have access to more equitable outcomes."

Freemark's research "investigates in detail the major public debate about how to manage federal policy in transportation and land-use planning that occurred in the 1960s," when "there was neither a HUD nor DOT." At that time, "[h]ousing and land-use planning policy were run out of the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA), and transportation policy was mostly run out of the US Department of Commerce." 

After the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1965, the agency was tasked with managing "housing, land use, and transit planning" as well as "policy determination over highways in urban areas." This approach, argues Freemark, was undermined by the creation of the Department of Transportation (DOT) the following year, which "encouraged some congressmembers to think of transportation as independent, not integrated into the urban system." As a consequence of this and some congressmembers' disapproval of HUD's emphasis on the needs of Black residents, "in 1968, Congress moved all transportation planning to DOT, where it has remained since, isolated from housing and land-use planning."

Since the 1970s, Freemark writes, the "failure of federal administrators to plan for transportation and land use in parallel" has led to unchecked sprawl and a loss of access to public services for communities of color. Pointing to successful examples from other countries, he argues that "coordinating federal programs could improve US communities’ ability to plan for a less automobile dependent, more equitable future."

Monday, May 17, 2021 in Urban Wire

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