The Inflation Reduction Act Missed a Chance to Rein in Car-Dependent Sprawl

The federal government is so far unwilling to reverse course on car-dependent sprawl. The Inflation Reduction Act is the latest example.

Read Time: 2 minutes

October 3, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Los Angeles sprawl

Melpomene / Shutterstock

Since Congress approved the nation’s largest-ever climate action bill, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a debate has raged about whether the bill will do enough to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to meet the nation’s, and the world’s, climate goals.

As explained in an opinion piece for Metropolis magazine, the debate boils down to “Don’t make perfect the enemy of the good” versus “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” While think tanks like the Rhodium Group predict that the bill will significantly reduce GHG emissions in the United States, those reductions will still fall well short of the goals set by the Biden administration and the United Nations. According to the editorial, a gap remains between achievement and aspiration because of the nation’s stubborn adherence to a status quo of car-centric planning.

According to the editorial, as the IRA commits to the electric vehicle as its sole its primary tool for reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector, it misses an opportunity to commit to the kinds of land use and transportation evolution that could actually accomplish the necessary progress toward climate stability, rather than kicking the can farther down the road.

Only a new era of design and planning will end the automobile dependence that’s at the root of this destruction. Starting with land use regulations, any effective climate action should remove strict zoning regulations that segregate residential and retail uses, enabling neighborhood-serving retail within walking distance of homes; one component of the “15-Minute City” ideal most publicly exemplified by Paris. (And found in neighborhoods in Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, and other U.S. cities.) The federal government will also have to push local and state officials to shrink the sizes of homes, for example, by reducing minimum lot sizes and floor area requirements in zoning codes, to enable the kind of residential density that can support local economies. The “Emissions Gap Report,” published by the United Nations Environment Program in 2019, recommended a 20 percent reduction in average floor area per person.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022 in Metropolis


The Top Urban Planning Books of 2022

An annual list of the must-read books related to urban planning and its intersecting fields.

November 28, 2022 - James Brasuell

Urban separated bike lane with street trees on one side and cars parked on the other

How Urban Trees Save Lives

New research shows a strong connection between a healthy urban tree canopy and lowered mortality rates.

December 1, 2022 - Congress For New Urbanism

Houston, Construction

How To End Homelessness: The Houston Model

While the numbers of unhoused people in other major U.S. cities grow, Houston has managed to effectively end veteran homelessness and house more than 26,000 people since implementing a ‘Housing First’ approach a decade ago.

December 1, 2022 - Smart Cities Dive

Man walking away past glass elevator in brightly lit New York City subway station corridor

New York MTA Releases Plan for Improved Accessibility

The MTA announced plans for new or improved elevators at almost two dozen stations as part of its pledge to make more of its stations fully accessible.

25 minutes ago - The Architect's Newspaper

Rendering of Juneteenth Museum

The Best, Worst, and Most Questionable in 2022 Architecture and Design

A list of innovative projects, intriguing design, and flummoxing failures.

December 6 - Medium

View of black oil wells behind chain link fence with barbed wire top

Los Angeles To Phase Out Oil Drilling

The city has banned new wells and will end all extraction within two decades.

December 6 - Los Angeles Times

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.