Getting real about planning and mobility

<p>After reading through dozens of long range transportation plans, I have to wonder if the planning profession is serious about improving mobility. By mobility, I mean improving the ability, speed, and efficiency of getting from point A to point B. </p>

March 6, 2007, 12:48 PM PST

By Samuel Staley


After reading through dozens of long range transportation plans, I have to wonder if the planning profession is serious about improving mobility. By mobility, I mean improving the ability, speed, and efficiency of getting from point A to point B.

This isn't the focus of most plans. On the contrary. These plans seemed focused on reducing mobility. Few, for example, recognize let alone make recommendations for reducing traffic congestion. In fact, David Hartgen at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte estimates that more than 40% of the American population will live in metropolitan areas with severe congestion (LOS F) by 2030 based on current trends and transportation plans. Twelve cities will have congestion equivalent to current day Los Angeles.

Instead, the programmatic focus of most Long Range Transportation Plans seems to be on: 1) improving options for small groups that use alternative transportation modes, such as bicycles, but have little overall impact on traffic patterns or regional mobility, 2) attempting to funnel more people onto public transit which usually results in longer commutes and trips, or 3) reducing travel overall (which of course reduces mobility).

At the core, it seems, improving mobility in the 21st century implies accepting, even embracing auto-mobility. This, of course, means planning for the car. Perhaps that's the real problem: the planning profession has yet to really accept and embrace the automobile as a fundamental step forward in improving mobility. Until it does that, and incorporates this view into long range transportation plans, we seem committed to less mobility and more congestion.


Samuel Staley

Sam Staley is Associate Director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban and real estate economics, regulations, economic development, and urban planning.

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