Climate Action Plans: Seeking cities integrating land-use planning

Katherine Gregor's picture

I'm looking for examples of cities that are doing a good job of integrating land-use planning and transportation planning into their municipal climate-action plans. Austin is not! But then, we're from Texas.

If you're interested in how Austin is doing with its ambition to be the "leading city in the country" on climate protection (good on energy sector) ...

See the Austin Climate Protection Plan, 2009 Annual Reportannual report, just released, here:

Of if that doesn't work, try:

I'll also have an in-depth critique of it in the July 18 Austin Chronicle.


California cities, Chicago, Cambridge worth exploring

You and Austin are not alone, Katherine. It seems that many otherwise strong climate action plans lagged when it came to accounting for the carbon impact of land-use and planning policies — and then initiating a process to change those policies.

Over on Facebook, Kaid Benfield of NRDC confirmed something I'd heard: that Sacramento and its SACOG MPO are out front in promoting New Urbanism, smart growth, and compatible sustainable transportation systems to achieve carbon-reduction goals. With state laws in California now requiring cities to account for the carbon impact of their transportation investments (closely related to the land-uses that accompany those investments), other California cities are starting to follow in Sacramento's footsteps. For the latest from the Golden State, see the Low-Carbon Frontier session with Judy Corbett as well as Peter Calthorpe at CNU 17 and Calthorpe's plenary address.

At CNU 17, also look for Scott Bernstein, Jacky Grimshaw and Peter Haas of the Center for Neighborhood Technology. They were big contributors to the Chicago Climate Action plan and helped to make sure that it didn't overlook the carbon impact associated with where people live and how they get where they're going. Although much of the Chicago's robust infill development has clustered near "L" lines and worked to reduce per capita emissions, urbanism in Chicago can still be tenuous — the CTA has had plenty of funding scares and too many strip malls and insensitive big-box stores still get approved in traditional city neighborhoods — so it'll be interesting to see if the city's green branding and commitment to carbon reduction help bring more consistency in promoting urbanist policies. I

To round out the "Cs" covered in my reply, I've heard that Cambridge, MA is known for a trend-setting climate action plan that accounts for transportation-related carbon impacts. While the appetite for adding significant population and intensifying the city's urbanism (even using models that have proved highly livable in places ranging from Paris to Vancouver) may be limited, Cambridge has been achieving transportation-related carbon reductions, in part by sharply increasing the share of local trips that occur on bicycles. Stop Norma Garrick in the hallways in Denver and ask him about how Cambridge is making itself more like Copenhagen.

And don't forget to check out the session on tools a CNU work team is pursuing to help more cities capitalize on the carbon emissions reductions (and many other benefits) associated with walkable, well-connected urban neighborhoods.

the Sacramento Blueprint is the state of the art

It's a regional plan developed by the MPO, though, not a municipal plan developed by the municipality. It's hard to deal with land use and CO2 issues at less than the regional scale, given that most of the sprawl and high VMT rates are in the suburbs. Go to the SACOG website if you want to see the Sacto plan - it's what all California regions will now have to do under SB375.

How to incorporate such planning at the start

I would be very interested in what kinds of examples go to Katherine. Auckland (that's the one in NZ) is about to go through a consolidation of local governments into a single regional entity. That means an entirely new planning regime which those with some influence (I'm at the Ministry for the Environment, and it remains to be seen how much influence we have) can shape into something pretty progressive. It's an uphill battle to do something like Sacramento, but the more examples of effective integration - and the buzzword here IS "intergration" - the better chance we have of making something stick. I'll watch this space.

Mary Vogel's picture

Climate Action Plans Integrating Land Use

The second section of the 2009 version of the Portland/Multnomah County Climate Action Plan being vetted now is Transportation and Land Use. It calls for holding the Urban Growth Boundary and accomodating all growth within it; for completing the Streetcar Master Plan and the Bicycle Master Plan and for making "the 20 minute neighborhood" a possibility for 90% of Portland residents and 80% of County residents.

The Plan does NOT currently address some city requirements that need to be changed to make the 20 minute neighborhood more likely to attract pedestrians through great urban design.

I submitted the following (along with many other comments)
Revise City Requirements
Portland requires off-street parking for every new home that is not within 500’ of transit. Because Portland has few alleys, this requirement usually leads to a driveway with curb cut. This is poor urban design that:
o creates an equity issue as those who have driveways expropriate at least one, often two, on-street public parking spaces for their private use making it more difficult for people who don’t have driveways to park
o makes the sidewalks less safe, pleasant and easy to navigate for pedestrians
o allows for fewer trees and landscaping to cool the environment and absorb stormwater and emissions
o contributes to more impervious surface to heat that stormwater and help it run off more quickly.

Impose Curb Cut Tax
Eliminating the requirement and imposing a curb-cut tax will help reinforce that 3-legged stool of sustainability (environment, equity and economics) in Portland. A curb cut tax would:
o encourage better and greener (more trees, more bioswales, less pavement, less encouragement to drive) urban design in Portland, ultimately leading to fewer curb cuts
o subject more homeowners to the same parking conditions, inconveniences, possibilities to be towed, etc. as the rest of us by discouraging curb cuts
o encourage more walking as well by making the pedestrian environment safer and far more appealing.

Mary Vogel
Toward a Sustainable Urban Ecosystem
Bringing ecosystem services to great urban design


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