Land use, meet transportation
About thirty years ago, someone told me that “The best transportation plan for a city is a good land use plan.” Over the years, the more I thought about it, the more sense this idea made to me. I realized that the potential for land use changes to help the average city from a transportation perspective is enormous and I’ve incorporated the idea into my work ever since. However, I drew this cartoon for people who had not been exposed to this idea before and to help them understand the idea faster than I did.
In cities, the trips we take are purposeful. About 20 percent of our trips have to do with going to work and the other 80 percent have to do with socializing, recreation, church, school, doctor appointments, food, entertainment, etcetera. If we were to locate the frequently used land uses conveniently (i.e., closer), then our average trip lengths would be shorter.
For motorists, shorter trip lengths would be beneficial because they drive through fewer intersections and along fewer blocks. So, if car-counters were placed at an average intersection or mid-block location, then fewer cars would be counted. In other words, the number of car trips would be exactly the same as when the average trip lengths were longer but, with shorter average trip lengths, there would be less traffic. Magic? The same number of car trips but less car traffic? No, it’s not magic, it’s just good land use planning. For example, all else being equal, if the average trip was 20% shorter, then there would be 20% less traffic even though 100% of the trips would still occur.
But that’s not all! As average trip lengths become shorter, walking and cycling become preferable for some people instead of motoring, further lowering car volumes and increasing active transportation. More magic? Nope, just good land use planning.
Additionally, if we organized density and mix of land uses to be along transit corridors and in transit-oriented centers, larger proportions of people will choose to take transit. Again, less car traffic! Less pollution, energy consumed, and parking issues.
These transportation benefits are realized purely by shortening trip lengths and rewarding proximity through good land use planning. Amazing, yes? Now, can you imagine the potential for our cities if we were to also design our streets to reward proximity, walking, cycling, and transit? Well, that will require some more cartoons.