Article

The Intersection of Transportation and Land Use Planning Today

by Susan A. Wood, FAICP, RTD & APA Colorado Membership Committee Chair)

Most planners work in specialized areas with a title of land use planner, transportation planner, sustainability planner, urban designer, and many, many more. However, with the complex issues facing us today, planning practitioners must think broadly and be comprehensive and inclusive in their approach. The ability to view issues holistically is an innate skill common to planners, and one that is needed to recognize that critical issues need consideration of a variety of planning expertise and the involvement of complementary disciplines to resolve.

There is no case where this is truer than in the consideration of land use and transportation planning. As long as I have been a planner, 25+ years, the two have been linked, at least in scholarly articles, trip generation tables, and development fees. Over time, the association has grown to include transit-oriented development and the importance of land use in roadway design. To address today’s issues will take a collaborative approach and the need to connect land use and transportation has become more important and there is much more at stake. It is time to further blur the lines and build bridges to connect silos.

What are these issues? The two most recognized are: 1. climate change and environment; and, 2. equity and inclusivity, but others to remember are simple quality of life issues like congestion, safety, and affordability.

Regarding climate change and the environment, fossil fuel combustion from vehicle use and resulting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and other pollutants have known effects on air quality, and consequently, also on health. The same GHG emissions contribute to climate change and the accompanying unforeseen weather events that also affect health, safety, quality of life, and economic outcomes. These can exacerbate existing inequities, since those who are underserved are typically at greater risk when any catastrophic event, natural or manmade, occurs. Certainly, there are other consequences as well including economic impacts.

What is the planner’s role in addressing these issues? In recognition that every vehicle trip (except those taken in zero emission vehicles) generates GHG, which is taking a great toll on the environment, planners can work to educate and influence by convening experts and bringing stakeholders to the table to address this issue. While there are a number of measures that can be taken that are somewhat beyond the role of planning, such as alternative fuels, there are others that sit squarely in the planners’ wheelhouse, and this includes land use and transportation planners. Both are needed to work toward more compact development patterns that will result in less vehicle miles traveled and less GHG emissions. This will begin to address the environmental and climate impacts of fossil fuels and will also result in more efficient use of resources such as land, water, infrastructure, emergency services, and much more. Such a shift will also address mobility needs that can also help to alleviate some of the inequities we see in communities today.

So, while we may carry titles that go with planning specializations, we must use the skills of our profession, and blur the lines, when it comes to the issues of the day. Planners have the skills and are up to this task. We just need to know that we have the ability to stretch our reach to comprehensively approach issues and convene others to launch a concerted approach.
 

Photo by Deb Dowd on Unsplash

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