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Compact development around transit stations minimizes traffic, supports transit, improves air quality, preserves open space, supports economic vitality, creates walkable communities, and provides a range of housing options.
"The Benefits of Compact Development."October 2009.
Communities benefit when decisions about transportation and land use are made at the same time. Deciding to build houses, schools, grocery stores, employment centers, and transit stations close to one another—while providing a well-connected street network and facilities for walking or biking—provides more transportation choices and convenient access to daily activities. It also ensures community resources and services are used efficiently. Benefits include:
Build in transportation choices, convenience, and access. While cars are often the most popular form of transportation, research shows people will use other options if they are available. The majority of people feel comfortable walking about a ¼ mile to get to a destination. Those living in compact neighborhoods where they can walk and bike to nearby destinations are shown to drive 26 percent fewer miles per day than those living in less compact areas.1 When New York City constructed 200 more miles of bike lanes, it saw a 45 percent increase in bicycle commuters.2
Compact development provides quick and efficient connections. Coordinating land use and transportation allows people to get to where they need to go without having to drive their cars. The average person uses a car to make 87 percent of trips; however, 72 percent of these trips do not involve getting to work.3 Creating a "20-minute neighborhood" —where daily necessities are available within a 20-minute walk—allows residents to make the majority, or all, of their trips without needing a car.4 Coupling compact development with an interconnected street network can also reduce fire and emergency response time and increase the area each station can cover—saving lives and money.5
Capital Bikeshare rental station, Washington DC. (Capital Bikeshare)
Support more ways for people to get where they need to go. Bikeshare programs are becoming a popular way to expand access and transportation options.6 The Capital Bikeshare program, launched in May of 2010, offers residents and visitors in Washington, DC and Arlington County, VA access to more than 1,100 bicycles at 110 stations. Program membership is flexible, allowing participants to join for a day, a month, or a year.7 Membership has grown steadily – from 33,000 member trips in December 2010 to 143,000 member trips in June 2011. One million trips were made on the bikes in the systems first year.8
Use existing assets to build for the future. The Atlanta Beltline in Atlanta, GA promotes redevelopment within the city by investing in transit, parks, trails, jobs, affordable housing, historic preservation, public art, and environmental clean-up. The project will use pedestrian-friendly rail transit along an existing 22-mile railroad line within the city to connect 45 neighborhoods and new housing to existing MARTA transit, trails, parks, and job sites.9 Currently, 3.5 miles of the permanent trail system have been constructed. Ultimately, the project will link increased transit services with more than 33 miles of multi-use trails for walkers, joggers, bikers, in-line skaters, and people of all ages and abilities. By creating these community assets, which increase housing market values, there is a strong incentive for developers to locate close to the Beltline.10
Atlanta Beltline proposed light rail intersecting greenway and park (Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.)
Invest in mixed use development neighborhoods. In 2000, Boulder, CO adopted a comprehensive plan update, which included mixed use development policies to target development within the city.11 In 2002, the city surveyed neighborhood residents about the pros and cons of living in a mixed use development. When choosing a residence in a mixed use development, the most important factors were location and neighborhood, quality, and price. Sixty-seven percent of residents responded that increased convenience and easy access to retail and commercial centers were the most positive benefits. Noise, traffic, and parking issues ranked as the most negative effects of living in an area near to nonresidential uses.12
Creating Walkable Communities www.bikewalk.org/pdfs/ncbwpubwalkablecomm.pdf
National Complete Streets Coalition Website www.completestreets.org
Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/
1 Frank, L.D., Kavage, S., and Appleyard, B. "The urban form and climate change gamble: How transportation and land development affect greenhouse gas emissions." Planning, 73(8). 18-23. 2007. as cited in Ewing, Reid et al. "Chapter 1: Overview." Growing Cooler. Prepared by the Urban Land Institute. 2007.
2 "Just How Safe are those NY City Bike Lanes?" Celsias. June 16, 2011.. www.celsias.com/article/just-how-safe-are-those-ny-city-bike-lanes/.
3 Urban Land Institute. "Land Use and Driving: The Role Compact Development Can Play in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions." Washington, D.C.: Urban Land Institute, 2010.
5 "Emergency Response and Street Design " Congress for the New Urbanism. Chicago, IL, 2009, http://www.cnu.org/sites/www.cnu.org/files/CNUEmergency%20Response_FINAL.pdf.
6 Lippman, Daniel. "Bike-sharing gears up in U.S. as gas prices soar." McClatchy Newspapers. www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/06/30/116799/bike-sharing-gears-up-in-us-as.html.
10 Atlanta Beltline, Inc. http://beltline.org/ForDevelopers/DevelopersOverview/tabid/1772/Default.aspx.