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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 74 · No. 1 > Internet Watch

July/August 2010
Vol. 74 · No. 1

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-10-005

Internet Watch

by Alicia Sindlinger

Living Up to the Livability Challenge

Concerns about environmental quality, economic prosperity, and social equity continue to fuel the push for more livable communities at the local, State, regional, and national levels. In June 2009, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formed an Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an unprecedented agreement to ensure that housing and transportation goals are met while simultaneously protecting the environment, promoting equitable development, and helping to address the challenges of climate change.

For USDOT, the concept of "livability" focuses on tying the quality and location of transportation facilities to good jobs, affordable housing, quality schools, and safe streets. Enhancing livability, in part, also means ensuring that roads provide safe mobility for all travelers—not just motor vehicles. (For more information, see "Complete Streets" on page 12 in this issue of PUBLIC ROADS.)

To support the partnership and help advance livable communities initiatives, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed the Livability Initiative Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability. The site provides updates on the partnership and centralizes FHWA's livability-related resources.

"Livability is in a brighter spotlight than ever before," says Gabriel Rousseau, acting team leader of FHWA's Office of Human Environment, Livability Team. "It is a priority of the current Administration and one that we take very seriously. With the Livability Initiative Web site, we're bringing together resources to help decisionmakers improve the quality of peoples' lives."

The Livability Movement

Though the livable community movement is not a new concept—it started more than a decade ago—it has picked up momentum recently because it is a priority of the current Administration to provide Americans with communities that are affordable and sustainable. In addition, more and more people want the convenience of being able to work, shop, learn, worship, and play without having to rely on motor vehicles.

The HUD/USDOT/EPA partnership is the pinnacle of the livability movement to date because it coordinates Federal policies, programs, and resources to help build more sustainable communities. The partnership has outlined six guiding principles of livability that it will use to coordinate Federal transportation, environmental protection, and housing investments at the respective agencies:
(1) Provide more transportation choices. (2) Promote equitable, affordable housing. (3) Enhance economic competitiveness. (4) Support existing communities. (5) Coordinate and leverage Federal policies and investment. (6) Value communities and neighborhoods.

Where possible, HUD, EPA, and USDOT are coordinating and integrating their programming and planning to identify opportunities and remove barriers to building livable communities. The partnership also plans to provide a vision for sustainable growth; redefine housing affordability and make it transparent; redevelop underutilized community sites; develop livability measures and tools; and undertake joint research, data collection, and outreach.

Navigating the Web Site

The home page of the Livability Initiative Web site features a "Highlights" box with links to program updates and contact information for FHWA's livability experts. Users also can access livability contacts at the FHWA division offices by clicking on the "Contacts Map" tab.

The "Livability Activities" page lists regional and USDOT activities aimed at building awareness of livability issues. The "Programs" page summarizes FHWA programs that support livability and provides links to more information. Through the "Resources" section, users can access links to livability-related resources on the FHWA Web site, including information on planning, context sensitive solutions, and scenic and historic trails. The "Related Links" section provides connections to relevant sites operated by industry associations and nonprofit organizations.

One of the most important purposes of the site is information sharing. Site users can access a series of case studies compiled by the FHWA Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty that highlight real-world examples of highways that support livable communities in rural, urban, and suburban areas. For example, one case study high-lights the city of Raleigh, NC's transportation network, which features a sustainable pattern that supports future land uses, minimizes vehicle miles traveled, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

"The overall objective is to build more livable communities nationwide," Rousseau says. "And the FHWA Livability Initiative Web site supports this objective by encouraging the exchange of ideas, issues, and programs."

Alicia Sindlinger is a contributing editor for Public Roads.

Screen grab from the home page of www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability.
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