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Creating Livable Communities

Chapter 1: Introduction

The transportation system provides the foundation for how we live, how we connect with others, and how our economy grows at the national, regional and local levels. Transportation has always meant more than just getting from Point A to Point B. Whether by footpath, waterway, road or rail, transportation networks help define the character of our regions, communities and neighborhoods. Transportation investments help shape the character of places and how we experience our daily lives.

Livability Principles and the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities (PSC)

In June 2009, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, and U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced a new Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities to improve access to affordable housing, provide more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide. The Partnership established six livability principles to act as a foundation for interagency coordination:

  • Provide more transportation choices
  • Promote equitable, affordable housing
  • Enhance economic competitiveness
  • Support existing communities
  • Coordinate policies and leverage investment
  • Value communities and neighborhoods

Transportation investment decisions require consideration of a variety of factors, reflecting a more broadly-defined set of expectations that link the dollars invested with community values, vision and goals. For example, how can the redesign of a roadway support local economic development goals to revitalize an aging commercial corridor? How might the type and location of a transportation improvement provide better linkages between more affordable housing and job centers?

Addressing livability issues in transportation planning, development and implementation ensures that transportation investments support both mobility and broader community goals. In a time of lingering economic uncertainty and declining revenues for transportation projects, these issues need to be thoughtfully addressed to achieve the maximum return in community benefits from a given transportation investment. A well crafted transportation project can be the catalyst for achieving a range of other community or regional livability goals including economic growth and job creation.

Communities across the country are looking for ways to develop transportation networks that serve these broader goals, such as supporting quality economic and community redevelopment, providing greater accessibility for people of varying income and ability, and helping reduce the cost of housing and transportation so people have more economic freedom. Safety is another major driver of livability. There is growing demand to design facilities for all users – Complete Streets – while balancing the different access and mobility needs of motorists, truckers, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders. As our society ages and becomes more diverse, how our transportation networks connect and function, how they support Main Street businesses and regional economies, and how they protect environmental and public health will become increasingly relevant to our long term economic prosperity and community quality of life.

This booklet provides strategies on how to effectively consider and incorporate livability objectives in transportation investment decisions.

Transportation Decisionmaking 101

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One of the key strategies in supporting livable communities is to establish partnerships to ensure cross-agency, cross-disciplinary approaches to addressing transportation, economic, environmental and housing issues. Livability issues are complex and interrelated, and require more holistic solutions. Some examples of effective partnerships include:

  • Multi-jurisdictional partnerships between Federal, State, regional, and local transportation agencies that can help planners to navigate policy, regulatory, and funding requirements.
  • Cross-disciplinary partnerships, similar to the interagency HUD-DOT- EPA Partnership, that includes housing, land use, economic, public health and environmental agencies.
  • Private-sector partnerships, including property owners and developers, local businesses, and community advocacy groups, that are important to help leverage private capital opportunities and develop policy solutions with private sector buy in.
  • Public or private partners to champion the project through different stages of implementation help ensure that the principles of livability aren't watered down or lost in later phases of project development and help identify new opportunities to coordinate policies and leverage investments.

Decisions for transportation investments are made through the transportation decisionmaking process, which refers to the Federally required process of planning, programming, implementation, and evaluation associated with the use of Federal transportation funds. The Federal role includes providing funds and standards for State and local decisions. States, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs), local governments, and transit providers ultimately make transportation investment decisions.

The organization of this booklet generally follows the planning process structure outlined in the FHWA Guide to Transportation Decisionmaking and shown in the graphic above. This structure outlines a planning and decisionmaking framework that can help identify transportation investments that best support livable community outcomes. Through effective public outreach and feedback loops incorporated into each step of the process, people can ask questions about how transportation needs and recommended solutions relate to other community goals. The planning process also provides the framework to engage non-traditional partners and explore opportunities to better coordinate transportation investments with housing, environmental, economic and community development investments. This booklet highlights effective strategies for better linking transportation investments with livable community outcomes. The callout box on the following page provides a summary of these strategies, and each subsequent chapter highlights an expanded set of strategies and techniques associated with each phase of the decisionmaking process.

Strategies For Incorporating Livability Into Transportation Decisionmaking

Develop a community vision that is supported by concrete, specific objectives to achieve that vision relative to livability principles.

Incorporate innovative public outreach strategies to engage diverse participants in the transportation decisionmaking process.

Engage multiple partners from housing, community and economic development, health, and environmental sectors at every step of the transportation decisionmaking process.

Use new technical approaches to identify and evaluate integrated alternatives that include the full range of multimodal options, land use and urban design, and management and operational strategies to address travel demand.

Identify performance measures to include broader livability concepts relative to accessibility, transportation choices, housing, health, economy and environment.

Create compelling documentation that includes words, maps, pictures and numbers to describe how plans and projects support livable community outcomes.

Use livability objectives to inform project prioritization and funding.

Coordinate Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Capital Improvement Program updates with local housing plans, other relevant short-term community development plans, and private development projects.

Update project programming documents to reflect rationale and justification of the project need relative to livability objectives.

Incorporate design elements such as complete streets, context sensitive approaches, sustainable roadway design, and other best practices.

Reevaluate legacy projects against livability goals.

Encourage overlap in transportation design development and review with multiple partners such as utility providers, transit operators, housing developers, recreation infrastructure providers, council on aging, health practitioners, and other stakeholders.

Work with multiple partners, including the private sector, on funding issues relative to project implementation.

Bundle multiple place-based projects that support livable communities to pursue major grant opportunities.

Revisit local and State transportation funding policies to assess how well they do or do not support livability principles.

Track system performance against livability indicators across multiple time horizons and regularly publish this information targeted to the general public and decisionmakers.

HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership | DOT Livability | FTA Livable & Sustainable Communities
Updated: 1/3/2014
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