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TRANSPORTATION PLANNING AND LAND USE
Land use and transportation planning are very much a chicken and egg situation. In the short term, land use shapes the demand for transportation. Many a highway has been built because population or commercial growth produced congestion and delays that generated political pressures to deal with the situation. On the other hand, the provision of roads changes land values and thus alters the intensity with which land is used, and, with that outcome, alters the entire pattern of land use. The Interstate Highway System, to take the largest example, was designed to facilitate movement of vehicles from one existing urban center to another, something it does very successfully. However, it has also done a great deal to reshape urban
FIGURE 12-1 The Interstate Highway System with its ring road, or "beltway," design creates masses of highly accessible land outside the city, particularly where radial routes coming out of the city intersect the beltway. Though not intended in that way, this feature of the system has been a powerful force for moving people and jobs out of the central city.
areas, an effect that was not one of the motivations behind its construction (see Figure 12-1). Beyond that, it has reshaped the balance between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas in the United States by making formerly isolated rural areas far more accessible than they had been. In fact, it is believed that much of the movement of manufacturing activity out of metropolitan areas and into rural areas occurred for just this reason. Thus the system has had a major impact on the economies of both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.
In the ideal case, transportation planning and land-use planning go hand in hand. At the national level, this has clearly not been the case. At the state level, it sometimes is and sometimes is not. In the best case, state highway departments will take into account the fact that their decisions not only affect how the population now in place is served but also shape land use for decades to come. Highway planning and more general land-use planning are coordinated. In the less satisfactory case, the highway engineers tend to think in terms of meeting demand rather than a combination of meeting demand and shaping the future of land use.
It is often at the municipal level that transportation and land-use planning are most closely coordinated. The issues are simpler, and the numbers of people involved are smaller. Thus coordination is easier. The fact that both the planners and the highway department report to the same mayor and the same city council can prevent them from going off in different directions.
One current example of a close integration between transportation planning and land-use planning is the Atlanta Beltline, now in the early stages of development. Its core element will be a 22-mile light-rail loop largely on disused railroad rights-of-way around Atlanta's central business district. The loop is planned in conjunction with a series of parks and connecting multiuse trails. It will also be coordinated with affordable apartment and single-family housing developments and a number of "economic development" areas. The intention behind the plan is to take what is now a barrier and blocker of development—the disused rail lines—and turn them into an attractor of people and jobs. Numerous disused rail lines have been turned into trails and linear parks, but this is the first, or certainly one of the first, plans that would use abandoned rail rights-of-way as a major element in replanning a substantial part of a city. The Beltline is included in Mobility 2030, the Atlanta Regional Commission's overall plan for transportation in the multicounty Atlanta area (See Chapter 16 for a description of the Commission). The origin of the plan is unusual. It began in 1999 with a Master's thesis at Georgia Tech by Bryan Gravel. The next year he and two other students sent summaries of the thesis to a number of legislators and other prominent Atlantans. The idea proved compelling and within a few years work was underway. The first section of park was opened in 2009, and work on the parks and trails component continues.
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