15 April 2013

The best transportation plan is a great land-use plan

Brent Toderian, the president of the Council for Canadian Urbanism and the former director of city planning for Vancouver, British Columbia, offers a view of successful urban design in this morning's Seattle newspaper. The lessons he offers apply equally well to a city like Auckland, which struggles due to its burdensome over-reliance on motorways and its long-standing under-investment in public transport infrastructure:

Align your land use with how you get around.

For decades, most cities in North America have separated their thinking around land use and transportation, and the car-capacity tail has tended to wag the land-use dog.
This has always been a recipe for failure, resulting in car-dependent cities that ironically don’t even work for drivers.
Car-dependent transportation models create self-fulfilling prophecies of gridlock by pushing land uses apart and densities down, leading to communities that are unwalkable and not viable for transit.
A car-centric model forces people into their cars for almost everything. And if you try to do high-density planning around the car it also fails. Miserably.
Vancouver illustrates a different and better way. Starting with the refusal of freeways through the city in the late 1960s (which meant we never had to spend the money to bury them) Vancouver continues to design a multimodal city that prioritizes walking, biking and transit and recognizes that the best transportation plan is a great land-use plan.
Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, which lobotomized your downtown and waterfront, says much about Seattle’s prioritization of car capacity over better city-building. Although it’s a great thing that the viaduct is now coming down, so much more could have been done to build a better city with the money spent burying the highway.
If uses and activities are mixed and compact, with everything proximate and walkable, the “power of nearness” makes every method of getting around work better, including driving — with freedom of choice.
- Brent Toderian, Seattle Times, 14 April 2013
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