Coordinating Land Use & Transport

One of the most enduring urban planning mantras is coordinating land use and transportation. While no one can dispute the desirability of coordinating land use and transport, the current strategies do exactly the opposite. That is because urban planning has been captured by an anti-automobile dogma that has the equation backwards. The idea is to locate as much as possible and densify adjacent to existing transportation infrastructure. The result, of course, is to significantly increase transportation demand.

However, the demand side is never addressed. When densities are intensified, more intense roadway systems are required. Failing to expand the roadways means that traffic congestion gets worse and that transport and land use have demonstrably not been coordinated. The planners may try to address the heightened demand by adding transit service or rail lines, but that is like attempting to reduce traffic congestion by increasing the frequency of garbage collection --- one has nothing to do with the other. The reality of the modern, large urban area is that people need to travel throughout to undertake their activities and to spur the economic growth that has produced an unprecedented expansion of jobs and affluence, while making poverty less of an issue than ever before. That cannot be done on transit.

Coordination of land use and transportation requires that sufficient practical transportation capacity be provided to support the land uses. If an area, such as Portland, seeks to densify, then it had better be prepared to expand and intensify its roadway system to maintain or improve reasonable traffic flows. Of course, Portland has failed to do that, has some of the worst traffic congestion among urban areas of its size and is losing businesses because of it.

Before today’s planners set about trying to coordinate land use and transport, they need to understand what it means.