US Department of Transportation
FHWA Planworks: Better Planning, Better Projects
Land Use and the Decision Guide
Why do transportation practitioners care about land use?Land use and transportation directly impact one another. The location and density of development affects travel demand. The number and location of access points influences land development patterns and growth. Changes in land use patterns alter travel demand and, therefore, transportation infrastructure needs.
How can PlanWorks help transportation practitioners consider land use in decision-making?Transportation practitioners do not make land use decisions. Collaborative participation of land use stakeholders in transportation decision making is necessary to ensure that land use and transportation decisions support each other.
PlanWorks offers three areas of information to support the integration of the transportation and land use planning processes:
- The Decision Guide (below) provides detailed information on the individual Key Decisions at which land use considerations can be integrated. Hover over the highlighted Key Decisions to see how a collaborative process supports integrating transportation and land use decision making. Click on any highlighted Key Decision for more information about questions, data, and relationships that support this interface. Key Decisions that are greyed-out have no specific relevance to the individual application or topic area but are still accessible from this graphic.
- Smart growth is a set of principles that optimize land use impacts on quality of life. Smart growth recognizes the connection among land use, economic development, transportation, and the natural environment. Go to Smart Growth for information about these considerations in transportation decision-making.
- Many transportation agencies are effectively integrating land use planning into transportation decisions. To see how they are doing it, go to Examples from Practice.
The Smart Growth Network defines smart growth in terms of ten principles:
- Mix land uses
- Take advantage of compact building design
- Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
- Create walkable neighborhoods
- Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
- Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
- Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
- Provide a variety of transportation choices
- Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective
- Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions
According to the Smart Growth Network, for transportation, this means: better coordinating land use and transportation; increasing the availability of high-quality transit service; creating redundancy, resiliency and connectivity within road networks; and ensuring connectivity between pedestrian, bike, transit, and road facilities.
For smart growth strategies to be effective, goals among the land use planning and transportation planning agencies should align, and agencies need to cooperate on the means to achieve these goals.
Examples of smart growth considerations for transportation decision making are presented below:
|To address smart growth while||Consider|
|Defining the transportation planning region or study area||
|Identifying transportation deficiencies, problems and opportunities, or purpose and need||
|Determining the scope and methods of analysis||
|Establishing the range of solutions, strategies, or alternatives||
|Analyzing solutions, strategies, or alternatives||
|Selecting or prioritizing solutions, strategies, or alternatives||
Examples from Practice
Transportation agencies at the State and regional levels are integrating transportation and land use decisions. Explore the material on this page for some examples from practice.
Click on the arrows below for detailed information about each example.
The Maryland Department of Transportation's (MDOT's) Transportation Plan, Statewide Freight Plan, and Climate Action Plan include objectives and goals related to smart growth. Specific strategies used by MDOT to encourage smart growth include capital-specific program and project investments through MDOT's Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP). MDOT is also investing in smart growth related research and studies including Plan Maryland, the Carbon Neutral Corridor (CNC) study, and the Maryland Scenario Project. The purpose of the Scenario Project is to explore alternative futures for the State of Maryland and to identify policy interventions that would lead to more desirable transportation-related outcomes.
In Oregon, the Department of Land Conservation and Development oversees the statewide planning goals. As part of those goals, all transportation plans must address transportation and land use - both are included in the Oregon Transportation Plan. State law also requires inter-agency coordination across state government and consideration of local government and MPO plans. The State of Oregon uses GreenSTEP to help understand impacts of policy and planning decisions. GreenSTEP is a modeling tool that supports strategic planning at the state and metropolitan area levels. GreenSTEP was initially developed for the purpose of calculating greenhouse gas emissions, but is also used to calculate many other quantities such as household vehicle travel, household walk trips, bicycling potential, amounts of money households spend on vehicle travel, road tax revenues, and the estimated gap between road revenues and costs.
- The Smart Growth and Public Infrastructure Priority Act (Chapter 433 of the Laws of 2010) requires state agencies responsible for infrastructure to evaluate public infrastructure projects they fund or undertake against ten Smart Growth Criteria. If projects are not consistent with these Smart Growth Criteria, the agency or state authority must document justification for why the infrastructure project should proceed. The law also requires these agencies to create smart growth advisory committees to ensure state sponsored infrastructure spending: advances sustainable development; does not result in sprawl development; and involves a consultation process with residents, environmental groups, local officials and other stakeholders.
- For the Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC), the Community and Transportation Linkage Program is an important tool for achieving objectives related to smart growth. CDTC's Linkage Program provides funding for cities, towns and villages to prepare community-based transportation and land use plans consistent with principles in the regional transportation plan, New Visions 2030.
- New Visions 2030 calls for urban reinvestment, concentrated development patterns, and smart economic growth. The plan provides clear evidence for supporting efforts to address the mismatch between highway function and financial responsibility within the region's cities. The CDTC TIP, in the context of the New Visions Plan, has been very successful in programming significant funding for transportation projects in cities and local communities.
In the State of Washington, the Growth Management Act (GMA) has been in place since 1990. The Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) was coordinating land use and transportation before 1990 as part of their planning process with local partners. TRPC plans have a vision for less driving which is achieved with land use policies. They use strategies like short blocks, street connectivity, and sidewalks, to encourage smart growth. Specific strategies used by TRPC to encourage smart growth are: urban growth boundaries; coordinated planning policies with cities, counties and the MPO; down-zoned rural areas; set aside agricultural and natural resource lands; established connected streets policies; set design details for sidewalks and bike lanes in street standards; impact fees to pay for bike and pedestrian improvements; and smart corridors. TRPC is undertaking a new initiative, Sustainable Thurston, which will include the use of CommunityViz to develop and compare scenarios using measures of sustainability.
For Sacramento, California, Senate Bill 375 (SB 375) is the most important law requiring the integration of land-use and transportation planning. The Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) is undertaking a major effort, known as "Blueprint" to link transportation and land development more closely. The SACOG Board of Directors adopted the Preferred Blueprint Scenario in December 2004. This vision for growth promotes compact, mixed-use development and more transit choices as an alternative to low density development. The Preferred Blueprint Scenario is part of SACOG's Metropolitan Transportation Plan for 2035, the long-range transportation plan for the six-county region. It also serves as a framework to guide local government in growth and transportation planning through 2050. The Metropolitan Transportation Plan for 2035 links land use and transportation planning with $42 billion in transportation investments in the six-county Sacramento region over the next 28 years.