Evolving Transportation Sustainability: Climate Change, Transportation Planning, and Moves Toward Active Transportation Infrastructure

Evolving Transportation Sustainability: Climate Change, Transportation Planning, and Moves Toward Active Transportation Infrastructure

William Riggs (University of San Francisco, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7396-8.ch002
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Transportation policymakers and planners have begun to realize the importance of sustainable transportation with regards to health, social implications, and the climate. Focusing on more active travel is one way that these officials are beginning to evolve cities in a way that supports these broader sustainability goals. In this light, this chapter focuses on how active transportation has evolved, and how policy and finance can support it. It also looks at emerging issues that may reshape transportation, such as connected and autonomous vehicles, and how we can maintain transportation sustainability in light of these innovations.
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While transportation planning has been gradually moving toward prioritization of multimodal travel goals for quite some time (Frederick, Riggs, and Gilderbloom 2016), this change has been accelerated by issues related to climate change. Caused by a variety of human activities, scientists have observed a warming atmosphere, with the last three decades being successively warmer than any previous decade since records began in the 1850’s, with 2015 being the warmest on record (Brown et al. 2016). These unprecedented changes caused by human activity have spurred policy changes and has reframed the importance of active transportation and how it is financed and priorities for entities such as cities and counties.

This chapter traces the history and development of active transportation planning policy, e.g. policy that focuses on biking and walking (Sallis et al. 2004), and how it connects to health, (Corburn 2007) as well as the many other interrelationships between the built environment. These include land use, accessibility to parks and open spaces, public transportation, economic development and housing, along with health disparities that cross racial and ethnic lines (Krieger 2000; Maantay 2001). This ultimately concludes with recent transitions to climate action planning and efforts to establish not only healthy but “climate smart” transportation programs (Riggs 2014).

After an overview of transportation planning, the active transportation movement and climate action planning, the chapter dialogues ways that cities are using active transportation strategies and other urban policies to address climate-related transportation issues. This will include a review of policies and design strategies that are currently being used to improve the suitability of the environment for this kind of travel. Another review of financial best practice drawing on the work of Riggs and McDade (2016) will also be presented. Additionally, examples of how cities are pursuing programs that reframe sustainable transportation and travel will be shown. Each city has taken unique steps not only to plan climate-sensitive transportation solutions, but has also built financial vehicles to move from policy to action and implement those solutions.

Finally, the chapter discusses emerging issues related to sustainable transportation infrastructure and climate— autonomous vehicles in particular. While this emerging technology will reduce collisions and improve access to healthcare for those who need it most—particularly high-cost, high-need individuals at the younger and older ends of the age spectrum (Riggs and Boswell 2016), opportunities also exist to connect individuals to jobs and change the way cities organize space and optimize trips (Fagnant and Kockelman 2014; Guerra 2015). However, policy and critical dialogue has lagged in this area—particularly in the arena of both sustainability and dialogue about how innovation and technology will impact not only the way we commute but our efforts to address climate change.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cordon System: Also sometimes called a congestion zone, a cordon is a spatially designated location of a city that carries a few to access it. It can be levied based on time-of-day or day-of-the-week, and is generally used to reduce the number of trips and congestion.

Sales Tax Measures: Special taxes raised by a local government based on local sales. Revenues are usually directed to a specific use (services, infrastructure, etc.) and such taxes are seen as a way to generate revenue for the impacts of non-residents of a city who use its’ amenities but do not pay other local taxes like property tax. Can be used to borrow money from future revenue streams in the form of a municipal bond.

Active Transportation: Transportation that focuses on travel via modes that involve physical activity. Most often associated with walking and cycling, however sometimes includes travel via transit given that a transit trip is usually linked a bike or pedestrian trip at the origin or destination.

Complete Streets’ Policy: Policy to reshape urban streetscapes or design the urban environment to accommodate and prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars.

Transportation Network Companies: Also called TNCs these are peer-to-peer car networks and ride hailing services like Lyft and Uber that allow for on-demand travel from point to point across space.

General Fund Allocations: Allocations from the primary operating fund that most governments. Many times, these funds are generated through fixed taxes such as property tax.

Impact Fees: Funding or fees tied to a direct impact from a project or use. For example, if new housing is expected to generate 100 new trips daily, a certain portion of funding to contribute to mitigating the negative impacts of those trips could be levied.

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