Big Surprise: People Drive Less In Compact Cities With Good Transit


From Sprawl Crawl,By GOOD and Atley Kasky

The USA Today headline states the obvious: City's design, transit system can ease gas costs, noting that "a recent study finds that people drive less in compact cities that have extensive transportation systems." And why is a six month old report news today? Gas prices; the more you drive, the more you pay.

But what isn't so obvious is what the car is used for; It isn't for the commute to work. Carol Coletta, President of CEOs for Cities, which prepared the report, tells USA Today: "What adds up is all those small trips, which are much shorter and not as necessary. The question is, how do we make the city a place where we don't have to drive as much or as often?"
From ULI Study Land Use and Driving. Click to enlarge.

Edward McMahon of the Urban Land Institute confirmed Coletta's statement:

Most trips in a car are not back and forth to work," he says. "Most trips -- 80% to 85% -- are lifestyle trips to the movies, the grocery store, taking the kids to school, and so on. What we found is if you live in a community where you can walk, ride a bike, take a short trip, those savings start to add up really quickly.

Both say that the answer is compact, walkable urban design. Coletta explains how people tend to drive less if cities have the following attributes:

Land use. People running errands, such as to buy milk, can walk instead of getting in the car and having to park, Coletta says.
Urban design. Sidewalks or bike trails are designed in such a way that people want to walk.
Transportation. The public transportation network is extensive enough that residents have choices.

People who say Why We Should Be Thankful For $5 Gas should be careful what they wish for; some say expensive gas is what really caused the real estate crash. But there is no question that people living in compact communities are going to be better off.

More in USA Today

More on Urban Design and Energy Consumption:
Minus Oil: Forget Hybrids And Solar Panels, We Need Active, Exciting and Vibrant Cities : TreeHugger
EPA Study Finds Where You Live Matters More Than How You Live : TreeHugger

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