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Accessibility to Destinations Biggest Driver of Driving

A new study shows that the best way to minimize driving may be through developing around destinations accessible to jobs, shopping and recreation — and coupling that location with walkable block sizes, a good street network and mixed uses. The report was a result of a “meta analysis” by Reid Ewing and Robert Cervero, that reviewed over 50 individual studies on the subject. Smart Planet interviewed Ewing about the study’s results. Ewing:

The best way to minimize driving appears to be to develop in existing centers near the core of the metropolitan area, in areas of high destination accessibility where there are a whole lot of jobs near by. That’s the most important single factor.

We found other factors like mixed-use and intersections and block size. They fall into a second group that is less important than destination accessibility, but are more important than density. Density turns out as less important than land-use mix where shops and schools and workplaces are near to people’s homes.

If you’re trying to minimize vehicle miles traveled and maximize walking and transit, you’re better off emphasizing mixed-use and destination accessibility than just bumping up density. A dense development in the suburbs, far from transit and employment centers and stores, is probably not going to buy you much in the way of walking and transit use. Almost any development in the central city is going to be more efficient from a transportation standpoint.

Ewing defines “destination accessibility” as within a short distance of “a lot of what are referred to as ‘trip attractions’ — shopping, employment, recreational facilities.”

In developing and infilling urban neighborhoods, the provision of nearby and accessible parks can be a key ingredient, along with shops, transit and the like in providing that reduced car reliance.

2 Responses

  1. This study is of great importance to all who care about the environment and the quality of life in our communities. I summarize the findings here, and follow up here with some of Reid’s commentary and an interesting graph.

  2. Definately an important conclusion because it really clears up what designers need to emphasize to developers in urban planning projects. A layman may think that just building up the density of an area would be enough to encourage walkability and public transportation use, but it is important that designers stress mixed use to create the desired result in a project.

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