Friday, 27 December 2013

"Bike, walk, ride: How to get around in the new green city"

"We reached "peak driving" in 2005, according to our new Green Dividend Report. Here's a round-up of what comes next - and how it's changing our cities.
Walkable and transit-connected neighborhoods is gaining in popularity throughout the United States. In our recent Green Dividend Report, we calculated that Americans could save $31 billion a year by driving just one mile less per day than they do now. Our report shows the market forces that have led to the recent decline in driving – we found 2005 was the year of "peak driving" and the data clearly shows that per person driving has declined continually since then. It also explores the ways that we can further realize the Green Dividend (hint: cities and their walkable, bikable, and transit friendly neighborhoods are the key!).

For years, the only way to measure commuting patterns was through household surveys. While that is changing with the increased use of social media sites such as Foursquare, GPS connected phones and automobiles, and even electronic public transit fare cards; surveys can still be a very useful tool because they tell us more about the individual and why they're moving about the city. Fletcher Foti, a UC Berkely planning Ph.D, collected commuter data from New York City, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area.  In The Atlantic Cities recent article, "An Intriguingly Detailed Animation of How People Move Around a City," you are able to see the commuting patterns in great detail. The animations are sortable by region and household income to allow the reader to see their movement throughout a typical 24-hour period. The maps also show the different modes of transportation to show greater detail of how people move through each city.

Designing for walkability

Walking remains a choice for most Americans according to Jeff Speck, urban planner and author of Walkable City.  In order to make a neighborhood more walkable, Speck recently shared his thoughts with the Sun Sentinel that residential housing is only the beginning. Speck contends that a walk through the neighborhood must be more interesting to the pedestrian than a drive. When we are able to achieve that, we "have begun to realize that the traditional neighborhood and particularly urban neighborhoods are much more sustainable environmentally, much more successful economically, and much, much better for us in terms of our health."

Walk Score recently released the 2014 Rankings of the Most Walkable US Cities and Neighborhoods. These rankings are based on Walk Score's unique algorithm that analyzes over 10 million addresses in more than 10,000 neighborhoods. From their website, you can look at more than 2,500 cities and see the walkability rating of any address or neighborhood. It is measured on a scale of 0-100 and takes into account over 2 billion walking routes and neighborhood amenities such as grocery stores, restaurants,  parks, and more. Is your neighborhood a "Walker's Paradise?"

Public transit spurs development

The Kansas City Downtown Streetcar Project isn't expected to open until mid-2015. However, Smart Growth America recently reported that the streetcar loop is already seeing an influx of private development. Already 33 development projects have been announced since last year when voters approved the streetcar, which will connect Kansas City's major entertainment districts. This map details where the new development projects are going to go along the new streetcar line. In its ambitious Downtown Area Plan - which aims to double the downtown population and employment - Rick User, Assistant City Manager for Small Business explains, "Our community members want pedestrian throughways and improved public transit to better connect the downtown area."

The Bicycle: The simple tool for 21st century urban sustainability

Biking is another alternative to automobile commuting that has gained in popularity recently. American cities are reacting quickly by adding bike lanes, better signage, and more bike sharing locations. In a guest contribution to our blog, Christopher Berggren shared his experience living abroad and the lessons he brought back. In Berggren's piece, "The Bicycle: The Simple Tool for 21st Century Urban Sustainability," he explores how bicycle commuting can help America address several societal problems including obesity, traffic gridlock, and isolated urban cores.

Market incentives and changing consumer preferences are creating strong support for steps to reduce driving and earn the Green Dividend. More changes are to come as households are still in the process of adjusting their residential, commuting, shopping, and car ownership patterns in response to the dramatically rising gas prices in the past decade. As a result, a new generation of Americans is coming of age with fundamentally different attitudes about car ownership and urban living. It's important that we keep advancing the quantitative and qualitative analysis of commuting patterns."

In "CEO's for Cities"

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