Monday, September 07, 2009


Driving the Built Environment: Going Compact has just been issued by the Transportation Research Board. You don't have to be a weatherman to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Although the committee-written report is laced with hedged language, the authors expect that more compact development is the way to go.

In a 180-page report that dwells on recommended policy choices, trade-offs are mentioned four times, but public transit is mentioned over 300 times. But what I found most interesting was the comparison of Phoenix to Atlanta. At least, these authors are not comparing Atlanta to Boston.

The report's (carefully hedged) comparison suggests that modern cities can grow at comparatively higher densities; Phoenix's new development is denser than Atlanta's (p110-111).

But the two pages that make the case say nothing about transit. Both places have comparatively low transit use, but Atlanta's is two times that of Phoenix -- 1.1% share of passenger-miles over 0.5%.

And Atlanta has one of the six U.S. passenger-rail systems that quality as heavy-rail. Its MARTA has been operating for almost 20 years.

Having cited the promise of rail transit hundreds of times throughout this report, the authors apparently overlooked it's part in making Atlanta the place that they single out as the one not to emulate.