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Sync City and Transportation Planning for Sustainability

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday December 30th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Looking for a good how-to book on sustainable transportation planning? An excellent place to start is with Jeffrey Tumlin’s new book which provides a comprehensive, entertaining and profusely illustrated guide to “creating vibrant, healthy and resilient communities.”

3p obtained a review copy of Sustainable Transportation Planning, published as an e-book this month by John Wiley & Sons. The hardcover edition will be published in mid-January. Tumlin is an owner and sustainability practice leader of Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, a San Francisco transportation planning and engineering firm that focuses on sustainable mobility.

Tumlin’s book provides ideas, case studies, tools and solutions for citizens, elected officials, transportation engineers, urban planners, pedestrians, bicyclists and more. He looks at how smart transportation investments will improve economic development, health, sustainability and quality of life.

“Transportation must be seen as inseparable from land use planning or economic development – indeed, the best transportation plan is a good land use plan,” he says.

Early on, he makes an excellent, if somewhat trenchant point: “City planners and urban designers are often in conflict with transportation professionals.” Of course his statement is true if reversed, but he adds that for a long time “transportation professionals may have barely noticed the planners.”

Transportation planning and engineering professionals, Tumlin writes, “are currently the most significant obstacles to sustainable urbanism in North America, Australia and other growing regions around the world.”

His book aims to correct that and “reunite” transportation with its related fields “to fill the largest remaining gap in urban sustainability strategies.” It is intended to:

- Help non-transportation professionals understand transportation practice “so that they can more effectively guide it.”

- Provide step-by-step instructions for implementing smart transportation concepts in communities.

- Offer students an overview of where transportation fits in the study of urbanism, and offer transportation professionals “a better understanding of where our discipline fits in the larger context of sustainable urbanism.”

The book is full of useful ideas on nearly every page. For instance, the chapter on pedestrians says that planners should “make sure buildings are a pleasure to walk past.” Here’s a twist: “Design streets with pedestrians in mind,” and “promote safe routes to schools.”

As Tumlin says, “streets are the life of a city.” Thus, sustainability is especially important now “when we can no longer afford to throw away money to postpone solving the systemic problems with our public infrastructure, public health, and economic opportunities.”

His take on sustainability is surprising and refreshing when he says that it is “easy, low cost, fun and non-partisan if it’s done right.” Any successful city will have traffic congestion, he notes, and sustainability “works best when you don’t call it ‘sustainability.’” Aha!

Call it instead a welcome and overdue dose of common sense. Transportation planning and urban planning, mobility and accessibility don’t have to be mutually exclusive anymore.

[Image credit: Book cover from Nelson/Nygaard site]


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