Resource: Low-Carbon, Less Auto-Dependent Neighborhoods: Saving Money and Cutting Carbon
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Title: Low-Carbon, Less Auto-Dependent Neighborhoods: Saving Money and Cutting Carbon
Resource type: Report/study
Topics: Communities, Land Use, Statewide/Global, Transportation
Keywords: economic development, sustainable development, transit-oriented development, TOD, sustainable urban
Audience: All
Region: Minnesota Statewide, Outside Minnesota
Summary: This 2007 report documents that in cities across the nation, compact development with a mix of land uses, transportation options and pedestrian-friendly design has reduced driving from 20% to 40%. Also available: the 2009 study Moving Cooler and a fall 2008 PowerPoint and 6-min. video.
Content: In cities across the nation, compact development with a mix of land uses, transportation options and pedestrian-friendly design has reduced driving from 20% to 40%, according to dozens of studies summarized in the 2007 report Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change (158 pages). See the web page below for the executive summary, the full technical report, and ordering links for the report in book form, published by the national Urban Land Institute.

"The research shows that one of the best ways to reduce vehicle travel [a major contributor to climate change] is to build places where people can accomplish more with less driving," reports lead author Reid Ewing, Research Professor at the National Center for Smart Growth, University of Maryland. "It's not a matter of forcing people not to drive. The research shows they will drive less on their own if given a place where they have the option to do so."

The report also documents market research showing that a majority of future housing demand lies in smaller homes and lots, townhouses, and condominiums in neighborhoods where jobs and activities are close at hand. The researchers note that demographic changes, shrinking households, rising gas prices, lengthening commutes and cultural shifts all play a role in this demand.

The report warns that sprawling development, if allowed to continue, will overwhelm expected gains from vehicle efficiency and low-carbon fuels. And in any community, sprawl can easily negate the benefits of using compact flourescent bulbs and making buildings more energy-efficient. The report also recommends the following policies that would help local governments reach the CO2 reductions they want, while also creating and supporting strong, healthy, diverse communities where people have more choices in where they live and how they get around:

1) Change the development rules to modernize zoning and allow mixed-use, compact development.

2) Favor location-efficient and compact projects in the approval process (using a rating system such as the emerging LEED-ND).

3) Prioritize and coordinate funding to support infill development.

4) Make transit, pedestrians, and bikes an integral part of community development.

5) Invest in civic engagement and education.

See also a similar study, Moving Cooler: An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Urban Land Institute: 2009) at, which focuses on VMT reduction and improving the performance of the transportation system. Rather than changes in vehicle fuels and technologies, the study finds that the following strategies contribute most to GHG reductions:

* Local and regional pricing and regulatory strategies that increase the cost of single occupancy vehicle travel.
* Regulatory strategies that reduce and enforce speed limits.
* Educational strategies to encourage eco-driving behavior that achieves better fuel efficiency.
* Land use and smart growth strategies that reduce travel distances.
* Multimodal strategies that expand travel options.


Low-Carbon Neighborhoods: Resilience to High Oil Prices, High-Quality Living

A Convenient Remedy to the Inconvenient Truth - a 6-minute online movie and slideshow produced by the Congress for the New Urbanism - shows the importance of good urban design in fighting climate change: examples of vibrant, economically successful neighborhoods from around the country that are dramatically cutting climate-changing carbon emissions. These walkable, mixed-use, transit-connected neighborhoods have slashed by half or more the 21,250 miles per year the average U.S. household puts on its cards and trucks.

At the CNU web page above, both the movie and the PowerPoint slides are available for viewing, posting on your web page, and downloading for use in presentations.

Suggested by: Philipp Muessig
Added: 11/15/07
Updated: 05/13/11