Transportation, the movement of people and goods from one place to another, perhaps more than anything else today shapes our built environment. Think of all the different things we build to accommodate the various ways we travel: airports, rail lines, freeways, roads of all sizes, bicycle lanes, sidewalks and pedestrian paths. Most modes of travel have major economic, visual, environmental and community shaping effects on the places we live. In recent times, transportation systems have often dominated the built environment at the expense of the very destinations they are connecting. Car travel is the biggest problem of course. Accommodating the car virtually everywhere has not only created a huge environmental and congestion problem, but has also destroyed the scale of much of the built environment–as previous thoughts on this blog have discussed. Solutions are complex but all real answers involve providing alternative ways of getting places.
Land planning and land use are strongly linked to transportation. With proper land use, transportation can be made more efficient and rational. Many types of car trips for example, can be eliminated altogether, if land is zoned for neighborhood stores within walking distance of homes–people do not need to get in the car and drive every time they need a quart of milk. Even eliminating a small proportion of auto trips reduces traffic and the need for so many redundant parking spaces. The astute and efficient planning of land and transportation together can improve the time and experience of travel, and at the same time, enhance, rather than compromise the destinations to which we are hurrying.