New Urbanism and Traffic Congestion Relief

Recently I made a presentation on the "Future of Far Suburbs" to a Chicago metro-edge community. My basic thesis for the presentation was that given the current technological advancements in ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicles) it is possible that in another generation fuel-emission related issues may become less of a concern. A bigger concern may be the increases in traffic congestion on the roadway systems. I thus recommended the need for New Urbanism, where compact, well-connected neighborhoods with diverse, mixed and dense (moderately high) uses within walking distances of residents would help achieve "trip avoidance." Which in turn would relieve traffic congestion.

I have read research articles that indicate that the "trip avoidance" benefits are most effectively achieved in areas with available transit. TODs, by far, help the most with people not starting a journey by car. That is intuitively true as well in addition to the findings of research.

What I have not come across are research findings that show how the more mature new urbanist communities or neighborhoods have fared when there is no transit available nearby to the residents. Certainly, it is true that in the case of live-work units, car trips will be avoided by the residents owning the business in the same units. Also, with town-centers that are viable and within walking distance, one can surmise that for some trips (limited shopping, socializing/gathering, recreation) most people living in such communities take a walk to the town-centers and not the car.

What I find missing is solid evidence on how the more mature communities, such as the Kentlands and Celebration, have fared in reducing the overall auto trips and providing congestion relief at the local or sub-regional level.

Perhaps I have not looked carefully, but if some one can point to a definitive study or two that show the congestion relief benefits of New Urbanism, it will help strenghten the case for New Urbanism I make in my presentations.

I will look forward to members'responses and comments.

Thank you,

Mahender Vasandani
M Square / Urban Design;
Chairman, Education and Outreach Committee


Write your comments in the box below and share on your Facebook!