Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Commuting isn’t the problem

Only 16 percent of vehicle trips in the United States are for commuting, consultant James Charlier said as part of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute annual conference March 5.

The rest is discretionary travel, which is to blame for strangling traffic and the huge increase in vehicle miles. That travel also has driven unsuccessful public efforts to keep up with use by building and expanding roadways.

This isn’t sustainable, he said, and won’t be corrected by higher gas prices alone. “We have to think in fresh ways about where people go.”

Which means connecting transportation with housing and employment centers, pointed out urban economist Dena Belzer. “If transit doesn’t take you where you want to go, you’re not going to ride it,” she told attendees.

Developing desirable places to live and work is as important as linking the centers by rail and bus. The result would be less vehicle use and fewer discretionary miles.

“Transit-oriented development is not about one-size-fits-all for every station on every line. It’s about the mix of places and place types.

“The real value of [transit-oriented development] is where you can ride the train,” she added. “That’s what’s going to make people own fewer cars.”

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