Research Briefs

Remaking Transportation Policy for the New Century

Bruce Katz, Metropolitan Policy, Brookings Institution, January 23, 2006

"In some cities, freeways block access to waterfronts and other assets and generally take up some of the most valuable real estate in the urban area (usually land either near or in the midst of the central business district)."

"Transportation policy must help cities realize their full economic and fiscal potential"

"More and more cities are beginning to recognize the passive and active recreational value of waterfronts, as well as their attractiveness to developers interested in generating new mixed-use urban environments."

"In recent years, cities like Boston, Akron, and Portland have taken steps to tear down freeways that have long scarred the urban landscape. Milwaukee, for example, used federal money to take down a little used spur of the never-completed Park East Freeway began in 2002 to reclaim 11 blocks of downtown land.

Make no mistake, these are tough, contentious and sometimes costly projects, yet they are often the right thing to do and need additional support if they are to happen around the country."

Distinctive, Equitable, Competitive (Louisville)

Bruce Katz, Metropolitan Policy, Brookings Institution, January 23, 2005

Shape and Balance Growth

"Louisville needs to grow in more compact, focused and even creative ways.

More and more evidence suggests that compact, convenient regions with flourishing vibrant downtowns and a high quality of life prevail in the competition for educated workers and quality job-creation. However, troubling signs warn that a relatively cohesive region is beginning to decentralize. To the east, especially, cookie-cutter sprawl is gobbling up land, fueling the demand for services, and further undercutting the centrality of downtown and the West End.

So what should the region do? To forestall the "hollowing out" that has unraveled so many peer regions, the new city should lock in once and for all the idea that great regions revolve around great downtowns--dense centers where large numbers of residents gather to walk, work, live, shop and amuse themselves.

In that vein, Louisville should pour on its efforts to attract to downtown 5,000 new residents in 10 years, and to create more livable, alluring and pedestrian-friendly core neighborhoods, especially in the West End."

Beyond Merger: A Competitive Vision for the City of Louisville

Bruce Katz, Metropolitan Policy, Brookings Institution, July 23, 2002


"The regions aggressive road-building strategy may not necessarily improve mobility."

  • "The region's per capita road construction far outpaced that of key peer regions.":
    Peer Urban Areas Increase in lane miles
    Nashville -13.3%
    Jacksonville -13.2%
    Columbus -9.9%
    Indianapolis 3.0%
    Louisville 15.8%
  • "More of Louisville's roads are dilapidated than competitor's regions.":
    Peer Urban Areas % Dilapidated
    Jacksonville 13%
    Nashville 19%
    Columbus 26%
    Indianapolis 29%
    Louisville 45%

"Current trends could also undermine the region's leadership in the distribution and logistics industry. Louisville's competitive advantage in freight handling depends on the uninhibited movement of goods through and between the region's major air and rail hubs, its port, and its interstate highway network. However the efficiency of all of these facilities would be compromised by the traffic delays, deteriorating roads, and decentralized development that could result from an ill-considered road-building program."

Why are the Roads so Congested?

Surface Transportation Policy Project

The Role of Roadbuilding

"One commonly cited cause of congestion is a failure to provide more road space. Our analysis shows that on average, the highway networks in the cities studied by TTI (Texas Transportation Institute) have expanded faster than population. The amount of highway per person in these metro areas grew by 10% over the last 16 years. We are adding highways faster than we are adding people to drive on them.

In addition, our analysis found that road building seemed to have little impact on congestion. Between 1982 and 1997, metro areas that were aggressive in expanding the amount of road space per person fared no better in terms of rush-hour congestion than those that did the least to add new road space; in fact, they did slightly worse. This is due in part to what is known among transportation planners as 'induced travel,' a phenomenon in which newly available road space encourages additional car travel. Our analysis of TTI's data confirms previous research on induced travel; in the metro areas studied, a 10% increase in the size of the highway network is associated with a 5.3% increase in the amount of driving."

Tear it Down!

John Norquist, President, Congress for the New Urbanism: former Mayor of Milwaukee, WI

"In eliminating a segment of superhighway, Milwaukee is not alone. When the 1989 earthquake damaged the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco, it was considered an "act of God." San Francisco's political culture embraced a divine message and the city petitioned the state to remove the freeway instead of rebuilding it. The state agreed; nearby property values shot up by more than 300 percent, and views of San Francisco Bay from the North Coast are no longer obstructed.

In the 1970s the mayor of Portland led an effort to remove an elevated expressway separating its downtown from the banks of the Willamette River and replace it with an avenue and a park. Property values are up dramatically, and the park is one of the most popular gathering spots in Oregon. Similarly, in the 1980s New York City removed the Westside Highway and has since enjoyed huge development in the old freeway corridor. We're changing our attitudes about highways and transportation. San Francisco, Portland, New York, and now Milwaukee all are deconstructing freeways and replacing them with avenues and boulevards."

But Where Will the Traffic Go?

Walter Kulash, P. E., Traffic Engineer

"The same traffic models that seem to be always telling us that we need more road capacity to keep traffic flowing, also tell us, on the other hand, that if we remove capacity, the system will continue to function quite nicely, with drivers making, in the aggregate, sophisticated decisions to keep the system operating.

When major new road capacity was added--to the interstates around Nashville, for example--many homeowners living in older parts of Nashville and reinvesting in their neighborhoods chose to move their households to a new suburban tract home inevitably spawned by the road addition. Conversely, if congestion had not been removed, the same households would have remained in place, continuing to reinvest in an existing neighborhood."

The Young and the Restless

CEOs for Cities, Joseph Cortright, Impresa Consulting

"It is difficult to overstate the impact that the college-educated 25 to 34 year-olds we call the Young and the Restless will have on a city's future prosperity. They are well educated, adaptable, mobile and relatively inexpensive, comprising an important part of the so-called creative class. With rising demand for their skills and with competition for them now on a global scale, cities must be magnets for these highly-coveted workers or they will fail, because in the knowledge economy, it is the creativity and talent inherent in a city's workforce that will shape its economic opportunities."

"During the 1990s, the preference of young adults for close-in neighborhoods increased sharply. In 1990, 25 to 34 year-olds were about 10 percent more likely than other residents in the metropolitan area to live within 3 milts of the region's center. By 2000, these young adults were more than 30 percent more likely than other metropolitan residents to live in these close-in neighborhoods."

Aging Americans: Stranded Without Options

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and American Public Transportation Association

"Unfortunately, the United States is currently ill prepared to provide adequate transportation choices for our rapidly aging population. As the number of older people increases, so too will their mobility needs. How the nation addresses this issue will have significant social and economic ramifications."

Major Findings:

  • More than one in five (21%) Americans age 65 and older do not drive.
  • More than 50% of non-drivers age 65 and older stay home on any given day partially because they lack transportation options.

Older non-drivers have a decreased ability to participate in the community and the economy:

  • 15% fewer trips to the doctor;
  • 59% fewer shopping trips and visits to restaurants;
  • 65% fewer trips for social, family and religious activities.

"It was a Mistake"

"Interstate Highway System", a free publication from the state highway department.

Henry Ward, a member of the Louisville Chamber of Commerce in 1958, lobbied in Frankfort to Highway Commissioner Ward Oates to have Interstate 65 (and other interstates) routed through downtown Louisville. At that time, Henry Ward, who would later become the state Highway Commissioner from 1960 to 1967, stated that "downtown Louisville felt it would be disastrous for it to be bypassed by the interstate." There was tremendous pressure from both sides to push the interstate highway system through downtown. Later on in 1996, he reflected back and stated that, "... it was a mistake. I think downtown Louisville would have been better off if Interstate 65 had not been located where it is."

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