If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you agree that reducing our dependency on and use of cars is a good idea. If you’re not yet on board with that idea, try reading this new study that correlates diabetes with a lack of walkability. Or read this piece from GOOD that connects city makeup with obesity. Or take a look at some of my previous posts — here, here, and here, for example — that look at the various detrimental impacts of an auto-centric urban area.
So clearly reducing car usage would be a positive development.
Citing new research, The Atlantic Cities’ Nate Berg recently provided two possible strategies to make that happen: increase the price of gas and increase the number of smart growth features like density and public transit.
Both of these strategies are pretty intuitive, even obvious, though Berg adds that it’s really only smart growth that has a longterm positive impact.
Utah and Provo are getting part of the equation right by adding things like FrontRunner commuter rail and, someday, bus rapid transit.
But those improvements won’t be effective if they aren’t coupled with efforts to increase density and make other infrastructure improvements as well. And unfortunately, those types of improvements are far less visible or adequately explained to the public in Utah. (See this post for an example of a meeting in Provo where nearly everyone agreed that smart growth hallmarks like density are bad.)
In other words and on the local level, Berg’s two strategies need an addendum: someone getting out there saying “yes, we actually need to increase density and here’s what that means.” When that happens, the evidence suggests that our cities will be healthier and more prosperous.