Transportation: Introduction


Transportation includes all modes of travel (walking, biking, transit, automobile) and more importantly assumes all modes have equal consideration and value.  Transportation infrastructure should be designed for all transportation modes. The Iowa Smart Planning Principles recognize a close relationship between transportation options, land use choices, and resource protection and sustainable development goals, such as improved air quality, reducing fuel use, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation planning should consider how choices today create obligations for future generations to maintain and improve the entire transportation network.  

Key Elements of Transportation

  •         Encouraging alternatives to automobile dependency in land use and development planning
  •         Improving mobility options for residents
Transportation Alternatives and Land Use - Trends

Transportation planning used to be largely an exercise in how to maintain traffic flow on roads and how to address automobile traffic generated by new development.  Roads designed exclusively for cars were used to connect homes to jobs, goods and services, and other destinations.  Little consideration was given to how roads divided lands and people. Cul-de-sac and similar style subdivisions were deliberately designed to limit access, resulting in increased auto dependency.  Low density or sprawling development patterns contributed to the dramatic growth over decades in the vehicle miles traveled by most households. 

Alternatives to traveling by car, such as walking and biking, are frequently considered as recreational activities rather than transportation alternatives. Transit is rarely considered as part of development decisions, but only considered after development is complete. 

Local governments and transportation planning organizations now increasingly work to coordinate transportation and land use decisions.  In order to more effectively manage public costs associated with roads and highways, planning organizations are looking for opportunities to increase density and find appropriate mixes of land uses.  The regional transportation planning organization (Corridor MPO) 2009 survey of residents discovered that more residents (45%) believed the region is “too spread out” compared to those who believed development was “at just the right density” (37%).[1] 


Transportation Alternatives and Land Use - Risks and Opportunities 

      Risks include:

·        Failing to build transportation infrastructure to link origins with destinations for all modes (linking homes to employment centers, shopping, and schools) results in increasing auto dependency.

·        New roads have financial consequences for current and future generations. Infrastructure must be maintained and ultimately rebuilt. 

·        Climate protection goals cannot be met without long-term changes to transportation patterns and auto dependency.

      Opportunities include:

·        New concepts for designing transportation infrastructure, such as “complete street” design, integrates multiple modes into a single right-of-way. 

·        The Linn County land evaluation and site assessment (LESA) system can be adapted to include evaluation of opportunities for transit or alternative travel modes.  Development locations can be prioritized to meet smart growth transportation goals. 

·        Transit and non-motorized travel modes substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help improve air quality, compared to automobile modes of travel.


Mobility options - Trends

National surveys repeatedly show that people want alternatives to automobile travel.  Moreover, as households grow smaller and the population gets older, increasing numbers of people do not even have the option of driving.  Yet most streets and roads were designed exclusively for automobile traffic to flow smoothly.  

Many Linn County residents have few transportation options other than driving in an automobile.  Except in the urban areas, few transit options exist.  Rural residents have even fewer options to substitute walking or biking for automobile trips.  Transit options in rural areas, however, are extremely expensive to operate because of the long distances and few people. 

Mobility options - Risks and Opportunities

      Risks include:

·        Increasing age and decreasing ability to drive will result in greater isolation of rural residents and people in low-density housing areas.

·        Demand for transit and pedestrian accessible commercial development will increase over time, but few resources are available to fund these initiatives except within denser urban neighborhoods.

·        Auto dependency leaves residents exposed to fuel price volatility and limits opportunities for reducing GHG emissions. 

      Opportunities include:

·        Modifying public road infrastructure to better accommodate non-motorized transportation modes to enhance multi-modal opportunities for all residents. 

·        Creating transit or para-transit opportunities in lower density areas to ensure that people are connected to the goods and services that allow them to live well. 


County Role

Linn County has several roles to consider in achieving its transportation goals. 

·        Consider transportation options in development review

·        When designing public infrastructure, ensure that roads are “complete” in that they accommodate multiple transportation modes rather than just automobiles

·        In designing bicycle and pedestrian public infrastructure, ensure that the trails and paths connect people to destinations

·        Plan for an expanded level of transit service in rural areas

Tools for implementing Transportation goals include: 

·        Consider developing “complete street” road design standards

·        Adding new transportation access considerations to LESA review, or a similar integration of multi-modal transportation goals and land use decision-making

·        Encouraging development opportunities that create mixed uses in existing unincorporated areas that have some housing density

·        Working with the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization on integrating multi-modal options


Regional and Cooperative Opportunities

Transportation systems link people to jobs, goods and services, and entertainment and recreation.  Transportation systems thus cross political boundaries and must be planned on a regional basis.  The Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization is the intergovernmental entity in charge of this effort in the Cedar Rapids/Linn County area. 

[1] Corridor MPO Connections 2040 Survey Results