Great cities concentrate choices and opportunities. Everything is made accessible, and the key to this accessibility is proximity. When the things you need—work, friends, shopping, recreation—are located close together, then you don't need much transportation to reach them.
In Northeast Ohio, we are developing cities, towns, and neighborhoods that offer this convenience. And our transportation investments—for transit, bicycle facilities, walkable streets and urbane boulevards—are contributing to the life of healthy communities where everyone has real choices about how to get around.
Goals for sustainable transportation
Our current transportation system is unsustainable in multiple ways. It forces us to spend more and more time moving around instead of providing convenient access to what we need. It is increasingly unaffordable, as the high cost of cars and fuel consumes a larger proportion of household budgets. It is not maintainable, as hard-pressed governments can't afford to maintain the far-flung transportation infrastructure built in the past 50 years. It is damaging the natural systems that support life. And it often degrades the public realms of cities and towns where most people live.
The sustainable alternative would be a transportation system based on the following:
- Walkable communities: Transportation depends on land use patterns. We want to change land-use planning, zoning, and development incentives so that Northeast Ohio builds more places that are compact and walkable—places where it’s convenient to live a car-free lifestyle. This will require reinvestment in the cities and towns that are the region’s historic clusters of development, and, it will require a new regional political consensus to stop facilitating low-density, automobile-dependent development.
- Real choices: There are signs, especially among young people, that the so-called American love affair with the automobile is abating. More people want cheaper, healthier alternatives--walking, biking, transit. We need to invest more of our transportation dollars in the services and facilities that will make this possible. A good goal in Cleveland, for example, would be to increase bike commuting from less than 1 percent to 6 percent of trips, on par with leading U.S. cities.
- Cleaner cars: Even if we become less dependent on cars, we will still need them for many trips. So we want to make them as efficient and clean as possible. There’s a lot we can do promote better gas mileage, cleaner fuels, electric vehicles and other alternatives.
We envision a future Northeast Ohio as a region with clusters, corridors, connectivity and choices. This means that major population and employment clusters are connected to other clusters by complete street corridors providing enhanced connectivity and choices for how to travel. Modes of transportation considered "alternative" today—walking, biking, public transit—have become the preferred ways to efficiently move about our region whenever possible.
Recent years has seen an exciting growth in the movement for transportation alternatives in the region, including.
- More demand for transit services and more bicyclists on the streets.
- Better organizational infrastructure for transportation activism, with a new BikeCleveland organization advocating for better biking options and the Sustainable Transportation Action Team that came out of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 process.
- Growing Critical Mass bike rides
- In Cleveland, there have been significant victories, including Complete Streets legislation (requiring road projects to improve conditions for all modes of transportation).
- A $6 million investment by ODOT to improve bike and pedestrian access between downtown and west side neighborhoods across the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge.
- The hybrid bus-rapid transit line at the heart of Cleveland's $200 million HealthLine has spurred $1 billion in new economic development—including E. 4th Street, CSU's College Town and Uptown in University Circle. In addition, it doubled real estate values and raised lease rates on Euclid Avenue (Source: Crains Cleveland Business, Oct. 29, 2012)
- In Summit County a fantastic off-road trail system has been developed, linking to the Towpath Trail.
In the special section (links right), GreenCityBlueLake director David Beach explains how we can use transportation to shape the places we want again. How can we put transportation back in the service of creating vibrant places? Here's how to think about the process:
- In The Great Highway Transformation, Beach argues that we haven't come to grips with the massive and swift change in our lives that came from a focus on one form of mobility.
- In The five eras of transportation in Northeast Ohio, he explains how transportation, scaled to the technology available at the time, fundamentally changed Cleveland in a short period of time.
- Transportation as opportunity space takes a step back and defines transportation and what it means to us.
- In Planning an unsustainable transportation system he shows how sprawl and the era of highway building didn’t happen by accident. It wouldn’t be easy within the current system, but included is an example of how Northeast Ohio could change direction.
- When we’re ready to get serious about sustainable transportation, a set of principles will guide us to how we use transportation to create more livable places.
- The Changing the fundamentals of transportation offer all the reasons why we need to do this now.
- Finally, Action agenda for moving into the future tells us how, offering the top three metrics that would 'green' transportation and return it to a placemaker role.
What matters most about cities and regions are people and places. Transportation is of secondary importance—a means to connect people and places. If anything, transportation is often something we want to minimize so we can spend more time at a desired destination—be it working, shopping, socializing, recreating, or being with our families. Successful transit metropolises have gotten the order right—land-use visions lead transportation policies, not the other way around.
— Robert Cervero, The Transit Metropolis
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