Input to Minnesota Urban Development Generic Environmental Impact Statement
1. What issues, topics and research questions should be included in the study?
a. The relationship between traffic congestion and density. There is an assumption on the part of some that low density development leads to greater traffic congestion, though the data seems to suggest the opposite.
b. The relationship between air pollution, traffic and density. There is also an assumption that lower density is associated with higher levels of air pollution. However, because autos pollute much more at lower speeds (where congestion is greater), the data suggests the opposite to be true.
c. Realistic expectations with respect to the role that can be played by transit. Transit competitive trips (after Weyrich and Lind) need to be identified as a percentage of total travel (largely work and entertainment trips). The market share of such trips needs to be reviewed with respect to potential destinations. The data seems to indicate that transit is capable of providing a material market share (and thus attract travelers who would otherwise be drivers) only to major downtown areas, such as downtown MPS and STP. To expect any sort of a perceivable, much less fundamental, shift from automobile dependency to transit is simply wrong without imposing urban densities and centralization of activity that is inconceivable in any US urban area. The proposed higher densities of neo-traditional communities, or what would be achieved with urban growth boundaries do not begin to achieve the required densities (indeed, if the community is to become more transit oriented, any urban growth boundary will need to be drawn to encompass an area no larger than the municipalities of Minneapolis and St. Paul).
d. Future realistic trends with respect to mobile source air pollution. The coming of the fuel cell car, hybrid cars and the full implementation of existing measures (as the average year of manufacture of the vehicle fleet continues to advance) needs to be factored into models.
e. Realistic assumptions with respect to the mode split of incremental travel demand. There is virtually no evidence any where in the developed world that personal mobility by means of the auto and light trucks is being supplanted by other modes
f. Realistic assumptions of what can be accomplished with neo-traditional neighborhood development (TND). While there is plenty of theory that suggests that can reshape the cities, the fact is that many TND's are being developed at densities little different than that of existing suburban areas. This may be because the home buying market is not willing to accept the higher densities that would be required to accomplish the ends of the theorists (one such objective, the facilitation of community, is well beyond the capability of architecture or neighborhood design, and should be fully discounted).
g. The impact of development impact fees and densification proposals (such as urban growth boundaries) on housing prices, first time home buyers and low income home buyers.
Sources with respect to the points above…. (Internet)
Critique of anti-sprawl proposals: http://www.demographia.com/db-hersprawl.htm
Neo-traditional neighborhood reviews: http://www.demographia.com/dbx-nurvw.htm
Oped on urban sprawl: http://www.demographia.com/db-wtimes.htm
Open on sprawl in Atlanta and Portland: http://www.demographia.com/db-atlconst.htm
2. Why is this considered to be "essential GEIS content" by your agency/organization?
Much of urban transport planning is based upon myths. To the extent that planning continues to be characterized by such myths, the public will be less effectively served, and the economy of the Twin Cities will be retarded.
Fundamentally, it is important for transport and land use planning to be pragmatic and based upon fact. The policies should proceed from the facts, not from preconceived notions of how people ought to behave.
3. If the GEIS were designed to address these information needs, how could this information be used?
If facts and objective, reliable analysis are the basis of decision making, the community will be better served.
8 February 2000
Demographia is "pro-choice" with respect to urban development.
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