Sustainable, integrated transportation and land use not only produces benefits to climate change and energy consumption, but a wide variety of additional environmental, economic and social co-benefits, including: increased real estate market values, reduced infrastructure cost, reduced land consumption, water consumption, reduced building energy and emissions, fiscal benefits, and equity benefits.
Growing Wealthier, released in January 2011 by the Center for Clean Air Policy, articulates the interrelationships between “Smart Growth, Climate Change and Prosperity.” This seminal report highlights smart growth benefits at the business, household, municipal & regional, and national scale including:
- Return on investment;
- Savings on expenditures; and
- Improved quality of life.
The conclusion summarizes as follows:
“The ‘tipping point’ for smarter urban development will come when the economic payoff is more broadly understood. The preponderance of evidence shows that smart growth can help communities, businesses and individuals make money, save money, and improve quality of life.”
A 2010 report by the Urban Land Institute has concluded that California’s SB 375 law that requires regions to prepare sustainable communities strategies will address the detrimental impact of sprawling development, improve urban growth patterns, and take a meaningful step toward conserving land and energy, and preserving the environment. The ULI report concludes that SB 375 would be responsible for “the development of sustainable, thriving communities that: provide a social framework for connecting people to places; respect environmental realities locally and globally; and compete effectively for economic vitality.” (Source: SB 375 Impact Analysis Report)
More specific findings on the relationship between sustainable transportation and land use plans can produce a broad range of co-benefits include the following.
- A recent letter, signed by over 100 economists, states that the co-benefits of policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including energy security, creating new business opportunities and jobs, and providing incentives for innovation.
- The ULI report Impact Analysis Report also concluded that sustainability laws can create “transit certainty” by aligning policy and funding in a manner that links the coverage and efficiency of public transit with the anticipated increase in urban and suburban density, and by linking public policy across all levels of government, aligning land use policies with demographic and market trends, and producing a transparent approvals process for public- and private-sector stakeholders.
- Climate and sustainability actions also directly benefit local air quality. A recent Stanford study for the US EPA found that local release of CO2 into the atmosphere causes local health impacts, and that local CO2 increases the rate of ozone and particulate matter which causes (cause and effect, not just correlation) increased mortality rate due to air pollution. The health impacts are greater in an area with already poor air quality, including California and Utah cities which represent a majority of the top 10 most polluted cities in the US.
- Grant stimulus funding for sustainability planning and strategy implementation, including:
The federal partnership of US DOT, EPA and HUD has made available over $700 million in grants to cities, counties, MPOs, and transportation agencies for sustainable community plans with integrated transportation.
California’s Strategic Growth Council has released over $30 million in grant to reimburse cities, counties, MPOs, Joint Powers Authorities, Regional Transportation Planning Agencies, Councils of Governments, individually or in partnerships for the cost of developing sustainable community plans, and will offer more than an additional $100 million in grants in the months to come. Specific activities to which the grants may be applied include development, update, adoption, or implementation of General Plan updates and elements, specific plans, infill plans, zoning ordinances, climate action plans, regional blueprint plans, interregional plans, and SB 375 Sustainable Community Strategies or Alternative Planning Strategies.
- A comprehensive study of the effects of California’ s high speed rail system on reformatting the manner in which land development occurs in the state concluded that the potential benefits range from greenhouse gas and energy reduction to a variety of other co-benefits, including:
Reduced infrastructure costs of $24,000 per new dwelling unit.
Reduced household expenditures of $6400 a year, including $2600 less cost related to household fuel consumption
Lower land consumption (3700 square miles) and water consumption (19 million acre feet) associated with growth and development
A reduction in fuel consumption of more than 3 billion gallons a year.
A 15% reduction in building energy use
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 25% relative to business-as-usual
A 35% reduction in vehicle miles traveled per capita relative to 2005 levels, resulting in lower highway maintenance and expansion cost
Additional economic benefits include jobs creation, increased property values, and reduced cost of municipal services.