Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sacramento's Urban Planning Experiment

Train Rider should be somewhere over the Atlantic right now, flying to London for a quick two-day meeting.

The news on the MBTA/MBCR front has been pretty quiet. I think a lot of people are out on vacation this week. At least, that's what the traffic reports want you to believe. Until you hit an accident or some other traffic stoppage, the roads are pretty empty. Which is nice.

I read an article in yesterday's The Wall Street Journal about Sacramento, CA's seven-year urban planning experiment. Since a lot of the content in the WSJ is subscription-only, you may not be able to link to the article.

Urban planners are looking to Sacramento to see if their urban plan, which is now in its 7th year, can be copied and used in other US cities. It does seem sort of strange that a "model" plan is coming from a state more synonymous with freeways, limited public transportation, horrible traffic, suburban sprawl and smog, but I guess we have to start somewhere.

Sacramento is following a "smart growth" model. Here are some excerpts from the article:
For decades, backers of "smart-growth" planning principles have preached the benefit of clustering the places where people live more closely with the businesses where they work and shop. Less travel would mean less fuel consumption and less air pollution.

Sacramento -- yoked to the car and mired in one of the lousiest housing markets in the country -- offers an intriguing laboratory for that idea. Four years ago, just as oil was gaining momentum in its torrid climb to $140 a barrel and beyond, the six-county region adopted a plan for growth through 2050 that roped off some areas from development while concentrating growth more densely in others, emphasizing keeping jobs near homes.

Between 2004 and 2007, the number of projects with apartments, condominiums and town houses for sale in the region increased by 533%, while the number of subdivisions with homes on lots bigger than 5,500 square feet fell by 21%, according to housing-research firm Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.

While the project isn't perfect, they are seeing some benefits. It will be interesting to see what ends up happening due to related transportation costs.

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