Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative have just released a great resource for state departments of transportation looking to pursue forward-thinking policies. The report [pdf], entitled “The Innovative DOT: A Handbook of Policy and Practice”, outlines a variety of progressive transportation ideas and highlights that many innovative policies—like reforming the way DOTs make road capacity decisions and switching to context-sensitive design or practical design approaches—may actually conserve limited departmental resources.
The report also recognizes the crucial connection between transportation and development policy and makes the case for DOT involvement in land use decision-making:
If DOTs can foster land use decisions that create less Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) travel demand and allow for more compact development, both through their own actions and by partnering with land use authorities, they can reduce infrastructure costs, reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and improve transportation choices. At the same time, local governments can grow their tax base without creating new infrastructure construction and maintenance costs that Greenfield development requires.
The handbook offers several ways in which DOTs can work to improve land-use policy:
- Pursue Policies that Integrate Transportation and Land Use Decision-Making;
- Conduct Scenario Planning;
- Improve Public Facility Siting;
- Coordinate Infrastructure Investments Across Agencies; and
- Promote Transit-Oriented Development.
The capacity of DOTs to promote transit-oriented development (TOD) can happen whether or not they are actively involved with transit, according to the report:
Funding TOD planning around transit stations, inventorying DOT-owned land within a half mile of high-quality transit stations, participating in TOD planning efforts to understand the roadway and other transportation improvements that will be needed to make the TOD work, aligning state DOT policies with TOD development [. . .] and prioritizing DOT projects [. . .] that support TOD development.
In our region, Tri-State has long called for DOTs to better link transportation and smart land use initiatives, and recently, states seem to be responding. For example, this past weekend, ConnDOT Commissioner James Redeker told the Connecticut Post that “What I’m looking to do is encourage smart growth at or near transit facilities.” It is more than just talk. The agency is currently pursuing a project that will bring development within walking distance of the Stamford Transportation Center (while expanding train station parking). ConnDOT should be applauded for pursuing a project that could allow the state to more effectively capitalize on one of the busiest transit hubs on the New Haven line.
In coming years, our region’s DOTs will face countless opportunities like the one in Stamford. To deal with the challenges of congestion, economic growth, and some of the most dangerous roads in the region, they must make sure that their transportation policy decisions work closely with better land use policy.