Community outcomes can be achieved by reframing key transportation conventions, such as street capacity. Credit: Ian Lockwood, P.E., AECOM

For many people, the words “transportation spending” conjure images of orange construction signs and fresh asphalt, and the platitudes of an easier commute. Transportation investments, however, can be leveraged beyond the simple task of repairing and constructing new roads: they can truly improve the quality of life by creating livable communities–in urban, suburban and rural areas.

The concept of livablity in transportation is easy to describe, yet often difficult to implement. One reason is that community and transportation planning and design have become highly specialized fields–instead of community builders, we now have transportation planners, engineers, architects, landscape architects, parks departments, health departments, etc, each of whom have become outstanding in their own fields. Holistic thinking may be a casualty of this specialization.

This street in Bridgeport, Kentucky was redesigned with a landscape median, slowing traffic and providing a more enticing pedestrian environment. See the full case study.

Yet there is a growing discovery, particularly in the United States, about how important and effective transportation investments can be to acheiving livability, sustainability and placemaking. And while transportation professionals continue to struggle with how to implement livability at the local level, a growing number of practicioners are leading the way with projects that demonstrate both the feasibility and rewards of building communities through transportation.

Earlier this week we hosted a webinar, through our Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) website, with Dan Burden, Executive Director, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, Hannah Twaddell, Principal Planner, Renaissance Planning Group, and Gary Toth, Director of Transportation Initiatives, Project for Public Spaces. Many of the  tools and case studies discussed are available on that website.

A guide to healthy building placement, from the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute. Credit: Dan Burden