The Transportation, Land Use and Housing Connection

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Where people can afford to live can limit their transportation options and access to jobs, increase their costs, and displace them from community and cultural resources. Agencies need research to support decision-making and policy changes that prioritize equity at the intersection of transportation, land use, and housing at full scale: from regional issues all the way down to the bus stop level.

What are the impacts and key findings of our research at the nexus of transportation, land use and housing?

Learn more here about the other impacts from a decade of research funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities.

Decade of transportation and land use research has nationwide impact on the ITE Trip Generation Manual

Dr. Kelly Clifton and Dr. Kristina Currans have a long history of NITC-funded research collaboration on coordinating transportation and land development. To date, their research findings have had a transformative impact on the development of the data and methods used in transportation impact analysis (TIAs). Their work has been included in the latest edition of Institute of Transportation Engineers Trip Generation Manual (2020) and Handbook (2014), the industry standard referenced for trip generation data. They have advised the local governments of Portland, Bend, Clackamas County on their development review process and methods for assessing transportation system development charges. The State of California has considered their findings in the CEQA analysis related to climate change. This body of work has produced new knowledge and contributed to making the land development and transportation planning process more equitable, multimodal, and environmentally sustainable. 

Despite having a receptive audience among transportation planners in public agencies in major U.S. cities, there are still barriers to widespread change from traditional development review processes that privilege the automobile to new approaches that place top priority on people. One of the pervasive challenges comes from community members’ lack of understanding of the complex issues involved in TIAs and the land development process, and fears of multifamily and infill housing and increased traffic congestion. The findings from their research and others need to be more widely communicated to the public in order to broaden understanding of the problem and policy solutions. 

To that end, NITC has funded a technology transfer grant to create a series of comics to translate this research to storyform and convey difficult concepts. Learn more about Communicating Research through Comics: Transportation and Land Development led by Kelly Clifton of Portland State University and Kristi Currans of University of Arizona.

Modeling housing and service providers offers a tool to ease transportation burdens on former offenders in Dallas, TX.

Roughly 2,000 former inmates who return to communities every day in the U.S. face significant transportation burdens getting to and from job interviews and their many required parole-related appointments. To ease their reintegration into society, University of Texas at Arlington researchers partnered with Dallas, Texas reentry broker Unlocking DOORS to develop a unique solution: three computer models that optimize the locations of housing and service providers to ensure that former offenders can actually, realistically, make it everywhere they need to be.

"If I'm able to put in where a guy resides… and it's going to populate for me all the different service providers that are available, the different employers that are available, in either a walkable or easy public transportation spectrum – or even on a bicycle – then we're doing great. I think this is really going to be a game changer for us. We're very excited about it." 
Christina Melton Crain, Unlocking DOORs

Learn more about the project Optimizing Housing and Service Locations to Provide Mobility to Meet the Mandated Obligations for Former Offenders to Improve Community Health and Safety led by Anne Nordberg, University of Texas at Arlington.

A study of 12 census tracts in Cleveland, Ohio revealed that HUD’s Location Affordability Index (LAI) did not accurately reflect the needs of “shrinking cities”.

Traditionally the discussion about affordability has focused on housing. In late 2013, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the Location Affordability Index (LAI) Portal - a dataset that uses models to estimate the median amount households spend on housing as well as transportation. The tool is meant to help people understand the combined costs of housing and transportation, and affordability, associated with living in a specific neighborhood. However, there was virtually no validation of the estimates in any setting, and no studies delving into how accurate the estimates are in the context of “shrinking” or weak-market cities.

To better understand the real costs of housing and transportation in a declining urban context, NITC researchers conducted a household-level survey on those financial burdens and budget trade-offs across 12 Census-tracts in Cleveland, Ohio. The survey found that less than 9% of those households resemble any household type used by the LAI, and that the assumptions of the LAI tool did not hold true in “shrinking cities”–cities that have experienced significant population loss. The particular difficulty with the shrinking city context is that as urban sprawl continues unchecked, the rate of land consumption grossly outpaces the rate of population change. As jobs move out from the city center toward more suburban locations, there is very little population growth to support funding that would enable transit agencies to get people to those jobs. The report provides policy recommendations to help transit authorities overcome these transportation burdens, including ridesharing and van pools, bike share programs, and better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

"Dr. Ganning’s thorough and convincing analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Location Affordability Index led HUD to rethink using Census block groups as the geographical unit of analysis. As a result, Version 3 of the Location Affordability Index (published in April 2019) was generated at the Census tract level, addressing multiple data and methodological problems identified by Dr. Ganning in her 2017 article."
Josh Geyer, Office of Environment and Energy, High-Performance Buildings Team, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Learn more about the project What do we know about Location Affordability in U.S. Shrinking Cities? led by Joanna Ganning, Cleveland State University