FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Craig Noble at 415-777-0220
David B. Goldstein at 415-777-0220
John Holtzclaw at 415-977-5534
New Study Links Auto Use to Neighborhood Design
Authors say research proves for the first time that smart growth works
SAN FRANCISCO (June 10, 2002) For decades, city planners have dismissed
calls for building better cities, saying there's only anecdotal evidence
that so-called "smart growth" works. But authors of a new, peer-reviewed
study say their research proves for the first time that better urban design
can reduce auto use and relieve the traffic congestion and pollution that
come with it.
The researchers' analysis of the San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago
metropolitan areas found a direct link between the amount people drive and
city attributes like neighborhood density, transit access, and pedestrian-
and bicycle-friendliness. According to the authors, those attributes
measure an area's "location efficiency," and, not surprisingly, the more
efficient the location, the less people drive.
"We now have empirical evidence that smart growth works," said David B.
Goldstein, a study co-author and director of the energy program at NRDC
(Natural Resources Defense Council). "This study shows that people who live
in more convenient communities are less dependent on cars. These
communities are not only more convenient, they're also more livable because
they tend to have cleaner air and water and more protected open space."
"Smart growth has the added benefit of saving consumers thousands of
dollars in car costs annually," said Hank Dittmar, study co-author and
president of the Great American Station Foundation. "It's time for city and
transportation planners to put an end to sprawl development, for the
benefit of consumers and the environment."
The study examined auto ownership and driving patterns in nearly 3,000
neighborhoods in the three metropolitan areas, and the results were
quantified. The authors used the results to construct mathematical models
that allow the average number of autos owned and miles driven to be
calculated for a household of any given income and size, as long as the
neighborhood's density, transit access and pedestrian friendliness are
known. The authors said their findings offer intriguing suggestions for how
we can design our cities to reduce dependence on driving, traffic
congestion, energy use, and air and water pollution.
"Over the years, sprawl development has forced us to drive more and more,"
said John Holtzclaw, the study's lead author and consultant to NRDC. "Not
surprisingly, smarter, more convenient cities resemble the pedestrian- and
transit-oriented cities of our grandparents, which were built before the
car dominated our zoning laws and transportation projects."
The authors also note that, after housing, transportation is the second
biggest expenditure in the average household budget. This fact can be
leveraged to encourage smart growth through a new mortgage product called a
Location Efficient Mortgage® or LEM®. The LEM® allows a homebuyer who
purchases a home in a convenient area to qualify for a larger loan. For
example, a potential buyer who would avoid $500 in auto costs by living in
a convenient area could qualify for a larger mortgage. (For more
information about the Location Efficient Mortgage®, visit
"The homebuyer who qualifies for a Location Efficient Mortgage® can invest
their auto savings in house payments," said Peter Haas, study co-author and
analyst with the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago. "That means
they get more house for their money in a more livable community."
The study, "Location Efficiency: Neighborhood and Socio-Economic
Characteristics Determine Auto Ownership and Use ? Studies in Chicago, Los
Angeles and San Francisco" by John Holtzclaw, Robert Clear, Hank Dittmar,
David Goldstein and Peter Haas, appeared in the March 2002 issue of
Transportation Planning and Technology (www.tandf.co.uk/journals/online/0308-1060.html).
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit
organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated
to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has
more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York,
Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. More information is available
through NRDC's Web site at www.nrdc.org.