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Theory and Practice

Rethinking the Traditional Grocery Store: Bridging the Gap Between Transportation and Healthy Foods

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Rethinking the Traditional Grocery Store: Bridging the Gap Between Transportation and Healthy Foods

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A lot of people have heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” But, how many times have you heard the phrase, “What surrounds you, shapes you?” You’ll realize just how true this second statement can be when you begin to understand the role the built environment can play in your everyday diet and lifestyle. For example, if you live in a neighborhood where sidewalks and multi-use trails are ubiquitous, chances are you spend more time outdoors walking or exercising. Take a minute and think about your neighborhood and where you live. Are there sidewalks and bicycle paths available? Is there a transit stop within a reasonable walking distance? Is there a full-service grocery store nearby or are you surrounded by fast-food restaurants? For many people in the United States, accessing healthy food on a weekly basis is a difficult and time-consuming task.

Food Deserts

Food deserts are, in simple terms, areas in which a large portion of the population is unable to access healthy food due to distance, lack of transportation, or physical abilities. These types of places are often saturated with unhealthy food options including convenience stores and fast-food restaurants. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Access Research Atlas allows people to find and identify food deserts that may be in their area. You may be surprised at how many food deserts there are across the United States. Now that we know the problem, how do we work towards solving it?

Mobile Grocery Store

Alternatives to Traditional Grocery Stores

There are many ways to bridge the gap between residents and healthy foods besides traditional grocery stores. This section will highlight two different types of projects/programs that are currently in place to give residents better access to healthy foods including a mobile grocery store and a non-profit supermarket.

Mobile Grocery Store

In cities where land may be limited or where a brick-and-mortar grocery store is not possible, a mobile grocery store may be a possible solution. A mobile grocery store is basically a grocery store on wheels. They typically carry fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as other perishable items, to underserved communities in large retrofitted vehicles such as a school or city bus.

One of the first mobile grocery store programs I learned about was Fresh Moves in Chicago, Illinois. Community leaders were able to secure a bus, donated from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and they partnered with Architecture for Humanity to transform the bus into a mobile produce market. Each week Fresh Moves posts its scheduled stops throughout the City so people know when and where to find them. This type of program almost completely removes the transportation barrier many people face when trying to access healthy foods by bringing the food to them. This type of program offers a lot of flexibility since routes and stops can be changed weekly to accommodate additional areas that may be in need of healthy food. There are many other variations of mobile grocery stores across the U.S. including “Farm to Family” in the Washington D.C. area and the R&G Family Grocers mobile store in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Fare Square in Chester, PA

Non-Profit Supermarket

This past month in Chester, Pennsylvania, the Nation’s first non-profit supermarket opened in an area that has been a food desert for almost 12 years. The Fare & Square supermarket was opened by Philabundance, the Philadelphia metro area’s largest food bank. It is often difficult to attract traditional full-service grocers to areas such as Chester due to perceived less profits so Philabundance took the needs of their residents into their own hands. Since Fare & Square is a non-profit business, food prices tend to be lower. Additionally, the store accepts SNAP benefits and offers low-income shoppers the opportunity to earn extra store credit. While the exact business model for the non-profit grocery store has not been discussed, it is surely a model to follow to see if other food desert communities could create similar versions.

Conclusion

Good food environments can foster positive relationships between people and food. All people, regardless of their income level, should be able to easily access healthy foods if they so desire. A variety of transportation options, including both motorized and non-motorized, in communities can help make accessing healthy food easier. Getting to healthy foods is often half of the battle. If traditional methods are not working or possible, don’t be afraid to get creative in your healthy food delivery methods!

-- Amanda Douglas, Cities that Work Blog

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Isn’t That Why They’re Called “Automobiles," Anyway?

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Isn’t That Why They’re Called “Automobiles," Anyway?

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Source: www.volpe.dot.gov The Annual Meeting of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) in Boston this summer did not have a formal theme, but the evolution of autonomous vehicles was the subject of the keynote plenary session and the topic permeated many conversations throughout the conference.  Given the current chatter on both news media and social media, the topic is timely.  In particular, it’s useful for the transportation planning professional to ask, “what’s in it for me?”  Or more precisely, what role can I play to help ensure that the next generation of traveler technologies are as beneficial to society as possible?

Coming soon to a dashboard near you

On the one hand, the technology is already in place for self-piloting cars that can handle either long drives on the freeway or short jaunts around town.  The primary driving force (so to speak) of the adoption of the technology revolution is the marketplace.  At roughly $10,000 per car, adding on the latest cutting-edge road-ready autonomy technology is still the province of the elite, which raises equity eyebrows in certain circles.  But the prices will drop over time; innovations such as GPS, keyless entry, antilock braking systems, automatic transmissions, power steering, air conditioning, radios, crankless ignitions, and even doors and roofs were each in their own time viewed by some as the enviable epitome of automotive luxury and by others as the beginning of the downfall of the human race into softbellied know-nothings.  Raise your left pinky if you remember how to crank a window.

Source: www.wikipedia.org

The concept of the driverless car has been around for, well, about as long as the car.  For decades a key objective was to increase speed and capacity and the primary approach was to engineer and build new motorways for these next-generation vehicles.  The Norman Bel Geddes vision presented in the General Motors Futurama exhibit in the 1939 World’s Fair was one of the most memorable visions of this supposed utopia with some five million visitors.  For a while, the connected vehicle revolution was expected to be led by the public sector development of the automated highway and the role of the public sector planners and engineers was clear; to lead the implementation of these new technologies as funding would permit.

The evolving role of the planner

But the marketplace couldn’t wait.  The paradigm has shifted fairly rapidly in the past couple of decades as the nexus of the information revolution has been distributed from the provider to the consumer.  And the focus of the industry is shifting as well; increased speed and capacity are generally being replaced by increased safety as the primary selling point for new technologies.

So today’s city planner is not going to be designing automated transportation systems so much as facilitating an adaptive process; considering the ramifications of the information explosion and how best to manage deployment through plans, policies, and regulations.

As ITE’s  Siva Narla noted in a July ITE Journal article, as of spring 2013, seven states had legalized driverless cars.   But the term “driverless” is also shifting; it doesn’t so much mean that the car has no driver as it does that the driver is doing less.  Richard Bishop suggests that it will be several more years before any driving task is fully turned over to the car itself, but that fully automated vehicles may be feasible in ten to twelve years.  There are still many technical, legal, and even cultural (nobody in any of the driverless vehicle videos proliferating on YouTube is playing dominos with the family; the technology is not sleep-inducing just yet) issues to work through.

Source: www.guardianlv.com

There are also concerns that automated vehicles could adversely affect the transit industry by stealing riders who would return to their cars once the problem of distracted driving is solved in favor of the distractions.  Certainly, the transit rider’s ability to multitask counts as a point in favor of transit, but still pales in comparison to factors like auto availability, operating costs, and travel time.  And information technology advancements will continue to make transit use more legible, predictable, and productive.  Total travel time is expected to become less and less important; reliability, productivity, and comfort are increasingly relevant to customers in making decisions about whether, how, and when to travel.   The marketplace is also producing resources like Ridescout to help folks navigate the increasingly robust, and complex, environment of choices.  So perhaps it’s really not so much about connecting vehicles as it is about connecting people.

Speaking of people, while we’re steadily getting cars to be able to talk to roadway design elements, to traffic control devices, and to each other, these safety improvements are most effective when applied to avoiding crashes based on reliable, predictable movements.  Unfortunately, many elements in the roadway are neither predictable nor as immediately susceptible to direct influence from connected technology.  Pedestrians, for instance, are increasingly connected to each other via digital devices, but distracted walking can be as hazardous as distracted driving.  George Washington University is one place where a decidedly low-tech approach is being tried to remind walkers to  cross first, text later.    And the sidewalk buddy app pronounces that “texting and walking safety issues are gone!”  although with the disclaimer that the app is for entertainment purposes only.

Meet George Jetson

OK, so the flying car we were promised fifty years ago may never get off the ground, although the sky is still the limit for possible innovations.  What’s next?  I’m no expert, but it’s fun to imagine the possibilities:

- 2015:   The first car that removes backseat drivers is introduced into the market.

- 2020:  The Volkswagen Golf claims to have the first truly driverless car, but it only works if you’re just puttering around town.

-  2025:  The Sidewalk Buddy app comes with a neural plug-in that causes the connected pedestrian or bicyclist to come to a complete stop in a locked and upright position when an impending crash risk is identified.

- 2030:   Protestors attempt to shut down the Washington economy by hiring a fleet of driverless vehicles to drive around the Capital Beltway in an endless loop at 20 miles per hour.  Since everyone else on the Beltway is so engrossed in being part of the story via their Twitter feeds, everybody wins.

-  2035:  Vehicle Miles of Travel finally exceeds Person Miles of Travel  - there’s no reason anymore to go looking for an ATM or a public restroom – just order one up and it’ll meet you at the curb.

OK, so it’s not very likely that any of these things will really occur.  Given the market responsiveness on the matter it appears that whether you’re a planner or not, what does happen is up to you.

–Dan Hardy, Cities That Work Blog

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Minding Your Money - Should Planners Care About Revenue Per Acre?

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Minding Your Money - Should Planners Care About Revenue Per Acre?

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Some revenue-strapped local governments and smart growth advocates are finding common ground on the subject of how new development can be more fiscally productive for the city or county budget. Planners are being advised to pay more attention to the revenue per acre (property tax primarily) of a property rather than its total revenue generated, because that signals a project that produces more revenue for every acre of land consumed. Studies from places as diverse as Asheville, North Carolina; Sarasota County, FL; and nine towns in four western states show mixed-use, higher density development in compact, walkable places like downtowns dramatically outperforming typical suburban development types like malls, big box stores and single-family housing. Source: Joe Minicozzi

What planner or budget director wouldn’t want more of the stuff on the right hand side of this chart? (Click on it to read the labels.) As a wake-up call to communities about the fiscal value of their downtowns, this sort of research and analysis is invaluable. It has similar value as additional support for developing new walkable, mixed-use places with higher densities than might be typical for a suburban locale. The financial crisis, recession and debates about government spending and debt have put financial issues to the forefront in public discussions, so being able to marshal such data to make the case for smart growth (or whatever you want to call it) is a good thing.

But as a planner with an undergraduate degree in economics who has spent much of his career dealing with the financial and real estate aspects of planning, I have a few observations about the substance and implications of this sort of analysis. Now that it is gaining national attention and being proposed as a tool for evaluating proposed development projects, the revenue-per-acre concept deserves some critical review.

Thoughts on the Theory

First off, some thoughts about the basic math and economics involved. If the focus is on revenue per acre, then obviously the more building space you construct on a parcel the more property taxes that parcel will generate. That means taller buildings and denser development. But there are natural limits to how tall and how dense you can build, and where you can build in such fashion. Just as trees don’t grow upwards forever, buildings can only go so high and downtowns can only expand so far according to a variety of factors determined by the local context. Tall buildings cost more to build, and thus must command higher prices in the market to be economically feasible. Downtowns, major employment centers, and other locations where people and businesses really want to be are going to be more valuable places to build, and thus able to support more-intense development and a greater range of uses (see Central Place Theory). Development that is farther out from these places uses more land and spreads out more for a reason: the land is cheap enough to do so. This is why a Target store on the Near North Side of Chicago can have three stories when the typical suburban store will only have one, and the one-story store has a big parking lot while the three-story store has a three-story attached parking garage. The density, intensity, and construction type reflects the land value and market demand.

Image Source:  Walsh Construction

So revenue per acre is a useful observation, but only up to a point. There are places where higher revenue per acre can be achieved, and those are the places we should protect, reinforce, and potentially expand using appropriate planning policies, and guide development toward using economic development tools. And there are places that are not as valuable, which host less-intense development and provide particular characteristics that are demanded in the market. Single-family neighborhoods are a good example of such places, as are the retail centers that serve those neighborhoods. These places may not produce as much revenue as a five-story mixed-use building on a per-acre basis, but they can produce as much revenue as the market will bear and are valuable components of a community’s tax base.

Turning the Diagnosis into a Prescription

The fiscal problem of suburban sprawl, as outlined in compelling fashion by the folks at Strong Towns, is that we have spent several decades building primarily lower-valued places, neglecting our existing higher-valued places, and not building enough new higher-valued places. And the infrastructure required to serve these lower-valued places is expensive enough that we are not getting enough return on our public investment. A community that consists mainly of single-family homes and strip shopping centers may not have enough revenue coming in to cover its capital costs when the time comes to replace its roads and utility infrastructure – and some towns are starting to have trouble already.

Looking at revenue per acre has helped us to diagnose the fiscal problem with our growth patterns, but we need to be cautious and thoughtful in how we turn that diagnosis into a prescription for better fiscal health. A deliberate policy to maximize the value of new development risks pricing out people who can’t afford it, because more-valuable property translates into higher home prices and commercial lease rates. A well-intentioned revenue strategy risks becoming a new form of the fiscal zoning policies that some communities have used to keep out low- and moderate-cost housing, rental apartments, and other uses deemed fiscally undesirable.

Planning for Fiscal Health

This is a new area of planning that is still developing its theoretical foundation and analytical tools, so it will be interesting to watch it evolve. The fact that we are having this discussion at all is a good sign of progress. My initial thinking is that broad-based, rigorous, and integrated planning that incorporates these fiscal and economic issues will be the best way to go. Calculating the public ROI of individual projects and reviewing them on that basis seems too close to fiscal zoning, and ignores the cross-subsidization between places in a community and the value that they create collectively. In a healthy community, downtown supports the outlying neighborhoods and vice versa – it’s not every property for itself. I’m more inclined to the approach laid out in this white paper that uses property value as an indicator for measuring neighborhood quality of life, and then directs financial resources to neighborhoods on a competitive basis. That way you are prioritizing your capital projects and other spending where it is most needed and most effective to improve the quality of life, which increases property values and ultimately revenue generation. Rather than prioritizing expensive development projects, let’s build better places where every property becomes more valuable.

–Dave Stamm, Cities That Work Blog

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Getting Down to Business

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Getting Down to Business

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Considering the job losses, declining tax revenues, and other economic disruptions of recent years, it’s not surprising that economic development has become a high profile subject for planners. Just look at the first two key findings of national survey by APA from a year ago: “Less than one-third of Americans believe their communities are doing enough to address the country’s economic situation” and “very few Americans believe that market forces alone will improve the economy and encourage job growth.” Cities, counties, and other public and quasi-public organizations are keen to take action, and a popular place to start is with an economic development strategic plan.

Region vs. City

So what makes a good plan? I think there is a critical distinction of geographic scale that must guide the strategic planning process from the start. The relevant factors and effective strategies are different for region than for a city. (Counties tend to fall somewhere in between, with elements from either of these two scales potentially being relevant depending on the local context.) Most of the tools and terminology used in economic development planning today is geared toward regions, such as the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s requirements for preparing a grant-funded Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Since many researchers (such as the Brookings Institution) are increasingly focusing on metro areas as the key geographic unit of analysis in addressing economic development, this seems to make sense. They are large enough to encompass a common set of economic dynamics while still exhibiting local characteristics that differentiate one place from another.

Cities, on the other hand, are typically much smaller and there are many of them present in a large urbanized region. Because people and goods are highly mobile, economic activity in one city is linked to other cities across the region. City boundaries mean little to commuting or shopping patterns – people just go where they need to go, and businesses locate themselves where they have the best chance of benefiting from that activity. So the most relevant factors for a city’s economic development strategy are likely to be different from those for a region’s strategy. To put it simply, a region should be more concerned about the types and characteristics of its key industry clusters, while a city should focus more on whether it offers development sites or work spaces that are attractive to the companies that make up those industry clusters.

Good Examples

A good economic development plan for a region probably looks a lot like Charleston, South Carolina’s Opportunity Next strategy. It looks at a host of relevant trends and existing conditions, compares the region to both peer metros and leading metros that provide successful examples, and identifies both target industry clusters and local “core competencies” that should be the focal points of business recruitment and retention strategies, workforce development, and infrastructure development. The plan is a roadmap for the entire region, but the priorities it lays out will be accomplished in different ways according to local conditions and resources with help from the regional development authority.

At the city level, where deals are struck and investments are made, a good economic development plan should directly address the strengths and weaknesses of a place that are relevant to business decision-makers. The ten factors contained in a self-assessment tool created by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy demonstrate what a city’s key concerns should be, including access to customers and markets, concentration of businesses and services, and real estate and infrastructure. Some of these factors are also relevant at the regional level in a general way, but it’s at the city level where the details matter most.

Planning for Economic Development

And that’s where good planning comes in – planning in general, not just economic development planning. It might be easier to just throw money at companies through tax breaks and other giveaways to get them to come to your town, but that’s not a financially sustainable strategy in an era of limited resources and it leaves a city vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Wouldn’t it be better to attract business investment by being a superior place for investment? Good planning combines natural advantages with thoughtful public actions and investments to produce places where transportation accessibility, quality of life, workforce characteristics, and other qualities combine to form a place that is a good location to grow a business. The exact combination of ingredients will be different for every place, and a good plan helps write the recipe.

--Dave Stamm, Cities That Work Blog

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I am not a sheep

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I am not a sheep

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pedestrian_xwalkThere is a long overdue move afoot in Central Florida to promote walkability and enforce pedestrian safety, particularly at intersections and crosswalks. The goal is to transform the Orlando metro area from a "killing field" for pedestrians, evidenced by successive years at or near the top (along with other Florida metros) of places ranked the worst for pedestrian and bicyclist safety. As trends continue toward creating more walkable places and complete streets for economic development and livability, and people - particularly older and younger folks - are driving less and seeking places to live and work that are more accessible by means other than driving a car - this is an incredibly important initiative. We've long been far too complacent in marginalizing those who walk, bicycle or take transit in favor of speed and convenience for autos and trucks. While community design plays a big role in pedestrian safety, culture can play an even bigger role in whether people comply with laws protecting pedestrians and practice basic courtesy and common sense. Motorists need to look for pedestrians and expect them to be present on any surface street. Elected officials and public agency staff need to make pedestrian accessibility and safety a priority. Law enforcement needs to take violations seriously and take part in both education and enforcing laws. The Florida Department of Transportation is stepping up to do its part.

A Cultural Blind Spot

A dangerous intersection in Winter Park, FL when pedestrians do not use the signal properly.

But it's the culture that is the most pernicious challenge. We're a nation of mostly ignorant pedestrians and aggressive auto drivers, which is a bad combination.

Many walkers cross a street wherever convenient, even if they are mid-block just a few feet from a signal crosswalk. Too busy to wait with the 64 oz soft drink from the Circle K store? Too many of us stare into our phones as we step from the curb. Many motorists, for their part, accelerate through yellow lights, using only the narrowest field of vision centered on the tail-lights of the vehicle in front of them.

It has been said that driving is a fundamentally moral endeavor. People expect others to follow the rules of the road; to yield the right-of-way, move to the right when driving slower, and to signal their intentions. Why should non-motorized traffic be different?  Yet, for whatever reason, I am often castigated by some co-workers and colleagues as being a sheep when I go a few feet out of direction to use crosswalks or wait at the intersection for the pedestrian signal. It's somehow lame to wait at the intersection. The same is also true of many urban cyclists who ignore traffic signals, ride willy-nilly on sidewalks, drive through parking lots to cut the corner, etc. Is it because they are too busy or just too cool for school?

Then we have the timid pedestrians, who are too fearful that cars will not stop to assert their proper right to enter a crosswalk with the signal, even on slow speed, pedestrian-oriented streets, so they wait until the coast is completely clear or a large gap occurs in traffic. This creates confusion and risk, and conditions motorists into believing they do not need to yield to pedestrians.

Your Inalienable Pedestrian Rights

I think the remedy is to re-assert the primacy of pedestrian right-of-way, and to do so in keeping with the laws and moral rules of the road. I take the initiative to be an assertive pedestrian and cyclist who boldly steps into the crosswalk when walking - first making eye contact and using hand signals when necessary to make my intentions clear - and controlling the traffic lane when bicycling to my destination. When walking or bicycling, it's important to model the rules of good behavior because so many people ignore the rules, confuse the situation for everyone, and often put themselves at risk. Yes, I want to do what is legal, but I'm no sheep. Walkers have their rights and their responsibilities.

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I'll take the ribbing and roll with it, but it underscores a fundamental issue with our culture and peer pressure that subtly undermines efforts to make our streets safer for all users.

It's good to question authority and, when necessary, flout the rules of authority when you believe the rules are arbitrary, punitive or petty. It's a grand tradition of Americans to challenge the authority of those who would govern our behavior and rights as free citizens. But that doesn't apply to traffic laws and our rights and duties as users of the transportation network. Whether we drive, take tranist, walk or bicycle, thee system functions best when we accept and follow the rules of the road and acknowledge the array of social mores that go along with them.

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Talk Planner to Me

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Talk Planner to Me

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Millenium Park in Chicago Last week I had the pleasure of attending my first American Planning Association National Planning Conference in Chicago. The experience was invaluable and inspiring; with 5,000+ planners packed into one place, I felt right at home. It was a great opportunity to network, learn about the latest trends in planning, and listen to the renowned speakers who reaffirmed my passion for planning. Between all of the interesting session options and mobile workshops, not to mention the multitude of activities Chicago has to offer, my only regret is that I was unable to be in 10 places at once. In my free time I visited Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago, and biked along the Chicago Lakefront Trail.

One of the sessions I attended was called “Fast, Funny and Passionate,” in which presenters were given seven minutes to present on a topic of choice, usually in a humorous way. Interestingly, three of the presenters discussed the misconceptions the general public has about the planning profession. I couldn’t help but laugh because when people ask me what I do and I inform them I am an urban planner, 90 percent of the time I receive the following response: a smile and head nod, followed by “So what exactly is that?”

As defined by the APA, planning “is a dynamic profession that works to improve the welfare of people and their communities by creating more convenient, equitable, healthful, efficient, and attractive places for present and future generations.” Great definition, but how does that translate into real life? One of the presenters in the Fast, Funny and Passionate session described planning as often intangible, then challenged us to make planning more tangible by spreading knowledge about what planning is and what it stands for. The following is a tiny snapshot of what planners do using brief examples of some of the interesting planning efforts and emerging trends I learned about while attending the conference.

What Do Planners Do?

Planners research and evaluate trends in demographics to determine the potential impacts on communities. A growing concern is the aging population and their ability to “age in place.” Renaissance’s Whit Blanton authored a White Paper on the subject that was presented during the Delegate Assembly, which addressed potential policy responses for the impact “Graying of America” will have on communities.

Planners develop design guidelines for transportation infrastructure. Renaissance’s Vlad Gavrilovic presented the Multimodal System Design Guidelines developed for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. The guidelines provide a framework for multimodal projects at the regional, community and corridor level, with a step-by-step process for implementing the guidelines.

Planners perform technical analyses to assess the possible impacts different plans and growth trends will have on the community, city, or region. Scenario planning is becoming a preferred method of this type of analysis, with nearly two-thirds of planning agencies having used scenario planning, as noted by Renaissance’s Kate Ange. That statistic comes from a survey Renaissance conducted for FHWA to assess the state of scenario planning as a tool for planning agencies. Additionally, more than 50 percent of respondents noted the need to engage stakeholders and citizens in long range planning as their main purpose for using scenario planning. The Cape Cod Commission embarked on a scenario planning effort called the Regional Wastewater Management Plan (RWMP) to alleviate wastewater problems occurring from septic tanks leaking into the watersheds of Cape Cod. The Commission used scenario planning in real-time at public workshops to quickly show the public the impact different wastewater treatment options will have on their communities and to allow them to decide what treatments their communities would receive.

Planners develop innovative funding strategies to improve their communities. To comply with California Senate Bill 375 to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions by 15 percent per capita by 2035, San Francisco implemented a grant program to tie transportation funding to focused development. The One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) is an incentive-based program that encourages compact growth by awarding transportation grant funds for projects located in Priority Development Areas (PDAs).

Planners address sustainability issues. Sustainable Jersey is a sustainability certification program for municipalities in New Jersey. Launched in 2009, the non-profit organization certifies communities that have taken specific actions to become more sustainable. Some of these actions include conducting energy audits for all municipal buildings, assessing the municipal carbon footprint, and adopting a water conservation ordinance. Points are awarded per each action and are added up to determine the level of certification achieved: gold, silver or bronze. The program also provides training workshops and priority access to grant funds.

Design Concept for Stormwater Management in Philadelphia Photo Credit: Philadelphia Water Department

Planners work to mitigate stormwater runoff that can harm lakes, rivers and streams. To address stormwater issues, the City of Philadelphia Water Department developed a 25-year plan to convert 9,564 impervious surface acres into greenland acres. The plan, called Green City, Clean Waters, implements green infrastructure systems that will reduce flooding risks, improve water quality, and enhance the aesthetics of Philadelphia by greening the city.

Why Planning Matters

The world is ever-changing. We have limited resources and limited space with a continuously growing population. A large portion of this population is aging and we must anticipate and plan for their changing needs. The sea-level is rising, forcing many communities to consider the impact this will have on their residents and economy. Lack of affordable housing in downtown areas has contributed to the reliance on the car; the reliance on the car has contributed to America’s obesity epidemic and dependence on unsustainable energy sources.

There are many interconnected issues that planning addresses, and those mentioned in this post only scratch the surface. To sum it all up, I leave you with a quote from APA President Mitchell Silver during his opening conference speech, which I think succinctly gets to the heart of planning: “We are the profession that addresses the uncertainty of the future.”

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