Professional Practice

Transportation: Urban

Traffic congestion cost American cities $305 billion in 2017 – costs felt in lost productivity, increased transportation costs, and wasted fuel. Other unaccounted for costs include pollution, poor public health, and damaged ecosystems.

When it comes to urban transportation, we can do better.

At the core of any sustainable city’s success is a comprehensive public transit system with walkable neighborhood connections. Public transit results in:

Public transit systems should be affordable, reliable, frequent, and accessible for all residents, regardless of address, race, age, disability, religion, national origin, or socioeconomic status. Equitable urban transit connects residents to family, friends, services and jobs, allowing everyone to fully participate in a community’s economic, civic, and social life.

City streets should be multi-modal and interconnected, offer a variety of options for travelers, and discourage conventional automobile travel. Designing safe, complete, green streets with bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure; instituting “road diets;” reducing vehicle speed limits; and eliminating parking requirements can help to encourage healthy, low-emission transportation.

Working with landscape architects, cities can even create transportation infrastructure exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. Linear parks such as New York's Highline, Atlanta’s Beltline, and Portland's Vera Katz East Bank Espalanade illustrate the power of these kinds of parks, both as people-movers and as places for recreation, relaxation, and socializing.

Transportation infrastructure presents an opportunity for ecologically-sensitive design that integrates natural systems into the urban fabric. Urban rights-of-way can become green corridors when planted with appropriate tree and flowering plant species. Using native, pollinator-friendly plants supports populations of pollinators and the birds that hunt them, strengthening local biodiversity. Green infrastructure should be used wherever possible to help filter and manage stormwater runoff as well as support local wildlife.

In urban environments, streetlights are a major source of light pollution, which wastes energy, interrupts circadian rhythms, disrupts migratory bird flyways, and obscures the beauty of the night sky. LED lighting, while more energy efficient that conventional lighting, can exacerbate these issues if not properly designed and implemented. Streetlights and other public lighting should be designed to reduce light pollution; the SITES v2 rating system helps landscape architects achieve this goal. Specific strategies include using lower wattage bulbs, using fully shielded light fixtures that direct light downward, and running lights on timers or motion detectors so that they are only lit when needed. 

Urban transportation systems should be resilient in the face of natural disasters and the uncertainty that comes with a warming climate. In the event of natural disaster, interconnected, grid-based street networks provide multiple points of ingress and egress, allowing for individual links to fail without paralyzing the entire system. In the same way, multi-modal public transportation systems contribute to a city’s overall resilience and allow cities to more quickly recover from natural disaster.

How we move around cities is changing. New technology such as self-driving cars and ride-sharing apps offer potential benefits, but also come with immense risks if not properly managed and integrated into transportation planning. As ride-hailing services have grown in popularity, cities have seen increases in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMTs), a key indicator of car use and greenhouse gas emissions, and decreases in bus ridership. At the same time, shared mobility services, such as bike and scooter share, are part of a growing network of transportation services in cities that provide sustainable alternatives to transit and automobiles. Looking forward, autonomous vehicles and technology must exist as part of a well-balanced multi-modal transportation network, not as a replacement.


American Public Transportation Association

Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals

Global Designing Cities Initiative

National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) 

National Center for Sustainable Transportation at University of California at Davis

Transit Center

Transportation Research Board

Transportation Research and Education Center

Vision Zero Network

The World Resources Institute Ross Center for Sustainable Cities


Achieving Multimodal Networks: Applying Design Flexibility & Reducing Conflicts, U.S. Federal Highway Administration, August 2016 

Bike Sharing Needs to Be a Part of Public Transit, The Dirt Blog, January 23, 2013

Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism, National Association of City Transportation Officials, 2018

Buses—Small, Electric, and Automated—May Be Transit's Future, Curbed, November 2, 2017

Cities Safer By Design: Guidance and Examples to Promote Traffic Safety through Urban and Street Design, World Resources Institute Ross Center for Sustainable Cities

Cleveland's Active Transit Awakening, The Field blog, June 5, 2018

The Evolution of "Transit Deserts" and How to Achieve Transit Equity, Mobility, Metro Magazine, November 28, 2017

Global Street Design Guide, Global Designing Cities Initiative, National Association of City Transportation Officials, 2016

How Cities Can Prepare for Autonomous Vehicles, The Dirt blog, May 29, 2018

How to Copenhagenize Your Bicycle Network, The Dirt blog, May 9, 2018

Illumination Blues, Landscape Architecture Magazine, June 14, 2015

Infrastructure for All (Animation), American Society of Landscape Architects

Improving a City's Disaster Response—With Bikes, Citylab, October 23, 2014

NACTO Bike Share Station Siting Guide, National Association of City Transportation Officials, 2016

NACTO Transit Street Design Guide, National Association of City Transportation Officials, 2016

NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, National Association of City Transportation Officials, 2014

Private Mobility, Public Interest: How public agencies can work with emerging mobility providers, Transit Center, September 2016

Sustainable Urban Transportation Is at the Heart of a Greener Future, The Dirt Blog, January 23, 2013

Sustainable & Safe: A Vision and Guidance for Zero Road Deaths, World Resources Institute, 2018

Safe and Healthy Routes for Urban Bikers, The Dirt blog, July 8, 2014

Transit Deserts: Failing to Provide Access, The Field blog, April 30, 2015

Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in World's Cities, Yale Environment360, January 6, 2014

Vision Zero Network Case Studies

What Exactly Is a Transportation Landscape Architect?, The Field blog, February 22, 2018

With the Beltline, Atlanta Wants to Become a New City, The Dirt Blog, June 4, 2013

Will Self-Driving Cars Usher in a Transportation Utopia or Dystopia?, Yale Environment360, January 8, 2018


Interview with Jeff Speck, Hon. ASLA, Co-author of The Smart Growth Manual

Interview with Joyce Lee, Director, Active Design Program, New York City

Interview with Peter Calthorpe, Author of Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change


Access Across America: Transit 2017, University of Minnesota Accessibility Observatory, 2018

Promoting Transportation Flexibility in Extreme Events through Multi-Modal Connectivity, University Transportation Research Center, New York University

Public Transportation's Role in Responding to Climate Change, U.S. Federal Highway Administration, 2010

Recommendations for Improving Health Through Transportation Policy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Transit and Development: Increasing Transit's Share of the Commute Trip, Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit-Oriented Development


Bayou Greenways: Realizing the Vision, Houston, TX
SWA Group

Atlanta BeltLine Redevelopment Plan, Atlanta, GA
EDAW, Inc.

The Copenhagen Cloudburst Formula: A Strategic Process for Planning and Designing Blue-Green Interventions, Copenhagen, the Netherlands

Dallas Connected Cities, Dallas, TX
Mia Lehrer + Associates

Lafitte Greenway, New Orleans, LA
Design Workshop, Inc.

Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) Master Plan, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Urban Corridor Planning, Houston, TX
The Planning Partnership

City Transportation Plans

Great Streets for Los Angeles: Strategic Plan 2018-2020, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, CA

Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030, Portland, OR

New Mobility Playbook, Seattle, WA

Mobility Plan 2035, Los Angeles, CA

Move DC: The District of Columbia's Multimodal Long-Range Transportation Plan, Washington, DC





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