The Sustainability, Mobility, Transportation Connection

"Pete" Pointner FAICP, ALA, ITE,is an architect and planner with more than 50 years of professional experience beyond his master's degree in city and regional planning. He has been elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
Pete Pointner


Humans are dependent on nature for air, water, food, medicine, clothing, and building materials. Human communities are less sustainable when they pollute the air and water, put buildings on the most productive soils, loose soil through erosion or over use, deplete their forests and destroy the habitat of fish, birds and animals. As nature is degraded and depleted, the social and economic base of cities will decay, and in many cases, die completely. So planning for the future requires consideration of how to make communities that use the natural resources of the region without destroying them or polluting them so they are no longer of human use, That is a plan for sustainability.


Human activities involve movement for survival. Individuals must provide food, water and shelter for themselves and their families. For many thousands of years, humans moved by foot, boat or animal. In the 20th century, motorized vehicles were invented, including steam driven trains and boats. As industrialization grew, the delivery of raw materials to processing plants, and the distribution of manufactured products to markets required new forms of transport by land and sea and eventually by air. Automobiles and motorcycles, buses transported people to work and other places for shopping, education, worship and recreation. Trucks, trains and boats moved raw materials and manufactured products in great quantities and over great distances. Mobility, therefore, is a necessity for every person, institution and company.


Transportation is how mobility is provided to meet the needs of individuals and society. Of course, there are many needs, many forms of transportation and

many alternatives for the planning and design of a transportation system. A transportation plan must be developed to reflect the specific mobility needs of the planning area and all forms of transportation available, including walking, bicycle and public transport systems. The question is how to plan and design these systems and individual elements so that they meet the human needs in an efficient and cost effective manner and, contribute to sustainability. Each planning jurisdiction must figure out such plans based on their own situation and resources. However, there are some principles that may assist in this critical planning effort.

Principles for Planning Transportation Systems

There are two key facts that should be kept in mind:

  1. Transportation must be designed to serve the land uses in an area. This means consideration of how employees reach places of employment and other daily needs, and the requirements for the flow of raw materials and manufactured products.
  2. Transportation is a substitute for nearness. The need for transportation is amplified when the distance separating related land uses increases. This increases the cost of transportation and its environmental impact.

Therefore, the starting point for planning a cost effective and environmentally sustainable transportation system must be a land use plan that identifies the type, location, density and pattern of land use within the planning area. To develop this type of plan I suggest the following principles. Of course, it is easier to state a principle than to apply it but once understood, there are many sources on how to implement them.

Principle 1

Save Prime Cropland

  • Comprehensive plans at the regional level should identify agricultural preservation areas that allow a variety of compatible agricultural related uses;
  • Introduce sustainable farming and animal husbandry practices;
  • Consider land reform if necessary to open opportunities for rural persons to remain in a rural area with enough land to support their families;

Principle 2

Plan Future Growth in Terms of a Social Unit Such as Neighborhood, Village, or Settlement

  • Direct residential growth to existing settlements close to public facilities and services (especially community water and sewer);
  • Plan residential growth in terms of units that incorporate a variety of housing types
  • and daily needs within walking distance such as schools, shopping and recreation – this greatly reduces the need for motorized transportation and contributes to the health of the residents;
  • Develop industries that build on regional opportunities to reduce the need for transportation of raw materials and finished products;

Principle 3

Plan for Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure is all of the elements of the natural environment that influence and support human communities. These elements include: wetlands, surface and ground water, forests and native landscapes, urban streetscapes, parks and open space.

Integrate green infrastructure into comprehensive plans at regional and municipal level and into site design of spaces and buildings:

  • Preserve unique landscapes, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem integrity;
  • Create green corridors that provide continuity of open space and wildlife habitat and filter storm water runoff to surface water courses and ground water aquifers;
  • Design wetlands and storm water management areas for ecological, recreational, educational and scenic values as well as storm water management;
  • In arid regions, plan for the capture and reuse of rain water;

Principle 4

Adopt and Implement a Functional Classification System for Roadways

  • Establish a functional classification system for roadways based on the land uses served, the character of the traffic;
  • Identify what the transportation needs of the residents are to reach employment opportunities and consider all reasonable modes, especially those that reduce the use of fossil fuel and contribute less to air pollution;
  • Roadways should be designed to incorporate pedestrian and bicycle movement as well as public transit operations if available;
  • The functional classification system identifies a size of roadway width adequate to serve the adjacent land uses as well as meet the traffic movement function. Such a system will reduce the amount of pavement, provide the right size to serve land uses and result in less construction cost, less maintenance cost and less storm water runoff;
  • Arterials should favor traffic movement over property access and have carefully planned limited access points to protect the capacity of the roadway and incorporate beautification of the right-of-way.

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