The UGB's Role in Reducing Reliance on the Automobile

Did you know that an Oregon state administrative rule requires large cities to plan a reduction in reliance on the automobile?

The benefits of reducing the average vehicle miles (VMT) traveled per capita are many. A community feels more connected and people spend less time commuting when they live close to their desired destinations (such as school, work, or shopping). Vulnerable populations have lower living expenses when other modes of travel such as walking, biking, or transit are easily accessible. Decreasing emissions from gas and diesel-powered vehicles improves public health and helps to slow down global warming. When land use and transportation systems are planned together with these goals in mind, they serve residents more efficiently and improve quality of life.

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The Oregon Transportation Planning Rule (OAR 660-012-0035) requires “metropolitan areas to accomplish reduced reliance by changing land use patterns and transportation systems so that walking, cycling, and use of transit are highly convenient and so that, on balance, people need to and are likely to drive less than they do today” (Bend UGB Remand Joint Meeting of the Residential and Employment TACs Packet, October 7, 2015). While planning their urban growth boundaries, if a city projects that VMT per capita will increase, then the city must put plans, policies and regulations in place to move the city toward decreasing VMT.

The City of Bend is currently preparing an urban growth boundary proposal to submit to the state. At a meeting on February 10, 2016, the UGB Steering Committee voted to move forward with Scenario 2.1D, which represents about a 2.9% increase in Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled per capita relative to 2010 (this is an 8.1% increase relative to 2003).  It is likely that Bend will be required to submit a plan to reduce VMT as part of its UGB proposal.

The integration of land use and transportation systems can have a big impact on how far people have to drive every day, and whether or not they use alternative forms of transportation. Some strategies for how city planning can impact VMT are listed below. Get involved: Stay up to date on Bend's UGB adoption process by signing up for LandWatch's newsletter today.

How can cities reduce VMT?

  • Density:
    • Doubling housing density reduces VMT 4%, increases walking and transit usage 7%
    • Doubling of commercial density increases walking 7%.
  • Diversity:
    • Doubling diversity of land uses, aka “Entropy” score within one mile (0-1 score) yields -9% VMT, +15% walking, +12% transit
  • Design:
    • Intersection density is important, but measures of connectivity (% 4-way intersections) have a compounding influence; doubling intersection density yields -12% VMT, +30% increase in walking. Most influential predictor of walking.
  • Destinations:
    • Employment within 1 mile, employment within 20 and 30 minutes by auto, and employment within 30 minutes by transit: most influential variable on VMT.
  • Transportation Demand Management:
    • Changing travel behavior through strategies such as improved access to public transit, work from home programs, shared ride services, improved pedestrian/bicycle facilities, and flexible work schedules.
  • Parking:
    • The supply and price of parking have direct relationships with travel behavior. Too much parking correlates with more automobile ownership, more vehicle miles traveled, more congestion, and higher housing costs. Excess parking presents barriers to smart growth and efficient transit service.
  • Transit:
    • A solid transit system can be a powerful tool for reducing VMT by offering a viable alternative to automobile use.
  • Road and System Improvements that Influence Walking and Biking:
    • Walking, bicycling, and transit use are increased with street and safety projects such as the addition of bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, bicycle boulevards, and enhanced pedestrian crossings.

(From (Bend UGB Remand Joint Meeting of the Residential and Employment TACs Packet, October 7, 2015)