Smart Communities Network banner

WelcomeContactSite IndexNewsletterEspanol

Sustainable Transportation

Key Principles

Public Involvement

Role of Information


Success Stories

Codes / Ordinances

Articles / Publications

Educational Materials

Other Resources

Sustainable Transportation Introduction

Also visit U.S. DOE's FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies Program

Many communities have reached a crossroads. If they build a new highway, traffic will stop backing up--at least that’s the initial rationale. Citizens will stop calling to complain. Everyone presumably will be satisfied--for a while. This "solution," however, is short-lived. 

When pavement is laid, more vehicles come. With more vehicles, comes more smog. Autos are a major contributor to global warming. Their pollution also causes severe health problems for many. Traffic congestion, already costing us an estimated $168 billion annually in lost productivity, is expected to triple in coming years, wasting more productivity and fuel and worsening our air quality. 

Our auto habits have caused increasing dependency on oil imports, much of it coming from unstable parts of the world. In 1970, 23 percent of America’s petroleum was imported. Today, we import more than 54 percent of our petroleum needs, and this number is estimated to reach more than 60 percent by 2010. The cost of oil imports to U.S. consumers totals some $50 billion annually. And in addition to the cost of oil imports, the cost of productivity loss, and the cost of congestion, we must add other social costs of transportation, such as traffic deaths and injuries, and pollution 

Some communities have found a promising new course for handling growth and their transportation problems. Planners refer to these ideas as "livable" or "sustainable" communities. By whatever name, these plans focus on people, rather than on cars. 

"Creating sustainable transport systems that meet people’s needs equitably and foster a healthy environment requires putting the automobile back into its useful place as a servant. With a shift in priorities, cars can be part of a broad, balanced system in which public transport, cycling, and walking are all viable options." --Marcia Lowe, Worldwatch Paper 98, Alternatives to the Automobile: Transport for Livable Cities, 1990, Worldwatch Institute 

Back to Top