Many planners argue for greater integration of transportation and land use policy. In the US, many argue that separated policy realms contributed to the system of automobility and low density cities that exist, in part because transit investment isn’t able to capitalize real estate benefits. This is different than the historical connections between streetcar companies and real estate development in nascent suburbs. In recent years transport planning, and transit planning in particular, has attempted to reshape the urban landscape through new infrastructure investment. A common refrain is that real estate developers love the “permanence of rail” when it comes to making location decisions about where to build. Another way strong connections between transportation and land use are promoted are through value capture mechanisms for road or transit projects. Overall, the contemporary debates about infrastructure tend to revolve around “how much” change to the built environment will be caused by new investment. This assumes a strong and measurable relationship between transportation and land use. Better questions may be: 1) whether the relationship is strong enough to affect change at all, and 2) are the connections between transportation and land use strengthening or weakening?
A weakened connection between transportation and land use is not a new idea. Gen Giuliano, for one, wrote about it in the 1990s. Marlon Boarnet argued more recently that changes in transportation will be a much bigger deal than changes in density moving forward. In short the argument is that ubiquitous automobility has reduced the onetime spatial advantages due to proximity to a limited number of transit options. At present there are good reasons to improve our understanding of how transportation and land use interact. Broadly speaking, there are two current approaches to transportation. First, there is massive public investment in a limited number of infrastructure projects. Such projects—light rail, commuter rail, streetcars, road expansion, etc.—represent a form of spatial planning where favored locations are gifted desirable infrastructure as amenities, with some expected transportation improvement that is mostly measured in travel time. Second, there are countless private firms working on selling personalized mobility. Taxi companies, tech-taxi companies, private bus companies, commuter shuttle services, vanpools, shared vehicles and others are all competing for passenger travel business. These companies are reacting to existing land use development and taking advantage of existing infrastructure to improve access by personalizing mass transit. Plus existing and new automakers are adapting their cars and business models to current and future consumer preferences and trends, and of course self-driving cars are coming as well.
The public model of large investment in a limited space stands in contrast to the private model of many alternatives working to customize transit to maximize accessibility across regions. The public clearly believes that the transportation and land use connections are strengthening, and the private firms are indifferent or they see a weak connection moving forward, which is why “real time data” is so important to everyone. A weaker transportation and land use connection suggests that spatial planning through infrastructure (see here for an Australian report on this issue, though this applies globally) will be ineffective, which has implications for local land use policy and transportation finance.