Transportation and land use are connected.
How we build roads and whether we provide transportation options like buses, rail, bike lanes and sidewalks helps determine the kind of residential and business development in our communities. As Wake County grows, we need to plan land use, zoning and transportation to accommodate more people – such as mixed-use development, in walkable neighborhoods near transit stops.
Transportation in the Triangle
The Triangle has “no comprehensive, consistent region-wide blueprint for major transit investments,” let alone the money to pay for them, according to a joint statement by the NC Department of Transportation and the region’s transportation agencies in 2007. This makes it very difficult to use public transportation-trains, buses and trolley cars-to address the problem.
The sprawl that characterizes Wake County’s growth to date only adds to the problem. The average vehicle miles traveled per day is increasing faster than population or employment, which means residents are asked to pay ever-increasing amounts of money for roads and service that nonetheless keep getting worse and worse. Meanwhile, air quality suffers as cars stay on the roads longer distances and, because of congestion, go slower.
The Impact of Land Use
We are sprawling.
Despite our growing population, our population density is lower than in 1980. With few natural barriers to development, we have spread out into undeveloped land more rapidly than our population has grown. As we have sprawled, we have followed a pattern of widely separated land uses for homes, shops, jobs, schools, and civic and cultural facilities, increasing the number and length of vehicle trips.
This pattern has increased air and water pollution, resulting in impaired health for citizens and negative environmental impacts. Auto-dependency degrades our physical and mental health, creating fewer opportunities for exercise, family interaction and community involvement. Sprawling communities also lack a robust local economy and tax base to pay for infrastructure, police, fire and schools.