Transportation and Land Use

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 built in our communities. This affects your daily quality of your life. For example, if you live in a suburb far from where you work, and your only option is to drive on four-lane roads, you may experience daily traffic congestion. Or if you live in a denser, urban neighborhood, you may be able to ride transit or walk to work or school, assuming the roads and sidewalks are created to encourage these other forms of mobility. 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 Challenges

Wake County’s transportation woes are summed up by the region’s planners and transportation officials:

“A ticking time bomb of gridlock is on the horizon,” as road construction funding fails to keep up with population and employment growth, according to Ed Johnson, Executive Director of the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO).

“The state is changing and growing. We simply can’t build enough roads to accommodate that growth,” said Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti, testifying before the House Finance Committee on the transit bill, HB 148.

The Triangle has “no comprehensive, consistent regionwide 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. Estimates of the combined shortfall of road and transit funding for Wake County are between $6 billion and $8 billion over the next 25 years.

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.

Land Use Challenges

We are sprawling.

Despite our growing population, our population density is lower than it was in 1980. With few natural barriers to development, we have spread out into undeveloped land at a far more rapid pace than the increase in our population. Among the largest 83 metropolitan areas, we are the third most sprawled region, more so than Atlanta. 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 trips.

This pattern has increased air and water pollution resulting in impaired health for citizens and negative environmental impacts. Sprawling, bedroom communities lack a robust local economy and tax base to pay for infrastructure, police, fire and schools. Sprawl has destroyed farms, wildlife habitat and polluted waterways. Auto-dependency also affects our physical and mental health, creating fewer opportunities for exercise, family interaction and community involvement.