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Land Use and Transportation Planning

What is the Transportation and Land Use connection – and why does Sierra Club care?

The wrong decisions and investments in our built environment and transportation systems directly impact or natural environment. Over reliance on the automobile results in increased greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants at a time when climate change and public health concerns suggest we should be lowering them. And long commutes both generate more emissions and use more energy.

Electric and low emission vehicles mitigate some of the problems but their benefits are easily outstripped if our miles driven don't shrink. Automobile-centric development continues to take away our farm and forest lands – an irrevocable process. At the same time impervious surfaces dedicated to building, roadways and parking lots creates excessive runoff polluting our streams, rivers and oceans.

What makes for a good transportation system?

In a nutshell, people need options looking to make a trip. While the automobile has become a fixture in our culture, there is a growing segment of the populations that can't drive, can't afford a car, gas or insurance, or simply doesn't want to drive a single occupant vehicle.

For social and environmental reasons, more and more people are attracted to walkable neighborhoods with good transit service and lifestyles that don't include spending hours a day stuck in traffic. Locally, Portland's Climate Action Plan sets an objective for 2030 calling for vibrant neighborhoods in which 90% of Portland residents can easily walk or bicycle to meet all basic daily, non-work needs.

How does land use fit into this?

City and county regulations dictate where and how development will take place. These codes along with municipal investment dictate whether we're building large-lot single family homes segregated from jobs and services on the outskirts of town, or more compact developments within reach of employment and other opportunities. Similarly, they shape our commercial landscape creating big box retailers and large campus employment centers versus main street stores and restaurants and small footprint business/industrial parks.

Post World War II development has left us with automobile dominated landscapes that often make it unsafe or impossible to bike or walk and impractical/expensive to serve with public transportation. The car is often the only option for even the shortest of trips.

What is the Sierra Club’s Solution?

We are building public support to reaffirm Oregon's commitment to sound land use and protection of farm and forestlands and livable communities. There are many solutions that can meet the community's needs that do not further our reliance on automobile dependent development. We are launching efforts to advocate public policy decisions at all levels of government to promote the better choices.

The Sierra Club works with community members and economic development interests through education including presentations, workshops and direct communications to identify and fight for alternatives to inappropriate developments and highway projects. The Sierra Club has additional information on tools to stop sprawl.

How Can I get Involved?

If you would like to join the Sierra Club's efforts in protecting the environment through land use/transportation advocacy, please contact Scott Chapman for more information.