by John D. Hendrickson and Elaine Linn, PLA, ASLA
As landscape architects, we are highly in tune with the principles and practices of land use planning and, for most of us, it is part of our everyday professional life. Although we are often commissioned to design a single site, we know better than anyone the tangible implications to the surrounding areas, the community, and the regional context our designs may impact. So where does site-specific design stop and land use planning in a broader context begin? How do we best steward the resources and demographics in a global and holistic context? To answer these questions we may need to take a look at the connectivity between land uses. And to do that, we are going to tap into the fields of transportation planning and engineering, and analyze how they overlap with our contributions as landscape architects to the modern world of land use planning.
For this article, we have asked for the perspective of a seasoned transportation planner with over 25 years of experience in analyzing, managing and directing statewide projects and programs in transportation operations, safety and future-ready transportation. John D. Hendrickson, AICP, an Assistant Vice President at WSP and is the director of a traffic engineering and transportation planning group for clients throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mr. Hendrickson is also currently the President of the Virginia Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (VASITE). One of his goals as a transportation planner is to improve communities by blending sustainable transportation systems with sustainable land uses. The result is the creation of complete and efficient roadway networks that allow for multi-modal opportunities that analyze existing operational and safety challenges and develop solutions. Below are John’s perspectives on transportation and land use planning, and the critical importance of each.
According to John, one cannot successfully and comprehensively master plan without strong consideration for the linkages of transportation. Historically, the heavy lifting of transportation network design has been reserved for the traffic engineer. Not so today! The practice of designing for transportation is no longer exclusive and, therefore, is losing its defined boundary. There was a time when landscape architects master planned sites and the extent of their involvement in transport was streetscape beautification. The traffic engineers calculate for appropriate access, intersections and signals on the roadway network. The discipline of transportation planning evolved to develop long range transportation plans and models of transportation elements, but may have been missing the detail of specific site impacts.
In this isolated world, specific site development was defined as traffic generation when impact was estimated and direct access points to properties constructed. However, the realities of modern transportation planning require the balancing of the technical elements of infrastructure building and the social elements of equitable mobility opportunities. To be more sustainable, our transportation networks are strongly tied to land use and the mixed-use populations they serve. Priorities have shifted to be less about moving a single user and more about using the transportation system to maximize connections between nodes and among various user groups. Transportation planning has adopted a more global approach toward the roadway network for increased sustainability. For instance, within an urban core, sustainable transportation systems reflect public health and mobility and strive to serve a larger socio-economic demographic through multi-modal transport. An example of this can be seen within central business districts with an emphasis on options that highlight multi-modal and non-motorized mobility.
In more suburban developments, the marketability of a mixed-used neighborhood core within a large development (i.e. the “town center”) largely depends upon its promotion of shopping, services and recreation, and benefits like proximity to employment, shorter drive times and the inclusion of multi-use paths to promote commuting and recreation options. This results in fewer vehicular trips on the major collector streets and arterials. The concept is referred to as internal capture and is encouraged for town centers’ viability. In the public realm, creating places of character where neighbors can meet and share space is optimal, as opposed to waving to one another as they drive by in their automobile on the road.
Investment in modern transportation now considers the mobility of its users, and not just high speed connectivity from one parcel to another. Furthermore, sustainable land use and transportation must plan for the above while still holding fast to sound engineering principles. These principles exist for the implementation of access management, safe connection spacing, optimized operations, reduction of vehicular conflicts at intersections and safe non-motorized participation. This generates, for instance, a reduction in residential and commercial driveways along arterial roads, a reduction of median openings, and coordinated signal timings. The removal of lower order “short” trips from our major arterial roadways, and a lessening of side friction from minor streets and driveways allow for roadways to operate more effectively and safely for all user groups.
This evolution of modern transportation planning only strengthens the connection between land use and transportation at a critical point in time… transportation systems that must be efficiently, attractively, equitably, and safely connected to land use, infrastructure and community, as well as allow for innovation such as the autonomous vehicle. Regardless of the letters behind our names, the future is bright for us all to assume leadership roles in the development of strong connectivity between land usage and the transportation systems between.
To learn more about John Hendrickson and the work of WSP, visit www.wsp.com