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Re-Thinking Transportation Options In Suburbia

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Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium has released a study that proposes ways to transform suburban multifamily housing into more livable, less congested suburban communities by making them multi-modal and shifting the planning, development and design practices.

"Overlooked Density: Rethinking Transportation Options in Suburbia" notes that suburban multifamily housing has been the largest growing housing market in this country since 1970 and currently accounts for almost one in four units of housing in suburbia according to U.S. Census figures covering 1973 through 2005.

The fact that these housing developments can reach densities of 30 to 40 units/acre and are usually located along arterials and adjacent to commercial and retail development creates a potential model of smart growth in suburbia.

"The potential exists to create more integrated, sustainable, and multi-modal development in suburbia, by capitalizing on existing suburban multifamily development densities and locations," the report notes. "In many cases, the problem of reducing auto-oriented development around suburban multifamily housing is not a problem with land use or density, but site design and development."

The study explores how modification of regulation and site design practices might help transform existing and new suburban multi-family housing areas into places that offer a range of travel modes and potentially reduce the exclusive use of automobiles. The study investigates the integration of land use and transportation and also focuses on the role of site design as a critical aspect in the creation of livable, less congested and multi-modal suburban communities.

The research includes transportation and demographic surveys of suburban multifamily residents, audits/analysis of existing site designs, and interviews with planners, developers, and designers of multifamily housing developments. Case study in Arizona, Oregon, Wisconsin, Florida, and Massachusetts address what multimodal connections exist or have the potential to exist between multifamily suburban housing and adjacent uses, how is the site design of suburban multifamily housing developments promoting or impeding connections and movement between these developments and adjacent uses, and what local and/or national limitations, from a regulatory and incentive standpoint, are currently shaping the form of this development?

This report has been added to Best Practices.

Overlooked Density: Rethinking Transportation Options in Suburbia