Thursday, October 14, 2010

Being the sprawliest sprawler limits Nashville's options

Keeping the theme of the previous post on sprawl, another new study of census data 2000-2009 indicates that Nashville sprawl contributes to higher reliance on automobile usage (obviously) and lower interest in non-automobile options that are consistent with pedestrian-oriented, walkable neighborhoods (needing to be underscored):
Automobile usage continues to decrease in the nation’s older, densely developed cities: The places recording the largest declines in overall car share were, in order, Washington, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Chicago. Those with the largest declines in non-automobile share were largely sprawling cities, including ... Nashville.

The places recording the largest increases in transit modal share were Nashville, Washington, Austin, Seattle, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and Boston. All but Austin, Boston, and Nashville have spent hundreds of millions of dollars investing in expanded rail transit system ....

The minimal nature of Nashville’s Music City Star means I won’t include it as a "significant" rail investment here.
So, our sprawling town continues to depend largely on private autos for commutes, but our mass transit system, which strictly means bus use, has increased over the last decade.

But buses are not good enough to prompt large-scale non-auto reorientation. Because we lack significant a rail system, non-automobile options in Nashville have declined. This is bad news for Nashville's nascent new urbanism: biking is down nearly 25% and walking is down nearly 40% in commute mode share, according to the census data. Biking and walking to work do not seem to be growing trends in the past decade (telecommuting is included in non-automobile shares).

Sprawl hurts us, as does the lack of a rail system, because they limit rather than expand our transportation options.

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