Sustainable Communities

Through its Sustainable Communities work, the Transportation and Climate Initiative strives to develop state-level tools and policies that promote more sustainable communities throughout the region. 

These efforts seek to expand transportation options that minimize environmental impacts, enhance economic prosperity and natural resource protections, and advance healthy and livable communities.

Through research, collaboration with experts, and data analysis, participating states are developing metrics and indicators that will enable them to measure their progress and success.  States agreed to a set of sustainability principles through the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) in June 2011.

Measuring Sustainability 

TCI's Sustainable Communities work involves exploring ways to measure the environmental and economic benefits of state-level sustainable communities efforts. By working together as a region, TCI helps to leverage state resources and foster sharing of states' experiences with sustainable transportation policies by providing standardized tools to measure outcomes in the same way.

Through this work, a set of measures is being developed to serve as a resource for participating TCI states' efforts to track benefits and outcomes of state sustainable community efforts. A background paper summarizes the efforts to develop sustainable communities metrics.

Participants have identified 11 preliminary categories of measures, and are currently working with stakeholders to further develop and refine individual metrics and indicators within these categories. Several states are working with TCI to explore how these metrics and indicators can be integrated into their existing programs and policies.

The potential measurement categories are intended to support TCI’s Sustainable Communities principles, and also to provide a variety of different types of indicators and measures. Following a review of these potential measures, recommendations will be developed regarding priorities and strategies for their application.  

Measures of TCI Core Goals:

  1. Fuel (and energy) consumed in the transportation sector
  2. Greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

Measures of progress towards Sustainable Communities strategies (promoting clean transportation options and compact development)

  1. Travel by different modes
  2. Proportion of development occurring inside/outside previously developed areas and/or areas designated for growth

Measures of agency actions promoting Sustainable Communities

  1. Transportation and infrastructure investment that supports each mode, that supports preservation of the existing transportation infrastructure instead of developing new capacity, and that is located in within already developed areas
  2. Benefits of infrastructure investment that supports sustainable transportation
  3. Acres of agricultural or natural lands protected

Measures of additional benefits from Sustainable Communities policies

  1. Proportion of jobs/housing near public transit
  2. Combined housing and transportation costs as a proportion of median income
  3. Proximity to amenities (e.g., shopping, health care, fresh food, recreation, etc.)
  4. Health impacts (including avoided health impacts) of transportation emissions

Policy Matters 

States across the TCI region are actively considering policy approaches and taking action to integrate more sustainable practices in their communities.

State-Level Programs and Policies Supporting Sustainable Communities 

An analysis produced by the Georgetown Climate Center about state-level programs and policies supporting sustainable communities examines what's being done to achieve sustainable communities outcomes, how their legal frameworks govern land use and transportation policies, and discusses notable programs or policies from a sustainable communities perspective.
The report also suggests potential program types for states to consider and opportunities for interstate regional cooperation through TCI. Click here to access the report.

Transportation Resilience Case Studies

A series of case studies produced by the Georgetown Climate Center detail how officials at all levels of government are preparing transportation infrastructure for climate change impacts. The case studies were developed under a cooperative agreement with the Federal Highway Administration to highlight the most innovative approaches being adopted around the country for considering climate change at all stages of transportation decision-making: planning, design, construction, and operations and maintenance.