Smart growth and the automobile

The remainder of this paper makes the explicit assumption that a reduction in auto dependency is integral to any smart growth policy. This does not imply an anti-automobile approach, but rather one that accepts that "taming the automobile" is essential. Automobile use will clearly continue under any feasible vision of the future. In particular, local, short-distance trips (such as going to the grocery store, taking a child to the hockey arena or soccer field, short work commutes) are not, in many cases, overly problematical either with respect to congestion or environmental impact, since such trips are often not highway-based, often occur in non-peak times, and often involve multiple vehicle occupants (in which case, the energy efficiency and pollution per passenger-km are both relatively reasonable for modern cars).

At the same time, however, it must be recognized that overall auto usage in our urban areas is becoming pathological in terms of the ever-growing negative impacts. Experience within the Central Ontario Zone and elsewhere throughout the world shows that we cannot build our way out of these problems. In other words, more roads simply lead to more sprawl and more congestion.5 Thus, alternatives to current modes of travel behaviour and urban development simply must be adopted. Inevitably, the alternative modes of travel consist of transit, non-motorized trip-making, and/or making fewer, shorter trips. Achieving this shift in travel behaviour will require significant changes in how we continue to develop our urban areas in the years to come.

5. This is not to say that a new road or highway should never be built. It simply means that a transportation policy that focuses exclusively or even predominantly on road-building to solve transportation congestion is doomed to failure.