Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Atlantic Asks: Can Nashville Shake Its Sprawling Past?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 1:58 PM

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On The Atlantic's Cities blog, Kaid Benfield — the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council — takes a look at the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's vision for making Nashville a greener and healthier region.

I knew Nashville was one sprawlin' SOB, but I had no clue quite how bad we were in the grand scheme. Benfield cites a 2001 USA Today study claiming that of all metropolitan areas population 1 million and up, Nashville is No. 1 in terms of sprawl. Worse than Atlanta, Los Angeles, everywhere. Crazy.

Furthermore, a 2011 study ranked Nashville No. 1 in a 2011 report for the most hours spent in rush hour traffic per person.

Benfield has mostly positive things to say for the the Nashville MPO's plan, which includes improving existing roadways before building new ones, investing in walkable communities, shifting investment strategy more toward transportation diversity and less toward road building, and more:

I was first exposed to the new, 25-year Nashville region transportation plan as a jury member asked to review candidates for a national smart growth award. I was impressed. I am now teaching a law school seminar on sustainable communities and decided to take a closer look to see whether the region's new vision might be an appropriate case study for our class. I’m still impressed. ...

For a transportation plan, and a guiding philosophy for allocating transportation investment, that’s pretty darn good in a place that has been called one of the most sprawling and congested (and, in some reports, the most sprawling and congested metro area) in the country. The proof, as always, will be in the actual decisions made on the ground. But this is fantastic guidance for planners and citizens alike to measure those decisions against.

Read the whole story here.

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