Let Randal O'Toole take you on a tour of Oak Grove, Oregon, showing you a neighborhood that residents protected from smart growth and what planners wanted to do to it.
Find recent population estimates for your city or suburb. If 2000 census data are out, you can find them here.
Download 1998 information about highways and traffic in your urban area. Get tables HM-71 and HM-72 in either PDF format or Lotus format. Similar tables for years back to 1993 (and possibly, by the time you read this, 1999) are available here.
Find recent EPA grants to non-profit groups for smart growth. Because of abbreviations, looking up under the name of the organization doesn't always work and looking at all non-profit grants produces too many results. To narrow down your search, limit your search to "Surveys Studies Investigations (66.606)" and try searching for various terms under "Text Search" such as "smart," "growth," and "transportation."
Look up the 1990 density of your state, county, and city. However, do not use densities of metropolitan areas at this site, as they include all of the land in the counties in which cities are located, not just the urbanized land. Densities of urbanized areas are not available on the Census Bureau web site but can be found at demographia.com. Approximate 1998 densities of urbanized areas can be found in Highway Statistics, table HM-72. By the time you read this, 1999 data may also be available.
How much of your state has been urbanized and how much is open space? One answer is on pages 438 and 439 of The Vanishing Automobile. For another answer, download table one and table three for your state from the Census Bureau density site. Subtract the total area of places in table three from the total land area of your state in table one. The remainder is mostly open space.
While the Texas Transportation Institute's calculations of congestion are not perfect, they have an excellent time series of raw data, including miles of roadway, miles driven, population, and urban area densities for most major urban areas and for all years from 1982 to 1997. You can use these and other data to prepare a mobility report for your region.
Data for European, American, Australian, and Asian cities shows that smart growth hasn't worked in Europe any better than it will in the United States. Although most European nations have subsidized transit and high-density housing and penalized auto driving and low-density housing since World War II, European driving is increasing, transit ridership is stagnant, central city populations are declining, and reduced average population densities signal the rapid growth of low-density suburbs. Moreover, these same trends can be found in Asia, Australia, and Canada. These data are taken from the International Sourcebook of Automobile Dependence in Cities, 1960-1990.
How affordable is housing in your urban area? Point to "Housing opportunity index" and click on "HOI, major markets, listed alphabetically" or "listed by rank" for the latest information. The table shows the percentage of homes in each housing market that are affordable, using standard mortgage criteria, to families of median income. You can also use the data to calculate the ratio of median home sales price to the median income. In the most affordable cities, the ratio is about 1.5 to one, while in the least affordable cities it is about five to one.
What is transit's share of passenger travel in your urban area? Get 1998 transit passenger miles. Get 1998 daily vehicle miles. Multiply the latter by 365 to get the annual total and multiply again by 1.6 to get passenger miles. Add transit passenger miles to auto passenger miles and divide the sum into transit passenger miles to get transit's share of motorized passenger miles.
If you live in a city with rail transit, how productive is your rail system? First get the number of rail directional route miles. Second get the annual passenger miles of travel by rail. Divide route miles into passenger miles. Divide by 365 to get daily passenger miles per route mile. Compare with the daily miles of vehicle travel per freeway lane mile in your urban area. Multiply vehicle miles by 1.6 to get passenger miles. You can look at my summary of all these data here.
How much does your urban area spend on rail or bus transit? How much of the cost is recovered by fares? You can answer such questions using the National Transit Database. For 1998, look up:
Keep in mind that these are unlinked trips, meaning that someone who transfers from one bus to another gets counted as two trips. Apportion fares to modes either by trips or by passenger miles, whichever seems most appropriate for your area. For example, passenger miles would make more sense in Washington, DC, where rail fares vary by trip length, while trips might be more appropriate in Portland, where rail and bus fares are about the same. Then subtract fares from operating expenses and calculate the operating and capital subsidies per trip or passenger mile.
How mobile are people in your urban area? Compare miles of roads by type (interstates, other freeways, other arterials, collectors, and local streets) with miles of travel for each type in Lotus format or Acrobat format for nearly 400 urban areas.
Get all the data you need to calculate highway subsidies in your state from Highway Statistics. For any given year, you will need to download tables HDF, SF-1, LGF-1, LGF-2, and VM-2. From table HDF, add together the following for your state:
These are the diversions. Ignore state diversions because they are accounted for in table SF-1. Then add together the following:
From this sum, subtract the following from table LGF-1:
What is left are the supplementary funds. Subtract the diversions from the supplementary funds. If the result is less than zero, there is no subsidy: Road users are subsidizing something else. If the result is positive, there is a subsidy. To calculate the subsidy per vehicle mile, divide the subsidy by the total number of vehicle miles driven in your state shown in table VM-2. To get the subsidy per passenger mile, divide again by 1.6.
Identify and locate your metropolitan planning organization. This web site provides MPO addresses but not their web sites. Many metropolitan planning organization web sites are listed here.
Customize the American dream alternative for your region.
The following useful tools are not mentioned in the book but will help people improve the livability of their urban areas.
How to write an op ed article and letters to the editor.
How to review a rail transit proposal.
Understanding regional tranportation planning.
How to build an American dream coalition in your area.