Is your neighborhood livable? The U.S. Department of Transportation says it wants to create livable communities, but doesn’t exactly define the phrase. Though in a USDOT report, livable is probably a technical term, with a different definition than laypeople might assume. The Infrastructurist is on the case, though, and has this:

Always ready to shed light on vague transportation language, Secretary Ray LaHood came forward to clarify the term as follows: “Livability,” he said, “means being able to take your kids to school, go to work, see a doctor, drop by the grocery or post office, go out to dinner and a movie, and play with your kids in a park, all without having to get in your car.”

So what we’re talking about here is car-less (or “extreme car-light”) living in dense urban neighborhoods. Which, given the gradual movement towards urban environments, isn’t a pipe dream. But it does present a pretty drastic change to millions of Americans who have come to associate “freedom” and a high quality of life with suburban communities, cul-de-sacs, and above all, cars. As for how the administration plans to achieve this urban-based vision of “livability,” the Plan states the DOT will:

• Establish an office within the Office of the Secretary to promote coordination of livability and sustainability in Federal infrastructure policy;
• Give communities the tools and technical assistance they need so that they can develop the capacity to assess their transportation systems, plan for needed improvements, and integrate transportation and other community needs;
• Work through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities to develop broad, universal performance measures that can be used to track livability across the Nation as well as performance measures that capture local circumstances; and
• Advocate for more robust State and local planning efforts, create incentives for investments that demonstrate the greatest enhancement of community livability based on performance measures, and focus transportation spending in a way that supports and capitalizes on other infrastructure investment, both public and private.

All of which seems like a fancy way of saying, “We need more public transportation, but we’re not entirely sure how to build it.”

Is your community livable? Do you want it to be?

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