A Division of Labor or How to Mess Up a City

I am a transportation planner/engineer. It means I plan roadways, trails, freeways, transit lines, sidewalks, perhaps even airports. It means I try to determine who is going where, how they will want to get there, and what sort of transportation infrastructure is necessary to make their travel safe, efficient, cost effective, and pleasant.

…but I am not a land use planner. Someone else decides where to build destinations.

This division of labor doesn’t make much sense. Transportation is only useful insomuch as it allows people to get from one destination to another. The most well-planned and designed transportation infrastructure is useless if it does not allow people to complete tasks. The interactions between transportation and land use are so intricate, it seems nearly impossible to consider one without the other. It doesn’t make sense to make recommendations about a roadway if you aren’t also making recommendations about the surrounding land uses. It doesn’t make sense to recommend any changes to land use without considering the transportation implications.

Yet, I’m sitting in my cube, writing the transportation chapter of a comprehensive plan for a certain city. I have no idea who is writing the land use chapter or what they are writing. I wonder if he/she and I have similar visions for the future of this city? Perhaps. I wonder if there is some process to ensure that what I’m writing is in harmony with what he/she is writing? Perhaps.

2 comments to A Division of Labor or How to Mess Up a City

  • I'm always amazed when you tell me how much of a black box you (and other transportationers) work in. It seems crazy that we can't figure out how to get you and the land use peeps in a room together for an hour to discuss your goals. Wouldn't everyone benefit? Maybe the higher ups are afraid if you get together the balance of power that supports them will be upset.