Achieving Urban Sustainability: The consideration of sustainable transport in strategic spatial planning
In recent decades there has been growing recognition of the adverse effects that dispersed urban form has on the environment and wellbeing of urban residents. In response to growing urban populations and a global call for urban sustainability, spatial planning has shifted away from the case by case method of regulating urban development which facilitated sprawl, toward a long term strategic approach to planning future land use. Under this approach, a more sustainable vision of a city’s future layout is developed by local councils and implemented through a strategic spatial plan. However if strategic planning is to increase urban sustainability, it must address the most significant issue of sprawling cities; vehicle dependant urban transport systems, which result in high CO2 emissions among other impacts. Integrating transport and urban form elements is argued to be a key approach to address these issues. Planning urban form to increase density, destination accessibility, and diversity, reduce distance to public transport, and design (coined as the 5Ds of sustainable urban form by R Ewing, Bartholomew, Winkelman, Walters, and Chen (2007) all function to reduce travel demand and induce a shift to alternative modes of transport. This reduces vehicle kilometres travelled by people in urban areas and its associated impacts. If strategic spatial planning aims to increase urban sustainability then, it needs to integrate transport and urban form through incorporating and considering these five urban form elements.
In 2014, Porirua City Council, carried out a strategic spatial planning exercise to envision a future housing development scenario in its northern periphery over the next 30 years. The plan aimed to ensure sustainable, integrated, and coordinated urban and rural development. This thesis took the form of a case study to assess the extent to which the process integrated urban form and transport in its quest to achieve urban sustainability, using the incorporation of the 5Ds as a benchmark. While opportunities to support more sustainable transport modes were identified early on in the process, the planning process did not integrate transport into decisions about urban form in a way that maximised these. This was due to a range of factors including: the lack of transport related objectives; perceptions of increased density; funding issues; and resource capacity issues within the local council.