Transportation + Community Development

Photo: EMBARQ BRASIL via Flickr Creative Commons

Transportation infrastructure is the backbone of our cities. We work to expand and improve transit, pedestrian, and bike systems that anchor amenity-rich, walkable communities. Lowering dependence on cars reduces household transportation costs and frees up space to create places where people want to live, work and play.

Most transportation decisions in the last seventy years have been based on the assumption that every household will own at least two cars and that people will drive everywhere they need to go, from a few miles to the grocery store to 100 miles each way for work. But with household transportation costs second only to housing and as more and more people choose to live in cities, we need to rethink the outmoded auto-centric model.

For almost four decades, we have been at the forefront of reimagining how cities think about transportation and land use. We have tackled a wide range of issues, always with an eye toward simultaneously improving the environment, strengthening the economy, and advancing equity. Our pioneering Housing and Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index found that household transportation costs are largely a function of the built environment – living in dense, walkable communities with access to transit allows people to own fewer costly automobiles. The H+T Index has also shown that per capita greenhouse gas emissions are lower in dense urban areas than in sprawling suburbs.

Our on-the-ground transportation and community development work promotes quality public transportation that provides residents with transportation choices. We work with communities across the country to help them:

  • Implement planning processes that provide the public with opportunities to participate in transportation decision making
  • Reinvest in existing communities to enhance land use and quality-of-life goals
  • Provide safe travel environments with improved accessibility for all
  • Improve air quality and preserve open space
  • Invest in all modes of transportation

This vision of regional vitality fosters high-quality, low-carbon lifestyles and inclusive economic success. It works for everyone, for all communities and for regional competitiveness. Best of all, this vision can often be realized using existing infrastructure. With an inclusive planning process built around a  broad collaboration between government, business, leaders and citizens, communities can become more vibrant and prosperous and achieve lasting economic justice.

Learn more about our work in:

Transit: The United States has been underinvesting in transit for decades. The last major transit expansion in Chicago was the Orange Line to Midway Airport, completed in the early 1980s, so the region is long overdue for transit expansion to keep up with population growth. In Cook County alone, CNT has identified 10 capital projects that would move the region’s rapid transit to the next level.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD): Transportation is the second-highest household expense after housing, and living near transit makes it easier for people avoid the high cost of car ownership while still being able to access jobs, schools and other essential needs. TOD not only benefits new and existing residents, but also businesses, transit agencies, local governments, merchants, and developers.

Cargo-Oriented Development (COD):  The United States is criss-crossed by a network of freight rail lines, terminals, and intermodal yards. With freight rail growing because of its energy efficiency and our dependence on imported goods, COD can give regions a significant competitive edge resulting in jobs and economic vitality.  

“Having worked with the Center for Neighborhood Technology for about half of its existence, I can attest that it has been one of the most consistently innovative nonprofits in the country. In this urban century, CNT’s insistent focus on a sustainability rooted in community engagement and place is vital.”

Hank Dittmar
Chief Executive, The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment

Research + Further Reading

Income, Location Efficiency, and VMT: Affordable Housing as a Climate Strategy

Gregory L. Newmark Ph.D and Peter M. Haas Ph.D
July 14, 2015

This paper combines detailed travel-survey, transit-service, and land-use data to estimate a model for predicting the role of income and location efficiency in reducing household vehicle-miles traveled (VMT). The research then applies this model to census data collected in the most transit-rich areas of California. The research finds strong justification for California’s current support of location-efficient affordable housing as a strategy to reduce VMT and mitigate climate change.


Lakeview Transit-Oriented Development: Housing + Transportation Trends

CNT + Lakeview Chamber of Commerce
April 28, 2015

We collaborated with the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce on a report supporting greater transit-oriented development (TOD) activity in the Lakeview neighborhood. The paper found the number of households in the neighborhood on the decline, despite millions of dollars in development activity in the 2000s – perhaps because zoning makes TOD practically impossible in most areas. The report also found that while new TOD development has been proposed in the neighborhood, the lack of parking has been a contentious issue even though the rate of car ownership has fallen 6 percent and nearly one-third of Lakeview households own no car at all. We will continue to work with organizations like the Lakeview Chamber to accelerate TOD throughout the Chicago region.


Quality of Life, (e)Quality of Place

by CNT and Open Communities
January 15, 2015

Rail transit anchors downtowns and neighborhoods in communities throughout Chicago’s northern suburbs and across the region, but many of these communities are falling behind in creating mixed-income transit-oriented development. This guidebook offers case studies, policy recommendations, and public participation tools to help suburbs build affordable, accessible housing around transit.


Transit Deserts in Cook County

by CNT
July 10, 2014

The Chicago region's hub-and-spoke transit system leaves many people stranded in the gaps. About 10% of Cook County's residents live in transit deserts, leaving them with restricted mobility and limited access to all of the region's jobs and amenities.


Charter for the New Urbanism

Chapter by Jacky Grimshaw
May 31, 2013

This pioneering guide, the first edition of which was released in 1999, illustrates how the Congress for the New Urbanism works to change the practices and standards of urban design and development to support healthy regions and diverse, complete neighborhoods. CNT Vice President Jacky Grimshaw contributed a chapter on developing in a way that preserves environmental resources, economic investment, and social fabric.


Economic Effects of Public Investment in Transportation and Directions for the Future

May 31, 2012

This report, written by CNT for the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI), examines current economic analysis practices in state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) through examples in nine state transportation agencies and an extensive literature review. For additional understanding of the methods in practice, we also incorporated information obtained at selected metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). The increased interest and demand for better economic results from transportation encouraged SSTI to look for ways to help states improve their ability to predict and measure the economic impacts of transportation policies and investments. Accompanying the report itself is a web-based scorecard, which shows users the most appropriate economic data and tools to measure different types of economic impact.