What Americans Want: Growth OK If It's 'Smart'

Majority favor walkability, transit solutions.

January 1, 2008

High energy costs are making Americans think twice about rampant development. Overwhelmingly, people want developers and local governments to make their communities less dependent on cars by rethinking land use and pouring resources into public transportation, according to a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and Smart Growth America.

Asked to select the best approach to reducing energy use, more than 80 percent said they favor building communities so that people can walk more, and almost 90 percent favor providing public transportation, including rail and buses. In a similar vein, 75 percent say the cure for escalating traffic problems isn’t more roads but walkable communities and more transit choices.

“What these survey results show is that, with increased traffic congestion and longer commutes, people are receptive to new ideas that enable them to cut down on their driving,” says NAR Past President Pat V. Combs.

Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America, says the ‘new ideas’ that people are looking for involve new ways of thinking about growth. “Americans see smarter development patterns as a viable way to reduce the time they spend in the car,” he says.

One way to create walkable communities is to redevelop existing areas. More than 80 percent prefer that kind of development over building new.

Along with showing little appetite for more roads, Americans overwhelmingly reject privatization of roads. Almost 85 percent say no to localities selling roads to toll-charging private companies, and two out of three reject allowing private companies to build new roads.