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Center for Community Planning and Development


The Ohio Balanced Growth Program is a voluntary, locally-driven, incentive-driven program which aims to encourage compact, nodal development patterns. The Ohio Department of Transportation provided support for this research to evaluate potential links between Balanced Growth-type policy, land use and development patterns, and transportation benefits.

A literature review was completed to understand the existing body of knowledge regarding the connection between policy, land use, and transportation. This included a scan of Balanced Growth-type programs across the US. Twenty-six US Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) were selected and reviewed for general geographic and policy characteristics. Land use and transportation outcome data were examined via scatterplot and linear regression across all of the MSAs. The results were evaluated broadly in light of policy frameworks in effect in each MSA, by categorizing land use policy into “tiers” based on voluntary vs. mandatory provisions, and applicability to private and public investment. Finally, a policy review was completed to understand the potential benefits of policy change at the state, regional, and local agency levels.

Significant relationships were found between land use patterns, measured in terms of a sprawl composite index, and transportation outcomes for freeway lane miles, hours of delay, vehicle miles traveled, emissions, and safety. MSAs with “Tier 3” policies (mandatory, rigorous policy affecting both public and private investment) clustered together on both axes (transportation outcomes and sprawl); and MSAs within states clustered together along the sprawl score axis. Otherwise, there was no apparent pattern in the location of policy tiers along either the transportation or land use axes. Possible alternative explanations that could be evaluated in the future include overall transportation investment levels; inter-state and inter-regional travel demand; size and shape of the MSA; and market, economic and social factors. Conclusions included policy recommendations for ODOT in supporting compact, nodal development at the local, regional and state levels. Future study recommendations include pursuing future data collection, monitoring and evaluation over time.