Skip to main content


Project Type
UTRC Research Initiative
Project Dates
01/01/2014 - 08/31/2015
Principal Investigators
Project Status

In recent years, there is growing interest in promoting the smart growth concept that aims at revitalizing land use and transportation patterns to avoid “sprawl” and to reduce negative externalities of transportation systems. The fundamental idea behind such a concept is to revitalize land use and transportation patterns to avoid “sprawl” and to replace it by safe, livable, sustainable, environmentally-sound, and green-mode-oriented communities. They involve strategies that integrate transportation and land use decisions by encouraging more compact and mixed-use development within existing urban areas and discouraging dispersed, automobile-dependent development at the urban fringe. One of their ultimate goals is to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) so as to sustain mobility and accessibility of transportation systems. While substantial research and implementation projects have been done on the applications of smart growth to passenger transport, few focus on freight movement — a critical component of transportation systems. For example, among the ten types of smart growth strategies recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.EPA) (U.S. EPA, 20071), none of them addressed the needs of freight transportation. What is more, little has been done to assess the impact of existing and proposed smart growth strategies on freight movement, particularly in urban areas. As a consequence, decisions regarding the newly placed land-use designs and patterns are often disconnected from freight transporting needs. This could lead to problems such as increased logistic cost, parking, and safety concerns in the short term. In the long run, it may also reshape freight distributions and logistic patterns at local, regional, and state levels in ill ways. The aforementioned issues point out to the genuine need for methods and modeling tools that can be used by decision makers to assess how well land use changes affect freight transportation. The reality of the situation, however, is that there are currently very few, if any, of such impact assessment tools that have gained wide acceptance and adoption by planning and transportation agencies across the country. Freight travel forecasting systems used by transportation planning organizations, particularly the four-step travel demand forecasting process, are not sensitive enough to reflect the benefits of smart growth (Loudon and Parker, 20082). Even among the newly developed tour-based or activity-based approaches that have the great potential to address travel behavior changes in response to land use, few of them consider land use and freight transportation as an integrated system. The lack of decision-supporting tools can have extremely detrimental consequences to the long-term health of both urban development and the freight industry in general.