Land Use and Transportation Relationship

The transportation system’s purpose is to move people and goods from one place to another, and, in doing so, transportation systems affect community character, the natural and built environment, and economic development patterns. The transportation system can improve the economy, shape development patterns, and influence quality of life and the natural environment.

Land use is the way in which, and the purpose for which, land and its resources are employed. Fundamentally, the relationship between land use and transportation is reciprocal: increased land use intensities in a community typically increase demand for transportation facilities and services; and transportation facilities and services typically are catalysts for land development. This cycle is continuous and repeats itself as land use activities grow to demand increased transportation capacities.

Transportation investments often contribute to economic growth. Beyond land use improvements, successful business retention and recruitment activities, for example, can generate demand for capital investments in new or upgraded transportation facilities and/or services. Economic development efforts that help shape employment or commercial centers also shape commuting and travel patterns.

Land development and most economic development projects depend on the availability and adequacy of transportation facilities and services. Other public facilities and services, such as, water capacity improvements; sewer capacity improvements; storm water management; greenspaces; and school capacities, also have an impact on a community’s ability to accommodate land use changes. The timing, location and cost of water, sewer, and road facilities can have a significant impact on land use patterns; and the density and intensity of land development is influenced by the availability and adequacy of these public facilities and services. Land use changes, in turn, create a greater or lesser need for roads and public transit.

OKI’s Strategic Regional Policy Plan encourages land use patterns that promote multimodal travel and the efficient use of land, natural resources, and public facilities and services.

Demographic Impacts on Land Use

Future trends in land use demands and development patterns are best predicted by considering the needs and likely preferences of our future population. Although it is impossible to precisely predict these preferences, we can examine our current population and forecast future land use trends based upon future housing and transportation needs. Understanding what our future population’s housing, shopping, and commuting needs provide a basis for understanding what our long range planning needs will be.

As described on this Plan’s Demographics page, two significant generational cohorts are expected to influence land use development patterns in the next decade; the Millennials and the Baby Boomers.

Baby Boomers

In recent years, planners have expected the Baby Boomers to downsize their housing once becoming empty nesters. The expectation was this generation would enter and spend their retirement years in smaller homes. In 2014, approximately 20 percent of the Baby Boomer generation are in retirement age (over 65). Nationally, according to surveys conducted and reported by the Demand Institute in 2013:

  • Most Baby Boomers intend to retire during their mid-sixties, despite decreases in wealth due to the Great Recession.
  • Most Baby Boomers plan to retire where they are, or “age in place” (63 percent)
  • 75 percent feel their current homes are places they can stay as they get older.
  • Of the 37 percent of Baby Boomers expecting to move, 46 percent expect to upsize, not downsize their home.


Millennials have now entered the work force and many have begun to start families.  Most research on this generation regarding housing have indicated a preference toward more urban environments and higher density, primarily rental housing stock. Whether this preference is driven by the Millennials’ demand for lower maintenance urban living or by financial limitations in their buying power due to many remaining under employed as a result of the Great Recession, is yet to be seen.

Research published by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in 2015 shows that most millennials are not living in the downtowns of large cities, but rather are living in less centrally located but more affordable neighborhoods, making ends meet with jobs for which many feel overqualified, and living with parents or roommates to save money. Still, despite their current lifestyle constraints, most are optimistic about the odds for improving their housing and financial circumstances in the years ahead. According to the Demand Institute in 2013:


Millennials expect their financial situation to improve and 74 percent plan to move in the next five years.


Millennials either already own a home or plan to own a home.


Millenials expect their next home type to be a single-family dwelling.


Millenials expect their next home to be in a suburban location.


Millennial households own a car.

This research also indicates that Millennials are demonstrating a preference for more walkable suburban environments with their homes to be within walking distance, or a short drive, to amenities such as a grocery, restaurants, and parks. According to ULI, “despite the trade-offs they are making for affordable housing, millennials remain steadfast in their preferences for neighborhoods with urban characteristics, such as a high degree of walkability, transportation alternatives, and easy access to shopping (and) entertainment”.

Transit Friendly Land Use and Development Patterns

Both Baby Boomers and Millennials benefit from having more transit options. As Baby Boomers continue to age, having choices for travel other than driving a car are more appealing and necessary. Land use and development patterns have an impact on the viability and likelihood of transit as a transportation mode. Higher densities and walkable development patterns in growing and infill areas can make transit more feasible by creating destinations and concentrated populations that may choose to use transit as an alternative to single-occupant automobile trips. Transit development plans can facilitate the design of a system that incorporates multiple modes of transit service, links stations/stops and adjacent land uses, and integrates station/stops into neighborhoods. The recommendations of transit development plans typically focus on the desired outcomes of transit-friendly development including accessibility, walkability, and interconnectivity and high levels of ridership.

The Strategic Regional Policy Plan

Due to the inseparable connection between transportation and land use, the role of the OKI Board in developing the Strategic Regional Policy Plan (SRPP) and the integration of the SRPP recommendations with the region’s transportation project prioritization process, this regional transportation plan incorporates, by reference, the Strategic Regional Policy Plan Goals, Strategic Issues, Objectives and Policy Recommendations, as adopted in September 2014.

The How Do We Grow From Here? – Strategic Regional Policy Plan contains a vision for regional vitality, sustainability, and competitiveness, focusing on the land use–transportation connection.

Conceptually, the strategic planning process addresses four questions:

  • Where are we as a region?
  • Where are we going given current trends?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How do we get there?

Six strategic subject areas guide and focus planning efforts to achieve the overall regional vision.


Public Facilities

Natural Systems


Economic Development

Land Use

Each subject area of the SRPP contains an overview, a goal, the trends and conditions associated with each strategic regional issue in that subject, and objectives and policy recommendations that address each of the issues.

Public Health Considerations

The OKI Strategic Regional Policy Plan (SRPP) recognizes the relationship between community development and public health. The SRPP suggests local governments consider public health in the land use and development decision making process. Specific qualities of the built environment that contribute to public health include potential health hazards, access to healthcare, healthy foods, and spaces for physical activity. The Federal Highway Administration provides suggestions regarding the linkage of planning and public health as one of its tools and practices for integrating health in transportation. Since 2011, public health professions have been engaged by the OKI Regional Planning Forum and have provided valuable information to attending professionals of other planning disciplines, including sharing examples of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) efforts conducted within the region on a variety of projects.

Plan4Health – Improving Access to Healthy Foods

In 2015, OKI actively led a team of partners in Northern Kentucky on a Plan4Health initiative. Plan4Health is supported nationally by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and led by American Planning Association’s (APA) . The national Plan4Health program envisions the full integration of planning and public health were we live, work, and play. Through an overarching collaborative strategy that brings together members of the APA and the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Plan4Health project aims to build local capacity to address population health goals and promote the inclusion of health in non-traditional sectors.

Locally, the Plan4Health initiative formulated the Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition (KCP4H) in a partnership consisting of OKI, Planning & Development Services of Kenton County, the Northern Kentucky Health Department, and the Center for Great Neighborhoods in Covington, Kentucky. KCP4H is intended to build the capacity of the partner organizations to advance community-based strategies for providing equitable access to nutritious food across Kenton County, Kentucky. Accomplishments of the KCP4H include the preparation of a countywide assessment of healthy food retail outlets; the launching of a healthy corner store program with the goal of increasing the availability of healthy food in underserved neighborhoods in Covington, and the development of a public outreach campaign fulfilling goals of increasing community awareness regarding the health of the community, promoting the need for access to healthy food.

OKI will continue to work with communities considering the impacts of the built environment and mobility options on public health in local planning processes. Results of the KCP4H initiative will serve as a model project for our region. This initiative will strengthen local partnerships between planners, public health officials and community based organizations; a key strategy of OKI’s How Do We Grow From Here; Strategic


The Natural Environment

Environmental resources have immeasurable benefits that affect social well-being and the local and regional economies. The term “environmental resources” as used here encompasses natural systems and natural resources and can include areas defined as greenspace or as green infrastructure. The quality of environmental resources affect the region’s long-term local and regional economic viability in two fundamentally different, but related ways:

  1. The occurrence of high-quality or rare environmental resources – such as clean streams, productive aquifers, aesthetic open space, or forested hillsides – are economic assets that help sustain and can attract new development.
  2. The existence of impaired resources results in increased costs. Costs may be associated with damage or mitigation related to an individual project. The more significant cost of impaired resources, however, is the financial effect of cumulative damage over extended time, such as costs related to flood protection, repair of flood damage, and higher levels of water treatment. As high-quality resources in metropolitan areas become scarcer, project and mitigation costs are expected to increase.

Transportation planning provides the opportunity to slow negative and costly environmental impacts. That opportunity lies in making transportation improvements that minimize adverse environmental impacts and – because transportation improvements can facilitate new development – in making changes to those conventional development trends and practices that contribute to the cumulative damage of environmental resources. Regional transportation planning offers the potential to result in better decisions for improving transportation and how development occurs, with related cost benefits.

Indicators of the extent and status of some of this region’s most valuable environmental resources are displayed on the OKI Environmental Resource Viewer.

OKI Environmental Resource Viewer

Sustainability as a Planning Framework

National policy calls for protecting environmental resources. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) calls for stewardship, with each generation acting as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations, and for a sustainable environment balanced with other needs of present and future generations. It establishes procedures for considering the environmental effects of proposed federal actions so that environmental factors are weighted equally with other factors in federal decision-making. The policy of environmental stewardship is further strengthened by federal legislation such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act and by federal initiatives such as the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) process for Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL).

At a regional level, OKI progress in protecting environmental resources includes the implementation of the Strategic Regional Policy Plan and several OKI water quality management programs and initiatives in greenspace planning and response to Federal requirements for regional transportation planning. In 2014, OKI (with FHWA assistance and cooperation from the Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana authorities that manage Natural Heritage Data) obtained data to better identify the potential to reduce environmental impacts on rare species in order to conserve habitat resources and reduce transportation project costs and implementation time.

Transportation Planning’s Consideration of Environmental Effects

Environmental considerations are an integral part and increasingly important element of transportation planning. The need to protect environmental resources as part of the process for improving transportation is clarified in FHWA policy, integrated into project-level planning and has been progressively strengthened in regional transportation planning. Read more…


Discussion of Environmental Mitigation

OKI is responsible for developing a Discussion of Environmental Mitigation as part of its regional transportation planning. The discussion is for considering potential mitigation activities and areas for their application that are regional in scope and may have the greatest potential to restore and maintain the environmental functions affected by the regional transportation plan. The discussion is to be developed in consultation with appropriate federal and state agencies. A preliminary and partial beginning of that discussion is provided in an OKI report: A Discussion of Environmental Mitigation: Phase 1 Report. OKI will continue to develop a discussion of environmental mitigation in accord with federal requirements.

Air Quality

Congress adopted the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) in 1990 to address the country’s major air pollution problems. The CAAA regulates six major pollutants:  sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and ozone. As of July 2015, the Greater Cincinnati region meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for five of the six pollutants. In May 2012, pursuant to provisions of the CAAA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated nine counties in the Cincinnati area as a marginal nonattainment area for ozone under the current ozone standard. The Cincinnati ozone nonattainment area includes Lawrenceburg Township in Dearborn County Indiana, portions of the Kentucky counties of Boone, Campbell and Kenton, and the Ohio counties of Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton and Warren. Clinton County is outside of the OKI region, but is part of the nonattainment area. Ozone is formed through chemical reactions induced when sunlight reacts with volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). VOC’s and NOx occur from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Transportation-related sources are a major contributor of these pollutants. Transportation sources account for nearly one-half of the total regional emissions of VOC’s and one-thrid of NOx emissions. Industry sources account for about another one-third of all VOC and NOx emissions. The remaining “area” sources include individually insignificant sources that when added together have a significant impact, such as lawn mowers, oil-based paints, boats and dry cleaners. Following significant progress in reducing fine particle pollution, the region has attained the annual PM2.5 standards. The area must continue to maintain the standards, keep previous regulatory commitments and must continue to demonstrate transportation conformity. PM2.5 refers to a complex mixture of fine particulates, primarily from fossil fuel combustion. PM2.5 is emitted directly and will also form indirectly through reactions with precursor emissions, especially NOX. A primary contributor of transportation-related PM2.5 is diesel emissions. Although not an EPA regulated pollutant under the CAAA, emissions of greenhouse gases have been linked to global climate change. Utilizing a travel demand model and EPA’s latest emission model, OKI forecasts future greenhouse gases, ozone and PM2.5 emissions from transportation sources through 2040. These forecasts will be made in Spring 2016 and will be reported in the environmental impacts section of this Plan.

Planning for Resiliency

Extreme weather events such as prolonged heat waves, major rain and snow episodes and flooding have impacts on both maintaining and planning transportation infrastructure such as highways, bridges and culverts. While opinions vary on climate change and its causes, historical data indicate an increasing need to plan for transportation resiliency from weather impacts. For that reason, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has contracted with the Resource Systems Group for a study of climate change and extreme weather effects in Ohio to enable planning for transportation system resiliency on a state scale.

Rising temperatures can affect transportation infrastructure in a variety of ways, including freeze-thaw cycling, compromising pavement integrity in some cases; thermal expansion in bridge joints; reduced soil permeability, increasing surface run-off; and lengthening the construction season. Increasing heavy precipitation events can impact transportation infrastructure by flooding roads and bridges; causing soil erosion and slumping; increased soil moisture building up behind retaining walls and abutments; creating scour action at bridge piers and abutments; and compromising pavement integrity.

In the work for ODOT, several data sources are being examined, including the 2013 National Climate Assessment. This data indicates that Midwest temperatures have increased by approximately 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, with more than 80 percent of the change occurring since 1980, and that the warmest 13 years since the 1860s have occurred since 1990. All seasons in the Midwest are experiencing temperature increases with the most rapid increases occurring in the springtime and the winter. There have been 45 new daytime highs recorded since 2000, many of which are in the mid-March to mid-April period. In addition, five of the twelve warmest summers since 1895 have occurred since 2000. Since 1900 average annual rainfall in Ohio has increased from 37 inches to 40 inches, an increase of eight percent, with a significant portion of the precipitation increase occurring in extreme events such as 100-year storms.  Source: ODOT’s consultant for resiliency planning on a statewide basis, Resource Systems Group, in a November 2013 document entitled Working Paper 1:  Targeted Climate Change Research Scan and Expert Outreach, which in turn draws data from the 2013 National Climate Assessment. 

In addition to the analysis conducted for the 2013 National Climate Assessment, the Ohio River Basin Climate Change Project has been undertaken as a joint effort among several national and regional organizations, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. EPA, the Battelle Institute, Marshall University and the University of Cincinnati. The USACE Institute of Water Resources evaluated more than 75 climate model forecasts for future temperatures and rainfall, and used forecast periods of 2011 to 2040; 2041 to 2070; and 2071 to 2099.

Nine climate forecast scenarios were used that best represented the 75+ climate forecasts, and the climate models were run from 1952 to 2099. Retrospective runs of the 1952 to 2001 climate and river model made it possible to compare the model results with actual data from the same period, and the correlation between the retrospective model runs and actual data was within two percent on an annual basis, a good correlation for future predictions. Over the course of the multi-year forecast periods, all the scenarios indicate a general increase in temperature, with a range of 10 to 35 percent for the increase, and all the scenarios indicate a general increase in precipitation, increasing from the average of 40 inches annually received now.

When the climate is warming, there is more variability in the system, and the results for autumn show the greatest variability. Modeling results indicate mean, minimum and maximum stream flows within the historical range through 2040 except during autumn. Beyond 2040 mean and maximum stream flows are projected to increase by a range of 10 to 40 percent, which means that until 2040, flood volumes are expected to follow past patterns, while larger floods are predicted after 2040.

In terms of temperature trends, the modeling indicates that the Ohio Valley will gain about 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit per decade and then about one degree per decade from 2050 to 2099.  More rapidly increasing temperatures would likely lead to increasing evapotranspiration which would further increase climate uncertainty. In general, the modeling indicates that by the end of the 21st century, average temperatures now experienced in areas along Interstate 64 south of the Ohio River Basin will shift to being experienced along Interstate 70 north of the Ohio River Basin.

A review of temperature and precipitation trends since 1976 indicates that most observed warming has been in winter in the Ohio Valley and that most observed increases in precipitation in the Ohio Valley have been occurring from late summer into autumn and early winter. Overall, the climate models used in the Ohio Valley project also suggest that beyond 2040, minimum stream flows would decrease in autumn and beyond 2070 they would decrease annually as well.

Source: The Ohio River Basin Change Project a presentation made by James Noel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, to the OKI Groundwater Committee on February 25, 2015.