Environmental Sustainability

Transportation Matters for Main Streets


Resilient Downtowns

"The fragile ecology of a city neighborhood and the fragile ecology of the Arctic stand or fall together."
- Jane Jacobs, Earth Day, 1970

Street design is among the most important environmental decisions a community makes, affecting everything from clean air and water to efficient land use and the quality of animal, plant, and human life. A well-designed, people-oriented street encourages environmental sustainability by emphasizing the inherent green features of Main Street districts, including the compact blocks, density, and green spaces that make them walkable and accessible.

Retaining the compact layout of historic cores, incorporating green and efficient streetscape elements, and reusing older and historic buildings—all core tenets of people-oriented streets—positively contribute to the environmental sustainability and resilience of downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.

Adverse effects of car-oriented streets can include:
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Flooding due to impermeable road surfaces
  • Water pollution from heavy metal and toxic chemicals
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation
  • Heat Island Effect
  • Resource consumption
People-oriented approaches can result in these environmental benefits:
  • Reduced climate impact
  • Biodiversity, flood control, and water management
  • Resilience
  • Energy efficiency and resource preservation
  • Cooler surface temperatures


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