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Housing in Transportation Planning

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What is housing in transportation planning?

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What is housing in transportation planning?

Housing in transportation planning integrates current and planned housing patterns into the transportation planning processes and supports a comprehensive land use vision for an area. Neighborhoods supported by a balanced transportation system provides better access to jobs, education, healthcare, and other services and amenities.

Housing and transportation are inextricably linked and essential to thriving communities; however, they are often administered through separate policy and planning mechanisms, leading to siloed planning throughout communities. This can strain transportation systems, negatively impact communities, and increase the time and money households spend on commuting. Considering housing in the transportation planning process can benefit communities through improved access to key destinations, lower costs for housing and transportation, and provide health and environmental benefits for all. Transportation planning agencies may also join efforts at a local, state, or regional level to address affordable housing and homelessness through a holistic approach. By joining cross-agency efforts and lending transportation expertise, integration of housing and transportation planning can also address social and public health concerns.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), encourages the consideration of housing in the metropolitan transportation planning process. Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) may address this through a housing coordination process such as adding affordable housing organizations as stakeholders for metropolitan transportation plans and using housing distribution as a factor for scenario planning.

Different actionable transportation planning paradigms weave housing considerations into planning processes, such as:

  • Smart Growth covers a range of development and conservation strategies, such as designing neighborhoods with homes near key destinations, thus giving residents the option to use a variety of transportation modes. An example of a community that has embraced the Smart Growth principles is King Farm, Rockville, Maryland, where mixed use, compact, walkable housing is near a variety of transportation choices including a private shuttle, bus rapid transit, and the Interstate highway.
  • Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is an approach to urban development that aims to improve economic development and ridership, foster multimodal connectivity and accessibility, improve transit access for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, engage the private sector, identify infrastructure needs, and enable mixed-use development and affordable housing near transit stations. Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, Texas, received funding through the Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development Planning to support TOD planning along the MetroRail Green Line, a proposed 15-mile commuter rail service between the cities of Austin and Manor.
  • First and Last Mile strategies connect people from their homes to transit (and then from transit to their final destination) through transportation infrastructure, guidance, programs, and services. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and its partners, Santa Clara County and City of Milpitas, constructed a pedestrian overpass across the Montague Expressway, connecting a residential and commercial area with the Bay Area Rapid Station (BART) in Milpitas, California. This project leveraged Flexible Funds for Transit Access, as it was partially funded through Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program funds transferred to the Federal Transit Administration.
  • Transportation Demand Management (TDM) is a set of strategies for providing travelers with effective transportation choices with the objective of efficiently using the available transportation programs and infrastructure. Commuter Connections is a regional network of transportation organizations funded by CMAQ employing TDM strategies in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, including free services and programs to assist employers and commuters.
  • Holistic approaches to homelessness - Transportation planning agencies can be valuable members of cross agency teams addressing homelessness at a local, state, or regional level. By lending time and considering policy integration or resource contributions, transportation agencies can support agencies leading these efforts, which are usually housing or health related agencies. At the federal level, USDOT is part of the United State Interagency Council on Homelessness and the House America Initiative that focuses on providing opportunities for localities to address housing affordability in areas with high incidence rates of homelessness and mitigates homelessness through the transportation planning processes and other mechanisms.

Integrating housing in transportation planning has potential benefits in the following areas:

  • Lower Transportation Costs: For most Americans, transportation cost is the second largest monthly expenditure, with housing being the first. Lower income households spend more, as a proportion of their income, on transportation. Providing access to transportation options, and linking people to key destinations like jobs, schools, and the grocery store, can lower overall transportation costs.
  • Affordable Housing: By considering both transportation and housing in the planning process, access to affordable housing can be built into regional strategies. Planning for housing density near transit facilities helps low- and moderate- income households minimize their overall household expenditures and maximize their access to daily destinations.
  • Less Traffic Congestion: Integrated housing and transportation planning enables transportation systems to operate more efficiently, helps in minimizing congestion, and increases the use of multimodal transportation options. Positioning housing near a variety of transportation modes, employment centers, and key destinations leads to shorter commutes and fewer vehicles on the road.
  • Air Quality: Communities with insufficient access to multimodal transportation options has shown to expose residents to greater air pollution and longer commutes. According to a study of the Chicago metropolitan region, living in a neighborhood within a half-mile of public transportation lowers the average household’s GHG emissions by 43%, relative to a household with no access to transit (Haas et al., 2010). Moreover, constraining growth in population and businesses in TODs can reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT)-related GHG emissions by 36-40%, because of more alternative transportation usage and a decline in automobile VMT (Nahlik & Chester, 2014). Linking transportation and housing planning together enriches community health and reduces exposure to conditions associated with air pollution, such as asthma and developmental challenges in children. Achieving air quality benefits through investing in communities integrated with transportation is also aligned with the goal of Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad to promote the flow of capital toward climate-aligned investments and away from high-carbon investments.
  • Access to Employment and Amenities for All: Creating multimodal transportation options near housing, employment centers, and key destinations can promote equity by providing mobility access for all persons regardless of age, ability, or income. In return, this will support the Biden-Harris Administration vision for communities, which is to advance racial equity and support underserved communities through federal spending. This vision is underscored in Executive Order 13985: Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through The Federal Government, which calls for a comprehensive approach for the Federal Government to transform itself—for fairness and equity to become not just ideals, but principles embedded in the daily practices by which Government serves its people.
  • Efficient Land Use: Integrated transportation and housing planning can minimize the impacts of land consumption and sprawling development and create connected communities and preserve natural resources and habitats.
  • Safety: Communities with access to a variety of transportation options often are more compact and are less reliant on cars and driving. Cities that are sprawling and focused on car infrastructure can be dangerous for other modes such as bicyclists and pedestrians. Traffic crashes involving vulnerable roadway users, like people walking, biking, and rolling, can lead to serious injury or death.
  • Livable Communities: Livable communities are designed so that most daily necessities and services are located within a short, convenient walk or bike ride to housing. As a result, communities can allocate space traditionally used for automobiles towards public space and infrastructure for active modes like walking, biking, and rolling.
  • Coordinated services: Coordination of transportation and housing during the planning process can make coordinated services easier after construction, as it can create seamless support of populations in need. This fosters personal mobility by connecting people to homes, jobs, education, medical services, and communities. Once construction on a transportation or housing project is complete, the Coordinated Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) offers tools and guides about pooling resources such as transit formula funds with HUD or HHS funding.
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What role do State DOTs, MPOs, and public transportation providers play in incorporating housing considerations into transportation planning?

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What role do State DOTs, MPOs, and public transportation providers play in incorporating housing considerations into transportation planning?

Coordination among different agencies involved in housing and transportation planning processes enables comprehensive solutions for equitable, vibrant, and connected communities. This can occur at the State, regional, and local levels.

State and Regional


  • State and regional agencies may adopt policies that promote consistency between transportation improvements and housing patterns.
  • State and regional agencies may invite affordable housing stakeholders to participate in the transportation planning process.
  • The State department of transportation (State DOT) may also consider adding a housing representative to commissions it chairs, such as a Complete Streets commission or street safety commission.
  • Metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) may incorporate housing into scenario planning.
  • MPOs may overlay Transportation Improvement Program projects on regional maps displaying community demographics such as low-income and minority communities.
  • MPOs may develop a housing coordination plan.
  • MPOs must include affordable housing organizations among the list of stakeholders and agencies whom the MPO shall provide a reasonable opportunity to be involved in the metropolitan transportation planning (MTP) process.
  • MPOs shall include affordable housing organizations as an interested party in the planning process and ensure they are provided with a reasonable opportunity to comment on the MTP.
  • Transit agencies may help foster partnerships in communities that support the development of TOD, such as affordable housing and mixed-use development around transit.
  • Transit agencies may acquire excess land that can be used for housing development.
  • Transportation costs may be incorporated into housing affordability indexes at the State level.
  • The State DOT’s long range transportation plan may incorporate policies to support coordinated housing development and transportation investments.


  • State and regional agencies may prioritize transportation projects with access and proximity to market-rate housing, affordable housing, and employment centers.
  • State and regional transportation funds may be used to incentivize new housing development, particularly affordable housing.
  • Federal, state, and regional funding may be used to fund research and planning, including enhanced use of data, and encouraging collaboration between transportation and community development or housing agencies. USDOT funding sources that may be applicable to projects integrating housing and transportation include:
    • Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development Planning - Section 20005(b) - provides funding to local communities to integrate land use and transportation planning with a new fixed guideway or core capacity transit capital investment.
    • Thriving Communities Program - provides planning, technical assistance, and capacity building support to enable disadvantaged and under-resourced communities to advance a pipeline of transformative infrastructure projects that will increase mobility, reduce pollution, and expand affordable transportation options.
    • Reconnecting Communities - provides funding to reconnect communities by removing, retrofitting, or mitigating transportation facilities like highways or rail lines that create barriers to community connectivity, including to mobility, access, or economic development. The program provides technical assistance and grant funding for planning and capital construction to address infrastructure barriers, reconnect communities, and improve peoples’ lives.
    • Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant (NAE) Program - provides funds for projects that improve walkability, safety, and affordable transportation access through context-sensitive strategies and address existing transportation facilities that create barriers to community connectivity or negative impacts on the human or natural environment, especially in disadvantaged or underserved communities.
    • Flexible Funding for Transit Access - transferring, or flexing, funds from Federal Highway Administration programs to the Federal Transit Administration program facilitates federal investments at the local level for measures that improve access, particularly for underserved groups.


  • State and regional agencies may provide technical assistance to transportation professionals on the topic of housing and transportation planning through organizing conferences, task forces, and other outreach mechanisms.
  • State DOTs may consider working with housing agencies to perform outreach to residents in public housing to have a direct line to those who are most burdened by housing and transportation costs.


Local government departments may also develop organizational structures to encourage connections between housing, land use, and transportation plans. At the local level, the importance of housing proximity to key destinations and transportation options may be addressed in city or town bylaws and ordinances. Providing trainings on housing and transportation topics can facilitate different agencies understand each other’s work. Specific coordination efforts may include:

  • Adopting zoning changes to encourage coordination between transit and housing:
    • Removing parking minimums which can add to the cost of housing and negatively impact transit ridership.
    • Adding bike parking requirements to encourage active transportation, particularly when within the first/last mile range from transit facilities.
    • Negotiating transit and trail amenities for new developments
    • Adding a reviewer from the DOT (or similar agency) to zoning or site plan review boards.
  • Cities and towns may adopt a local strategy for TOD. Oftentimes, a city’s vision for TOD is adopted at the mayoral level and may be linked to the city’s comprehensive plan.
  • Cities and towns may develop Complete Streets policies which prescribe design options appropriate when adjacent to different types of housing stock