Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Barack Obama

Obama Quietly Gets Federal Agencies Involved in Transport Planning

1:00 PM EST on January 19, 2010

When President Obama signed an executive order in October requiring federal agencies to craft strategies for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, he described the mandate as Washington "lead[ing] by example" on the pollution-reduction front.

Obama_bike.jpg(Photo: AP)

And that's true -- but the order also includes language telling federal agencies to get involved in integrating local transportation planning, with a particular focus on selecting sites for government facilities

that are pedestrian-friendly, near existing employment centers, andaccessible to public transit, and emphasize existing central citiesand, in rural communities, existing or planned town centers;

The overall goal for government agencies, as Obama's order put it, should be to "strengthen the vitality and livability of the communities in which federal facilities are located." Given that more than 2,200 communities host federally owned or leased property, that edict could unleash a lot of local energy for transit and pedestrian improvements.

The order also gives federal agencies eight months to craft long-term sustainability plans focusing on how to implement "strategies and accommodations for transit, travel, training, and conferencing that actively support lower-carbon commuting and travel by agency staff." The White House budget office and Council on Environmental Quality are charged with vetting each agency's proposal.

And as each agency devises those emissions-cutting plans, the Obama administration's push to consider sustainability as a transportation, housing, and environmental issue is given a meaty role in the process.

The order asks U.S. DOT, in collaboration with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, to suggest ideal strategies to the White House for locating new federal facilities. According to the order:

The recommendations shall be consistent with principles of sustainable development including prioritizing central business district and rural town center locations, prioritizing sites well served by transit, including site design elements that ensure safe and convenient pedestrian access, consideration of transit access and proximity to housing affordable to a wide range of Federal employees, adaptive reuse or renovation of buildings, avoidance of development of sensitive land resources, and evaluation of parking management strategies.

It's likely to take some time before the order begins to have a palpable effect on the vast federal bureaucracy's approach to land use -- epitomized by a dispute over employee parking at one federal building that has effectively stalled the nomination of a new General Services Administrator.

But the White House's early effort at getting federal, state, and local players to consult one another on development appears to be aiming in the right place.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

NYC Debuts Public E-Bike Charging for Delivery Workers

Finally, they’re taking charge! The city’s first public e-bike charging station opened in Cooper Square on Thursday — the start of an overdue six-month pilot that is part of a “Charge Safe Ride Safe Action Plan” for delivery workers that Mayor Adams announced last year.

March 1, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Have Questions

What's an optimal rebate to get people to buy e-bikes without wasting money on those who were going to buy one anyway?

March 1, 2024

To Recruit Transit Workers, More Than Just Higher Pay Is Needed

Labor shortages continue threatening public transit systems, and a new report adds another layer to the conversation.

February 29, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: Streets for Skateboards

Aaron Breetwor on skateboards for transportation and designing streets for safer skateboarding.

February 29, 2024

Agencies Need to Use Federal Funding to Buy Land for Transit Oriented Development

Transit agencies do not prioritize transit-adjacent housing development often because they lack funding to acquire land.

February 29, 2024
See all posts