Sustainable Transportation Planning: Tools for Creating Vibrant, Healthy, and Resilient Communities
Jeffrey Tumlin
John Wiley & Sons
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030;
2012. 320 pages. $95 hardcover.

Why are citywide transportation systems in the United States not responding to larger social, economic, and sustainability needs? What is wrong with existing methods of transportation modeling and forecasting? When is congestion really a good sign, and when is it objectionable? How critical are land use density and intensity to the success of mass transit? These are some of the many questions raised in this ambitious but flawed attempt to compress a vast array of transportation thought into an abbreviated primer.

Jeffrey Tumlin is one of many land planners whose careers have intersected with the prevailing engineering culture. His book Sustainable Transportation Planning attempts to grasp in shorthand form the big picture—one that integrates motor vehicles with bicycling, transit, parking, car sharing, transit-oriented design of stations, and other considerations. Helpful tidbits on design, programming, and modeling can be gleaned from this volume. Comparisons ranking the relative merits of transit modes, optimal lane widths in “complete streets” scenarios, even the dimensions and placement of bike paths or cycle tracks can be found in an abbreviated format.

The most successful sections get to the core of transportation planning: performance measurements, modeling, transit demand management, and traffic congestion management.

Despite such strengths, Sustainable Transportation Planning fails to weave its numerous themes into a seamless whole. The final product is riddled by more than its share of omissions, inconsistency, oversimplification, and inaccuracy. Basics, such as a glossary of essential terms—LOS (level of service), TDM (transportation demand management), TOD (transit-oriented design), or BRT (bus rapid transit)—are nowhere to be found. Maps, charts, and photos are essential for any primer on design and planning, but in this volume, tiny single-color site plans and maps are difficult, if not impossible, to decipher. Discerning readers deserve much more.