PATHWAYS TO URBAN SUSTAINABILITY
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE UNITED STATES
Committee on Pathways to Urban Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities
Science and Technology for Sustainability Program
Policy and Global Affairs
A Report of
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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This activity was supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation under award number 13-105685-000-USP, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under award number EP-C-14-005, TO #0001, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under award number NNX15AD84G. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-44453-8
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-44453-5
Digital Object Identifier: 10.17226/23551
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Pathways to Urban Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities for the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23551.
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COMMITTEE ON PATHWAYS TO URBAN SUSTAINABILITY: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Linda P. B. Katehi (NAE) (Chair), Chancellor Emerita, University of California, Davis
Charles Branas, Professor, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Marilyn A. Brown, Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems, School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology
John W. Day, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, School of the Coast & Environment, Louisiana State University
Paulo Ferrão, President, Board of Directors of Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia; Professor, Instituto Superior Tecnico, University of Lisbon
Susan Hanson (NAS), Distinguished University Professor Emerita, School of Geography, Clark University
Chris T. Hendrickson (NAE), Hamerschlag University Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Heinz School of Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
Suzanne Morse Moomaw, Associate Professor, Urban and Environmental Planning, Director, Community Design Research Center, School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Amanda Pitre-Hayes, Director of Planning, Vancouver Public Library
Karen C. Seto, Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science, Associate Dean of Research, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
Ernest Tollerson, Board of Directors, Hudson River Foundation
Rae Zimmerman, Professor of Planning and Public Administration, Director of the Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems, Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University
Science and Technology for Sustainability Program Staff
Jerry Miller, Director, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program
Michael Dorsey, Senior Program Officer (from February 2016)
Dominic Brose, Program Officer
Emi Kameyama, Program Associate
Yasmin Romitti, Research Assistant
Jennifer Saunders, Senior Program Officer (until October 2015)
Mark Lange, Program Officer (until January 2016)
Ryan Anderson, Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow (January to April 2016)
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More than 80 percent of the U.S. population now resides in urban areas, a number that is projected to continue to increase. Cities and their suburbs account for a proportion of the U.S. economy far higher than their share of population. Urban areas have been associated with several environmental and social inequities, such as disproportionate levels of air and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, increased rates of poverty, and high rates of wealth inequity. Despite these problems, urban centers may have the potential to be more sustainable than suburban or rural areas. Through smart land-use planning, they can locally greatly reduce environmental impacts with lower per capita energy and water use. While there is no “cookie-cutter” approach to urban sustainability, the innovative methods now being developed in some cities may be transferable to others. Thus, it is valuable to assess some of the most innovative practices being implemented in specific metropolitan regions to determine whether and how they might be adapted and applied in other regions. Significant opportunities exist to strengthen collaborative learning across metropolitan regions. However, it must be realized that, from a whole system perspective that includes the biosphere with humans as part of it, this may not be the case. There are constraints that will strongly impact how urban areas can be in striving for sustainability.
This report builds on previous work by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Science and Technology for Sustainability (STS) Program in this quickly growing field. In 2009, STS hosted a public meeting to engage federal, academic, and private researchers focusing on emerging research on urban systems, and on how human and environment interactions and the interplay among energy, water, transportation, and other systems could help decision makers address complex challenges. Following the 2009 meeting, STS convened three place-based urban sustainability workshops—in Atlanta, Georgia; Houston, Texas; and Portland, Oregon. These public workshops gathered local, state, and federal officials, academics, and key stakeholders to examine how challenges due to continued growth in each region can be addressed within the context of sustainability.
The regional workshops highlighted the complex challenges American cities face in trying to maximize environmental, social, and economic benefits and emphasized the need for providing a collective guide to inform how cities and regions can become more successful in implementing sustainable strategies. To address this need, an ad hoc committee from government, academia, and the philanthropic community was convened in December 2014. Brief biographies of the individual committee members are provided in Appendix A. The committee was charged to produce a paradigm that incorporates the social, economic, and environmental systems that exist in metropolitan regions in the United States, which are critical in the transition to sustainable metropolitan regions.
This paradigm could then serve as a blueprint for other regions with similar barriers to and opportunities for sustainable development and redevelopment.
In this report, Chapter 1 describes the challenge that the committee addressed. Chapter 2 discusses detailed urban sustainability indicators and metrics, Chapter 3 examines principles of urban sustainability and offers a roadmap for decision making, Chapter 4 explores the city profiles and the lessons they provide, and Chapter 5 provides a vision for improved responses to urban sustainability.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: David Allen, University of Texas, Austin; John Crittenden, Georgia Institute of Technology; Christopher Crockett, Philadelphia Water Department; Ruth DeFries, Columbia University; Janet Hering, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science & Technology; Andrew Hutson; Environmental Defense Fund; Danya Keene, Yale University; Kevin Krizek, University of Colorado, Boulder; Matt Petersen, City of Los Angeles, California; Kenneth Reifsnider, University of Texas, Arlington; Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific; William Solecki, Hunter College of the City University of New York; and Alison Taylor, Siemens Corporation.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Richard Wright (Retired), National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Michael Kavanaugh, Geosyntec Consultants. Appointed by the National Academies, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
The report would not have been possible without the sponsors of this study, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The committee gratefully acknowledges the following individuals for making presentations to the committee: Alan Hecht, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Mijo Vodopic, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Elisabeth Larson, National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Matt Petersen, City of Los Angeles; Nancy Sutley, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; Martin Wachs, University of California, Los Angeles; Jonathan Parfrey, Climate Resolve; Ted Bardacke, City of Los Angeles; Christine Margiotta, United Way of Greater Los Angeles; Mark Gold, University of California, Los Angeles; Jerry R. Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific; Kevin Wattier, Long Beach Water Department; Heather Tomley, Port of Long Beach; Brian Ulaszewski, City Fabrick; Mayor Robert Garcia, City of Long Beach; Dan Sperling, University of California, Davis; John Mahoney, OpTerra Energy Services; James Brown, University of New Mexico; Erik Schmidt, City of Chattanooga; Harold DePriest, Electric Power Board; Blythe Bailey, Chattanooga Department of Transportation; David Crockett, formerly City of Chattanooga; Michael Walton, Green Spaces; Charlie Catlett, Argonne National Laboratory; Donna Williams, Chattanooga Office of Economic and Community Development; Benic Clark, Lyndhurst Foundation; Rick Wood, The Trust for Public Land; Lisa Darger, University of Tennessee; Stephen A. Hammer, The World Bank Group; Philip Enquist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Garrett Fitzgerald, Urban Sustainability Directors Network. The information provided during the meetings is used throughout this report and provided important perspectives that were utilized in this report’s findings and conclusions. The committee would also like to recognize Lee Huang, Econsult Solutions, Inc.; Robert A. Joseph, graduate student researcher at New York University; Lindsay Alexis Voirin, graduate student researcher at New York University; Daniel D’Arcy, graduate student researcher at Georgia Institute of Technology; Lu Wang, graduate student researcher at Georgia Institute of Technology; Melissa Kopf, City of Cedar Rapids; Debora Loader, City of Flint; and Brent Heard, University of Michigan, who provided valuable assistance that informed committee deliberations.
On behalf of the committee, I want to express our thanks and appreciation to Jerry Miller, director of the Science and Technology for Sustainability Program; Michael Dorsey, senior program officer; Dominic Brose, program officer; Yasmin Romitti, research assistant; Emi Kameyama, program associate; Jennifer Saunders, senior program officer (through October 2015); Mark Lange, program officer (through January 2016); and Ryan Anderson, Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow (January to April 2016) for the time and effort they put into assembling the committee, planning the meetings, and organizing the report. I also thank the Academies staff, including Adriana Courembis, financial officer; Marilyn Baker, director for report and communication; Rita Johnson, senior editor; Karen Autrey, report review associate; Kara Laney, senior program officer; and Richard Bissell, executive director of Policy and Global Affairs, for their support and assistance with study activities.
Finally, I thank especially the members of the committee for their tireless efforts throughout the development of this report.
Linda Katehi, Chair
Committee on Pathways to Urban Sustainability:
Challenges and Opportunities
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Abbreviations and Acronyms
|ACS||American Community Survey|
|APTA||American Public Transportation Association|
|AQI||Air Quality Index|
|CAA||Clean Air Act|
|CARB||California Air Resources Board|
|CBSA||Core Based Statistical Area|
|COP||United Nations Conference of Parties|
|CSP||Grand Rapids Area Community Sustainability Partnership|
|CUSP||Center for Urban Science and Progress|
|DOE||U.S. Department of Energy|
|DOT||U.S. Department of Transportation|
|DSM||Demand Side Management|
|EAC||Chattanooga Early Action Compact|
|EIA||Energy Information Administration|
|EIU||Economic Intelligence Unit|
|EPA||U.S. Environmental Protection Agency|
|EPB||Chattanooga Electric Power Board|
|EPD||Chattanooga Environmental Protection Division|
|EPR||Extended Producer Responsibility|
|FARS||Fatality Analysis Reporting System|
|FEMA||Federal Emergency Management Agency|
|FHWA||Federal Highway Administration|
|F.I.R.E.||Financial, Insurance and Real Estate|
|GCP||Gross city product|
|GDP||Gross domestic product|
|GFN||Global Footprint Network|
|GSI||Green Stormwater Infrastructure|
|HAP||Hazardous air pollutant|
|ICT||Information and communication technologies|
|IPCC||Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change|
|ISO||International Organization for Standardization|
|LACMTA||Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority|
|LADWP||Los Angeles Department of Water and Power|
|LEED||Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design|
|MAC||New York State Municipal Assistance Corporation|
|MIT||Massachusetts Institute of Technology|
|MMR||Mayor’s Management Report|
|MSA||Metropolitan Statistical Area|
|MTA||New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority|
|MTCO2e||Metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent|
|NAACP||National Association for the Advancement of Colored People|
|NAAQS||National Ambient Air Quality Standards|
|NASA||National Aeronautics and Space Administration|
|NCA||National Climate Assessment|
|NCDC||National Climatic Data Center|
|NHTSA||National Highway Traffic Safety Administration|
|NOAA||National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|
|NRC||National Research Council|
|NYCCAS||New York City Community Air Survey|
|NYC DEP||New York City Department of Environmental Protection|
|NYMTC||New York Metropolitan Transportation Council|
|NYS DEC||New York State Department of Environmental Conservation|
|NYS ISO||New York State Independent System Operator|
|PANYNJ||Port Authority of New York and New Jersey|
|PEV||Plug-in electric vehicle|
|RPS||Renewable Portfolio Standard|
|SAIDI||System Average Interruption Duration Index|
|SCADA||Supervisory control and data acquisition|
|SDG||Sustainable Development Goal|
|SEPTA||Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority|
|S&P||Standard & Poor’s|
|STAR||Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating Communities|
|TDM||Transportation demand management|
|TEU||Twenty-foot Equivalent Units|
|TMDL||Total maximum daily load|
|TSM||Transportation system management|
|TVA||Tennessee Valley Authority|
|UN-Habitat||United Nations Human Settlements Programme|
|USDN||Urban Sustainability Directors Network|
|USGCRP||U.S. Global Change Research Program|
|USGS||U.S. Geological Survey|
|VMT||Vehicle miles of travel|
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