Promoting Public Transit for Sustainable Recreation

Promoting Public Transit for Sustainable Recreation

Phases for CAR-LESS CA

Transportation corridors and facilities are major components of the nation’s landscape and public realm. Integrating comprehensive transportation planning with natural systems analysis and land use planning is essential for creating livable communities in sustainable environments. The growth of the US urban populations is outpacing the nation’s overall growth according to the 2010 Census data. Of the ten most densely populated areas, seven are in California. Los Angeles is the most densely populated urbanized area, followed by San Francisco/ Oakland and San Jose. Of the 50 states, California is the most urban, with 95% of the population residing in urban areas. California also has 43.7 million acres of public land, almost 44% of land in the state, much of it open for recreation. However, there is a noticeable lack of public transportation linking the two.

The effects of the absence of public transit to California’s public land are twofold. People of color and low-income communities disproportionately lack access to a vehicle to drive themselves and their families to recreation destinations. Without convenient transportation options, access to California’s finest public lands are unattainable for many. In addition, traffic congestion and limited parking capacity during peak seasons adversely affect the visitor’s experience, not to mention the environmental conditions, in California’s most iconic landscapes.

A project called CAR-LESS CA, (an acronym for: California Alterative transportation for Recreation – Leisure for Everyone that is Seamless and Sustainable) is working to ameliorate this situation with landscape architects, among others, at the helm. Based on the fact that young Americans are driving less than previous generations, and that this change is likely to persist into the future, the US Forest Service is spearheading a multi-agency effort between National Forests, National Parks, the Bureau of Land Management and US Fish and Wildlife. In addition to federal agencies, the project also includes three California State University campuses and representatives from CalTrans, California State Parks and local nonprofits.

Phase I is focused on central California. Using demographic data and recreation criteria agreed upon by each agency, a handful of corridors were chosen for transportation planning linking underserved neighborhoods to recreation destinations. Three of these corridors are located in ASLA-NCC territory: Bayview-Hunters Point to various National Park destinations in Marin; San Jose to Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge in the South Bay; and Salinas/ Castroville to Fort Ord and Pinacles National Monument.

Future efforts include the potential to partner locally with the Bay Area Open Space Council’s program called Transit and Trails. Transit and Trails has developed a robust website that uses transit data from and Google Maps to plan point to point, day trips and overnight excursions from neighborhoods to recreation areas via public transit. They have mapped trips, trailheads, and campgrounds all over the Bay Area. T&T has proved so successful, the goal now is to replicate this model for other urban areas across the state. Pilot projects have been proposed in each of the CAR-LESS neighborhoods.

Working on a variety of scales and coordinating with a multitude of agencies, CAR-LESS CA is working to change how Californians think about getting to the great outdoors.


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