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Livability Resources

Livability means being able to take your kids to school, go to work, see a doctor, drop by the grocery or post office, go out to dinner and a movie, and play with your kids at the park, all without having to get into your car. Livability means building the communities that help Americans live the lives they want to live--whether those communities are urban centers, small towns, or rural areas.
~Secretary Ray LaHood, U.S. Department of Transportation


Livability is characterized by a people-centered orientation in communities that ensures economic vitality, connectivity, and mobility--in all its forms. Mobility has the greatest impact on a community's livability as it forms the foundation that connect people to social services, employment, health care, education, and to others in the community.

Good local transit services connected to frequent, affordable and reliable intercity or regional service significantly enhances livability at the local level. When connections are established, they must be equally available and accessible to all members of that community, without regard to age, ability, income, education, demographic distinctions and other factors too often codified in program guidelines that only serve to further entrench fragmentation and isolation. Instead, quality of service should be the ultimate priority--producing frequent, reliable, affordable and responsive connections within and among communities.

Livability for smaller cities and communities, much as it is with all American communities, is exemplified by people being able to live where they choose, in whatever fashion they choose. Livability is achieved when connections meet the needs of those in the community

The following publications are helpful resources to consider the role of human service transportation coordination to plan and sustain livable communities.

  • Livable and Sustainable Communities
    This page highlight's how FTA programs fit into the larger DOT Livability Initiative and the Federal Sustainable Communities Partnership. The Sustainable Communities Partnership represents an exciting time where the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are working together like never before to provide citizens with access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs, while protecting the environment in communities nationwide. The partnership recently released a fact sheet (PDF)(3 MB) about how its resources can be leveraged to promote livability on a national scale.
  • HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities
    On June 16, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to help improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide. Through a set of guiding livability principles and a partnership agreement that will guide the agencies' efforts, this partnership will coordinate federal housing, transportation, and other infrastructure investments to protect the environment, promote equitable development, and help to address the challenges of climate change.
  • Tools and Key Resources for Sustainable Communities: Transportation
    To help support these communities, EPA has compiled this list of useful tools and key resources. This page will be periodically updated.
  • A Blue Print for Action: Developing Communities for All Ages
    By the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Partners for Livable Communities and the MetLife Foundation
    This guide provides local leaders with procedures for assessing the readiness of a community to meet the goals and objectives of the livable communities premise. Creating livable communities for all ages calls for partnerships across agencies and among different sectors within communities. The guide provides a quick-reference kit for practitioners looking for tools, resources, and best practices to assess its needs. It includes an effective tool for assessing the resources available in a community to create livable community for all ages. In addition, it provides a topic-specific list of studies, articles, and leading organizations.
  • Livable Communities for Adults with Disabilities
    By the National Council on Disability
    This document is a product of the National Council on Disability stressing the importance to integrate older and disabled individuals into the community, especially those seniors coping with sensory disability involving sight or hearing. This study suggests that the disability community and aging network need to collaborate. Bringing resources to people is a good way to address those who have difficulty going outside their home. People with disabilities feel more isolated and many experience difficulty leaving their homes. Highlights of several communities are illustrated. They have all made strides, but none have overcome all the barriers.
  • Sustainability and Livability: Summary of Definitions, Goals, Objectives and Performance Indicators
    By Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute
    This short report summarizes basic definitions and concepts for sustainable and livable transportation planning.
  • Healthy Community Design: Success Stories from State and Local Leaders
    This paper describes the Active Living Leadership project, which is an initiative that helps to create healthy, active communities. The report presents profiles of appointed and elected leaders of government who support healthy community design throughout the nation. Creating active, healthy communities involves a number of factors. It requires planning and collaboration among school boards, housing authorities, public works departments, public health professionals, community development corporations, and transportation officials. Signs of an active and healthy community include walkable, livable neighborhoods; transit oriented development; trails and greenways; better health of the residents, and fewer obese residents. The paper describes cities and communities that have focused on walkable and pedestrian friendly spaces and healthy residents.


  • Planning Complete Streets for an Aging America
    By the AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI)
    From the Executive Summary: "For several years, AARP has encouraged states to implement the Federal Highway Administration's roadway engineering guidelines for older drivers and pedestrians. More recently, AARP has endorsed the planning concept Complete Streets. Complete Streets are those that are designed for the safety and comfort of all road users, regardless of age and ability. Naturally, this definition should extend to the needs of older road users. But does it in practice? And do the engineering solutions offered for older drivers work for pedestrians and bicyclists, the major focus of the Complete Streets movement? The AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) embarked upon this project to discover the nexus between these two, as of yet, distinct areas of research and practice. To accomplish this PPI formed an interdisciplinary team of planners, engineers, and policy advocates to review the safety research and offer both policy and design recommendations that can be used by engineers, planners, and citizen advocates in their quest to build safe, more livable streets for everyone."
  • AARP Policy Book 2011-2012 Chapter 9: Livable Communities (PDF)(1.23 MB)
    From the introduction: "A livable community is safe and secure, and provides affordable, appropriate housing; adequate transportation; and supportive community features and services. Once in place, these resources enhance personal independence, allow residents to age in place, and foster residents' engagement in the community's civic, economic, and social life."
  • Independent Living in Brief: Opportunities for Creating Livable Communities
    By the AARP Policy and Research for Professionals in Aging
    This is a detailed outline of recommendations for making communities livable is offered in this policy brief that focus on need for required multi-faceted local planning and decision-making. Areas include: housing policy; road design; land development; and zoning. The goal of this report is to provide the framework for planners, policymakers, regulators, and community advocates to understand how to assess what needs to be done to overcome these barriers that affect older adults. It can also spark new ideas to make their community age-friendly.
  • Livable Communities Team
    The AARP Public Policy Institutes Livable Communities Team conducts research and policy analysis and brings together thought leaders to develop and advance AARP's public policy agenda on livable communities issues.

Transit and Livability

  • Case Studies on Transit and Livable Communities in Rural and Small Town America (PDF)(372 KB)
    By Transportation for America
    This collection of 12 case studies provides examples of how small cities, towns and rural regions across the country are transforming themselves into more livable communities. The sites profiled include Huron, South Dakota; Menominee Reservation, Wisconsin; Cache Valley, Utah; Laconia, New Hampshire; Davidson, North Carolina; Breckenridge, Colorado; Meridian, Mississippi; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; State of North Dakota; State of Wyoming; McCall, Idaho; and Taos, New Mexico
  • Livability in Transportation Guidebook Planning Approaches that Promote Livability (PDF)(3.9 MB) 
    By the U.S. Department of Transportation
    The Livability in Transportation Guidebook's primary purpose is to illustrate how livability principles have been incorporated into transportation planning, programming, and project design, using examples from State, regional, and local sponsors. It is intended to be useful to a diverse audience of transportation agency staff, partners, decisionmakers, and the general public, and is applicable in urban, suburban, and rural areas. While several of the example projects address capacity and operational issues on major roadways, the Guidebook primarily explores how transportation planning and programs can improve community quality of life, enhance environmental performance, increase transportation and housing choice while lowering costs, and support economic vitality. Many of the case studies resolve capacity and operational issues through a multimodal network and systems approach, reflecting better integration of land use with transportation.
  • Creating Livable Communities: Housing and Transit Policy in the 21st Century
    By the Brookings Institution
    Excerpt: "The purpose of my testimony is to discuss the connection between housing and transportation policy. Specifically...thoughts on preserving affordable housing in location-efficient areas (such as those around transit stations) and recommendations on the federal government's role in incentivizing policy coordination to develop livable communities."
  • Transit for Livable Communities
    Transit for Livable Communities is a nonprofit organization working to reform Minnesota's transportation system. Through advocacy, organizing, and research, we promote a balanced transportation system that encourages transit, walking, bicycling, and thoughtful development.
  • Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on Livable Communities
    Excerpt: "Fostering livable communities is a key aspect of President Obama's urban policy agenda and Vice President Biden's Middle Class initiative. The way we design our communities has a huge impact on our citizens' social, physical, and economic wellbeing. Yet many Americans live in neighborhoods without sidewalks or access to public transportation."
  • Rail-Volution
    Rail-Volution is, first and foremost, a conference for passionate practitioners -- people from all perspectives who believe strongly in the role of land use and transit as equal partners in the quest for greater livability and greater communities.
  • Transportation for a New Era: Growing More Sustainable Communities
    By the Urban Land Institute
    This report identifies recommendations intended to guide transportation policy and programs at the federal level. By refocusing the federal program, making the reforms we need, and facilitating the participation of the private sector, transportation policy can set the stage for a brighter future for all Americans.
  • Are We There Yet? Assessing the Performance of State Departments of Transportation on Accommodating Bicycles and Pedestrians
    By the National Center for Bicycling & Walking
    From its Benchmarking Project, the NCBW produced this report which shows that only 11 state departments of transportation (DOT) have bicycle and pedestrian plans, and routinely accommodate bicycles and pedestrians in state highway projects.
  • How Should Planners Promote Livable Communities?
    By the National Journal


Sheryl Gross-Glaser
Coordination Specialist
800.891.0590, ext. 733