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Transportation Benefits of Polycentric Urban Form

January 19, 2021 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm UTC-5


A “polycentric” region consists of a network of compact developments connected with each other through high-quality transportation options. Rather than continuing the expanse of low-density development radiating from an urban core, investments can be concentrated on central nodes and transit connections. This development pattern is very popular in Europe and is linked to significant benefits. This presentation is aimed at exploring the academic literature and empirical evidence surrounding polycentric development, analyzing more than 120 regional transportation plans to see how they promote polycentric development, defining types of centers in a hierarchy of centers, quantifying the transportation benefits of polycentric development, examining a case study of best practices, and, finally, outlining context-specific strategies for Salt Lake County and the Wasatch Front region.


  • Regional transportation plans suffer from a lack of consistent indicators to designate centers and guide their developments.
  • On average, households living in centers tend to make fewer and shorter automobile trips, take transit more, walk more, and bike less.
  • Tours (a sequence of trips that begins and ends at home) associated with centers consist of more sustainable commuting modes than ones that are completely outside the centers.
  • The built environment thresholds and relevant tools provided in our presentation (and report) can enable urban and transportation planners to make informed decisions about future growth patterns, set realistic—yet visionary—goals, and improve the overall health of its residents and communities.


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