The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) stop at Pioneer Square, Portland.
Image by Katy Langstaff.

Transit Access

The car, directly and indirectly, accounts for about one-seventh of the U.S. GNP. It requires a vast and costly infrastructure of roads and asphalt, which is heavily subsidized by taxpayers. It leaves fragmented communities, degraded habitat, an altered global climate, smog, wasted time from traffic congestion, and much else in its wake. The car also offers a remarkable level of personal independence and convenience, making people reluctant to try alternatives.

When transportation is seen as whole system, the challenge is to find the optimal mix of transit modes for the least total cost. This cost should take into account the full current and future costs of each alternative, including all hidden subsidies.

Improved transit access will occur through the creation of effective competition between many different travel modes. The hierarchy of least cost transportation mode alternatives runs from: walking (least expensive), biking, bus, para-transit (vans, pooled transit), light-rail, commuter train, inter-city rail, ferry, carpool, to personal car (most expensive). The car itself is being reinvented as the Hypercar, initially a hybrid gas-electric car, which will eventually run off hydrogen-powered fuel cells and be designed for disassembly and remanufacture.

With the creation of a more efficient, effective, and accessible public transit system, a strong alternative will be provided to the single-occupant vehicle. These alternative multi-modal transportation systems (increased use of bikes, ride-sharing, rail, etc.) will save individuals money, Health, and reduce stress.

Such systems greatly enhance the appeal of Human-Scale Neighborhoods, connecting them to nearby work, shopping, and recreation without making them car-dependent. In turn, as Compact Towns and Cities provide a physical form allowing neighborhoods to grow more dense, alternative transit modes grow increasingly cost-effective, with more riders served per dollar of investment. Infrastructure should be constructed without severing the neighborhood fabric. It should preserve connectivity, providing safe and pleasant passage for both people and wildlife. This implies that land-use planning and transportation planning must be conducted in parallel and optimized in tandem.

In order to maintain Connected Wildlands, it is essential that transportation connections not disrupt the movement of both land-based and aquatic animals. Examples include salmon-friendly culverts and tidegates that provide transportation and flood-control services while remaining accessible to migrating salmon. Wilderness overpasses and underpasses permit free movement of animals above and below highways.

Match the physical form of neighborhoods, towns, and cities to the capacities of a multi-modal transit system, which offers simultaneous access by walking, biking, bus, rail, and other modes. Allow different modes to compete fairly with each other to optimize the whole system's performance for least total cost. Ensure that transportation and infrastructure systems do not fragment habitat.

Examples of this pattern in action:

The North American CarSharing Organization
Car sharing is a revolution in personal transportation — mobility for the 21st century. "Get online" with a car sharing network and you'll get convenient access to a fleet of vehicles (cars, vans, trucks) in your neighbourhood and across the city — and pay only when you use them. Reserve the vehicle that best suits your needs, and use it for a few hours — or a week. And when you feel like it, grab a taxi, take the train, walk, ride a bike or take the bus. If you drive less than 12,000 km (7,500 miles) a year and you don't need a car for work every day, car sharing will likely save you money, give you greater mobility — and actually reduce pollution.

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance was founded in November of 1990 in response to the US appetite for oil and the pending Gulf War. Our out-of-balance reliance on the automobile has gobbled up petrolem resources, mucked up our air, caused innumerable health problems and carnage, isolated neighborhoods and neighbors, created suburban sprawl, choked our roadways-and this time had taken us to war.

The members of the BTA recognize the bicycle as the most efficient and least-cost transportation mode. A way to lead us out of energy depletion and dependence. A way to accommodate the expected influx of population on our transportation system. We believe that the bicycle should be a safe and convenient transportation choice for Oregonians. And we work to that end.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

Carfree Cities

CarSharing Portland


Cervero, Robert. The Transit Metropolis. Island Press. Washington, DC. 1998.

Engwicht, David. Street Reclaiming. New Society Publishers. Gabriola Island, BC. 1999.

Newman, Peter and Jeffrey Kenworthy. Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence. Island Press. Washington, DC. 1999.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling