Posted by: Fehr & Peers | November 13, 2009

Growing Cooler – Key Differences & Misconceptions, Part 1 of 3

By Jerry Walters

You may be hearing about several new reports on the subject of transportation, land use and climate interactions, that some may say rebut the findings of the 2008 ULI book Growing Cooler – The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change.  This first of three blogs will clarify the misconceptions and key differences between Growing Cooler and the most prominent of these studies:

Moving Cooler

Moving Cooler is an expansion and extension upon Growing Cooler, which primarily addresses the effects of coordinated land use and transportation strategies on reducing VMT and GHG generation. After addressing the degree to which greater vehicle fuel economy and cleaner-burning fuels can begin to address the needed levels of GHG reduction, Growing Cooler goes into considerable depth on which factors related to land use (the Ds) contribute to travel and GHG reduction and what the likely aggregate effects would be if planning policies shifted to meet the growing market demand for compact, mixed and transit oriented development.  It considers several broad complementary transportation strategies, including road pricing (fuel price, tolls, VMT fees) and transit investments.  It addresses policies and strategies that can be applied at the development level, city/county level, regional level, and statewide level. 

Moving Cooler is a national strategy piece.  It does little or no original research on strategy effectiveness but devotes a lot of effort to combining a long list of potential strategies into three “bundles” representing a future baseline or “expanded current practice”, an aggressive bundle, and a maximum effort bundle.  Each bundle contains a mix of land use, transit and non-motorized measures, system and driver efficiency measures, facility pricing, vehicle technology and fuel content.   For its land use effectiveness assessment, Moving Cooler relies on the analysis and assumptions from Growing Cooler, with only a minor exception.  Rather than comparing the future “business as usual” to the future with-action as does Growing Cooler, Moving Cooler uses “expanded current practice” as its baseline against which to compare its action elements.  As a result, its incremental percentage reductions in GHG from land use strategies appear lower than in Growing Cooler, even though both predict essentially the same end-state.

What Moving Cooler does to is to assemble an impressive list of TDM strategies and system efficiency strategies and to select from earlier research on each strategy to estimate its potential effectiveness.  It is not clear, however, whether they realistically accounted for the mutually reinforcing and mutually detracting interactions among groups of measures, as their efforts to consider the combined effects of measures within and between bundles is reported only to be a matter of multiplying rather than adding the effects of individual elements. 

Moving Cooler was sponsored by an important group of organizations, including EPA, FTA, FHWA, APTA, ULI and NRDC.  However, one of the original supporters, AASHTO backed out of the effort when it found that it could not support the findings related to the effects of roadway expansion.  


 Coming up next…

–   I will review the recent TRB document Driving and the Built Environment which some believe finds the potential effects of land use strategies to be only about half of those estimated in Growing Cooler.

 –  I will then review UNC’s Travel Behavior, Residential Preference, and Urban Design: A Multi-Disciplinary National Analysis which, paraphrased, states: “We found that residents of neo-traditional developments make more car trips … than residents of typical suburban neighborhoods… We found no difference in vehicle mileage.”



  1. Thanks for the comments Jerry! I posted an article on my blog over the summer on Moving Cooler as well, prior to the release of the appendices:

    The appendices can be found here, I haven’t dug through it yet:

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