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The Benefits of Livability


If “just 15 percent of anticipated new U.S. growth is concentrated within an existing developed area, the country could save $109 billion in reduced road building costs, $4.8 billion in water system costs, $7.8 billion in sewer system costs, and $4 billion in public services costs” (page 1).  This document created by the Federal Highway Administration attempts to describe Return on Investment (ROI) for livability initiatives. Community planners and government leaders can use the document to make the broad business case for implementing livability initiatives locally.

Key Points

The brief document is designed to communicate four key ROI areas and two quick success stories. The four arguments for livability ROI are: Economy: Lower construction and operating costs, Transportation, Housing, and Land Use: Lower costs, better value, Public Health: Walking and biking can reduce obesity and improve health and Environmental Benefits: Improved Air and Water Quality. Though far from comprehensive, these sections do make the case that livability can result in increased annual savings ($10,230 per year by utilizing transit services), increased health and lower death rates, and a cleaner environment.

The two success stories listed include The Capital Bikeshare program in Washington D.C. and the Portland Streetcar initiative in Portland, Oregon. Of the two, the latter provides compelling ROI for stimulating business growth (an increase of 55 percent of new businesses along the line with $3.5 billion in new investment).

How to Use

Planners need to utilize every communication method available. Some presentations for ROI should be detailed for presenting an extensive business case. But some marketing ROI pieces should be brief, quickly outlined and demonstrate the impact of local initiatives to the average citizen particularly as it may relate to their personal incomes. Use this publication for making the broad case of livability effectiveness in various sectors of the local economy.

View full report: The Benefits of Livability (PDF – 293 KB)

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