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ATLANTA-If there is one point of agreement among proponents of “smart growth,” it is that there is no one definition of the concept. Speaking at a plenary session at the conference, F. Gary Garczynski, vice president and secretary of the National Association of Home Builders, summarized, “It is more of a process than a definition.”

Part of that process is having solid numbers to back issues and to develop a framework for assessing land-use and transportation policies. Enter SMARTRAQ–Strategies for Metro Atlanta’s Regional Transportation and Air Quality. SMARTRAQ is a partnership of diverse organizations, including the Georgia Dept. of Transportation, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Turner Foundation.

In a $4.1 million program, the group is developing an information system to support regional, corridor and local land-use and transportation decision-making. In doing so, it is developing a model that can be applied to other areas of the country.

SMARTRAQ is developing a method for measuring and tracking in detail the changes in how Atlantans, in the 13-county non-attainable air quality area, live, work, shop, travel and communicate. SMARTRAQ hopes to integrate its research with educational and political action to further smart growth. Says Lawrence D. Frank, professor of city planning, Georgia Institute of Technology, “The detailed surveys and information base will also serve as a filter to tell us what (smart growth concepts) are marketable.”

The pre-testing begins in February and actual surveys of 8,000 households are set to take place March through May and September through December next year. The first wave of statistics should be available this coming spring.

Smart growth varies by market–urban, suburban, exurban and rural, small town, big city. There are, however, a few underlying principles of the concept: Mixed land use, the live-work-play idea; density-clustering of a variety of types of living units with common greenspace; walkability-designed to promote pedestrian use; transportation-close public transit as well as opportunities for biking.

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