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City of Riverbank – Efficient Transportation Program to Address Climate Change

Case Story

Climate Action Connection: Efficient Transportation

General plan policies that recognize the link between land use and transportation, and encourage land uses that increase transportation choices, reduce the need for automobile travel, and its associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Community:Riverbank (Stanislaus County)
Population: 21,492


The City of Riverbank’s 2009 general plan update focuses on increasing transportation choices available to residents through closer integration of land use and transportation planning. This includes increasing street “connectivity” (the frequency with which streets or roads intersect) and other strategies supporting non-automobile travel. The city works closely with developers to implement these goals.

Program Highlights

  • New developments required to meet the general plan standard for street “connectivity” (using a “connectivity index” based on how well the streets connect with each other).
  • Street improvement standards to treat all locally available forms of travel equally.

Lessons Learned

  • Efficient transportation depends on land use policies that provide supportive patterns of land use and infrastructure development.
  • Early communication with developers improves projects’ compliance.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story…

Riverbank’s updated general plan includes several specific strategies for supporting pedestrian, bicycle and other non-automobile modes of travel. Examples include requiring bike racks and pedestrian improvements in commercial development projects; pushing buildings toward the front of lots, with parking on the side or in back; and requiring street trees, to improve comfort and appearance of sidewalks and streets.

The Challenge of Preserving Community Character

Like many smaller cities, Riverbank is working to address the challenge of preserving its small-town character as it updates its general plan in an era of anticipated growth, shrinking financial resources, and mounting pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The general plan’s Land Use Element includes the goal of achieving “development patterns that encourage alternatives to vehicular travel,” supported by policies encouraging “compact development” and concentrating development around “neighborhood centers.”

Early Outreach to Developers

As early as possible, the city reviews proposed projects for accessibility and street connectivity (the frequency with which streets and roads intersect), including how the project area connects with existing streets and future planned development. Increasing connectivity increases the options available for travel through the plan area. Projects are required to meet standards for connectivity using a “connectivity index” outlined in the general plan’s circulation element. The connectivity index is calculated buy dividing the number of road segments (between intersections) by the number of intersections.

Complete Streets Build on Land Use Policies

The first goal of the Riverbank General Plan’s Circulation Element’s is that “Riverbank’s circulation network provides convenience and choice among all modes of transportation.” The goal is supported by policies and implementation strategies to place all travel modes on an equal footing in the city’s review and approval of projects. In particular, one measure requires the City to “revise street improvement standards to be consistent with this Circulation Element, including consideration on equal footing of all locally available forms of travel.”

Examples include requirements for the street improvement standards to include “a complete and comprehensive pedestrian and bicycle system,” sidewalks that are “wide and shaded by trees” separating pedestrians and auto traffic, lower speed limits on “roads cyclists will share with motorists,” and automatic traffic signal actuators located where cyclists can reach them from the road.

Compiled July 2009

This case story was prepared in partnership with the California Air Resources Board.


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