haps, the most common approach to livability dimensions, with the interactions more explicitly spelled out and the central goal—livability—occupying center stage.

Both perspectives gloss over conflicts among goals associated with the three spheres, and neither suggests the complexity of interactions among spheres. Only Figure 1.3 recognizes the fact that the environment is, inescapably, the critical infrastructure without which neither an economy nor a society can survive. Only Figure 1.4, while representing the three basic spheres, emphasizes the web-like nature of relations between the economy, environment, and society.

Despite various conceptual underpinnings, ideas and indicators of livability do influence decision making on a variety of important fronts. There are numerous examples, ranging from transit-oriented urban developments, to local “smart growth” and sustainability plans, to state programs that redirect investment to neglected urban areas, all the way to the federal government’s Livable Communities Initiative, a package of policy initiatives and partnerships developed by the U.S. White House Task Force on Livable Communities (2000).


How, exactly, are broad ideas about livability translated into a set of practical guidelines for policy making? In general, the key dimensions of livability tend to be converted to a much more specific set of indicators that can be used for evaluation. Indicators have long been used by planners, policy makers, and public managers to profile populations and com

FIGURE 1.3 Community as three integrated spheres. SOURCE: Hart (1999).

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