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PCSD Goal: Sustainable Communities

Strengthen communities' capacity to engage their citizens in actions to enhance fairness, provide economic opportunity, and maintain a safe and healthy environment.

Indicators of progress attempt to "allow for the cultural diversity among communities while recognizing key national trends":

  • The first indicator, violent crime, is based on measures of the number of people who feel safe walking through their neighborhood in the evening. Establishing a baseline may be difficult for this indicator.

  • The second indicator, community design, is based on measures of access to jobs, shopping, services, and recreation, nearby transportation choices, and housing through "alternative land designs." This indicator attempts to reflect a community's economic opportunity, one of the multiple components of the goal. In a world of advanced telecommunications, however, it is not clear that traditional measures of economic opportunity are accurate. Moreover, it is questionable whether additional access routes, shopping centers, recreation centers, etc., enhance or threaten the health of the environment (another component of the goal). Finally, it is not clear how this indicator is calculated.

  • The third indicator, public parks, is based on the amount of urban green space or park space.

  • The fourth indicator, public participation, is based on the percentage of registered voters who cast ballots in the past two national elections and the percentage of individuals within a community who participate in social, recreational, charitable, and other civic activities. This indicator attempts to measure the extent to which citizens are "engaged" in the maintenance/betterment of their communities; it does not address the effectiveness of such efforts.

  • The fifth indicator, investment in future generations, is based on the amount of community resources dedicated to its children, including maternal care, childhood development, and K-12 education. How the amount of resources dedicated to children is determined is not clear (e.g., is time spent by parents at home somehow included in this calculation?).

  • Finally, the sixth indicator, transportation patterns, is based on the average mass transit miles, vehicle miles traveled per person, and the number of trips made possible by alternatives to personal motor vehicles. Weighting of the four subindicators and interpretation problems may be issues for this indicator.

Unlike the literature on either economic or health-related issues, the literature on sustainable communities is not well developed. Thus, in many ways, the authors are breaking ground with these measures. While such measures represent a solid effort, issues related to baseline data availability and metric comprehensiveness and specificity are apparent.

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