Green Initiatives

Green Region

DVRPC is committed to planning for a sustainable future for the region. For DVRPC sustainability is not just about energy efficiency, green building, or land preservation; it is a philosophy that we weave into every facet of our work. By building a sustainable region, we are building a competitive region. This site is a portal for you to access the breadth of DVRPC's award winning work on green infrastructure and sustainability.

Long-Range Planning

Connections 2040 Land Use Vision

Connections 2040 Plan for Greater Philadelphia - the long-range plan for the DVRPC region - lays out a framework for growing smart, conserving natural lands, and building the region's greenspace network. With just over 1 million acres of undeveloped, unprotected land remaining in the region, the Connections 2040 Plan proposes protecting one-half of this - 450,000 acres - by 2040.

The Connections 2040 Land Use Vision defines a regional plan for growth management and open space preservation. The Land Use Vision comprises four layers: Existing Development (Infill and Redevelopment), Emerging Growth Areas, Rural Resource Lands, and the regional Greenspace Network. Together, these areas envision a clean and sustainable environment where key natural resource areas and agricultural lands are protected, open space is provided in an inter-connected network, fragmentation of rural areas is drastically reduced, and new greenfield development is constrained to designated future growth areas, where supporting infrastructure is in place or planned. Learn more >>

Environmental Screening Tool

For DVRPC, linking environmental and transportation planning within the Long-Range Plan means identifying conflicts and opportunities present between transportation projects and regional environmental goals, and utilizing that information to make decisions about the future of the transportation system. DVRPC's Environmental Screening Tool aims to quantify the potential relative impacts of transportation projects on environmental features.

Each new capacity project contained in DVRPC's long-range plan is assigned a buffer, sized according to roadway classification and whether or not new right-of-way is created for a project. To evaluate the relative impacts of transportation improvements on the environment, these buffers are overlaid with ten key environmental data layers, including DVRPC's Greenspace Network and Conservation Focus Areas. The data layers are "rasterized" into a grid of 30-meter cells. The value of the cells within a project's buffer area are summed to produce a cumulative score. This analysis depicts the natural and ecological context of transportation projects, providing an early indication of potential relative environmental impacts.

The ability to depict key environmental resources on a regional scale, along with the various components of the transportation system, provides an opportunity to identify and avoid potential environmental conflicts. It also aids in the identification of potential secondary and cumulative ecosystem impacts that may not be easily identifiable with proposal-specific mapping. Planning and promoting transportation projects that meet mobility needs, but which also avoid the most severe environmental impacts among a range of alternatives, accomplishes a critical first step in the NEPA and permitting processes.

Green Infrastructure

Open Space and Natural Resource Planning Program

DVRPC offers New Jersey municipalities a program of services - the "Open Space and Natural Resource Planning Program" - through which a municipality can conduct significant planning to protect its important environmental resources, its land, and its quality of life. This innovative program assists communities in assessing the current state of their resources, works with the public and community leaders to articulate a future vision, and develops specific municipal tools that a community can use to achieve its vision.

New Jersey municipalities can choose from the following "market basket" of planning services to meet their diverse needs: Community Visioning, Natural Resource Inventories (NRI), Open Space and Recreation Plans, Farmland Preservation Plans, Master Plan Conservation Elements, Ordinance Assistance, Plan Endorsement Assistance, Greenway Plans, Build-out Analysis, GIS Mapping Services, Open Space Trust Fund Campaign Assistance, Education/Training Programs & Workshops, Funding & Grant-writing Assistance. Learn more >>

Economic Value of Open Space

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and the GreenSpace Alliance (GSA) are partnering on an effort to conduct a study that will quantify the economic value of the protected open space (publicly owned and eased lands) in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The study is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PADCNR) and The Lenfest Foundation. Learn more >>

Green Streets

DVRPC promotes "green streets" as a strategy for transforming the region's traditional transportation infrastructure into sustainable green infrastructure. Green streets improve the attractiveness of our roadways and the quality of life of our communities. Green streets involves a range of techniques that serve to integrate stormwater runoff into the built environment and promote carbon-free modes of transportation, including sidewalks, bike lanes, and multi-use trails. DVRPC incorporates green streets strategies into its corridor planning work and is developing resources to assist our government partners in implementing green streets interventions.

Partnership with TreeVitalize Municipalities Program

Recognizing the need to restore tree canopy in our region, DVRPC is a key partner in the TreeVitalize Municipalities Program. The TreeVitalize Municipalities program of the overall TreeVitalize partnership operates in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties with the aim to help communities overcome obstacles to restoring and managing their tree canopy. TreeVitalize Municipalities challenges municipal leaders to treat trees as part of their community's infrastructure, and to consider trees in their plans, ordinances and capital improvement projects. The program also connects municipal leaders with the resources they need to get the job done, through technical support provided by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Penn State Extension Service, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Service Area Foresters, and the Morris Arboretum. TreeVitalize Municipalities also provides periodic grant programs to the region's communities, along with announcements of subsidized trees and resources for other funding and technical assistance.

Food System Planning

Greater Philadelphia has a rich agricultural community, temperate climate, and a robust distribution and transportation network, but many rural, suburban, and urban areas lack access to fresh, healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food. DVRPC's food system planning program aims to assist stakeholders in recognizing the region's competitive advantages, and work to overcome its challenges, to create a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient food system.

Smart Growth

DVRPC's Office of Smart Growth creates plans and policy reports to promote the reduction of sprawl, preservation of open space, and a focus on development around concentrated main streets, transit stations, and mixed-use communities. These strategies help reduce auto dependency, promote alternate modes of transportation, and reduce the region's carbon footprint by building smarter, healthier, more sustainable communities. The Office of Smart Growth focuses on site-specific planning projects as well as broad policy recommendations on topics such as parking, zoning, transit-oriented development, and development finance.

Smart growth ensures that development is clustered, locating jobs, services, and homes near each other. This approach reduces the need for automobile trips, encourages walking and biking, allows development to utilize existing infrastructure, and reduces the land coverage of new development, promoting land conservation. In this way, smart growth is a critical strategy for building a sustainable region. Learn more >>

Reclaiming Brownfields

A brownfield is a property that is abandoned or underutilized because of either real or perceived contamination. Reuse of brownfields is an important strategy for concentrating growth without building on undeveloped greenfields; however, cleaning up greenfields can be a confusing, lengthy, and expensive process. DVRPC developed a packet of guides for municipal governments and developers to understand the ins and outs of brownfield reclamation. The packet includes a primer for municipalities, a guide to sources for funding and technical assistance, and seven case studies from across the region.

Climate Change Initiatives

DVRPC'S Climate Change Initiatives program area, leads, supports, and coordinates efforts in our region to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare for climate change. Over 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are from stationary or mobile energy consumption. The latest science indicates a reduction in GHG emissions of 80 percent is required by 2050 to keep global climate change within an acceptable range. A 50 percent reduction by 2035 would put our region on track to achieve this. DVRPC firmly believes addressing this issue now as a region will help our region's long-term economic competitiveness.

This program area has four major tasks: Regional GHG Inventory and Forecast, Allocated to Counties and Municipalities; Evaluate Greenhouse Gas Reduction Options and Develop a Regional Climate Change Action Plan through Stakeholder Engagement; Integrate Climate Change and Energy Concerns Throughout DVRPC Activities; Assist Member Governments with GHG Emissions Inventories and Forecasts for their Operations. Learn more >>

Sustainability Planning

DVRPC coordinates events and information related to sustainability planning and provides sustainability planning services to municipalities. In 2008, DVRPC organized and hosted a two-day Planning for Sustainability event that brought together national and local leaders in planning and zoning for sustainable communities.

DVRPC recently completed a survey of municipal sustainability planning activities underway in the region. This information will be posted online in a regularly-updated inventory to promote partnerships and the sharing of ideas related to the greening of municipalities. DVRPC has also added the development of a Green Buildings-Sustainability Element to its list of municipal planning services, beginning in 2009. The specific components of such an Element will vary from one community to another, depending on goals, previous initiatives, and presence/absence of an Environmental Resource Inventory and of a Conservation Element in the Master Plan.

Sustainable Skylines Initiatives (SSI)

The Sustainable Skylines Initiative (SSI) is a locally-led, EPA-supported, public-private partnership to reduce air emissions and promote sustainability with the goal of healthier air, and a cleaner environment for local citizens, government and business. Participating communities work cooperatively with EPA and other partners to increase community participation and leverage resources.

Transit, Bicycle, and Pedestrian Planning

DVRPC promotes travel alternatives to the automobile which help to conserve energy and support "smart growth" land development patterns that are walkable and bikable. DVRPC's Office of Transit, Bicycle, and Pedestrian Planning conducts planning studies which help to set regional priorities for investments in these three sustainable modes of transportation.

Recent transit projects include DVRPC's Long-Range Vision for Transit, which articulates an image of a future Delaware Valley where our transit network has undergone investment to fulfill its full potential for anchoring regional growth and enhancing quality of life. DVRPC's Transit Score Tool established statistical measures for land development patterns and transit supportiveness. The result is a simple tool which can be used by planners and members of the public to gauge the transit suitability of a place. The Dots & Dashes game was funded through a grant from the Federal Transit Administration to design a hands-on outreach method for future major transit investments. In Dots & Dashes, participants were educated about project tradeoffs and negotiation while expressing their preferences for specific investment priorities. This process was one component of outreach for DVRPC's Connections Long-Range Plan.

DVRPC recognizes that the majority of bicycling and walking trips are local in nature, and so our focus for those modes is on projects that enhance local mobility on bike and on foot - projects which enhance people's ability to choose bicycling and walking for trips to the train station, shopping, and schools in their neighborhoods. Through new partnerships such as the Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Forum, DVRPC is working to blend specific local project and planning assistance with meaningful regional coordination and prioritization.

DVRPC Office Sustainability Initiatives

DVRPC established an Office Sustainability Committee to help formally create a more environmentally friendly workplace at DVRPC. This Committee, comprised of DVRPC staff, developed an Office Sustainability Plan aimed at implementing sustainable practices within the Commission. The Sustainability Plan identified over 20 short-term action items, in addition to setting medium and long-term goals. Creating a sustainable office environment has reduced DVRPC's resource consumption, while increasing awareness of the environmental impacts of our day-to-day practices. These savings have and will continue to add up over time. DVRPC continues to seek out new sustainable practices, and encourages all businesses and agencies in the Greater Philadelphia region to consider ways to make their offices more sustainable. Doing so will both help the environment, and improve the organization's bottom line.

To see a list of our accomplishments to date, click here.

For more information on sustainable business practices, please see the Philadelphia Green Business Checklist.