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Livability Benchmarks for Montana Transportation

Project #: 4W3231
Start Date: 01/01/2011
End Date: 01/30/2012

As described in the final report, this study found that Montana has some unique characteristics that may have a bearing on measures of its livability. For example, sixty-two percent of Montanans live in areas where the population density is 800 people per square mile or higher, but those areas account for only 0.1 percent of the land area. Along with its unique character, the surveys conducted for this study indicate that Montana is also a good place to live. Survey respondents endorsed the belief that MDT projects add value to their quality of life. There were some consistent themes identified through the various tasks of this study. One size does not fit all, and any definition of livability should have some flexibility and scalability based on local needs and a community vision. Well maintained road system, safety, public transportation systems, bike and pedestrian facilities, and winter maintenance are important features of livability for Montana communities. Based on research and outreach, the research team proposed the following definition for livability in Montana as it relates to transportation: “Provide a transportation system that emphasizes a safe, maintained road network; allows for multimodal transportation opportunities; and considers local community values.”


Livability has recently gained renewed momentum in the national transportation discussion; however, this discussion has been largely focused on urban issues and solutions such as light rail, transit oriented design and high density housing. Livability focused planning and design could also help rural communities enhance access to jobs, health care, and other services, but rural policymakers and stakeholders are unclear as to how to define and implement livability initiatives in a rural environment.

The Montana Department of Transportation is initiating a study to investigate livability opportunities within the state. This project will provide baseline data and preliminary recommendations to help MDT assess livability issues that are important and unique to Montana.  The information and recommendations will be developed through a review of federal livability initiatives, livability practices in other states, and community livability definitions within the state.

MDT will use this information to help with national discussion of transportation priorities and align Montana to make the best use of future livability initiatives. If warranted, MDT may execute a second phase of this work in another research project that will identify specific implementation steps.



The objective of this research is to define what livability means for Montana as it relates to transportation, through a review of existing livability definitions, practices, and initiatives.



  • Pat McGowen
    Pat McGowen
  • Kris Christensen
    (Main External Contact)
    Kris Christensen
    (Main External Contact)


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