Round Two: Your Stories About the High Cost of Gas and Your Jobs

Rising gas prices and high levels of unemployment continue to weigh on the American economy. Smart Growth America asked for stories about how high gas prices are affecting your life, and we heard many stories about how expensive gas is making your professional life more challenging. With gas costing $4 gallon or more, workers are feeling the pain when it comes to commuting, meeting with clients around town, going to conferences, or even looking for a job.

  • A gallon of gas costs $4.11 for Carisa in Illinois, so in addition to carpooling more, she has to be very selective about which meetings and marketing events she absolutely must attend for work, and she said she’s still not getting to all of them. She’s reconsidering her attendance at some out of town conferences. She cannot reach her clients downtown without a car, so driving is a must for her.
  • An anonymous contributor from Northern California, where gas is $4.17 per gallon, is looking for a job and said the high gas prices are limiting the search.
  • Faced with $4.50 for a gallon of gas, Umi in Hawaii recently started carpooling the three-hour round-trip commute with a coworker. Even though the coworker’s shift ends an hour later, she “sacrifice[s] a little sleep and the personal convenience of leaving on my time table” to save money. Public buses are unreliable and intermittent in her hometown, and filling up just 3/4 of her tank costs more than $60.

A consistent theme throughout these stories is that transportation choices can help people and communities cope with rising gas prices. We’ve heard from people who are using public transportation or biking to work – or to look for work, for those who are unemployed – as driving becomes more expensive.

Part of Smart Growth America’s work is helping great communities have more low cost options for getting around when gas prices get too high, but we need to hear from you to do it. How much does gas cost in your area? What are you doing to cope with the high prices of gas? If you don’t drive often, or at all, how do you get around? Smart Growth America is helping more people have the option of shorter drives and more ways to get around when they want it. Click here to tell us your story.


Rockefeller and Pew: States need to strengthen performance measures

Crossposted from Transportation for America’s blog.
Written by Sean Barry.

Many states fail to track the results of their transportation dollars, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The report, Measuring Transportation Investments: The Road to Results, is quick to tie the timing of its findings to the current debate over including more performance measures in a reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation law. An unofficial version of the Obama administration bill makes performance and accountability a key component of the federal program.

The report ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia according to six key goals: safety, jobs and commerce, mobility, access, environmental stewardship and infrastructure preservation.


Register now for the 2011 Land Bank Conference in Detroit, MI

In many places across the country, land banking is becoming an integral part of community revitalization efforts, especially as America’s cities and towns have struggled to keep ahead of the foreclosure crisis and the resulting economic impacts over the past few years. Today more communities than ever are developing and strengthening land banking efforts to increase affordable housing, create market-based development opportunities, and implement alternative land reuses.

The Center for Community Progress invites elected officials, business owners, developers and anyone else interested in land banking issues to the 2011 Land Bank Conference from June 5-7 in Detroit, MI. The conference will help participants identify how land banking and tax foreclosure strategies can catalyze development of effective solutions to unlocking the value of vacant, abandoned and problem properties. Highlights of this two-day event include training seminars, breakout sessions, bus tours and networking opportunities.

The conference attracts hundreds of professionals from across the country and from diverse backgrounds including: elected officials, land bank staff and board members, for-profit and non-profit developers and the real estate industry, community foundations, greening initiatives, neighborhood and civic leaders, and local and state government officials.

Click here for registration and more information.


What does post-Katrina New Orleans say about cities? About America? (NOLA resilience part 1)

Crossposted from NRDC Switchboard Staff Blog
Written by Kaid Benfield

You are looking at a photo of Congo Square, in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, adjacent to and just northwest of the French Quarter. Slaves once gathered here on Sunday afternoons to dance and make music, and some say it is the birthplace of jazz. I’m certainly not going to romanticize slavery, but one has to admire the resilience of those forced to endure it, claiming a day and a place for themselves and their culture. More recently, Congo Square was the site of the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, until Jazzfest outgrew the space and moved to the fairgrounds.

I’m headed to New Orleans today to take part in the annual convention of the American Institute of Architects. As a non-architect, I take a certain pride in being invited into their circle. I’m looking forward to being on a panel with my friends David Dixon and Laurie Volk. And I’m also looking forward to returning to New Orleans, for what I think will be the third time since Katrina.


Complete Streets Policies Growing Strong

Crossposted from Complete Streets.

New Analysis, Highlights Strongest Policies, Gives Advocates a New Tool

States and local governments in every quadrant of the nation are adopting strong complete streets policies, according to a new analysis by the National Complete Streets Coalition. The new report, “Complete Streets Policy Analysis 2010,” rates the strength of written policies that are designed to ensure that future transportation infrastructure investments provide safe options for everyone using the roadways. Rather than providing a single model policy, the report provides dozens of examples of strong policy language that is actually in use somewhere in the United States. It will serve as a resource to continue the expansion of the complete streets movement.

The report documents the tremendous growth in adoption of policies across the US. The number of policies came close to doubling in each of the last three years. Twenty-three states (and Puerto Rico and DC) and more than 200 smaller jurisdictions now have complete streets policies to ensure that future transportation investments provide safe options for everyone using our roadways.

“Recent polls show that voters’ top priority for infrastructure investments are safer streets for our communities and children,” notes Barbara McCann, National Complete Streets Coalition Executive Director. “Our report shows that this commitment is not only wide, but deep: community leaders and transportation practitioners are rolling up their sleeves and working together in small towns and big cities, in almost every state in the nation, to pass policies that will ensure that future transportation investments create complete streets.”


Turner Foundation Seeks Information on Local Green Infrastructure Projects

From the EPA State and Local Climate and Energy Program:

Is your community investing in green infrastructure to improve air quality, lower summertime temperatures, or reduce energy costs? The Clean Water America Alliance (Alliance) is conducting a project for the Turner Foundation to engage utilities, cities, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector on green infrastructure policy. The resulting report will be used to help the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with its national rulemaking to establish a program to reduce stormwater discharges.

If you would like to participate in this project, complete the questionnaire at the link below to submit information on your current green infrastructure implementation efforts as well as the barriers you’ve encountered. The questionnaire is intended to seek quantitative and qualitative data on the technical, financial, legal, institutional, and cultural barriers to implementing green infrastructure practices at the local, state, and federal levels of government.

Your contribution will be compiled with others to develop a report highlighting the opportunities, barriers and recommendations. The Alliance will promote and distribute the report to participants in the water sector, conservation communities, and key policy-makers, as well as other interested parties.

Respond to the questionnaire yourself, or circulate the link below to others at your organization to complete some or all of the questions, as appropriate. The deadline for survey participation is April 15, 2011.

password: GREEN

For more information, please contact Lorraine Loken at the Alliance, (202) 533-1819, or email [email protected].


Livable Communities Coalition launches Fair Share for Transit campaign

At a rally yesterday in downtown Atlanta, the Livable Communities Coalition (LCC) launched its Fair Share for Transit campaign. Speaking at the rally, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed voiced his support for the initiative which is designed “to explain the benefits of and need for significantly increased investment in transit service for the metro Atlanta region.”

Atlanta is in the process of identifying major transportation projects for the region for the next decade, and Fair Share for Transit wants to make sure transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects are included. LCC Executive Director Ray Christman explained these transportation choices will help Atlanta economically: “We have to invest now in transportation alternatives that will boost the region’s economic competitiveness, help attract good jobs and improve the region’s quality of life.” Fair Share for Transit backers include private business groups and representatives of the health, disability, social equity, environmental, transit, bicycling and pedestrian communities. More than 20 businesses and groups have signed on to the campaign to date.

The Georgia General Assembly recently passed the Transportation Investment Act of 2010, and next summer residents of Atlanta’s 10-county region will vote whether to raise sales taxes one percent for 10 years in order to finance a number of much anticipated and much needed transportation projects. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, today “is the deadline for MARTA, the Atlanta region’s 10 counties and its cities and towns to get their desired projects to the state.” MARTA is not expected to set priorities until this summer, after the projects are initially reviewed by the state Department of Transportation’s director of planning and area elected officials. The campaign will continue until October 15th, when the final list of projects is announced.

Fair Share for Transit supporters include Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Buckhead Community Improvement District, Cherokee Area Transportation System, Citizens for Progressive Transit, CHA, Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Atlanta Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, Georgians for Passenger Rail, Georgia STAND-UP, Georgia Transit Association, Hedgewood Realty, Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Resources for Residents and Communities of Georgia, RouteMatch Software, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Sustainable Solutions Georgia.

Formed in 2005, the Livable Communities Coalition is the Atlanta region’s smart growth advocate and catalyst. It unites nearly 60 organizations working to change the way metro Atlanta grows by focusing on land use, transportation, housing, and conservation of open green space and natural resources. Member organizations include regional leaders in the areas of aging, building and development, business, urban and landscape design, government, housing, planning, sustainable development, the environment, and transit and transportation alternatives.


SGA Asks: What can cities like Detroit do to rebuild their local economy?

Each week Smart Growth America poses a question to our readers to encourage discussion about smart growth ideas in neighborhoods across America. You can engage in the dialogue by commenting on our Facebook page or through Twitter with @SmartGrowthUSA. If you’re not already a fan or a follower, sign up to participate.

The 2010 US Census data released this week revealed that Detroit, among other cities, lost more residents than initially thought. This week, SGA asks: What can cities like Detroit do to rebuild their local economy?

The New York Times’ Room for Debate debates this issue in depth, with eight experts weighing in on revitalization opportunities presented by increasingly vacant cities across America. Among the points they raise:

  • What if the government used a fraction of the billions it spends to subsidize home-building on ‘unbuilding’ projects instead?
  • The record of top-down schemes to revive cities by remaking neighborhoods is littered with disastrous unintended consequences.
  • The key to restoring a shrinking city’s health is to cut costs of doing business and ensure access to quality education.
  • Build vegetable gardens and parks, but also consider tax incentives.
  • We need to get over our tendency to throw out damaged goods; instead we need to retrofit them.

Which of the authors do you agree with? Disagree with? What role can abandoned property revitalization play in reviving a city?


Answers: Is there a road in your neighborhood that’s pedestrian unfriendly? How would you change it?

Earlier this week Smart Growth America asked our readers to weigh in on pedestrian unfriendly roads in their neighborhoods, and we’re excited to share the responses. We’ll be asking a new question next week – be sure to follow us on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook to join the discussion!

So: is there a road in your neighborhood that’s pedestrian unfriendly? If so, how would you change it? Here are some responses:

If you’d like to learn more about making roads that work for everyone, visit Smart Growth America’s partner organization Complete Streets to learn more.

Complete Streets

Main Street and open space: Smart growth at work in rural areas

Towns and cities across the country in all types of areas – rural, suburban as well as urban – can use smarter development strategies to create stronger, more vibrant communities. Such was the topic of a discussion at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, on Thursday. Anna Read of the International City/County Management Association and Stephanie Bertaina of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities discussed strategies that can help guide growth in rural areas while protecting natural and working lands and preserving rural character.

Read and Bertaina identified a number of benefits rural areas can reap by incorporating smart growth strategies. Smaller towns and cities often a struggle to maintain open space and small-town character while still benefiting from development, and though growth can bring the economic opportunity many rural areas want, it can also bring traffic congestion and other conflicts. The speakers acknowledged these sometimes conflicting needs and explained how smart growth strategies can help towns strike a delicate balance. Smart growth strategies help create an economic climate that enhances working lands and conserves natural lands, while protecting downtowns and Main Streets and helping those valuable assets thrive. In doing so, smart growth strategies can help build vibrant, enduring neighborhoods that people, especially young people, want to live in.

One example of this principle in action is the Texas Historical Commission (THC). Through its Texas Main Street Program, THC helps communities across Texas capitalize on their unique, authentic character. For many small businesses in the state, the Texas Main Street Program is a key to survival. As Britin Bostick, who sits on the Paris, TX, Main Street Advisory Board and chairs the downtown economic restructuring committee, explained to the Daily Yonder, THC’s Main Street revitalization effort provided “a necessary framework for us to build our downtown.”