Smart growth news – December 8

Economy, gas prices make Americans drive less
USA Today, December 7, 2011
It’s the first time the nation has seen six consecutive monthly decreases since October of 2008. A USA TODAY analysis of data from the Federal Highway Administration shows the miles driven during the year that ended in September were down 1% from a similar measure from February.

Public mass transit regains footing
USA Today, December 7, 2011
More people rode public transportation in the first nine months of this year than last, a sign that more people are working and looking for cheaper options to get around. Ridership on public buses and trains increased 2% — from 7.63 billion rides to 7.76 billion, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Vacant Homes Impose Big Costs On Cities Amid Budget Crises: GAO
Huffington Post, December 6, 2011
The foreclosure crisis is costing cities at a time when they can least afford it. Millions of homes in America are standing vacant, and in many cases they represent a financial sinkhole for their communities. Local governments — forced to absorb the costs of maintaining or razing these homes, and seeing property taxes plummet in response to the spread of urban blight — are increasingly shouldering the burden of the country’s slumping housing market, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Census: Income gap growing in cities
Politico, December 8, 2011
As affluent African-Americans leave cities for the suburbs and the South, the income gap between whites and blacks in cities is continuing to widen, new census data show. Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Milwaukee and other cities saw climbing inequality between whites and blacks caused by the departure of middle class minorities, The Associated Press reports.

Bipartisan House group pushes six-year transportation bill
The Hill, December 7, 2011
A bipartisan group of House members says it is “tired of waiting” on House leadership and President Obama and will be pushing forward its own six-year transportation bill in hopes of jump-starting the economy. Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) submitted a letter on behalf of 111 House members — composed of 62 Democrats and 49 Republicans — to Obama urging him to support a transportation reauthorization package. The pair appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday to advocate for their plan.

Experts struggle to express direness of infrastructure problem to a wary public
Washington Post, December 7, 2011
Alaska’s bridge to nowhere is so seared in the minds of voters as the epitome of wasteful federal spending that experts say hardly anyone is willing to pay more to revitalize the nation’s aging highways, bridges and transit systems. Despite dire warnings that a cancer is eating away the networks that carry people from place to place and goods to market, there is little urgency among the American people or political will in tight times on Capitol Hill to address the issue.

LOCAL

Snyder, Bing meet with LaHood to discuss Metro Detroit public transit
The Detroit News, December 6, 2011
“Secretary LaHood is committed to working with Gov. Snyder and Mayor Bing to help find safe and reliable solutions to the transit challenges facing the residents of the greater Detroit region,” the department said in a statement. LaHood “applauds their efforts to work together on a regional transit solution that will offer residents safe, cost-effective ways to reach their schools, jobs, and churches.”

Northwestern Mutual Parters On Downtown Bethesda Residential, Retail Project
Bethesda Patch (Md.), December 7, 2011
In a move that promises to transform a key intersection in downtown Bethesda, Northwestern Mutual has entered as a joint venture partner with StonebridgeCarras and PN Hoffman for a large mixed-use development project planned for the parking lots across from Barnes & Noble at the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues. The $200 million Bethesda project, pending since 2004, got a boost this week with the announcement of the partnership. Specific financial details were not disclosed.

Community input sought for land use map changes
Montrose Daily Press (Colo.), December 8, 2011
“A comprehensive plan is to guide zoning, but it also needs to be in touch with the actual growth of the city … “ Baker said. “The old plan was forcing [the] staff to recommend development where it wasn’t appropriate.”

OPINION

Let transit drive U.S. growth
NJBIZ, December 6, 2011
“Looking just narrowly at a couple issues we weighed in on, we were happy to see the administration is promoting solar most in locations that we think make sense,” said Chris Sturm, senior director of state policy for New Jersey Future. “Not on farmland and open space, but on rooftops, parking structure, brownfield landfills. In those locations, you’re not running into conflict with other state policies.”

New rule would speed up development without protecting rural land
Star-Exponent (Va.), December 7, 2011
Culpeper County is considering a new zoning ordinance that could result in rapid development of land that is now mostly rural —with serious impacts on property values, local taxes and Culpeper’s farmlands. Considering that we already have a glut of development in Culpeper, faster development is the last thing we need.

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