Smart growth news – June 24, 2011

Poor transit system, sprawl make trips to work difficult
Kansas City Star (Kan.), June 22, 2011
A Washington think tank ranks Kansas City’s transit system among the worst in the country at getting people to jobs. Part of the blame belongs to our spread-out growth pattern, which has pulled an ever-larger share of jobs to the suburbs — beyond the easy reach of buses. “We don’t just have a transit problem, we have a job-sprawl problem,” said Ron McLinden, a public transportation advocate with the Transit Action Network in Kansas City. The recent report by the Brookings Institution ranked the Kansas City area 90th among 100 metro areas based on how well its bus system serves the workforce.

Headquarters come and go – it’s jobs that count
Raleigh News & Observer (N.C.), June 23, 2011
The Triangle: A great place to live and work; not so great for a corporate headquarters. You’d never hear this region’s boosters utter such a line, but it’s hard not to at least think it after a week in which the Triangle received another economic pat on the back and downtown Raleigh lost another headquarters. The accolade came from the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, which ranked the Triangle among the 20 strongest performing metro areas in the U.S. through the first quarter.

Transformation Detroit: Dan Gilbert’s grand plan for downtown tech hub, retail and residential (Mich.), June 23, 2011
These days, it seems like everybody has a plan to revitalize Detroit. But unlike many would-be visionaries, Dan Gilbert has what it takes to get it done: Money. Boatloads of it. The Quicken Loans founder and chairman is in the process of purchasing the 23-story Dime Building near Campus Martius, which would be his fourth major downtown real estate acquisition in the past 10 months, including the First National Building, Chase Tower and the Madison Theatre Building.

Walking expert prescribes ‘road diets,’ traffic circles for cities seeking street makeovers
Associated Press via Washington Post, June 20, 2011
Today, with the health, environmental and quality-of-life benefits of walk-able neighborhoods, they can’t get enough of Burden. Even in car-dependent Southern California, where he spent a few of his roughly 340 days a year on the road this spring, city planners are literally walking the talk alongside him.

High gas prices will cut July 4 travel, AAA says
USA Today, June 23, 2011
High gas prices, coupled with higher airfares and hotel rates, will keep many travelers tethered to their backyards this Fourth of July weekend, according to an AAA survey out today.
AAA estimates 39 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the long weekend, down from 40 million last year. Of those, some 32.8 million, or 84 percent, will drive to their vacations — a million fewer than last year.

Local smart growth news

Massachusetts: Five ‘smart growth’ projects get $1.5m in aid
Boston Globe, June 23, 2011
Five development projects seen as promoting dense urban development oriented around mass transit have been chosen by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance to receive $1.5 million in aid. The projects were the first to be selected by the alliance and will be recognized at an event today at the University of Massachusetts Boston. They include two in Boston, and one each in Lawrence, Somerville, and Winchester.

Arizona: Historic downtown Phoenix depot converted to cost-saving offices
Associated Press via The Republic (Ind.), June 23, 2011
A historic freight depot in downtown Phoenix has been converted to offices after being unoccupied for nearly five decades. It took 11 months and $4 million to renovate the Santa Fe Freight Depot near Chase Field. The freight house once was the center of the city’s commercial and food distribution economy.

Texas: Developers seeking zoning change for potential downtown mixed-use tower
Austin American-Statesman (Texas), June 22, 2011
Developers are seeking a zoning change for a potential office project or an apartment tower that could rise up to 400 feet near the southeast corner of West Fifth and Bowie streets in downtown Austin. The site encompasses three small buildings at 309, 311 and 315 Bowie, including an equipment rental business and Francois Photography…Current zoning in the area caps height on the site at 120 feet. The developers are seeking a type of mixed-use zoning that allows higher buildings.

California: Last three General Plan land-use workshops scheduled
Pasadena Star-News (Calif.), June 22, 2011
There are just three community workshops left to lay out options and alternatives in the General Plan on land use and mobility, city officials said Wednesday. Alternative A calls for growth to be diverted from the downtown Central District to East Pasadena and other business areas; Alternative B calls for maximizing economic vitality and jobs; Alternative C calls for “smart growth” along transportation lines and major intersections; and Alternative D calls for slowing growth citywide.

North Dakota: GF and EGF officials taking input on public transit needs
Grand Forks Herald (N.D.), June 22, 2011
About 25 citizens voiced concerns about city bus service and other public transit issues Wednesday evening in City Hall at the first of 10 meetings this year seeking input on redesigning public transit in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Bill Troe, a consultant with URS Corp., an engineering consultancy firm based in San Francisco, explained the five-year plan by the Metropolitan Planning Organization to review public transit in the two cities.

Virginia: York Supervisors OK Second Mixed-Use Development
Williamsburg Yorktown Daily (Va.), June 23, 2011
The Yorktown Crescent development proposes 80 residential condominiums, 58 townhouses and duplexes, 64 rental apartments, eight “live-above” units, and at least 31,000 square feet of commercial and community space. Residential units would be priced from the mid-$100,000 to the low $300,000 range, and small businesses – like a nail salon, restaurant and specialty retail – were envisioned to fill the commercial spaces.

Smart growth blogs

Smart Growth Weathered the Housing Crisis Better Than Sprawl
Planetizen, June 23, 2011
Abigail Gardner of Smart Growth America takes aim at a recent article based primarily on Wendell Cox’s correlation of smart growth policies to the housing market bubble and collapse.

Broad Support for Smart Growth to address climate change
New Urban Network, June 23, 2011
Perhaps most surprising, although consistent with the findings of Smart Growth America and the Rockefeller Foundation, climate change response policies are supported by Republicans and Independents as well as Democrats.

The American suburbs are a giant Ponzi scheme
Grist, June 23, 2011
We’ve done this because, as with any Ponzi scheme, new growth provides the illusion of prosperity. In the near term, revenue grows, while the corresponding maintenance obligations — which are not counted on the public balance sheet — are a generation away.

New Report: How to Save Money on Road Construction
Infrastructurist, June 22, 2011
Whenever the surface transportation reauthorization bill appears — the latest reports say it’s expected just after the July 4 recess — it will be a thrifty sight. Given the reality of severe spending reductions, the Portland Cement Association released a new report today that outlines several ways to maximize the limited construction dollars that do get dispensed.

First New Bike Highway Routes Approved in 30 Years
Transportation Nation, June 22, 2011
It’s vacation season, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants people to remember travel by bike is an option too, even across the country. Last month the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) approved the first new first new routes in over 30 years.


Opinion: Mass transit needs a moving message
Indianapolis Star (Ind.), June 23, 2011
I’ve got to hand it to folks here in Missouri. They know how to run a successful campaign to get penny-pinching politicians and skeptical voters to raise taxes for mass transit. That’s something that has stumped rail and bus advocates in Central Indiana for decades.

Guest commentary: Somerville is a city of great neighborhoods
Somerville Journal (Mass.), June 23, 2011
Somerville will receive more transportation investment over the next ten years than any other community in the state. The extension of the Green Line as well as a new Orange Line station in Assembly Square is unmatched. But action is needed by the City, resident leadership, the private sector, and community groups to take advantage of the shared wealth that will be created.