Building for a new America: RailVolution 2011 in Washington, DC

To understand the new American dream, we have to understand the new America.

This was the theme of today’s opening plenary session at RailVolution, a four-day conference dedicated to discussing strategies for building livable communities served by transit. This year’s conference, which takes place in Washington, DC, will discuss the best strategies to support downtowns, the benefits rail can bring to a regional economy, and policy initiatives that can support these goals.

Opening this morning’s plenary was Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors. Joining him was Manuel Pastor, Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Both Leinberger and Pastor spoke about shifting trends in the United States, and how these shifts will influence communities’ strategies for building homes, business areas and transportation networks. The U.S. is diversifying both ethnically and racially, Pastor explained, and the suburbs in particular are growing more diverse than ever before. These aren’t the only changes at work, however. Leinberger added that the U.S.’s population is growing older, as millions of Americans reach retirement age. The number of homes in America without children is also on the rise, and young people are increasingly moving to cities and urban areas.

LOCUS

Smart growth news – September 9

Infrastructure Spending Builds American Jobs
Center for American Progress, September 8, 2011
Academic, private-sector, and nonpartisan government studies alike confirm the positive effects of infrastructure and transportation investments on private-sector employment. Data collected and published by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House of Representatives show that every $1 billion in additional funds committed to highway projects between 2009 and 2010 produced 2.4 million job-hours, according to an analysis by Smart Growth America.[3] The return on investment on transit projects was even higher, with 4.2 million job-hours produced by every $1 billion in investment. With $21.5 billion in highway funding alone, the Recovery Act put Americans to work on our nation’s roadways for 51 million hours—time they may have otherwise spent idle and unpaid.

Former governor reflects on role as chief executive on Sept. 11
Maryland Community News, September 9, 2011
Cellular communications, which effectively froze in the hours after the terrorist attack, still present problems during emergencies, as evidenced by last month’s earthquake in which cell phone lines jammed as people reached out to loved ones, said Glendening, who now leads Washington, D.C.-based Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, an organization that advocates for anti-sprawl planning policies

Walkable Urbanism creates wealth, real estate expert says
Press-Register (Ala.), September 9, 2011
When it comes to the production of walkable environments and downtown redevelopment, other cities in the Southeast have far outpaced Mobile, Christopher Leinberger, a real estate expert and developer, told a packed auditorium Tuesday.

Uncategorized

Smart growth news – September 7

CEOs Call for Less Regulation, Better Infrastructure
The Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2011
Chief executives of some of the world’s largest companies would support a U.S. effort to update aging infrastructure, financed in part by private money, as a way to create jobs and make U.S. business more competitive.

Maryland gives smart growth another push
NRDC Switchboard, September 7, 2011
I’m of the opinion that the package of (bold, at the time) smart growth policies introduced in Maryland in the 1990s by then-governor Parris Glendening has done a great deal of good, particularly in encouraging revitalization of city and town centers and conservation of rural lands. No, the smart growth laws have certainly not put an end to sprawl, which I’m sure is as or more disappointing to Glendening than to anyone.

Transportation: Is the sales tax a good route for the future?
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 6, 2011
At a recent event, Chris Leinberger, a real estate and planning expert at the Brookings Institution, said something that caught many by surprise: “Atlanta,” he declared, “is a city that really shouldn’t exist.”

Uncategorized

Building for Prosperity: Louisiana's Smart Growth Summit

Baton Rouge, LA – Developers, advocates, designers and civic leaders from across the region and around the country gathered last week for Louisiana’s sixth Smart Growth Summit. Hosted by the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX), this year’s summit focused on the economic opportunities created by smart growth.

CPEX, which works primarily in Baton Rouge, is known across the state as the leading advocate for strategic redevelopment, land use and transportation planning. In 2006 the group led a state-funded visioning effort called Louisiana Speaks which engaged 27,000 people in a conversation about the state’s future. Cities, towns and parishes across the region joined the smart growth dialogue, and the results are already apparent in local plans and politics.

LOCUS Uncategorized

Smart growth news – June 15, 2011

Did Smart Growth Fuel the Property-Price Boom?
Wall Street Journal Development Blog, June 14, 2011
In a recent paper, though, Wendell Cox, an Illinois-based consultant and an adjunct scholar with the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis, argues land-use restrictions and planning policies like smart growth fueled property prices and became the engine of the housing boom and bust. The price decline on the “drivable fringe” was generally twice as bad during the crash, said Christopher Leinberger, a developer of “walkable urban projects” and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. “And it was that part of the market that is the least regulated,” he said. Smart-growth areas or walkable neighborhoods within metro markets had price drops but they ultimately “held their value, thank you very much.” The problem, Mr. Leinberger added, was that “we built too much of the wrong stuff in the wrong location.”

A City Tries to Slim Down
New York Times, June 13, 2011
This city’s Broadway displays its own array of neon signs — two dozen fast-food restaurants, as diverse as McDonald’s and the local Indi’s — beckoning along a 2.8-mile corridor bookended by low-income neighborhoods on the front lines of a multimillion-dollar battle against obesity. The street symbolizes one of many hurdles facing officials here working to put a severely overweight population on a diet.

Poor public transit called threat to older Americans
Reuters, June 14, 2011
A new study says more than 15.5 million seniors, aged 65 to 79, will have poor or nonexistent access to public transportation by 2015. Many outlying suburbs and “exurbs” simply have few options for getting around for those who do not drive.

OC commuters urged to take public transit on Dump the Pump Day
KABC (Los Angeles), June 14, 2011
The Orange County Transportation Authority is encouraging commuters to give public transportation a try. They’ll even throw in breakfast. This Thursday is national Dump the Pump Day. It’s all about avoiding high gas prices by taking public transportation.

LOCUS