Listen to market demand, says The Economist's Ryan Avent

To create jobs, drive innovation, attract talent and keep housing costs affordable, American cities would be right to address the growing demand for smart growth development, says The Economist’s Ryan Avent in a recent interview with Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino.

“Well, my tendency as an economist, working for The Economist, my inclination is to say build with what the market will demand,” Avent says. “And so that’s why I think we have a great opportunity here, because what the market is increasingly demanding are homes that are within walking distance of job centers.”

Avent, a resident of Arlington, VA, and the author of The Gated City, emphasized that in building with market demand in mind, it’s also crucial to change common misperceptions about density. In his book, Avent uses the phrase “hogs stacked on hogs” to describe what makes people afraid of added housing units. The realities of increased density, however, are radically different and the addition of in-demand housing options contributes to robust regional economic growth.

“If you think about the sort of density that might work, if it builds around transit and a walkable environment, you don’t add a lot of the downsides that are typically associated with density, like congestion,” Avent says. “When you build in a sprawling pattern and force people into cars, that’s what actually causes congestion.”

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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.

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American Jobs Act should use public transportation and road repair to achieve job creation goals

Washington, DC – In his speech last night before Congress, President Obama outlined the new American Jobs Act, which states among its goals putting construction workers back to work rebuilding the country’s roads and bridges. In response to this call Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America, issued the following statement:

Investments in smart growth infrastructure like public transportation and repairing deteriorating infrastructure in existing communities will best achieve the goals outlined in President Obama’s America Jobs Act. Rather than spending millions on land and equipment and obligating taxpayers to additional maintenance, these investments will reduce future costs and put a larger proportion of funds directly into the pockets of American families.

These investment strategies will also create the jobs of the future the president recognizes are key to America’s future economic health. Robust public transportation and roads and bridges in good condition are vital to keeping America competitive in a global 21st century economy, and the American Jobs Act is an excellent opportunity to begin building these important resources.

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New study reveals the economic impact of America's failing transportation infrastrucuture

The nation’s deteriorating surface transportation infrastructure will cost the American economy more than 870,000 jobs, and suppress the growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product by $3.1 trillion by 2020 according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

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Good Jobs, Green Jobs on the benefits sustainable communities bring to jobs and economies

The annual Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference is wrapping up today in Washington, DC. Coordinated by the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation, the multi-day conference shares ideas and strategies for building a green economy that creates good jobs and preserves America’s economic and environmental security. It brought together a diverse group of agencies and organizations to tackle questions about revitalizing our economy, replacing jobs lost in the “great recession” and building the infrastructure needed to keep America competitive in the 21st century.

Smart growth strategies are a key part of all these goals, and yesterday’s morning plenary at the conference was dedicated to just that. U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison (DFL-MN), Amalgamated Transit Union International President Lawrence Hanley, Kaiser Permanente Vice President of Workplace Safety and Environmental Stewardship Kathy Gerwig and American Institute of Architects President Clark Manus spoke on a panel about Sustainable Communities, moderated by Kojo Nnamdi, host of WAMU’s “The Kojo Nnamdi Show.”

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Photo by Keith Mellnick/Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference

Congressman Keith Ellison discussed how sustainable communities have the ability to increase independence, maximize efficiency and encourage innovation. Clark Manus, President of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), detailed how AIA is “working with communities on more than just buildings,” and emphasized the possible depth of what “more sustainable, more responsible communities” can offer their residents – from increased access to transportation options to a stronger economy.

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Response to new report focuses on missed opportunities for fast, effective job creation

Last week, Smart Growth America released a report about how states spent their flexible transportation funds from 2009’s American Recovery & Reinvestment Act and whether the projects funded with that money created the most jobs possible. The research revealed that most states failed to invest in projects that create the most jobs per dollar: namely, public transportation and road repair and maintenance. Money spent on paving new roads, by contrast, creates fewer jobs per dollar spent, making it a worse value for the government’s money.

The mounting criticism of states’ use of their stimulus funds is coming from people who want to see the U.S. economy recover quickly and effectively. Investing in public projects that create jobs in the short term and economic sustainability in the long term – as public transportation and road repair do – is one of the best ways to do that. As former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening explains in an editorial in The Hill:

Past decisions about transportation spending are detours, not dead ends. While the golden opportunity of ARRA funding has passed, state and federal governments can learn the lessons of ARRA and meet President Obama’s challenge to do what is best for the economy.

Tanya Snyder at Streetsblog highlights the point that states have to make smarter investment decisions if they want to see results:

In just the last month, several reports have quantified…how investing in transportation infrastructure pays off in jobs and economic health. Now Smart Growth America is out with new research showing that it’s not enough to plunk down a bunch of money and expect miracles. You’ve got to do it right.

Megan Owens, spokeswoman for Transportation Riders United explained to The Detroit News that even though Michigan doesn’t spend that much on new roads, the state’s public transportation spending doesn’t even come close:

“We can do a better job of spending on public transportation, especially when you see that SMART and DDOT are looking at cutbacks…We spent as much on widening a few miles of M-59 in Oakland County as we did for all of public transportation in southeastern Michigan.”

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New report reveals smart transportation spending creates jobs, grows the economy

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Americans to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world” to win the future. To rebuild America, he said, we will aim to put “more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.”

A new report from Smart Growth America analyzes states’ investments in infrastructure to determine whether they made the best use of their spending based on job creation numbers. Recent Lessons from the Stimulus: Transportation Funding and Job Creation evaluates how successful states have been in creating jobs with their flexible $26.6 billion of transportation funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). Those results should guide governors and other leaders in revitalizing America’s transportation system, maximizing job creation from transportation dollars and rebuilding the economy.

According to data sent by the states to Congress, the states that created the most jobs were the ones that invested in public transportation projects and projects that maintained and repaired existing roads and bridges. The states that spent their funds predominantly building new roads and bridges created fewer jobs.

As Newsweek’s David A. Graham explains, investments in transportation create jobs in the short term and longer term economic prosperity too:

Injecting money into transportation projects, the thinking goes, is an especially potent jobs-creation tool because it not only puts construction workers and contractors to work quickly, it also lays the groundwork for future economic growth and development. Obama predicted the transportation money alone would put hundreds of thousands of workers on the job.

As “Recent Lessons from the Stimulus” explains, not all transportation projects reap these benefits equally:

[S]tates spent more than a third of the money on building new roads—rather than working on public transportation and fixing up existing roads and bridges. The result of the indiscriminate spending? States missed out on potentially thousands of new jobs—and bridges, roads, and overpasses around the country are still crumbling. Meanwhile, the states that did put dollars toward public transportation were richly rewarded: Each dollar used on transit was 75 percent more effective at putting people to work than a dollar used for highway work.

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