Voting is one of the most fundamental rights (and obligations) that U.S. citizens have and a number of ballot measures across the country this year could have big implications for smart growth. Here’s a brief roundup of some of the nation’s biggest ballot questions that voters considered.
An ocean apart from the US mainland’s electric supply, Hawaii has embarked on an ambitious effort to wean itself off imported fossil fuels with a mandate to reach 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045. Elemental Excelerator commissioned Rhodium Group, in partnership with Smart Growth America, to conduct an independent analysis of Hawaii’s clean energy transition. This is not a plan; rather, this report presents a quantitative assessment of accomplishments to date and describes the future potential of clean energy deployment in Hawaii’s electric power sector and on-road transportation.
We’ve raised the bar for this element of our Complete Streets policy framework to better account for land use and context. In our previous framework, we gave points to policies that simply mention community context in decision making. Now, the updated framework requires Complete Streets policies to integrate land use policies, plans, zoning ordinances, or equivalent documents from jurisdictions at all levels of government.
The way communities plan neighborhoods has profound effects on the natural environment and public health. A new study released by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Sustainable Communities’ Smart Growth Program finds a link between environmental quality and land use and transportation strategies.
The second edition of Our Built and Natural Environments: A Technical Review of the Interactions Among Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Quality, an update to a 2001 report of the same title, details how development can impact human and environmental health. “As the U.S. population has grown, we have developed land that serves important ecological functions at a significant cost to the environment,” the report states, going on to say, “Changing where and how we build our communities can help mitigate these impacts, improving how development affects the environment and human health.”
The report identifies hows our development patterns have negatively affected the natural environment, the report finds, “Transportation is responsible for 27 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; residential and commercial buildings contribute 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively.”
As solutions to these mounting problems, the report demonstrates the benefits of specific development strategies. The report recommends preserving ecologically valuable sites and placing a stronger emphasis on infill develop and transit oriented development. Each of these strategies reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled and, in turn, greenhouse gas emissions. The report also emphasizes the need for community design that addresses development’s potential downsides, offering investing in mixed-use development and improving street connectivity as solutions.
A detail from Pima County’s Cultural Resources map. Image from the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.
Pima County, Arizona, has made a concerted effort in recent years to improve how it uses land and maintains its infrastructure.
The County already is already working to improve the area’s zoning codes, and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, which works to balance development with preserving open space, has been touted as “one of the best and most comprehensive habitat conservation plans in the country.”
Thank you to everyone who attended Smart Growth America’s Sustainable Communities Network webinar “Transit Corridors for Sustainable Communities: Planning Transit to Connect the Dots” earlier this week. This webinar was hosted by Smart Growth America, PolicyLink, Reconnecting America, and the National Housing Conference.
|Listen in: Click here to view the archived webinar|
Speaking on the webinar were Dena Belzer, President of Strategic Economics and partner in the Center for Transit-Oriented Development; Crista M. Gardner, Senior Planner at Portland Metro; and David Johnson AICP, Director of Planning, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. The webinar was moderated by Elizabeth Wampler, Program Associate at Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit-Oriented Development.
Will California’s plans for reducing dangerous climate-changing emissions help or hinder the building and development market? California’s most prominent association of real estate developers answered that question emphatically last week, saying that California’s law requiring regions to reduce emissions through smarter land use, transportation, and housing decisions is good for business.
On a Friday where anyone can bring up a live video stream on their computer of oil still pouring from a broken well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps you, like a lot of Americans, feel a little powerless about it and aren’t sure what we can really do to prevent such a disaster in the future. While certainly not responsible for the spill itself, that well and thousands of others are there because we need quite a lot of oil every day.
The public health field often looks at changing individual behavior to get better outcomes – we offer driver’s education to prevent accidents, or conduct public service announcements about the importance of exercise to lower obesity levels. New research on violent crime helps illustrate the fact that the choices people make are influenced by the places they live, and that what we choose to do with the physical space in our communities can play a critical role in our efforts to help keep people safer and healthier.