"An increasing movement toward more walkable cities"

CNBC released its list today of the top 10 most walkable cities in America, and includes in it a discussion of the growing trend among towns and cities to create neighborhoods with pedestrian-friendly streets and bustling downtown shopping districts. These features are a key part of smart growth development strategies and, as CNBC writer Cindy Perman explains, walkable neighborhoods have benefits beyond street-level charm. Walkable neighborhoods feel safer and more social, and help build exercise into daily routines. But even more importantly, walkable neighborhoods bring economic benefits:

You wouldn’t spend much time hanging around in the parking lot of a strip mall in a car-dependent suburb. But, you would linger in a very walkable city, which means you’re more inclined to spend more. Quite a bit more, in fact. The Urban Land Institute studied two Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, one walkable and one not. They found that the Barnes & Noble book store in the walkable suburb made 20 percent more in profits than the one in the driving-dependent suburb.

“We call that a place-making dividend,” McMahon said. “People stay longer and come back more often and spend more money in places that attract their affection.”

There’s an economic benefit for homeowners, too: Homes in walkable cities hold their value better than those that were heavily reliant on driving, according to Smart Growth America, a group that promotes “smart growth” instead of suburban sprawl.

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Video: Planning for growth in the Northeast

Smart Growth America’s coalition partner Regional Plan Association works on plans and policies to accommodate and encourage future growth in the Northeast corridor. The Northeast has a number of unique features and challenges, but the Regional Plan Association’s work is exemplary of how regions across the country can identify future growth and transportation challenges and work now to find solutions.

For the Northeast, RPA explains, building a high speed rail network in the region could avert imminent transportation problems. The region is projected to gain 18 million new residents over the next generation but roads connecting towns and cities in the region are already congested. High speed rail could better connect residents and businesses in the area and that doesn’t just mean less traffic: it means a stronger regional economy and better opportunities for economic growth:

In particular, U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, 3rd District of Connecticut, explained the economic boost such a system would bring to her area:

When we begin to connect cities and rural areas – cities like New York, New Haven, Providence, Boston – what you are doing is producing economic growth and economic competitiveness…It is the direction we ought to be moving in in order to look at job growth, competitiveness, economic development, and a key to our economic future.

High speed rail has been controversial in some places, but many of the arguments in this video apply to transportation options of all kinds, including buses, streetcars or subways. Creating these transportation options means better serving more people, accommodating more travelers in the same space and creating more efficient ways to get between home, jobs and stores. Large or small, every community can use smart growth techniques to give people the freedom to choose how they get around.

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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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New report: State transportation decisions could save money and reduce carbon emissions

Download the ReportA new report released today by Smart Growth America and the Natural Resources Defense Council found that transportation policies in every state could save money and reduce carbon emissions by making smarter decisions with state funds.

In “Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy,” SGA and NRDC found that current transportation policies in almost all 50 states either fail to curb carbon emission rates or, in some cases, actually increase emissions. This contradiction between state policies and broader efforts to reduce carbon emissions means not only that many states are missing opportunities to protect clean air; it means they are missing economic opportunities as well.

In a press conference this morning, former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening remarked:

Transportation makes up an enormous proportion of our national economy and our environmental impact: it must be front and center as we think about how to get the most out of our public investments. The states that rose to the top in this report, California, Maryland and New Jersey, are there because they are meeting the challenge to innovate.

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Lowell’s Area-Wide Plan Targets Historic Tanner Street Corridor

Lowell, Mass., street, originally uploaded by The Library of Congress.

Lowell, Massachusetts has an important national legacy: the city was the United States’ largest textile producer in the 1800s, the birthplace of Jack Kerouac, and home to the invention of Moxie, one of the earliest (and most delicious) soft drinks mass produced in the country.

Lowell’s Tanner Street Corridor, the focus of the Area-Wide Planning Pilot Grant the city received from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month, still reflects that legacy. The corridor is one of the few remaining active industrial areas in the city, with an emphasis on automobile and metal recycling.

Unfortunately, with the decline of manufacturing nationally, Tanner Street Corridor now also faces a number of barriers to economic revitalization. At least six vacant or underutilized brownfields sites are located along the corridor, contaminated by heavy industrial use and in need of remediation. At the same time, many manufacturing companies have been forced to relocate outside of Lowell because a lack of viable available land has prevented expansion within the city.

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Metro Boston wins $4 million for Sustainable Regional Planning

Metro Area Planning Council.

The following is a guest post from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a member of the Smart Growth America coalition. Congratulations to the Council for Metro Boston’s recent award of a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant!

Smart Growth in greater Boston, Mass. scored a major victory recently with the region’s receipt of a $4 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This grant will support the implementation of MetroFuture, the region’s blueprint plan for sustainable and equitable long-term growth. MetroFuture was developed with the participation of over 5,000 “plan-builders,” including individuals, academic institutions, business organizations, community based organizations, and others.

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Federal Partnership announces Greening America’s Capitals technical assistance recipients

EPA has announced the five recipients of technical assistance through the Greening America’s Capitals program, a new, collaborative initiative from the HUD-EPA-DOT Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Boston, MA; Jefferson City, MO; Hartford, CT; Little Rock, AR; and Charleston, WV will receive direct, tailored sustainable design assistance from teams of urban planners and landscape architects. From … Continued

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