The Portland City Council is moving forward with a plan to improve transit service through a series of targeted improvements to some of the city’s most delayed bus and streetcar corridors. Known as the Rose Lane Project, it’s designed to advance equity, reduce carbon emissions, and increase transit ridership with quick-build projects. It also offers lessons to other cities struggling with sluggish transits systems mired in a sea of cars.
When roughly 14 miles of a bus rapid transit line was proposed along Division Street in East Portland, the effort was greeted with interest in an often-neglected area of the city, but also concern about the possibilities of displacement and development poorly engaged with the unique local culture. To address those concerns, community members throughout the Jade and Division Midway districts were engaged through arts and culture projects to recalibrate the plan to better serve community needs.
The annual New Partners for Smart Growth conference brings together public officials, development professionals, advocates, and civic organizations to connect with experts from across the country and catch up on the evolving best practices in smart growth. Hundreds of speakers cross disciplines to share insights, tools and strategies for making smart growth a success in communities across the country.
This year’s conference will take place January 29-31, 2015 in Baltimore, MD, and Smart Growth America is excited to be one of the many organizations participating. If you plan to attend the conference, be sure to catch the following sessions featuring Smart Growth America’s members and staff.
Portland, Maine has begun to develop a regional bikeshare program thanks to initial technical assistance provided through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program.
Portland’s Planning and Urban Development Department applied for EPA’s 2013 grants under the leadership of Jeff Levine. Portland residents, Mr. Levine noticed, already had a strong interest in alternative transportation.
“There’s a big commitment in Portland toward the environment and sustainability,” said Levine. “The challenge is providing an infrastructure that can help people to meet that goal.”
Residents were interested in a bikeshare program, but Portland needed a catalytic event to kick-start the project.
EPA’s workshops and forums, conducted earlier this month, jumpstarted the city’s efforts to implement a bikeshare program. Mr. Levine believes EPA’s time in Maine brought a necessary and “strong focus on the issue”. Residents and local officials participated in the sessions strategizing how Portland can make a bikeshare program a reality. With the project underway, Portland and the project’s supporters now must develop a business plan for a bikeshare program.
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.
McKinney, Texas; Nashville/Davidson County, Tennessee; Portland, Maine; and Wichita, Kansas will each receive assistance from the National Complete Streets Coalition through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Sustainable Communities Building Blocks program.
|Clockwise from top left: Smart growth projects in Baltimore, New York City, San Francisco and Maine.|
The Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement were awarded yesterday to five projects from across the country deemed “exceptional approaches to development that respect the environment, foster economic vitality, and enhance quality of life.” The awards were given in five categories.
The Civic Places award went to San Francisco’s Mint Plaza, which turned a derelict alley into a public plaza that reclaims stormwater and provides a flexible gathering place for neighborhood residents. The Rural Smart Growth Award went to the Gateway 1 Corridor Action Plan in midcoast Maine, a collaboration of 20 townships in the state to preserve the environment and economy along the corridor. The Programs, Policies and Regulations award went to Portland, OR, which has used city ordinances to encourage sustainable land use for future population growth. The Smart Growth and Green Building Award went to Miller’s Place in Baltimore, MD, which rehabilitated an abandoned building on a brownfield site to create housing and office spaces for teachers and non-profits. And the award for Overall Excellence went to New York City’s [email protected] program, a multiagency coordination to bring smart growth ideas to all five boroughs.
Complete Streets means more than single, unconnected streets. And in communities with natural barriers like rivers and lakes, building “complete” bridges is necessary to safely connect people to their destinations, regardless of how they travel.