Smart growth news – August 9

IBM Partners With Portland To Play SimCity For Real
Fast Company, August 8, 2011
Systems Dynamics for Smarter Cities, as the app is called, tries to quantify the cause-and-effect relationships between seemingly uncorrelated urban phenomena. What’s the connection, for example, between public transit fares and high school graduation rates? Or obesity rates and carbon emissions? To find out, simply round up experts to hash out the linkages, translate them into algorithms, and upload enough historical data to populate the model.

Study examines extending Woodward light rail from Detroit to suburbs like Ferndale, Birmingham
Detroit Free Press, August 8, 2011
Detroit’s momentum in bringing light rail to Woodward Avenue may finally do what years of talks, political promises and symbolic gestures have failed to do: lead to real regional cooperation.

Senator Warns NJ Transportation Projects, Jobs Could Be At Risk If Congress Fails To Approve Funding
NJ Today, August 8, 2011
Today, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez joined labor and transportation advocates to warn of the potential results if Congress fails to re-authorize the Surface Transportation Program next month. The federal program, which provides funding for road, bridge, and transportation projects, will expire on Sept. 30.

4 recommendations for smarter American infrastructure
SmartPlanet, August 8, 2011
As Congress gets ready to pick a “supercommittee” that must find at least $1.5 trillion to cut from the U.S. deficit, a bipartisan coalition backed by several political heavyweights has released a new report urging Congressional leaders to reconsider American investments in roads, ports, broadband and other elements of a high-tech transportation network.


Smart growth news – August 3

Cities See the Other Side of the Tracks
New York Times, August 2, 2011
The High Line’s first and second sections cost $153 million, but have generated an estimated $2 billion in new developments. In the five years since construction started on the High Line, 29 new projects have been built or are under way in the neighborhood, according to the New York City Department of City Planning. More than 2,500 new residential units, 1,000 hotel rooms and over 500,000 square feet of office and art gallery space have gone up.

Bike share program coming to downtown areas of Oklahoma City
The Oklahoman, August 3, 2011
A bike share program like those embraced in other cities will be started later this year in downtown Oklahoma City. Such programs have “stations” where bicycles are checked in and out with a deposit placed on one’s credit card. A nominal charge is sometimes paid for use of the bicycles; final details of the downtown arrangements are pending negotiation of a vendor contract.

Residents fill long-empty Tempe tower
Arizona Republic, August 2, 2011
“They’ve taken an eyesore and turned it into an icon,” Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said of Zaremba finishing Tower 1 within six months of buying the property.

America’s Top Public Transportation Cities
Forbes’ The Jungle blog, August 1, 2011
To determine America’s top public transportation cities, we looked at estimates of the percent of workers 16 years of age or older who traveled from their community to work by public transportation from 2005 to 2009, provided in the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey.


Smart growth news – July 25, 2011

Land Bank Act will help N.Y.
Times Union (N.Y.), July 22, 2011
New York cities face a daunting vacancy crisis. Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse, Troy and Utica all have vacancy rates over 10 percent, according to recent census data. Vacant properties pose a serious threat to New York communities by lowering surrounding property values, attracting crime, cutting into local tax revenues and perpetuating cycles of disinvestment.

U.S. Treasury to move into new building in downtown Birmingham
The Birmingham News, July 23, 2011
The U.S. Treasury Department will move its operations from Homewood to a new $19 million, 87,000-square-foot building to be built next to the new Social Security Building in downtown Birmingham.

Gas prices fuel mass-transit surge
The Miami Herald, July 21, 2011
From 1995 to 2009, national use of public transit increased by 34 percent, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association, a nonpartisan group that promotes mass-transit improvement. South Florida saw an increase of 37 percent from 2000 to 2009. In the state with the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities, venturing out of a car is especially risky. Miami residents’ commute time is also five minutes longer than the national average. But in the city that was recently ranked the eighth-most “walkable” in the country, people are willing to do it.

South San Francisco seeks to revitalize southern El Camino Real
San Jose Mercury, July 23, 2011
On Wednesday, the City Council is expected to consider approving the El Camino Real/Chestnut plan, which calls for high-density, mixed-use development in the area over the next generation.


Smart growth news – July 11, 2011

Fire departments and new urbanism’s village design at odds
USA Today, July 6, 2011
Urban villages, quaint and pedestrian-friendly developments embraced by environmentalists, are sparking opposition from fire officials who say the streets are too narrow for their fire engines.

Two roads to traffic relief for D.C. area
The Washington Post, July 9, 2011
We’re stuck in traffic and jammed aboard trains, and we really want to know if anybody has a way out of this mess, a road map for solutions within our lifetimes. I asked Richard Parsons, president of the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance, and Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, to define the problem, propose solutions and tell us how we would know if their ideas worked. Their routes to relief follow different maps.

N.J. development sprawl has continued, study says, July 9, 2011
“Large-lot subdivisions lock in a residential land-use pattern that excludes many New Jersey residents that can’t afford large single-family homes and often prevents those people from living near their jobs,” Hasse said. “When housing growth doesn’t keep up with job growth, that’s inconsistent with the goals of smart growth and it means gridlock traffic with people having to travel to their jobs.”

The Costs of Smart Growth Revisited: A 40 Year Perspective
New Geography, July 8, 2011
“Soaring” land and house prices “certainly represent the biggest single failure” of smart growth, which has contributed to an increase in prices that is unprecedented in history. This finding could well have been from our new The Housing Crash and Smart Growth, but this observation was made by one of the world’s leading urbanologists, Sir Peter Hall, in a classic work 40 years ago.


Value capture: an innovative strategy to fund public transportation projects

Officials in Shenzhen, China, this month announced a $900 million project to expand the city’s metro system in anticipation for the XXVI Universiade Games. City officials hired the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation – best known for running and managing Hong Kong’s mass transit system – to build and operate the ten-mile-long, ten station extension.

Unlike most transit operators around the world, MTR maintains a robust development portfolio that produces revenue far greater than its transit fares. Most of MTR’s properties surround the company’s rail lines, and in many instances – such as in Hong Kong – MTR received the properties from the city in return for financing and operating a transit system. In essence, MTR provides metro service below ground in return for property above. This strategy is called “value capture.” Although it’s not yet clear whether Shenzhen’s expansion will use this model, the speculation about using value capture there reaffirms the idea’s financial viability.

In Latin America, value capture has been utilized to help fund Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in cities such as Bogota, Columbia and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Property values have increased dramatically along BRT corridors as a result of the improved transit, and the local government has been able to recoup public funds used to finance the system through increased value of government-owned properties along the line. Both Bogota and Sao Paulo helped pay for new transit lines by betting property values would increase along those corridors.


Smart growth news – June 30, 2011

Christie to annul Council on Affordable Housing
Asbury Park Press (N.J.), Wednesday June 30, 2011
As part of the other changes, the Department of State would become the home of the State Planning Commission and Office of Smart Growth, both now part of DCA, and the Business Retention and Attraction Division, now at the Economic Development Authority. All have connections with economic growth, which has become one of the primary responsibilities of Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who is also the secretary of state.

Cool factor lures the young, artsy to Detroit
Detroit News (Mich.), June 29, 2011
Detroit, city of 100,719 vacant parcels and three Starbucks, has discovered its marketing niche: land of the young, daring and bohemian. And more businesses, foundations and city leaders are investing in the idea.

Are McMansions Coming Back in Style?
Wall Street Journal Developments Blog, June 29, 2011
In January, we reported that the average size of a new single-family home shrunk to 2,377 square feet last year, down 3 percent from 2009, according to the National Association of Home Builders. And it’s not clear that younger buyers will embrace the McMansion in the same way their parents did. Presenters at the annual NAHB convention in Orlando told Developments in January that large, cookie-cutter suburban homes wouldn’t appeal to the younger generation of home buyers.

The Best Public Transportation Systems In The World
Business Insider, June 29, 2011
Thanks to the climbing price of gas, driving is quickly turning into a pastime for the rich and famous. So unless you’re ready to re-mortgage your house, you may have to leave your car at home and hop on a subway, bus or light rail to get to work. Not sure what to expect? We’ve put together a top 10 list of public transportation systems in the world to give you an idea of what cities have the best mass transit available to the working public.


Smart growth news – June 23, 2011

The City and Bikes: Rubber Meets Road
Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2011
Spring was a little shrill and embarrassing. There were crazed media furies about bike lanes, non-stop reports of police crackdowns, hyperbolic worries that the city was transforming into an effete Euro village. If we didn’t defend our streets, the cyclists would overtake Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan would open a leg-shaving station in Union Square…But then a funny thing occurred. It got warmer, more people started riding, and the mania was eclipsed by reality.

Five Smart Growth Projects Receive $1.5 Million in Aid
Boston Globe, June 23, 2011
Five development projects seen as promoting dense urban development oriented around mass transit have been chosen by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance to receive $1.5 million in aid.

Carroll officials take stand on growth, transit, immigration
Baltimore Sun, June 22, 2011
Public prayer is just one of the issues that is defining this five-member, all-Republican board, all but one a newcomer to governance. They were swept into office on the tea party wave last year after a campaign that emphasized property rights and an opposition to many environmental initiatives, affordable housing and public transportation in a county where more than half the workforce commutes to jobs outside its borders. “We don’t want subways or metro buses,” said Richard Rothschild, one of the new commissioners. “They are conduits for crime. That’s not politically correct, but it is factually substantiated.”

Is a housing construction boom coming?
The Atlantic, June 22, 2011
You might think the question posed in the headline above sounds crazy. Aren’t foreclosures very high and thousands of distressed properties hitting the market each day? Didn’t residential construction go bonkers during the housing bubble in an epic overbuilding binge? The answers to these questions are: sort of, but it’s complicated. After the bubble popped, home construction fell to historic lows and stayed there. As a result, we may be on the verge a housing shortage in the U.S., which would actually be very good news for the economic recovery.


SGA news clips, April 13, 2011

High-speed rail makes quick exit in budget deal; TIGER and sustainable communities survive
New Urban Network, 4/12/11
James Corless, director of Transportation for America, issued the following statement:

“The decision to halt progress on modernizing our world-lagging rail network is emblematic of an overall failure of congressional leadership and vision. Once again, Congress finds itself lurching from appropriations bill to appropriations bill, creating and killing programs and keeping outdated programs on life support, while China and Europe surge forward. The resulting chaos is undermining our ability even to repair and maintain our existing infrastructure, much less build a a 21st century transportation system that will allow us to compete in an increasingly global economy.”

U.S. Federal Budget Cuts to Hit Cash-Strapped City Funds
BusinessWeek, 4/12/11
U.S. cities and local governments will lose at least $3 billion in funds for housing, community redevelopment projects, public transportation and police and fire departments as part of the budget agreement that averted a federal government shutdown.

The Rural Bridge Deficit
The Daily Yonder, 4/11/11
Federal inspections have found that just over 11% of the nation’s highway bridges are “structurally deficit,” according to Transportation for America, a group promoting transportation projects. That percentage is about the same in rural, urban and exurban counties.

Six Bridges In Township ‘Structurally Deficient’
South Whitehall, PA Patch, 4/12/11
A recently released report by Transportation for America identified Pennsylvania as having the largest number of deficient bridges of any state in the country. More than 25 percent of the bridges in Pennsylvania need significant maintenance, repair or replacement, according to the report.

How to Create a Culture of Public Transit: The ‘Marci Option’
The Atlantic, 4/12/11
Despite the fact that Bishop Ranch is 37 miles from San Francisco, a dozen miles from the nearest BART rail station, and home to Chevron’s corporate offices, its parking lots are surprisingly empty, and it has won many awards for transit. Marci McGuire, the program manager for the Ranch’s Transportation center, describes the attitude at the park as “a culture” where it’s cool to have a bus pass.


Working for better transportation options in Washington state

A new campaign in Washington is fighting to improve transportation for people across the state. Transportation for Washington, a project launched this week by Smart Growth America’s coalition partners Futurewise and the Transportation Choices Coalition, is calling for better repair and maintenance of roads across the state as well as more transportation choices for Washingtonians. These transportation spending strategies – which are in line with many of Smart Growth America’s recent recommendations for Washington – create jobs, spur economic growth and improve Washington’s transportation system at the same time.

Roger Millar, Director of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, discussed these same issues with Ross Reynolds on KUOW-94.9 Seattle’s The Conversation earlier this week. Together with Mike Ennis, Director of the Center for Transportation at the Washington Policy Center, Millar discussed the state of Washington’s transportation system and how the state can get more out of their transportation dollars:

Funding for public transportation is currently a hot topic in Washington state. A bill recently introduced to the state legislature would allow local transit agencies to seek funding to finance public transit projects. According to the Washington Transportation Commission, Washington currently has over $200 billion in unfunded transportation projects – and that need is growing.


New Federal Transit Grants Complete the Streets for Everyone

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded over $290 million to public transportation projects across the country. Many of the winning projects took a comprehensive approach that will make travel more convenient for not just transit vehicles but also people walking, biking, and waiting for the bus or streetcar.

Complete Streets