New tool kit highlights Complete Streets lessons from the southeast that any community can learn from

cs-se-toolkit-coverThink you need to look to the west coast or the northeast for Complete Streets best practices? Think again. The southeastern United States gets the spotlight in a new tool kit developed by AARP and the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America.

Communities in the southeastern United States are home to one in five of the nation’s 600+ Complete Streets policies, and transportation agencies, community leaders and residents are actively implementing Complete Streets practices. This new tool kit takes a comprehensive look at those efforts and distills advice and lessons for others in the region. Readers will find success stories from several of these communities, template presentation and media materials, and activities to help make multimodal accommodations become a routine part of project development.

The information and stories in this tool kit are not just great examples for communities in the southeast: they are great examples for any community. Any community can find inspiration for their own Complete Streets efforts from project development processes used in Charlotte, NC, from the detailed implementation reports issued by Lee County, FL, or from the strong connections between community organizations and city departments in Greenville, NC. With this tool kit, communities across the country will be better equipped to create age-friendly communities.

Complete Streets

How much would your state need to spend to repair its roads?

VDOTA crew from the Virginia Department of Transportation fills potholes. Photo by VDOT via Flickr.

How much would your state need to spend to repair its roads? Most likely the answer to that question is “a lot.” In some cases, state DOTs could spend their entire annual budget on repair and maintenance and still have work left to do. So why are many states making the problem even worse by continuing to spend scarce transportation dollars expanding their road networks?

In two weeks, Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense will address this question with the release of the 2014 edition of Repair Priorities.


Announcing the best Complete Streets policies of 2013

Livermore, CALivermore, CA is included among the top of The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2013.

A total of 83 communities adopted Complete Streets policies in the United States in 2013. These laws, resolutions and planning and design documents encourage and provide for the safe access to destinations for everyone, regardless of age, ability, income or ethnicity, and no matter how they travel.

The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2013, released today by Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition examines and scores each Complete Streets policy enacted in 2013. The report outlines ten ideal elements of a Complete Streets policy and scores individual policies based on these ideals. Policy elements refine a community’s vision for transportation, provide for many types of users, complement community needs and establish a flexible approach necessary for an effective Complete Streets process and outcome.

Complete Streets

Could state DOTs provide better service for less money?

innovative-dot-second-edition-coverState transportation officials across the country are facing the same challenges: Revenues are falling and budgets are shrinking but transportation demands are continuing to grow.

Innovative approaches can help transportation officials overcome both these sets of challenges, and an updated resource from Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) outlines how.

The second edition of The Innovative DOT, released today, provides 34 strategies transportation officials can use to position their agencies for success in a new era of constrained budgets. Originally released in 2012 and developed with input from top transportation professionals and agency staff from around the nation, the handbook documents many of the innovative approaches state leaders are using to make systems more efficient, government more effective and constituents better satisfied.

“America’s transportation system is vital for economic growth and to our everyday quality of life,” said Roger Millar, Vice President of Smart Growth America. “Faced with tight budgets, transportation agencies are taking new approaches to managing our nation’s transportation infrastructure. The resources in The Innovative DOT encourage smarter investments and a more strategic approach to help deliver the best possible performance given our current fiscal situation.”


Top 10 of 2013: Building better budgets through new, original research

38 percent

This month, we’re looking back at some of Smart Growth America’s brightest moments and greatest accomplishments from 2013. Today’s highlight? Our July report that showed just how much smart growth strategies can benefit municipalities’ bottom lines.

Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development set out to find how much cities and towns have saved, on average, by using smart growth strategies. The report collected 17 studies from cities across the country that compared two or more development scenarios. The majority of these studies found that a smart growth approach would improve the city’s finances, whether by saving money on upfront infrastructure, reducing the cost of ongoing services or by generating greater tax revenues in years to come.


Upcoming Webinars: November 2013

Want to learn about new, innovative strategies for creating great places? Several upcoming webinars provide ideas and inspiration.

Applying for Smart Growth America’s free technical assistance workshops
November 6, 2013 — 2:00 PM EST
Smart Growth America is now accepting applications for our 2014 series of free technical assistance workshops. Join us on Wednesday to hear all about the 12 types of workshops offered, who is eligible to apply and details of the selection process. Learn more and register >>


Applications now being accepted for Smart Growth America’s 2014 free technical assistance workshops

Technical assistance workshop
A technical assistance workshop in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Applications are now being accepted for Smart Growth America’s 2014 free technical assistance workshops. Each year Smart Growth America offers free assistance to local communities interested in building stronger local economies and creating great neighborhoods. These workshops will be awarded to a limited number of qualifying communities.

Now in its third year, this free workshop program helps city, county and regional leaders find solutions to local issues and concerns. Our workshops help participating communities to grow in ways that benefit families and businesses while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place.

Technical assistance

Partnership in the News: EPA report shows link between land use, public health, natural environment

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.

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Credit: EPA Office of Sustainable Communities

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.


Listen in: Building Better Budgets panel discussion

Building Better BudgetsYesterday Smart Growth America released new research on the savings and revenue of smart growth development. Building Better Budgets is the first report to aggregate local fiscal comparisons and determine a national average of how much communities can expect to save by using smart growth strategies.

To accompany the release we hosted a panel discussion of the new findings. If you weren’t able to join the event an archived version is now available at the link below.

Listen in: Click here to view the archived recording

Speaking on the panel were William Fulton, Vice President of Policy Development and Implementation, Smart Growth America; Rick Bernhardt, FAICP, CNU-A, Executive Director Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County Planning Department; Mary Newsom, Associate Director of Urban and Regional Affairs at UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute; and Chris Zimmerman, Member of Arlington County (VA) Board.

The panel discussion includes an overview of the findings and discussion of development strategies in Nashville, TN, Charlotte, NC, and Arlington, VA, as well as a question and answer session with panel attendees.

Read more about Building Better Budgets >>


A new resource for engaging community members in brownfield redevelopment

OPTIONs Workbook coverDo you know the ten smart growth principles by heart? Me neither, but there’s one I never forget: Encourage Community and Stakeholder Collaboration in Development Decisions.

Engaging community members in decisions about where, what, when and how to invest, build, and preserve is what makes smart growth smart. As basic as this principle is, though, it is not always easy to do. There is a learning curve for everyone involved in the development process and this is particularly true for brownfield sites—properties that are or are suspected to be contaminated by hazardous materials. Brownfields are some of the most complicated redevelopment projects and the more people and official processes that are involved in the process, the steeper the learning curve.

That’s why Smart Growth America is happy to release a new tool designed to help communities organize for effective public outreach. The Organizing to Promote Targeted Improvements in Our Neighborhoods (OPTIONs) Community Engagement Workbook is a series of seven worksheets with instructions designed to help community groups think about how to organize, what they need, and how to build a strategy to participate in the redevelopment process. Community groups can use these tools on their own, but they can be just as useful for local governments seeking working with partners in federally- and state-mandated community engagement programs.