Public-Private Partnerships Key to Transit Planning

Residential, retail development should be fostered near bus and train lines

Lee D. Hoffman | The Connecticut Law Tribune

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Bicyclists make their way through Salt Lake City traffic. Officials are pushing to promote more walking and biking as the Wasatch Front population is predicted to double in coming decades.When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced his 30-year, $100 billion transportation plan for Connecticut, he gave the state a long overdue dose of Lipitor in an attempt to unclog the state’s constricted transportation arteries. While some may dispute the need for tolls or the propriety of the costs of the plan, there is no disputing that the governor has developed a transportation program whose breadth and scope has never before been seen in the region. In the wake of such a massive undertaking, it is time for the rest of Connecticut to follow his lead when it comes to transit-oriented development (TOD).

Starting in the 1950s and 1960s, much of the development that occurred was suburban-urban development, whereby individuals would work in cities, but live in the suburbs and commute to work. Recently, however, planners have noticed that individuals are dissatisfied with long commutes to work, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, demand for housing in transit zones is expected to double over the next 15 years. Along with housing, TOD calls for the development of retail and commercial spaces near such transit zones, to allow residents to easily get to restaurants and stores near where they live and work. By encouraging development along transit zones, TOD advocates hope to create more dense, livable and walkable communities. For TOD to be successful, however, it needs more than an infusion of state money; TOD also requires private investment.

Connecticut has already taken steps to foster TOD development. Before the governor announced his new plan, the CTFastrak bus line was well underway, as were plans for a new commuter rail line stretching from New Haven to Springfield. Last year, the state created a $15 million Transit Oriented Development Pre-Development and Acquisition Fund to provide financing and to encourage TOD along the paths of those two projects. Just last week, Malloy announced the appointment of Scott Jackson, the mayor of Hamden, as the undersecretary for intergovernmental policy. In that role, Jackson will be responsible for coordinating between state and municipal efforts (and funding) for a variety of projects, including TOD. Read more

 

As Development Devours Greenery, ‘Park Scores’ Could be Key

Michael Kahn | Atlanta Curbed

[Midtown's "backyard," Piedmont Park. Image via New Yatlanta.]

[Midtown’s “backyard,” Piedmont Park. Image via New Yatlanta.]

With a surge of intown development in the last few years, many have praised the densification and urbanization of the Big Peach, or have at least awarded golf claps to its baby steps. Transit-oriented developments have become all the rage, as mixed-use centers spring up or are proposed along MARTA lines. But in an article in the Saporta Report, the question is posed of how, as the city grows denser, can we enhance access to parks, even as trends point toward developing land? Could the answer be so-called park-oriented development? The seemingly incongruous ideas of allotting space for development and creating more park space, the website posits, have to be addressed as more people forgo suburban sprawl in favor of the urban jungle. But it’s more complex than that.

By now we’re all familiar with the concept of the Walk Score. On a scale of 0 (Forsyth County) to 100 (Midtown, above a restaurant and next door to Publix), the scores tell you pretty quickly how easy it is to walk to important things in a neighborhood like bars, restaurants, bars, shopping and bars. Read more

 

Atlanta Called Out for Urban Sprawl

The report reveals implementing smarter urban growth policies on a global scale could reduce urban infrastructure capital requirements by more than $3 trillion over the next 15 years
Jennifer LeClaire | GlobeSt.com

[Midtown's "backyard," Piedmont Park. Image via New Yatlanta.]

[Midtown’s “backyard,” Piedmont Park. Image via New Yatlanta.]

Would you believe urban sprawl costs the American economy over $1 trillion a year? That’s according to a new study from the New Climate Economy—and Atlanta is a huge culprit.

That $1 trillion includes costs from greater spending on infrastructure, public service delivery and transportation. The study also finds that Americans living in sprawled communities directly bear an astounding $625 billion in extra costs.

“Smart growth is not anti-suburb,” says Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, lead author of theAnalysis of Public Policies that Unintentionally Encourage and SubsidizeSprawl. “Instead, it ensures that diverse housing options are available and incentivizes households to choose the most resource-efficient options that meet their needs. We are now seeing growth in demand by Millennials and the elderly for affordable, compact housing in accessible and multimodal neighborhoods.”

One study finding shows that sprawl increases the distance between homes, businesses, services and jobs, which raises the cost of providing infrastructure and public services by at least 10% and up to 40%. The report reveals implementing smarter urban growth policies on a global scale could reduce urban infrastructure capital requirements by more than $3 trillion over the next 15 years.

“For a real-world example of sprawl versus smart growth, compare Atlanta and Barcelona,” says Helen Mountford, global program director for the New Climate Economy. “Both cities have approximately the same population and the same level of wealth per person, but Atlanta takes up over 11 times as much land and produces six times the transport-related carbon emissions per person as Barcelona.” Read more

Wonderland Ballroom on The Market

Seth Daniel | Revere Journal

Owners of the Wonderland Ballroom have retained a broker and are marketing the property actively, with residential transit-oriented development as a focus.

TR Advisors of Boston has been retained as the broker for the Wonderland Ballroom site, as plans for the once-talked-about 196-room hotel for the site have been abandoned.

“Our thinking really is in terms of this being a residential model property and the c to the MBTA rapid transit Blue Line to provide an ease of living that doesn’t creep into the current Boston rental rates that folks are paying,” said Phil Jean of TR Advisors. “Part of the additional value is that you are at beautiful Revere Beach and development is coming now on the Beach side of the property and also across the street the Wonderland Dog Track is in a Master Planning process or will soon be undergoing that process. In our view, the Ballroom property, given its situation and proximity to the MBTA site, affords it a very unique and exciting development opportunity.” Read more

 

Millennials care most about affordability, convenience, food

Meghan Grau | The Daily Targum

Photo by Naaz Modan | A study conducted by a team part of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy found that millennials are more likely to move into smaller homes with the weight of student debt weighing upon their consciences. Millennials are not likely to dole out cash to cover commuting expenses but will do their best to live affordably in an area with a large selection of nearby amenities, according to a study from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

A team of Bloustein graduate students performed a study in the fall semester for their real-world client, the Somerset County Business Partnership, said Eliot Benman, one of the students involved.

The students advised Somerset County on how to create a community that will attract and retain individuals between the ages of 15 and 33, according to MyCentralJersey.com.

A previous report by the Bloustein School dean James Hughes describes challenges that counties on the edge of metropolitan areas may face in the future, said Benman, who is pursuing a master’s degree in city and regional planning.

The report prompted Somerset County planners to investigate and enlist the help of the students, particularly in understanding how to attract young, talented workers to the community, Benman said. Read more

Will the Land of Steady Habits Get on Board with BRT? 3 Days Until CTfastrak Launch

Joseph Cutrufo | Mobilizing the Region

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Bicyclists make their way through Salt Lake City traffic. Officials are pushing to promote more walking and biking as the Wasatch Front population is predicted to double in coming decades.CTfastrak, Metro Hartford’s new bus rapid transit system, will officially begin service this Saturday with nine days of free rides. The BRT system has been the topic of much conversation in Connecticut over the last few years, with more than its fair share of detractors. CTfastrak has been known to some as the “busway boondoggle” and the “busway to nowhere,” while others have wondered why the State didn’t build a light rail line on the corridor instead.

But state and local officials have been bullish on the busway, predicting that CTfastrak would spur economic development. And they were right: public and private investments have kick-started the revitalization of downtown New Britain, Newington cleaned up the former National Welding site to make way for transit-oriented development, and in Hartford, downtown buildings are being convertedinto apartments.

Connecticut is known as “The Land of Steady Habits,” so skepticism about a road designed solely for buses in a metro area where 81 percent of commuters drive alone shouldn’t be unexpected. But the opening of the busway will be an historic moment for Connecticut. CTfastrak is only the nation’s eighth full-fledged BRT system, and the only example of true BRT in the tri-state region. Read more

 

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