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March 2015

Controversial Transit Corridor Authority Bill Will See Some Changes From Lawmakers

Local officials complained that the authority might trump local land use law with little municipal representation

Heather Brandon | WNPR.com

Sound Transit officials created a draft for the Federal Way Link Extension project, even though they only have funds for infrastructure from SeaTac to the Kent/Des Moines area. — Image Credit: Contributed PhotoLawmakers are planning changes to a controversial proposal from Governor Dannel Malloy that would enable the state to take land near transit stations.

Malloy recently put forward legislation creating a Transit Corridor Development Authority. The agency would be able to pursue transit-oriented development at all properties within a half-mile radius of the state’s bus or train stations. It would have the power of eminent domain, and the ability to issue bonds.

Local officials complained that the authority had little municipal representation, and expressed concern about whether it would trump local zoning and land use regulations.

The original legislation doesn’t require the eleven-member, appointed TCDA to gain the approval of locally-elected officials. Instead, it notes the following:

“…the chief elected official of each municipality in which an authority development project is planned shall serve as an ad hoc, nonvoting member of the board for matters affecting such project.”

Democratic Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague, who co-chairs the Planning and Development Committee, said legislators are working on allowing for more local control in the draft bill. Legislators will also eliminate an initial proposal permitting condemnation of property. Municipalities will not be required to cooperate with the TCDA. Read more

Sound Transit presents route options for Federal Way Link Extension project

Raechel Dawson | Federal Way Mirror

Sound Transit officials created a draft for the Federal Way Link Extension project, even though they only have funds for infrastructure from SeaTac to the Kent/Des Moines area. — Image Credit: Contributed Photo
Sound Transit officials created a draft for the Federal Way Link Extension project, even though they only have funds for infrastructure from SeaTac to the Kent/Des Moines area. — Image Credit: Contributed Photo

Sound Transit officials recently presented the preliminary route and station options, and their impacts to the community, for the Federal Way Link Extension project at a Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce round table and council meeting on Tuesday.

The options are outlined in the yet-to-be-published Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Federal Way Link Extension. Sound Transit is expected to publish it in the next few weeks, which will coincide with the beginning of their public outreach and comment period on the draft findings and options.

“The first takeaway is that we’re not coming out with anything right away because there’s a lot of information to digest and to evaluate,” said Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce CEO Rebecca Martin in an interview. “The Chamber is interested in the business impact short-term, long-term and we want to make sure we’re evaluating it appropriately.” Read more

 

Are you paying for parking you’re not using? How parking minimums make urban housing less affordable

Yonah Freemark | Broken Sidewalk

Buses wait in line to enter the Port Authority Bus Terminal last April. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWSFor most people, zoning requirements have little to no effect on everyday life. Indeed, zoning—which is defined by municipal governments and which regulates building features such as building size and allowed uses for new projects—is typically an issue that affects few others than developers and land use planners.

But sometimes zoning regulations get in the way for regular people, years after a building was built. That’s especially true in the case of parking requirements attached to new building permits.

I’ll use a personal story to show you how these regulations affected me. After deciding to move apartments and neighborhoods in Chicago, I settled on renting a one-bedroom apartment in a relatively new (10-year-old) building in the South Loop. Walking, the building is 1,800 feet (about seven minutes) from the Chicago Transit Authority Green, Orange, and Red lines; 1,900 feet from the Metra Electric line, and about 600 feet from five frequent bus lines. In other words, it’s very close to an array of transit options. It’s also in a dense, walkable neighborhood filled with shops and restaurants. Read more

 

Rankings reveal Massachusetts city’s bright future

Yonah Freemark | Broken Sidewalk

The city's new bus terminal is part of the reason Attleboro received a "gold rating" for affordability and accessibility among regional urban centers. (Staff file photo by Mark Stockwell)
The city’s new bus terminal is part of the reason Attleboro received a “gold rating” for affordability and accessibility among regional urban centers. (Staff file photo by Mark Stockwell)

Americans love rankings. We rank movies, sports teams, colleges. “No. 2: Eternal Rest Meadows has lovely landscaping, beautiful pathways but just misses out on our number one spot for its lack of valet parking.”

And Attleboro is no stranger to any number of lists of this sort. Not long ago, the Jewelry City was rated as the “second most boring” city in the commonwealth by a real estate group whose staff had way too much time on its hands.

But now the city’s been ranked at the highest level in a couple of categories that recognize the fact that Attleboro’s citizens can look to a promising future. The new study, “Metro Boston: Walk-Up Wake-Up Call,” which looked at 57 walkable centers throughout Eastern Massachusetts, gave the city a “gold rating” in affordability and accessibility. Attleboro was classified as a “regional urban center” with a walkable urban core and access to public transportation in the study, which was published by the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at the George Washington University School of Business in Washington, D.C., and Boston’s Northeastern University Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, with the assistance of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Read more

Urban Sprawl Costs US Economy More Than $1 Trillion Per Year

Staff | InvestorIdeas.com

Buses wait in line to enter the Port Authority Bus Terminal last April. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWSUrban sprawl costs the American economy more than US$1 trillion annually, according to a new study by the New Climate Economy. These costs include greater spending on infrastructure, public service delivery and transportation. The study finds that Americans living in sprawled communities directly bear an astounding $625 billion in extra costs.

In addition, all residents and businesses, regardless of where they are located, bear an extra $400 billion in external costs. Correcting this problem provides an opportunity to increase economic productivity, improve public health and protect the environment. The report identifies specific smarter growth policies that can lead to healthier, safer and wealthier communities in both developed and developing countries.

The report, Analysis of Public Policies that Unintentionally Encourage and Subsidize Sprawl–written for the New Climate Economy by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, in partnership with LSE Cities–details planning and market distortions that foster sprawl, and smart growth policies that can help correct these distortions. Read more

 

Port Authority Bus Terminal Plans Raise Questions on Cost, Timing

Estimates range from $7.5 billion to $10.5 billion in as many as 15 years
Andrew Tangel | The Wall Street Journal

Buses wait in line to enter the Port Authority Bus Terminal last April. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS
Buses wait in line to enter the Port Authority Bus Terminal last April. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS

Commuters and visitors to New York City stand to get a new Port Authority Bus Terminal one day, maybe in Midtown West or perhaps even in New Jersey.

But how much it would cost, where to put it and how long it would take to build are up in the air—controversial questions facing the operator of Manhattan’s aging, crowded and widely unloved bus depot west of Times Square.

Commissioners who oversee the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chewed over five proposals for replacing the terminal, which was built in 1950 and is among the country’s busiest transportation hubs, with about 7,000 buses a day.

They grappled with sticker shock: Construction costs estimated by the authority’s staff and consultants ranged from $7.5 billion to $10.5 billion in as many as 15 years.

Those tentative price tags didn’t include windfalls the authority could reap from development rights—the proposals included possible skyscrapers by the Lincoln Tunnel. Read more

A Housing Market Divided

David Dayen | Capital & Main

Deregulation won’t solve California’s seemingly intractable affordable housing crisis on its own

Architectural rendering of Journal Squared, a three-tower, mixed-used development adjacent to the Journal Square PATH station in Jersey City.Housing markets get discussed in the media mostly through the channel of prices. Rising prices are considered good for the economy. They can connote increased sales, which would lead to more construction and real estate-related jobs. They also give homeowners more equity in their homes, and the consequent “wealth effect” – studies show personal spending jumps when people perceive an increase in their wealth – can benefit the economy.

But there’s a darker side to rising home prices. They harm affordability, particularly for first-time homebuyers. Since the collapse of the housing bubble, this group of potential purchasers has not returned to the market at the historical level of 2006. Because first-time homebuyers allow sellers to purchase bigger homes, their absence has blunted the impact of rising prices; the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that residential housing investment remains lower than the depths of any housing crash over the past 40 years.

Housing affordability is a major problem in the Golden State. The California Association of Retailers’ most recent Housing Affordability Index (HAI) shows that only 30 percent of the state’s households can afford to purchase an average-priced home in their area. Read more

13 major development projects that could change N.J.’s skyline

Kathryn Brenzel | NJ.com

Architectural rendering of Journal Squared, a three-tower, mixed-used development adjacent to the Journal Square PATH station in Jersey City.
Architectural rendering of Journal Squared, a three-tower, mixed-used development adjacent to the Journal Square PATH station in Jersey City.

The state has recently seen an uptick in new residential construction, especially along the northeastern coast.

Developers told NJ Advance Media that the increase is largely due to the improved economy and the desire of younger generations to be closer to New York City and mass transit.

This is evident in Jersey City’s Journal Square, which is seeing renewed interest among developers. Journal Squared is a planned three-tower project that will bring 1,840 units to the area. The city could also soon be home to the tallest building in the state — a 950 foot-tower planned for 99 Hudson Street.

Here are 13 major projects that have been announced or are already underway:

1. The Modern: The first tower — 47 stories — started leasing in October. The second will be built later this year. SJP Properties is the developer of the $500 million Fort Lee-based project. Read more

 

Transit-Oriented Development Is Key to Making Long Island More Affordable

Madeline Marvar | Mobilizing the Region

Studies from around the country show that as public transit improves, housing costs in the surrounding area rise, and low-income residents, often in communities of color, are priced out. (Photo: Oran Viriyincy)According to a recent report by “research engine” FindTheBest, the Nassau-Suffolk metro region is the nation’s most expensive place to live—a claim Long Islanders probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear. The rankings were based on a cost of living index based on six indices—housing, taxes, healthcare, childcare, transportation and “other necessities”—and while the report acknowledges that the Nassau-Suffolk metro “doesn’t have any nationwide highs for individual indices,” all six factors combined give it the top ranking.

The study found that in the Nassau-Suffolk metro area, monthly housing costs averaged $2,029 — more than twice the national averageof $965, and even more costly than the New York Metro Area, which averaged $1,600 — and monthly transportation costs were roughly the same as the national average at approximately $450. Considering Long Island already has the makings of an extensive, albeit disjointed, multi-modal transit network in place, this is all the more reason for Nassau and Suffolk Counties to capitalize on that network by investing in interconnectivity of transportation options and prioritizing transit-oriented development (TOD) with affordable housing components. This hefty one-two punch would reduce the monthly costs of both housing and transportation by reducing dependency on cars and suburban sprawl, making Long Island a more attractive and more affordable place for residents and visitors. Read more

 

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