Author Archives: Alex Dodds

What the GROW AMERICA Act would mean for smart growth and community development

Yesterday the Obama Administration sent Congress its proposal for a four-year federal transportation bill—the GROW AMERICA Act. The current bill, MAP-21, is set to expire at the end of September, and the new bill has implications for highway and rail construction as well as economic development programs like TIGER grants. How would these proposals impact community development and smart growth?

The good news
The bill includes several promising policies for smart growth advocates.

First and foremost, it would require cities and states to consider all modes of travel when designing federally funded roads, provisions very similar to those proposed in the Safe Streets Act. This strategy gets the most out of federally funded projects, makes sure a given project best meets a community’s needs, and supports neighborhoods with a wide range of transportation choices—all things that Smart Growth America supports.

Posted in Complete Streets, Congress, DOT, Federal, LOCUS, White House | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How much will your region lose when the transportation trust fund goes bust?

The national transportation trust fund—which provides funding for all kinds of transportation projects including highway maintenance, bridge repair and public transit—is predicted to go bankrupt later this year. When that happens, most states and dozens of metropolitan areas will lose …

Posted in Action, Reports, Transportation for America | 2 Comments

A closer look at “Measuring Sprawl”: Activity centering in Madison, WI

madison-wiMadison, WI has attracted businesses and residents to locate in its downtown by making it a great place to live, work and relax. Photo via Flickr.

Madison, WI, received high marks in our recent report Measuring Sprawl 2014—thanks in large part to the city’s efforts to focus development near downtown. How did the city achieve this success? And what can other communities learn from Madison’s example?

Factor in focus: Activity centering
Measuring Sprawl 2014 used four factors to evaluate development: density, land use mix, street connectivity and activity centering. Every major metro area in the country was evaluated on these factors, which were then combined to create a metro area’s overall Sprawl Index score.

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Your questions about “Measuring Sprawl,” answered

We received a lot of great questions during Wednesday’s discussion about our new report, Measuring Sprawl 2014. We got so many great questions, in fact, that we weren’t able to answer all of them during the call. So we’ve collected some of the most common questions and will answer them here.

Q. The first edition of this report was published in 2002. Looking back, is America trending toward more sprawl or less sprawl? What about my particular metro area or county?
Both our methodology and the geographic boundaries have changed significantly since 2002. The bad news is that means comparisons over time are not accurate. The good news is that the 2014 methodology represents an significantly improved measure of sprawl.

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Representative Camp releases his proposal for tax reform. What does it mean for smart growth?

Yesterday Representative Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced his proposal for comprehensive tax reform—and it has big implications for real estate and smart growth.

Each year Americans take billions of dollars worth of income tax deductions related to real estate. Things like the mortgage interest deduction and property tax deduction can represent big savings for a household—so big that they can influence taxpayers’ decisions about the type of home they buy. Even more credits are available to real estate developers, who can get tax breaks to help pay for things like redevelopment or the construction of low-income housing.

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We can make America’s streets safer

incomplete-street2A mother and her child cross South Cobb Drive just south of Austell Road in South Cobb County, GA. Photo by Transportation for America via Flickr.

No one should have to risk their life just to cross the street.

If you’ve ever walked along a street with no sidewalk or crossed a road with no crosswalk, you know how dangerous incomplete streets can be. Making these streets safer is often easy and affordable—all it takes is the right approach.

A Complete Streets approach encourages traffic planners and engineers to make roads safer and more efficient for everyone who uses them. Over 600 towns, states and regions already have a Complete Streets policy in place and now, a new bill in Congress could bring this approach to communities across the country.

Safer streets work better for everyone: Ask Congress to pass the Safe Streets Act today.

On Friday, Senators Mark Begich and Brian Schatz introduced the Safe Streets Act of 2014. The new bill mirrors legislation introduced in the House in June,  and would encourage communities to include safety improvements in transportation project planning. 

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Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council welcomes 100th member

LLC Board meetingThe Local Leaders Council’s inaugural Advisory Board meeting in October 2012.

Earlier this month, we marked a milestone achievement for bringing smart growth practices to more communities nationwide: the addition of the 100th member to our Local Leaders Council.

The Local Leaders Council is a nonpartisan group of municipal officials who share a passion for building great towns, cities, and communities. Representing communities of all sizes from across the United States, Council members are dedicated to using smart growth strategies to help their hometowns compete and grow in today’s economy.

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Will the first Promise Zones also be the last?

Later today at the White House, President Obama will announce the first ever Promise Zone communities.

Promise Zones explore new strategies to bolster local economies. From education to housing to job creation, the program helps communities find creative solutions to their challenges—and that’s something every town and city can learn from.

Voice your support for community innovation: Send a letter to Congress today.

Today, Congress is debating whether communities will be able to keep doing this work.

The House and the Senate are still negotiating fiscal year 2014′s federal budget—including important programs that support community development.

Promise Zones are just one of the many federal initiatives that could be hampered—or eliminated—when Congress reaches a final budget deal.

Tell Congress to support programs like Promise Zones: Send a letter to your representatives today.

San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma—the first five Promise Zone communities—will get new resources to help them grow stronger from the ground up.

Federal programs have helped hundreds of other communities—and can help hundreds more—but Congress needs to hear from you to make it happen. Take a minute and send a letter today.

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Congress is nearing a budget deal – speak out today

This is a crucial time for national community development programs.

Today, committees in both the House and Senate are working on bills to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year—including key programs at the Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency. How much these programs receive in the coming year is currently under debate.

The bills will soon go to a vote, and so now is the time to speak out for these important programs.

Tell Congress to support community development in this year’s budget: Send a letter to your representatives today.

Together we can help communities clean up brownfields, reuse already developed land, revitalize neighborhoods and expand transportation options.

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities’ planning grants, brownfields assessment and clean up assistance, and the innovative TIGER program are all critical to this work. These programs get more out of public investment and help communities build in ways that will support local economies for decades to come—but Congress needs to hear from you.

Tell Congress to fund community development programs: Send a letter to your members today.

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Our final Top 10 of 2013: You!

EOYATop10YOU

This month we’re looking back at some of Smart Growth America’s brightest moments and greatest accomplishments from 2013. Today’s highlight: our work with supporters like you!

Maybe you were one of the many supporters who sent letters to your members of Congress in support of the BUILD Act, the Safe Streets Act or the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Maybe you joined us in person at one of our new “In the City” events, or participated in one of our technical assistance workshops. Or maybe you spoke about our issues with a friend, shared a link to our website on social media or made a donation.

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