USDOT proposes to remove restrictive design guidelines that make safer streets more difficult to build


Crossposted from Transportation for America.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) took an encouraging and surprising step this week to make it dramatically easier for cities and communities of all sizes to design and build complete streets that are safer for everyone by easing federally-mandated design standards on many roads.

Currently, FHWA has a long list of design criteria that local communities and states must adhere to when building or reconstructing certain roads, unless they choose to go through an arduous process of requesting an exception to do things like line a downtown street with street trees, reduce the width of lanes to add a bike lane, or curve a street slightly to slow traffic and make it safer for people in cars and on foot.

In this new proposed rule, FHWA decided after a thorough review to scrap 11 of 13 current design criteria for certain roads because they decided these criteria have “minimal influence on the safety or operation on our urban streets” and has a stronger connection for rural roads, freeways and higher speed urban arterials.

Posted in Complete Streets, DOT, Federal | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All aboard for more accessible bus stops in greater Washington, DC

DC WMATA bus credit Elvert Barnes flickr
Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr

The Washington, DC region prides itself on robust bus service, and a recent change to bus stop accessibility standards is opening the system to even more people.

Thousands of people in the Washington, DC region take the bus each day, including people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides three basic criteria when defining an “accessible” bus stop. It should 1) have a firm landing surface; 2) be at least five feet wide and eight feet long; and 3) connect to the curb. Because when bus stops are narrow or located in a patch of grass, getting to and waiting at the bus stop isn’t just unpleasant for people with disabilities — it’s a barrier to travel.

Posted in Complete Streets, District of Columbia | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is your state built to bounce back from disaster?


It’s hurricane season here on the East Coast. Just this past weekend we braced for the worst with Hurricane Joaquin.

If you were like me, you might have stocked up on bottled water, flashlights, and batteries. Maybe you also thought that there must be more we can do to protect our communities from disaster — and to help them bounce back afterwards.

Better decisions at the state level can help communities withstand disasters and bounce back more quickly afterwards. Later this month, Smart Growth America will release a new resource designed to help states figure out how to do just that.

Building Resilient States: A Framework for Agencies will help state leaders integrate land use and transportation issues into their conversations about resilience. Disaster preparedness professionals can use it to understand how more strategic decisions can build communities that are more resilient from the ground up.

Posted in Resilience | Leave a comment

Recorded webinar: Everything you want to know about applying for our 2016 free technical assistance workshops

epa-ta-webinar-slide2If you are interested in applying for Smart Growth America’s 2016 free technical assistance workshops — but weren’t able to join us for last week’s informational webinar — you’re in luck. An archived version of the presentation is now available.

Watch the archived webinar

Click here to view the archived webinar
Click here to download the presentation (PDF)

On September 30, Smart Growth America hosted webinar where we discussed the details of applying for next year’s free workshops. Roger Millar, now former Director of Smart Growth America’s Technical Assistance Program, provided an overview of our 12 workshop types, and answered questions about the application process.

Posted in Technical assistance, Webinars | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

With vision for a more walkable downtown, Alcoa, TN digs in to its zoning codes

alcoaChris Duerksen (left) and Roger Millar (right) lead Alcoa, TN’s technical assistance workshop on smart growth zoning for small cities.

The aluminum industry brought jobs and new residents to Alcoa, TN over the last 100 years. Now the city is working to evolve and remain vibrant for 100 years to come. An update to the city’s development and zoning codes is one way they’re making that happen.

To get that project off the ground, the City of Alcoa and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) welcomed Smart Growth America and Clarion Associates for a technical assistance workshop on September 1 and 2, 2015. Roger Millar, Smart Growth America’s Vice President of Technical Assistance, and Chris Duerksen, Clarion’s Senior Counsel, met Alcoa leaders and community members to talk about smart growth zoning codes for small cities. The workshop was designed to show how zoning code changes can help create vibrant town centers within small cities, as well as how more compact, walkable development can boost the local economy and reduce public expenses.

Posted in Local, Smart growth zoning codes for small cities, States, Technical assistance, Tennessee | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Committed local leaders are a key advantage in free workshop competition

Councilmember Michael Trapp, right, at parking audit workshop in Columbia, MO in 2015.

“Involvement of key community leaders” is one of five criteria Smart Growth America uses to select which communities receive our free technical assistance workshops each year. In fact, a letter of commitment signed by “the mayor, county commission chair, or comparable elected leader” is one of the requirements for applying.

Members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council are a natural fit for this requirement, with a demonstrated interest in smarter development strategies. Over the past five years, 23 of the more than 50 winning communities have been home to current and future Local Leaders Council members. Here’s a look at how Local Leaders Council members have used these competitive awards.

In 2013, the Village of Park Forest, IL won a sustainable land use code audit workshop, which served as a kickoff event for the Village’s work revising its zoning and subdivision ordinances. The workshop was an opportunity to fill in gaps in technical expertise, gauge public interest in sustainable land use codes, and bring a fresh set of eyes to the process.

Posted in Illinois, Local Leaders Council, Missouri, Technical assistance | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Now hiring: LOCUS Communications Fellow

Smart Growth America seeks a Communications Fellow to support LOCUS, a national network of smart growth real estate developers and investors. The Fellow will be a core member of the LOCUS team and provide direct support to the LOCUS network of real estate developers and investors advocating for smart growth policies at the federal and regional levels.

Posted in Careers, LOCUS | Leave a comment

No horsing around on Del Paso Boulevard in Sacramento, CA

If you’ve walked along Del Paso Boulevard in Sacramento, CA in recent years, you may have noticed horses imprinted on the street’s brickwork. The bricks are a tribute to the area’s ranching history — and a sign of a modern commitment to safety for everyone using the street.

Posted in California, Complete Streets | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get your copy of the 2015 LOCUS Federal Financing Toolkit

locus-toolkit-coverAs demand for walkable urban places rises across the country, real estate developers and investors are looking for ways to finance these complex projects. State and federal programs can help but understanding them all can be tough. A new resource from LOCUS provides an overview of these programs and what they can do.

The LOCUS Federal Financing Toolkit is a guide to over 40 federal financing opportunities, designed to help real estate developers and investors as well as local elected officials take advantage of these programs. The toolkit provides an overview and analysis of programs at over a dozen federal agencies, designed to support new projects related to Brownfields, Community Development, Pollution and the Environment, Housing, Transit and Transportation, and Food Access.

Posted in LOCUS, Real estate, Resources | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Applications now being accepted for Smart Growth America’s 2016 free technical assistance workshops

A participant asks a question at a Smart Growth America technical assistance workshop in Alcoa, TN earlier this year.

Is your city interested in smart growth, but not sure how to make it happen? Bring in the development experts with one of Smart Growth America’s 2016 free technical assistance workshops.

Each year Smart Growth America offers a limited number of free workshops to help local leaders and residents make their communities more livable, sustainable, and vibrant. Now in its fifth year, this program helps communities find solutions to local development issues, so that participating communities are able to grow in ways that benefit residents and businesses while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place. Over 50 communities have already received Smart Growth America’s assistance through this program.

Posted in Technical assistance | Tagged , , | Leave a comment