New research looks at how much New Jersey could save through smarter road investments

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Earlier this year, Smart Growth America released a new model for analyzing the fiscal implications of development patterns. Since then we’ve analyzed development in Madison, WI, West Des Moines, IA, and Macon, GA.

For the latest installment, Smart Growth America teamed up with New Jersey Future to find out how much state, county and municipal governments in New Jersey could save on road maintenance bills by building in more compact ways.

The Fiscal Implications of Development Patterns: Roads in New Jersey analyzes population and employment density to understand just how much money could be saved if the distribution of New Jersey’s population and jobs could be made even incrementally more dense and compact.

Researchers at Smart Growth America and New Jersey Future took two distinct but related approaches to these questions. Smart Growth America partitioned the whole state into grid cells of equal size and then compiled data for each cell. Using U.S. Census data regarding population and employment, and the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s database of road segments, Smart Growth America’s researchers calculated the relationship between density and the road area per capita.

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This week: How will the House improve its version of the transportation bill?

Last week the House of Representatives passed its initial version of a multiyear transportation bill. This bill has the potential to make streets safer across the country, help communities build more homes and offices near transit, and give more control of transportation investments to local communities. In order for this to happen, though, the House’s version of the bill needs to improve considerably.

Representatives agree: they’ve filed more than 200 amendments to the current version of the bill. Today the Rules Committee will decide which ones to allow to the floor. And then later this week, the full House will vote on all the amendments and create their final version of the bill.

Make the next transportation bill a forward-looking one: Send a letter to your representative this morning >>

Several amendments under consideration would improve how the bill supports walkable communities served by transit, including:

  • Amendment #18 from Representative Lipinski of Illinois, which would make transit-oriented development (TOD) eligible for RRIF funding.
  • Amendment #21 from Representative DeSaulnier of California, which would improve planning and project selection performance measures and transparency.
  • Amendment #37, also from Representative Lipinski, which expresses the Sense of Congress that TOD is an eligible activity under the RRIF program.
  • Amendment #47 from Representative Schakowsky of Illinois that would require a study and rule on safety standards or performance measures to improve pedestrian safety.

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Since the workshop: Complete Streets improvements kick off Kaua’i County, HI’s downtown renaissance

hardy-street3New sidewalks near the intersection of Rice Street and Hardy Street, and at the entrance to Wilcox Elementary School. Photo via the County of Kaua’i.

County leaders in Kaua’i, HI are working to revitalize the Līhu’e Town Core as a vibrant, walkable heart of the island, with Rice Street as its main street. In 2008, the county crafted its Holo Holo 2020 plan to guide that work, and in 2014 they asked Smart Growth America to inform that work with a parking audit workshop. What has Kaua’i been up to in the time since?

Over the last year, Kaua’i has gotten started on its revitalization work with Complete Streets improvements to Hardy Street. New sidewalks, turn lanes, bike lanes, on-street parking, and street plantings will eventually run the entire length of Hardy Street, which is parallel to Rice and curves around to intersect with it in the heart of Līhuʻe’s town core.

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Complete Streets News — October 2015

House’s draft transportation bill includes Safe Streets provision — Last week, the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked up its version of a multi-year surface transportation bill. The original version of the bill included important language to encourage states and metropolitan planning organizations to plan and design for the safety needs of all users in federally-funded projects—a fantastic first step in helping communities across the United States use a Complete Streets approach. During markup, Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Dina Titus (D-NV) offered an amendment which makes the new draft even stronger. The new provision would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide regular updates on states’ progress and best practices on pedestrian safety improvements. Thank you to Representatives Curbelo and Titus for their leadership. The bill will next go to the House floor for a full vote. View Transportation for America’s amendment tracker >>

NJ Complete Streets Summit advances safe streets strategies — On October 26, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center hosted the 2015 New Jersey Complete Streets Summit. The Summit brought together planners, engineers, and policy-makers from throughout New Jersey to advance strategies for providing safe, multi-modal transportation systems that are accessible to all users. The event featured keynote speeches from Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken and the National Complete Streets Coalition’s own Director, Emiko Atherton. Jack Nata, Manager of the Division of Traffic and Signals for Newark, and Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli of Fair Haven were awarded 2015 Complete Streets “Champion Awards” and the Cities of Camden, Hoboken, New Brunswick, Ocean City as well as the Borough of Highland Park and Passaic County were awarded the 2015 New Jersey Complete Streets Excellence Awards. The Summit also recognized 51 municipalities and two counties for their policy adoption. Congratulations to all of the awardees for your great work on behalf of Complete Streets! We hope to see similar gatherings in other states. View event photos >>

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Introducing “Building Resilient States”

Storms, floods, droughts, landslides, and wildfires have affected thousands of individuals, families, businesses, and communities across the United States in recent years.  

In the immediate aftermath of disasters like these, state agencies play a crucial role in emergency response and recovery. However, states can also ​plan for long-term resilience and help communities ​build in more resilient ways.

Building Resilient States: A Framework for Agencies lays out seven key steps ​state administrations can take to become more resilient. Disaster preparedness professionals can use it to understand how decisions about land use and transportation can support their efforts to protect people, property, and infrastructure across their state.

We’ll be talking all about this new resource—as well as national best practices and how the states of Colorado, New York, and Vermont are using these strategies—during a kickoff panel discussion today at 1:00pm EDT. Register to join us for this free event.

During that event we’ll discuss this emerging field of practice and how some of the nation’s leading disaster preparedness agencies are using land use and transportation strategies to make their states more resilient.

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An interview with Dongho Chang, Complete Streets engineer

WA Seattle Dongho Chang
Seattle’s chief road engineer Dongho Chang, next to Broadway’s new protected bike lane. Photo via the Green Lane Project on Facebook.

When activists painted a guerrilla bike lane in Seattle, they didn’t expect a traffic engineer to thank them. But that’s what Seattle traffic engineer Dongho Chang did, commending for bringing attention to the safety issue — and then installing a more permanent treatment soon after. Chang spoke with the National Complete Streets Coalition about a few of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s signature projects, the inspiration for his work, and what he’s learned in 25 years of traffic engineering.

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Where we’re going, we DO need roads — and Congress can make them safer, smarter, and closer to transit


We might not have trash-powered flying cars in 2015, but we CAN invest in a transportation system of tomorrow. Congress is considering the next federal transportation bill this week — tell them to make it a forward-looking one.

The U.S. House of Representatives introduced their proposal for a new federal transportation bill last week, and Representatives will mark up and vote on the bill in committee tomorrow.

This gives us a small window of time to improve the bill as it stands, and we need your help. Tell your Representative to make the next transportation bill a forward-looking one.

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What could your community do with a free technical assistance workshop from Smart Growth America?

Salisbury Walk AuditCouncil President Jake Day of Salisbury, MD participates in the Walkability Audit.

Each year Smart Growth America offers a limited number of free workshops to help communities use smart growth strategies to achieve their goals for economic and environmental sustainability. Local Leaders Council members have used these workshops in very different ways. “The workshops we offer range from general introductions to very specific tools like the Parking Audit,” explains Elizabeth Schilling, Smart Growth America’s Deputy Director of Policy Development and Implementation, who teaches the Smart Growth Implementation 101 workshops. “In our most successful communities, leaders pick the right tool for the problem at hand, then design an outreach strategy to engage really diverse groups of problem solvers.”

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California governor signs bill to ease parking requirements and create more affordable housing

On Friday California Governor Jerry Brown signed into a law a bill that will help create more affordable housing by easing parking requirements for developers.

The legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 744, Planning and Zoning: Density Bonus, will allow developers to request reduced minimum parking requirements within affordable housing projects. It also amends the parking ratio for affordable housing and senior housing to require no more the 0.5 parking spaces per unit, and amends the ratio for special needs housing to require no more than 0.3 parking spaces per unit.

Developers seeking to use these ratios must meet established guidelines regarding percentage of affordable units in the project, distance and access to a transit stop, availability of paratransit services, and access to fixed bus route services. The emphasis on transit access will bolster other efforts to make public transportation and active transportation options safer, more convenient, and more accessible for low-income families.

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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.

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