Smart Growth News — August 8, 2014

Looking Behind the Common Sense Elements of City Life
The Huffington Post — August 7, 2014
I’ve made little secret in past writing of my strong belief that these simple, underlying patterns merit repeated attention and illustration as we attempt to set up best practices in the urban environment. Best practices often begin as first principles worth capturing, but the question remains how to recognize such “teaching moments” for use going forward.
 
Housing recovery ‘changing shape,’ hinges on job growth, report says
LA Times — August 7, 2014
After two years of rebounding off the bottom of a bust, the recovery in the housing market is “changing shape” this summer, and any new price gains will depend more on job growth and economic fundamentals.
 
Brookings Institution: Poverty Spreads to the Suburbs
MoneyNews — August 8, 2014
“The concentrated poverty rate remains highest in big cities, where almost one in four poor residents (23 percent) lived in a distressed neighborhood in 2008-2012, compared to 6.3 percent in suburbs,” writes Brookings Fellow Elizabeth Kneebone, author of the report. However, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in concentrated poverty over this time period.”
 
Lyft’s new carpooling service is the beginning of the end for public buses
Vox — August 7, 2014
And these services will only get better as more people start using them. The more customers there are in a particular area, the easier it will be to match customers who are riding in the same direction at the same time. That will allow further price cuts, and it will also encourage drivers to get larger vehicles so they can offer rides to more customers at once. We’ll start to see ride-sharing options that look less like large taxis than like small buses.
 
Feds call off highway funding cuts
The Hill — August 7, 2014
The federal government is calling off plans to cut payments to states and communities for construction projects in the wake of a transportation funding patch passed by Congress last week. The Department of Transportation previously said it would have to begin reducing the frequency of payments from its Highway Trust Fund if Congress had not acted to prevent a bankruptcy.

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Hear it from LOCUS first

The Director’s Legislative Bulletin is an exclusive, bi-monthly service with the actionable news, and data on public policies impacting smart growth real estate. As a member of LOCUS, you will receive timely updates that cuts through the noise to ensure you stay ahead of the curve.

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Smart Growth News — August 7, 2014

Lyft Adds A Carpooling Option To Compete With Mass Transit (And Uber)
Forbes — August 6, 2014
Would Americans be willing to travel in the communitarian manner of African villagers if it meant saving a few bucks? Lyft will attempt to find out starting today, when it launches a new tier of service for customers willing to share a discounted ride with other passengers headed in the same direction.
 
EPA: Why Can’t More Cities Be Like Detroit?
Forbes — August 6, 2014
Detroit’s Lower East Side, which makes up about a quarter of the city, lost 40 percent of its population between 2000 and 2010, leaving what could have been a wasteland of vacant lots and boarded up homes. But almost simultaneously, the number of community gardens in Detroit blossomed from less than 100 to more than 1,400.
 
Video: Anthony Foxx: There’s hope for a transportation funding fix
The Washington Examiner — August 6, 2014
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx isn’t backing down from his fight for highway funding. During a tele-town hall event Wednesday, just days after Congress closed its doors for a one month break, he pleaded with lawmakers to remain open to funding critical transportation needs.

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Since the workshop: Houston, TX continues to improve streets for all users

pic-blog post-Houston
A scene from Sunday Streets HTX on Westheimer Road. Photo by Andrew Seng / University of Oregon Emerald via aaonetwork.org 

It’s little secret that Houston, Texas, is on the rise. From 2000-2010, Census data shows that the city’s metro population grew by 26 percent to 5.95 million people. In 2013, that number had risen to 6.34 million, and the Houston metro expects to add another 1 million residents by 2020. While this growth is exciting, it also creates new challenges like stress on existing street infrastructure.

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Smart Growth News — August 6, 2014

Just how far will American urban sprawl spread?
The Guardian (UK) — August 5, 2014
“Urban sprawl increases the connectivity among urban habitats while simultaneously fragmenting non-urban habitats such as forests and grasslands,” write researchers in a new PLoS One paper. “These changes have a variety of effects on species and ecosystems, including impacts to water pollution, disturbance dynamics, local climate, and predator-prey relationships.”
 
Cities Want Young Families to Play and Stay
The Wall Street Journal — August 5, 2014
About a decade ago, the so-called creative class of 20somethings fueled the revival of urban centers by settling in downtown areas mixing condos and coffee shops. Now, as millennials and other urbanites have children, their needs are changing. Cities want to hold on to them by becoming more “playable,” for both children and adults.
 
Blame Cities for the Apps That Let You Sell Your Parking Space
Bloomberg Businessweek — August 5, 2014
If they do catch on, it will be the cities’ own faults. The reason that there’s an opportunity for parking arbitrage is that street parking in major American cities has been chronically underpriced. If people had to pay true value for those parking spots, they’d move their cars more.
 
Houston, other cities in uncharted territory with new ride-sharing services
The Houston Chronicle — August 5, 2014
For more than a year, Houston officials have confronted the same challenges faced by other cities struggling to accommodate a new taxi and paid-ride business model while protecting consumers and treating established industry fairly.

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Smart Growth News — August 5, 2014

15 American cities that beat the Recession
Deseret News — August 4, 2014
These cities have improved greatly in terms of economic opportunity, and they usually have a sound economic environment. They are straying away from the coldness of the recession, and have begun to show a brighter future for the United States.

U.S. housing market: Stuck in a multi-year hangover
Fortune — August 4, 2014
The U.S. housing market has recovered with impressive speed. In just two years, home prices have recovered to their pre-bubble norms, while the number of foreclosure cases working their way through the system has fallen precipitously.

Declining Per-Capita VMT: A Broad-Based Trend
Frontier Group — August 1, 2014
The monthly data confirm that the trend toward lower per-capita driving remains broad based.  While the South Atlantic region has seen the greatest decrease in VMT per capita since 2004, all five regions saw declines.  Furthermore, only one region, the South Gulf, has had a meaningful uptick in per capita VMT data in the last few years as each of the other four regions saw driving either flatline or decrease in this same time period.

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Financing Smart Growth

DC streetcar tracks

Great smart growth developments start with a vision and good planning, but to build the actual project local governments, real estate developers and community members must secure the necessary capital funding. Innovative ways to finance smart growth projects was one of the main topics discussed at the June 2014 LOCUS Leadership Summit in Washington, DC where members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council and the LOCUS developers’ network met to talk about what it takes to bring a smart growth vision into reality.

Ben Miller, cofounder of Fundrise, believes that the real estate investment system is set up for very large investors and makes it nearly impossible for smaller investors to support local projects. “What if we squared the circle and let the community become both a capital resource and a partner in our real estate projects, so they would have some skin in the game?” posits Miller.

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Join our team of Complete Streets expert instructors

Fairbanks wkspRyan Snyder facilitates discussion at a Complete Streets workshop in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Our Complete Streets workshop program is in high-demand, working with communities from Maine to Hawaii on the policy and process tools needed to create streets that are not just safe bur welcoming for all modes of travel and for people of all ages and abilities.

In cooperation with the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP), we will train an additional 5 to 7 nationally recognized professionals to join our instructors corps. Two instructors co-teach each of our full-day, highly interactive workshops, one person an expert in engineering and design and the other in policy and planning. They contract directly with APBP or SGA and are paid a flat fee for preparation, instruction, and travel.

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City Councilor Tim Lovain on promoting transit-oriented development in Alexandria, VA

King Street metro station

In a few weeks, Northern Virginia’s first bus rapid transit service will begin operations on dedicated busways through Alexandria, VA’s burgeoning Potomac Yard neighborhood. A visitor standing under one of the new station awnings can see a string of cranes stretching from north to south along US Route 1, at work on the planned 3000 residential units, 4 million square feet of office space, and 1 million square feet of retail space along the transit corridor. Alexandria City Councilor Tim Lovain, who championed the busway as an essential tool to support high-density growth in this corridor, smiles broadly as he describes the accomplishment, but is even more interested in the transit lines still under development in the city.

Many of these transit projects are included in the Transportation Master Plan Councilor Lovain helped adopt in 2008 during his first term on the Council. In addition to the Route 1 corridor, that plan identified two more high-priority corridors where bus rapid transit will be developed in anticipation of future streetcar lines. Both of those corridors are in the City’s newer West End, which is characterized by car-oriented, lower density development. West End neighborhoods are more difficult to serve with transit, but Councilor Lovain makes the case for it as an essential tool for economic survival in the transit-rich metropolitan Washington, DC region.

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Smart Growth News — August 3, 2014

Affordable Housing Draws Middle Class to Inland Cities
The New York Times — August 3, 2014
The country’s fastest-growing cities are now those where housing is more affordable than average, a decisive reversal from the early years of the millennium, when easy credit allowed cities to grow without regard to housing cost and when the fastest-growing cities had housing that was less affordable than the national average.
 
10 cities running out of water
USA TODAY — August 2, 2014
After multiple unusually dry years across the western, southern and central United States, more than 80% of California is now in a state of extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. An average of nearly 90% of Bakersfield, Calif., has been in a state of exceptional drought over the first seven months of 2014, more than any other large urban area.
 
The 15 Most Affordable Cities for Millennials
TIME — August 3, 2014
Last week, we told you about the 15 most expensive cities for millennials to live in based on a recent study by RealtyTrac. This week, we bring you the other side of the story: the 15 areas that are the most affordable, and the most attractive, to young people.
 
Ending crisis for now, Highway Trust Fund fix goes to Obama
Environment and Energy Publishing — August 1, 2014
Congress gave final approval Thursday night to a Highway Trust Fund bailout, bypassing a crisis that could have jeopardized road-building projects across the country. Senate passage of the almost $11 billion House-passed measure, H.R. 5021, came on an 81-13 vote a few hours after the House had rejected, 272-150, an amended Senate version that would have changed both the timetable and the funding level.

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