Category: States

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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Newark, NJ; Hamilton, OH; Jackson, TN win 2015 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement from U.S. EPA

The City of Newark, NJ remediated the site of a former smelting plant to build a new—and now award-winning—park along the Passaic River. Photo via Archpaper.

Three cities have transformed the site of a former smelting plant, a neighborhood destroyed by tornado, and a near-empty historic downtown into vibrant, walkable places. Now, these projects have been recognized with the 2015 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Riverfront Park is the culmination of decades-long work to transform five miles of formerly industrial Passaic riverfront in Newark, NJ. The park’s land was once home to a smelting plant, and sat abandoned and unusable for years. Environmental remediation and an intensive public engagement process have created what will ultimately be 19 acres of parkland and Newark’s first—and so far only—public access to the Passaic River. In this community of color and predominantly low-income area, with few green spaces and a history of industrial pollution, the new park is game-changing. “When I was growing up, we had very few places to play, very few parks,” said Ana Baptista, a Newark resident, in EPA’s video about the project. “My daughters are going to grow up having a relationship to the water and the river that I didn’t have.”

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Saco, ME is breaking out of short-term cycles with long-term thinking

SacoPhoto: Saco, ME, Jasperado via Flickr.

Maintaining New England traditions is at the top of Saco, ME’s agenda. How can this small city maintain the physical, economic, and cultural assets that make it unique while also changing in ways that make it a desirable destination for tourists, homebuyers, businesses, and investors?

Saco recently wrapped up a future visioning process intended to answer these questions and guide future public investments and economic development initiatives. Mayor Don Pilon, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, explains that short Council terms (lasting just two years) were part of the impetus for the visioning process, known as Bridge 2025. “We all sit down and think through what we want to accomplish in the two years that we have,” Mayor Pilon explained, but there was rarely common vision for what should happen beyond that budget cycle. To establish that, Mayor Pilon deliberately stepped back and supported a process that put businesses, residents, and other stakeholders in the driver’s seat. “This had to be driven by the public,” he explained. “When we’re gone, this needs to be continued by the stakeholders. This is their product, not our product.”

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With LEED-ND, Sanford, FL could be the next best example of green development

A rendering of Sanford’s historic downtown district. Photo courtesy of Littlejohn.

Sanford, FL wants to create better, more sustainable, well-connected neighborhoods—particularly around the recently opened SunRail commuter rail station and the city’s Lake Monroe waterfront property. To help achieve that goal, Sanford sought assistance from Smart Growth America with a technical assistance workshop, held on August 4 and 5, 2015.

Sanford leaders want to look beyond the development of individual buildings to a larger district. Smart Growth America’s workshop provided an overview of one such way to do that—the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) standards. LEED-ND is about realizing how each piece of development plays a critical role in the performance of a community as a whole.

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Knoxville, TN welcomes Smart Growth America for workshop on transit-oriented development

knoxville-tnKnoxville wants to build on the success of places like Market Square (above). Photo via.

Downtown Knoxville, TN, is seeing a resurgence. New businesses and residents are moving to the area, and the City is working hard to bring similar success to neighborhoods throughout the city. Could investments in public transportation help?

To help answer that question, leaders in Knoxville welcomed Smart Growth America on July 15 and 16, 2015 for a technical assistance workshop on transit-oriented development. Chris Zimmerman, Smart Growth America’s Vice President of Economic Development, and Dena Belzer, President of Strategic Economics, spoke with elected leaders, municipal staff, representatives from regional and state agencies, and Knoxville residents about how investment in public transit could multiply the city’s economic development successes.

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