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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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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Now hiring: LOCUS Communications Intern

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.

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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.

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FTA announces the 21 winners of inaugural Transit-Oriented Development Planning Grants

Sound Transit’s LINK light rail on the Seattle-SeaTac line. Six stations will eventually be added to Tacoma’s separate LINK line, doubling their number of stations.

Crossposted from Transportation for America.

It’s important that communities make the best use of land around transit lines and stops, efficiently locate jobs and housing near new transit stations, and boost ridership — which can also increase the amount of money gained back at the farebox. Twenty-one communities today received a total of $19.5 million in federal grants from a new pilot program intended to do exactly that.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s Transit-Oriented Development Planning Pilot Program was one of the bright spots in MAP-21, and a priority we worked hard to see included in the final bill during those negotiations back in the summer of 2012, along with our colleagues at LOCUS, the coalition of responsible real estate investors within Smart Growth America.

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Congress is about to have a key opportunity to make communities more walkable. Will they?


Yesterday, the U.S. Surgeon General launched a new nationwide Call to Action to help Americans be healthier by making walking and physical activity a bigger part of their daily lives.

The event recognized physical activity as one of the nation’s highest health priorities. And as Dr. Murthy explained yesterday, building communities where it is safe and convenient to walk, bike, or wheelchair roll is part of the solution.

Congress is about to have a critical opportunity to take action on this issue. Legislators are currently working on a multiyear federal transportation bill which will shape communities and transportation programs for years to come. As representatives negotiate the bill in the coming weeks, will they prioritize walkable communities?

Tell your Representative to listen to the Surgeon General: Make walkable communities a priority in the next federal transportation bill.

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What if we labeled unwalkable neighborhoods like we do cigarettes?

The Surgeon General of the United States will kick off a new nationwide Call to Action later this morning, aiming to help Americans lead healthier lives—by making walking and physical activity built-in features of more of our neighborhoods.

Over the past decade, scores of research has shown the correlation between physical inactivity and sprawl development. Today, 10 percent of the preventable deaths in America are related to physical inactivity and its related diseases, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes—and communities without safe places to walk are part of the problem. Smart Growth America’s 2003 report Measuring the Health Effects of Sprawl was one of the first to examine this issue. Today, the Surgeon General is making it a national health priority.

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LOCUS announces new Attainable Housing and Social Equity Initiative Pilot Program


Across the country, market demand for homes in walkable, downtown neighborhoods is driving up housing costs. How can communities capitalize on this demand and create great neighborhoods that are attainable and equitable for people of all income levels?

LOCUS’ new Attainable Housing and Social Equity Initiative (AHSEI) Pilot Program is a private sector, place-based approach designed to address this challenge, in partnership with the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at the George Washington University (GWU) and funded by the Barr Foundation. As part of the Pilot Program, LOCUS will be selecting a number of U.S. cities to participate in strategies aimed at ensuring accessibility and social equity in great walkable urban places. The first of these cities is Somerville, MA, where our work kicked off at a public meeting in July.

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Speaking out for smart growth issues leads to a better transportation bill in the Senate

Yesterday, the Senate finally passed its version of a six-year federal transportation bill. As you likely know by now, this bill will have a huge impact on how communities across America grow in the coming years.

We asked you to speak out about a number of issues related to this bill over the last few weeks. And right now, I want to say thank you for stepping up.

Many of the crucial provisions we championed—the Safe Streets Act, TIFIA financing for transit-oriented development, and protection of the TIGER grants program at the U.S. Department of Transportation—were included in the final version of the bill.

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Senate transportation bill expands financing for transit-oriented development

Senators Schatz, Markey and Merkley champion provision to support investment in neighborhoods near transit

The Senate passed its final six-year transportation reauthorization bill today, and included in the bill is a provision to expand the eligibility of transit-oriented development (TOD) projects for federal TIFIA financing. The provision would also expand financing for infrastructure projects that promote transit ridership, walkability, or increased private investment.

“If you took a bus or train to work today, you know how convenient it is to live and work near a transit stop,” said Christopher Coes, Director of LOCUS. “Transit-oriented development makes day-to-day life easier for millions of Americans. It’s also the backbone of regional economies across the country. The Senate’s bill will make creating new TOD projects easier, and will give more Americans the option to live and work near transit while also supporting economic growth nationwide.”

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