On Common Ground: Summer 2007


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Smart Growth Progress Report

Are Smart Growth concepts having an effect on planning and development in America? Is low-density sprawl continuing unabated, or has a new approach taken hold? In this issue of On Common Ground, we give you a progress report on Smart Growth.

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On Common Ground: Summer 2007

  1. 1. Check in on Smart Growth: ✔ transportation funding ✔ green design ✔ land conservation ✔ voter preference ✔ form-based codes SUMMER 2007 ✔ street planning Smart Growth Progress Report
  2. 2. A Smart Growth Check Up A re Smart Growth concepts having an effect on planning and development in America? Is low- density sprawl continuing unabated, or has a new approach taken hold? In this issue of On Common Ground, we give you a progress report on Smart Growth. As Jason Miller reports on page 50, America’s growth occurs primarily in the suburbs and exurbs, in a low- density form that requires a vehicle to get anywhere— but a shift is occurring. This shift is being noticed by major homebuilders and real estate companies, who have recognized that a market for walkable communities has arisen. This market is being met not only in central cities, but in new suburban developments that use many Smart Growth concepts of higher density, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. Consumers are starting to make the connection between the form of development and everyday issues, such as how much exercise they get, as reported by Heidi Johnson-Wright on page 32. Environmentalists are integrating Smart Growth concepts into green building practices, as reported by John Van Gieson on page 38. These Smart Growth approaches are becoming evident in public policy as well as the marketplace. In the November 2006 elections, as David Goldberg tells us on page 6, voters were clear in their support for community planning. Open space conservation and funding of transportation alternatives were also popular with voters, as reported by Christine Sexton (p. 14) and Steve Wright (p. 20), respectively. State governments are adopting new transportation policies that recognize the needs of pedestrians and transit users, according to Barbara McCann on page 26. And, as Brad Broberg reports in his article on form-based codes on page 44, local communities are adopting new planning and regulatory techniques that will make it easier to achieve Smart Growth. These market trends and public policy directions suggest that Smart Growth is alive and well. For more information on NAR and Smart Editor Growth, go to www.realtor.org/smartgrowth. Joseph R. Molinaro Manager, Smart Growth Programs On Common Ground is published twice a year by NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® the Government Affairs office of the NATIONAL 500 New Jersey Avenue, NW ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR), and is Washington, DC 20001 distributed free of charge. The publication presents a wide range of views on Smart Growth Distribution issues, with the goal of encouraging a dialogue For more copies of this issue or to be placed on among REALTORS®, elected officials and other our mailing list for future issues of On Common interested citizens. The opinions expressed in Ground, please contact Ted Wright, NAR On Common Ground are those of the authors and Government Affairs, at (202) 383-1206 or do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policy of twright@realtors.org. the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, its members or affiliate organizations. 2 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 3
  3. 3. 26 Complete the Streets On Common Ground Summer 2007 32 44 6 The Pulse at the Polls In 2006, voters shunned extreme anti-planning measures, while rewarding forward-looking vision. by David Goldberg Path to Better Health 14 Land Conservation Continues to Win Form-Based Codes Nationwide, voters support the smart use of land. by Christine Sexton 20 Transportation Financing Creative solutions for the problem of future transportation development and maintenance funding. by Steve Wright 26 Complete The Streets for Smart Growth Planners figure out the puzzle to pedestrian-friendly roadways. by Barbara McCann 32 On the Right Path to Better Health Smart Growth has the potential to improve your health. by Heidi Johnson-Wright 14 38 38 Design Green The green building and Smart Land Design Growth connection. Conservation Green by John Van Gieson 44 Making Smart Growth Possible with Form-Based Codes A closer look at form-based code developments. 6 by Brad Broberg The Pulse 50 A Tale of Two Cities at the Polls Long the inhabitant of central cities, America’s economy has migrated to the suburbs and exurbs—but not entirely. by Jason Miller 56 Smart Growth in the States 20 On Common Ground thanks the following contributors and organizations for photographs, illustrations and artist renderings reprinted in this issue: Brett Van Akkeren, U.S. EPA; Gayle Anderson, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority; Geoffrey Anderson, U.S. EPA; Lisa Babbs; Corinne Bloomfield, City of Hillsboro Parks & Recreation (Oregon); Fred Boykin, Decatur City Commission; Ken Bryan, Rails-to-Trails; DJ Burk, Old Town Wichita; Robert Gibbons, Metro Transit Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro Area; Russell Grace, The Trust for Public Land; Art Guzzetti, American Public Transportation Transportation Financing Association; Alleyn Harned, Office of the Secretary of the Virginia Department of Transportation; Peter Katz; James Kennedy, Contra Costa County Community Development Department; Aisling Kerins, Futurewise; Jason Miller; Anne Nelson, The Trust for Public Land; Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center; Alan E. Pisarski; Project for Public Spaces; Eric Stachon, 1000 Friends of Oregon; G. Kim “KT” Taylor, Pacific Realty Associates, L.P Jenna Thomas, GCI Group; .; Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County Community Development Department Redevelopment Agency; Virginians for Better Transportation; Michael Wray, The Trust for Public Land; and Trevor Wrayton, Virginia Department of Transportation. 4 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 5
  4. 4. “No 993” cut in a Washington state barley field The Pulse at the Polls In 2006, voters shunned extreme anti-planning measures, while rewarding ✔ forward-looking vision By David Goldberg T he November 2006 election, watershed that it was in national politics, also was pivotal in the progress toward better planning and more livable neighborhoods, cities and metro areas. But, it was as important for what did not happen as for what voters actually approved. When the dust settled, the voters had approved a great deal from the perspective of Smart Growth practices and policies. At least 13 governors were elected or re-elected after advocating strongly for policies such as focusing public investment in older towns and cities; fixing existing infrastructure before expanding into undeveloped land; creating more affordable housing near job centers; investing in complete transportation systems that include roads, transit and safe streets for people on foot or bike; and protecting critical farmland, forests and other natural areas. Voters approved 70 percent of the ballot measures supporting public transportation, voting to spend $40 billion in new transit-related investments, at the local, regional and state levels. The November vote was the strongest ever for land conservation measures, with voters in 23 states approving nearly 100 ballot measures totaling $5.73 billion in new funding, surpassing the record of $5.68 billion set in 1998. 6 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 7
  5. 5. Nevertheless, that progress may well have been eclipsed had voters across the West embraced extreme measures that sought to dramatically curtail communities’ right to use planning and zoning to shape their When the dust settled, the in more than a decade, and they had hoped to replicate it many times over in 2006. The initiative growth and development. These so-called “regulatory takings” initiatives, part of a coordinated campaign by antigovernment groups, would require taxpayers to pay landowners any time a rezoning or other voters had approved a great was presented to voters with an appealingly worded ballot title that read: “Governments must regulation reduced the speculative value of their property. In effect, this would have forced communities to pay certain landowners or developers to obey zoning and land-use laws. Under most of the measures, deal from the perspective of pay owners, or forgo enforcement, when certain land-use restrictions reduce property value.” It was communities that couldn’t pay would have to waive their planning rules or environmental protections, exclusively for those landowners. After making it to the ballot in four states (others were disqualified for Smart Growth practices sold through a slick marketing campaign that featured a nonagenarian widow, Dorothy English, various reasons), these “takings” initiatives were rejected by voters in California, Washington and Idaho. and policies. who told a story of how a 30-year-old zoning Only Arizona adopted such a measure. change had prevented her and her now-deceased husband from realizing their The Oregon bombshell dream of developing their These were copycats, to one degree or another, of Oregon’s Measure 37, which voters approved in a rural property and living off statewide referendum in 2004. Measure 37 was the first major win for extreme property rights advocates the proceeds. Measure 37, supporters said, would allow English to demand that local Oregon’s and state governments pay her the windfall that would have Measure 37 come had she been allowed to build a subdivision on her was the first property. What the “pro” campaign did major win not explain to voters was that Measure 37 would throw into for extreme chaos 30 years worth of planning, zoning and protection property rights of farm and forest land. Most advocates in localities don’t have millions of tax dollars lying around to pay more than claims for long-ago down- zonings, meaning that a decade. governments would have to “forgo enforcement” of zoning and land protections—but only for landowners who had owned land long enough to make a claim. Everyone else had to abide by the laws, and watch as farms and forests gave way to subdivisions, gravel pits, strip centers or other unexpected development. Capitalizing on the eminent domain backlash Even as Oregonians were trying to sort through the implications of Measure 37, anti-regulation activists were looking to duplicate it in other states. However, because Oregon is nearly alone in having a comprehensive system of land planning, there were fewer obvious hooks to excite voter interest in other states. That seemed to change in June 2005, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Conn., had the right to condemn the homes of Susette Kelo and six others to make room for “economic development”—in this case, a 100- acre drug manufacturing complex. The court did not expand the use of eminent domain, but rather declared that limiting it in this instance was a state, not a federal function. Still, the notion that government might condemn someone’s home simply to enhance the local tax base, rather than for 8 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 9
  6. 6. a public use such as a school or a road, provoked a states, in order to get these “Kelo plus” measures the reduction of value—usually 50 percent or disallow gravel mines in that area. Under a firestorm of outrage. on the ballot. That effort initially appeared to more—above which an owner might have to be Measure 37-style regime, you could demand that Although the idea of paying people who are garner enough signatures to put the initiative up compensated to some degree. The effects, the county pay you for the 15 house lots and the affected by regulations is a different matter from a for a vote in California, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, ultimately, were limited. gravel mine that you “lost.” government compelling someone to sell their Nevada and Missouri. Court decisions and “What they were pushing last fall was That brings up the second radical innovation of property for economic development, the anti- apparent signature-gathering fraud knocked dramatically different from what we saw in the Measure 37: If taxpayers can’t cough up that regulation advocates saw a chance to wrap the two measures off the ballot in Missouri, Montana and 1990s,” Morandi says. The first major difference is amount of money, the community must waive its together under measures touted as protecting Nevada. That left three states—California, Idaho the notion that taxpayers should pay for every zoning, but only for you. Everyone else around you, “property rights,” notes Bob McNamara, policy and Arizona—where “regulatory takings” was dollar of claimed reduction in the speculative value who thought they were living in a rural riding under the banner of resulting from a zoning decision or environmental environment, has to abide by the zoning, while you eminent domain reform. measure. Here’s how it works: Say you bought 100 build a subdivision and a gravel mine in their midst. In Washington, where the acres of farmland in 1985 that had a “rural- That’s precisely what has happened in Oregon, Farm Bureau had been agricultural” zoning of one house per acre and a according to numerous published reports and championing a Measure 37 healthy chunk of granite beneath it. You farm it for observers in the state. To date, more than 7,500 copycat before the Kelo 20 years, during which time urban development claims for over $4 billion have been filed, covering decision, voters considered a encroaches and the county begins to worry that it more than a half-million acres, according to data “takings”-only measure. can’t afford to extend urban services across an compiled by the Portland State University Institute entire county covered with one-acre lots. To avoid of Metropolitan Studies. The largest number of A radical departure that prospect, and preserve the viability of farming claims by far is in the Willamette Valley, the rich Libertarian theorists have for future generations, the county changes the agricultural zone that also happens to surround the been advancing the notion of zoning to allow only one house per 20 acres, and to state’s largest cities, such as Portland and Eugene. regulatory takings for a generation, says Larry Morandi, who tracks “property rights” legislation There was an attempt made to pair the regulatory as the director of state policy research at the National compensation measures with eminent domain. Council of State Legislatures. The concept has been most heavily promoted by the extractive industries—timber, mining, etc.—affected by environmental legislation, such as the Endangered Species Act. They argued that restrictions on the devel- opment of wetlands or the extraction of old growth timber, as examples, con- stituted a “taking” of some of the economic value of their property. Taxpayers therefore representative for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION should compensate them for the “benefit” of OF REALTORS®. “They considered eminent domain environmental protection. reform a sure thing, so there was an attempt made to “The idea found its way into the Contract for pair the regulatory compensation measures with America,” the legislative agenda of the eminent domain,” said McNamara, who followed Republicans who took control of Congress in 1994, the measures nationally. Morandi recalls. “They didn’t succeed in passing In April 2006, the Reason Foundation, a much at the federal level, but in the early to mid- libertarian think tank based in Los Angeles, 1990s property rights issues were big in the states. published a 58-page guide to “exporting” Measure Approximately 20 states from 1991 to 1996 passed 37 to other states, using the Kelo decision as a legislation addressing regulatory takings to some wedge. Later that spring, a wealthy New York real degree.” Most were “mild,” Morandi says, estate investor named Howard Rich—longtime requiring a state attorney general to issue a supporter of antigovernment causes—took up the “takings” assessment on new regulations, to see challenge and began channeling funds to whether they resulted in a reduction in value that signature-gathering companies in at least six should be compensated. Others set a threshold in 10 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 11
  7. 7. People want a balance, and most voters recognized In almost every case settled to date, local respondents said they would vote against the governments, lacking taxpayer cash, have felt measure, while only 37 percent would support it. In that these measures went to an extreme. compelled to waive the rules. To this point, a series addition, 61 percent of Oregonians want the Oregon of unresolved legal questions has prevented most Legislature to either fix or repeal Measure 37. of the development from going forward. But that wasn’t enough in this case, said Alex declared itself “neutral,” even after noting that, “My sense is that most folks … were probably REALTORS® weigh in Creel, government affairs director for the should Initiative 933 pass, ‘homeowners’ thinking more of the right of a farmer to build a The confusion in Oregon played a large role in California Association of REALTORS®. “We formed expectations regarding their neighborhood no house on his farm, which sounds reasonable,” Lane the decision-making for REALTOR® associations in a task force to look at Proposition 90, and we longer [would be] predictable.” The Arizona Shetterly, director of the Oregon Department of the states facing “takings” ballot measures, concluded we had to oppose it,” Creel said. “There Association also declared itself neutral on the Land Conservation and Development, told an McNamara says. were a number of aspects of it that were troubling. state’s Proposition 207. interviewer late last year. “I don’t know that most “Normally, REALTORS® are very friendly with We already have good eminent domain law in In the end only Arizona’s initiative passed, with voters expected the extent of claims that we are conservative legislators who protect property rights. California, and the additional restrictions would 65 percent of the vote. In Idaho, by contrast, the seeing for subdivisions and major partitions of farm They themselves place a high value on private have just eliminated redevelopment in the state. measure was crushed, rejected by 76 percent of the and forest lands.” Indeed, there appears to be a property rights,” notes McNamara. “It’s difficult Any zoning change would have created a taking voters in a state with a strong libertarian streak. growing sense of buyer’s remorse among voters: In when they see the pendulum swinging kind of far in that had to be compensated, and I don’t know how Observers there say voters resented the infusion of a statewide survey in late January, 52 percent of this situation. Most probably don’t think it’s a good local government could have functioned with that outside money and pressure from activists such as idea to compensate for down-zoning, and they saw limitation, or paid for it.” Howard Rich, and were eager to maintain the what happened in Oregon, but they wouldn’t want The Idaho Association of REALTORS® came to a ability to manage growth and protect natural to alienate the legislators who are usually friendly. similar conclusion and joined a broad array of resources. The “takings” measure was soundly So their instinct was to tell their membership to vote organizations and prominent individuals opposing defeated in Washington with 58 percent voting their own conscience.” Proposition 2. The Washington REALTORS® “no,” 10 years after a somewhat similar measure was rejected in like fashion. California’s vote was more of a squeaker, 52 to 48 percent. Campaign officials there noted that the voters faced a crowded ballot and a number of high-profile, high-dollar races clamoring for attention. In the states where the measures went down, voters’ decisions seemed to turn on the likely regulatory confusion and steep costs of paying for— or waiving—every zoning change or environmental protection, McNamara said. “People asked themselves, ‘Who’s to compensate these folks?’ Well, the taxpayers, and that’s everybody. And if the government has to back off the regulations, does that mean everything gets developed?” Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America, says that voters want the regulations that help them shape urban growth and protect the environment to be fair for individual property owners. “But that doesn’t mean surrendering the right to determine their community’s future or abandoning their desire to leave a legacy worthy of Sixty-one percent their children. People want a balance, and most voters recognized that these measures went to an of Oregonians extreme that would benefit a few, special interests, but at a high cost to everyone else.” want the Oregon David A. Goldberg is the communications director for Smart Legislature to Growth America, a nationwide coalition based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for land-use policy reform. either fix or repeal In 2002, Mr. Goldberg was awarded a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University where he studied urban policy. Measure 37. 12 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 13
  8. 8. Land Conservation continues to Win Nationwide, voters support the smart use of land. By Christine Sexton R egardless of gender, age, political persuasion, Public Land conservation finance program. issue $5.388 billion in bonds for a wide variety of so they tend to support tax initiatives to fund land or even zodiac sign, it doesn’t matter when it When the scope is further narrowed to initiatives projects related to water safety, rivers, beaches, conservation because they see that investment as a comes to preserving the land. Voters that appeared in the 2006 November general levees, watersheds, parks and forests. preventative approach to conserving resources,” said everywhere overwhelmingly support land election, the number of land conservation programs “It’s a universal issue and one that is bipartisan to Mullins, who has campaigned for 17 local land conservation programs that promote a balance endorsed by voters jumps even higher, to 80 percent. its core,” du Moulin said of the popularity of land conservation referenda, and, in 2006, worked on between maintaining fragile lands and allowing “Every single year, it doesn’t matter where the conservation initiatives at the poll. successful initiatives in Charlotte and Collier planned, sustainable growth. measure takes place or what the political make up is, Nature Conservancy Florida Associate Director Counties to create $200 million in new local During the calendar year 2006 alone voters across people care about preserving their land,” said du Sue Mullins agrees. She said land conservation conservation funds. America were asked to weigh in on 180 land Moulin, who noted that in 2006 voters agreed to $6.4 programs appeal to liberals for traditional Mullins also stresses that Florida’s land buying conservation ballot measures, whether at the local, billion in tax increases to generate the additional environmental reasons, but also appeal to programs are attractive to conservative voters state or federal level, and slightly more than funds for land conservation initiatives. The majority conservative voters who usually oppose tax increases. because the programs compensate property owners 74 percent of the initiative passed, said Andrew of that, du Moulin said, is attributable to California’s “Conservatives see the literal value of conserving, for the land, instead of taking a regulatory approach du Moulin, a senior research associate in the Trust for proposition 84 which gives the state the authority to whether it’s conserving land or water or tax dollars, that appropriates the land. 14 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 15
  9. 9. Indeed, land conservation initiatives are so needs to increase funding of its land conservation Coalition members remain optimistic that Florida popular in Florida that the state Legislature has program so it can keep pace with the soaring real will remain a leader in land conservation. authority in statute to authorize the issuance of bonds estate costs. Information compiled by the Florida for land conservation programs. Association of REALTORS® shows that today’s parcel of land in the state, the Babcock Ranch had The preservation bonds are secured by revenue median home and land value is more than three times long been identified by Florida Forever as a priority generated from the state’s documentary stamp tax. what it was in 1994. acquisition and after Fred Babcock died the state The documentary tax applies to all land purchases Consequently, McLeod says, the coalition wants entered into negotiations with the family. and generally is a 70-cent assessment per every the state to triple its conservation budget to $10 Unable to reach agreement, negotiations broke $1,000 in property value. billion over a ten-year period. off. Developer Syd Kitson in 2005 entered into an With financing in place, the Legislature in 1990 McLeod points to one of the state’s most touted agreement with the family that preserved a majority passed Preservation 2000, which had a record-setting land conservation programs, the purchase of of the land but allowed Kitson & Partners to develop $3 billion budget for land conservation and Babcock Ranch, as an example to underscore the a sustainable community on about 18,000 acres. management programs and bought 1,781,489 acres need for more money. Finalized last summer the deal maintains an of land. Pittsburgh lumber magnate Edward Vose Babcock untouched 74,000 acres and ensures that a corridor “It’s an absolute watershed program,” Mullins bought 91,000 acres known as the Babcock Ranch in of undeveloped land from Lake Okeechobee to the said of the initiative, commonly called P 2000. “It was Southwest Florida in 1914. By the late 1930s his son, Gulf of Mexico continues for the Florida panther, just tremendous. It was the first ever of its type of Fred Babcock, had taken over operations at the ranch Florida black bear and the crested caracara that live Photo provided by The Trust for Public Land; photographer Michael Wray program and it was larger than the country’s land and started managing the land, replanting forests there. The purchase protects a vitally needed buying programs.” and removing invasive plants not native to the area. water-recharge area. The land also has large tracts of When P 2000 expired the Legislature followed it The largest continuous privately held undeveloped pine and scrubby flatwoods and a highly functional state’s lands which will require another 2 million up with Florida Forever, again a 10-year, $3 billion freshwater swamp system, called Telegraph Swamp. acres and a lot more money. The agreement allows Florida development While groups push for a long-term successor land conservation program that through December 2006, has been responsible for protecting more than It doesn’t matter ... company Kitson & Partners to develop up to 19,500 program to Florida Forever, they are also calling on 535,643 acres of land for parks, recreation and wild life reserve with $1.8 billion in funds. what the political homes ranging in value in a sustainable community that will be developed using green techniques, state officials to increase the funding available for land purchases this year which could allow them to buy P 2000 and Florida Forever have been successful, most agree, because of their non- make up is, people greenways and trails. Because of the $350 million price tag, though, significantly more land now that the state’s red hot real estate market is cooling. regulatory approach. The Division of State Lands is care about preserving the Legislature purchased the land with a special appropriation. That’s because the costs of the Newly elected Florida Gov. Charlie Crist advocated an increase in Florida Forever funds by given a $105 million annual appropriation to negotiate land deals on behalf of the people of their land. ranch exceeded the annual $300 million Florida Forever appropriation which, in addition to land $100 million in his proposed budget but the Legislature appears unwilling to go along with the Florida. In most instances, the property is appraised by two different private sector appraisers acquisition programs, is move, to date. who estimate the value of the land. All deals are also used for the Florida Fish Nonetheless, McLeod and his coalition members finalized by the governor and cabinet. and Wildlife Conservation remain optimistic that Florida will remain a leader in With just three years left before Florida Forever is Commission and the state’s five land conservation. set to expire, a group of more than 20 land water management districts. “We don’t underestimate the challenge,” McLeod conservation organizations—ranging from the To purchase the land, the said of triple funding for the program. “But the merits Florida chapters of the American Legislature agreed to a one-time of land conservation are recognized across Florida.” Planning Association and the $310 million appropriation in While the Florida Association of REALTORS® American Society of Landscape addition to the $300 million hasn’t officially joined the Florida Forever Architects to Audubon—is Florida Forever funds. Lee coalition, the association has worked closely with working together to forge County also contributed $40 environmentalists on land-use programs in Florida, consensus on what the next million to the purchase, money said Florida Association of REALTORS® Vice iteration of the state’s land buying which was available because of President of Public Policy John Sebree. initiative should look like. the county’s own local “REALTORS® support Florida Forever because The ultimate goal for this conservation referenda initially we know that preserving land and green space group, calling itself the Florida passed by voters in 1996. Lee adds to the quality of life here in Florida. People Forever Coalition, is to ensure that County is one of 30 counties and want to live here because of our pristine beaches 33 percent of the peninsula of cities in Florida that has adopted and the ability to enjoy outdoor activities. Florida Florida be managed for local land conservation programs. Forever has been a part of that,” Sebree said. conservation, which would require Through Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever the state has been Christine Jordan Sexton is a Tallahassee-based the acquisition of an additional 2 freelance reporter who has done correspondent work million acres of land. able to manage about 27 percent for the Associated Press, the New York Times, Florida The Trust for Public Land of the nearly 35 million acres in Medical Business and a variety of trade magazines, Government Affairs Director and Florida for conservation. The goal including Florida Lawyer and National Underwriter. Florida Forever Coalition member, Photo provided by The Trust for Public Land; is to manage 33 percent of the photographer Michael Wray Andrew McLeod, said the state Photo provided by The Trust for Public Land; photographer Russell Grace 16 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 17
  10. 10. New Conservation for Old Rails Kevin Mills has a passion for active transportation. You In the early 1900s, the nation’s commerce and national Mills maintains that states’ true commitment to Rails- Florida Department of Transportation Environmental might think that the Washington D.C.-based Rails-to-Trails defense were, to a large degree, dependent upon the to-Trails and other conservation programs is reflected by Programs Engineer Bob Crim said that TE has been Conservancy, where Mills serves as vice president for strength of the rail system. But, as long-haul trucking the portion of the recent rescissions that has been taken embraced by state policymakers as a means of building policy, would have it easy on Capitol Hill selling as it does gained momentum after World War II, many of the nation’s from TE. He noted that while TE represents only about 2 partnerships with local governments and organizations a concept that has been linked to increased property values rail lines fell on hard times. By the 1970s, bankruptcy had percent of the overall transportation budget, 16 percent of like 1000 Friends of Florida and the Trust for Public Land. and helps promote health and wellness, historic claimed several major railroads. the 2006 aggregate cuts came from the program. That, “There are a lot of dividends in these partnerships,” preservation and community identity, and a multi-modal The rapid fragmentation of the rail system over the next says Marianne Fowler, senior vice president for federal he said. transportation system. decade prompted growing concern in Washington, D.C. So relations with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, was “more Florida currently boasts 35 trails totaling 328 miles But nothing is a sure bet in politics. in 1983, Congress passed the National Trails Systems Act than our fair share—way more.” from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys, and another 41 Mills said it took a key ally—House Transportation and (NTSA), which preserves established railroad corridors for trails totaling 524 miles have been proposed. The 30 existing and planned trails that will make up three Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D- Minnesota)—to keep the funding source for the widely trail use as well as future rail use, if necessary. The law established a national policy to preserve these Trails and greenways proposed regional trail systems—the South Florida Multi- popular Rails-to-Trails program, which promotes the conversion of old rail lines to trails amenable to biking, existing railroad rights-of-way for future reactivation to service, to protect rail transportation corridors have been shown to Modal Regional Trail System, the mid-Florida Cities Regional Trail System and the Emerging Panhandle walking, in-line skating and virtually every type of active transportation. and to encourage energy-efficient transportation use. It allowed railroads to free themselves of the financial bolster property values. Regional Trail System—are projected to have more than 11.4 million users per year. Oberstar, Mills said, “made a huge investment of political responsibility for unprofitable rail lines by Newly elected Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is on the capital” to make certain that the program remained a transferring them to a qualified public or record in support of the health benefits of an active priority in the last transportation reorganization bill. private organization for interim use as a lifestyle. “Florida has the unique potential to become a Rails-to-Trails faced an uphill battle when the opposition trail until the line might be needed again national leader in health and physical fitness due to our to the funding started mounting, including “people who see for rail service. beautiful climate and abundance of award-winning pouring concrete for more highways” as the hallmark for This so-called “railbanking” propelled beaches, state parks, and greenways and trails,” said transportation policy, Mills said. That would include what had been a primarily Midwestern Crist. “By utilizing these natural resources and developing lobbyists for the powerful trucking industry. phenomenon beginning in the 1960s of partnerships among government, business, community Now, two years into the six-year bill, the present raid on converting abandoned or unused rail organizations and private citizens, we can accomplish the money for Rails-to-Trails comes after more than a decade of corridors into public trails. goal of improved physical fitness and health for success stories surrounding the popular program. With the passage of the watershed all Floridians.” The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy cites studies which Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of With 1.2 million users annually, the Pinellas Trail, show that as trails and greenways increase the natural 1991, the federal government agreed to which runs for 34 miles from St. Petersburg to Tarpon beauty of communities, they also have been shown to provide Transportation Enhancement Springs, is tied for third place, with the Iron Horse State bolster property values and make adjacent properties (TE) dollars for the Rails-to-Trails Park Trail in Washington State, among the most heavily easier to sell. movement and programs in 11 other used rail trails in the U.S. The asphalt trail affords A 1998 study of property values along the Mountain Bay designated areas. The law requires that walking, biking, in-line skating and mountain biking, and Trail in Brown County, Wis., shows that lots adjacent to the 10 percent of the surface transportation is wheelchair accessible. trail sold faster than those not situated next to the trail and program funding approved by the federal The Conservancy bills the trail in the Southwest sector for an average of 9 percent more. government be distributed to state of the state as “one of Florida’s most popular and unique And in a 2002 survey of recent homebuyers sponsored transportation agencies and be used for urban pathways.” It connects several county parks, coastal by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and these projects. areas and communities, and, with its multiple access the National Association of Home Builders, trails In 2005, the TE reauthorization bill points, mile markers and parking areas, is particularly promoting active transportation ranked as the second-most was passed and the federal government Photograph by Jennifer Kaleba popular among cyclists. important community amenity out of a list of 18 choices. committed to provide another $803 In the first 15 miles from St. Petersburg, the trail crosses Developers in Apex, N.C., who realized the selling million in enhancement funding annually dozens of pedestrian bridges, providing sweeping views of power of greenways, built the community Shepherd’s to the state transportation agencies, for a total of $4 billion Mills pointed out that Texas returned $225 million in the urban landscape. Perhaps the most scenic of these is Vineyard. The developer added $5,000 to the price of 40 through 2009. However, recent revenue shortfalls have TE money in 2006. That’s nearly 74 percent of the total it the quarter-mile Cross Bayou Bridge, which spans Boca homes adjacent to the regional greenway, and despite the prompted the return of some of those dollars. was required to return. “Texas went out of its way to say Ciega Bay. The final 10-mile stretch begins in the quiet increased price, the homes were still the first to sell in the In 2006, federal budget constraints prompted three calls that TE has the least direct impact on its transportation township of Palm Harbor and runs through Tarpon planned community. for funding rescission by the state transportation agencies goals,” he said. Springs. While homebuyers are eager to purchase lots near totaling about $3.8 billion. To help meet that obligation, the At the other end of the spectrum, Mills said, is Florida, Area cyclist Alan Snel said the trail is equally popular greenways and trails, many have little understanding as to states returned about $600 million in TE funds. On March which relied on TE money for just more than 6 percent of among folks who are looking for a little recreation as well why the phenomenally popular program that establishes 19, 2007, however, the state agencies in a single call were its rescission, or $10.8 million. as people who use the trail to cycle to and from work. the trails and green spaces exists. ordered to return another $3.5 billion of transportation funds. Some would say that it is only fitting that a state largely “It’s a really great example of a resource that is Indeed, if it not for the fact that rail service—which once It is at their discretion whether the funds come from roads, built upon the vision of railroad tycoon Henry Flagler and practical and recreational,” said Snel, who is a member of spanned more than 270,000 miles—was displaced by the enhancements or other programs. offers residents and visitors access to year-round beautiful a group calling itself the Southwest Florida Bicycle United automobile, the trails so many Americans enjoy today weather would throw its financial commitment behind Dealers, a consortium that represents six retail bicycle wouldn’t be available. Rails-to-Trails and other TE programs. shops in the area. “Pinellas Trail is a prime example of what we would like to see more of.” 18 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 19
  11. 11. By Steve Wright Creative solutions for the problem of future transportation development and maintenance funding G asoline prices are soaring. Much public transit is less than adequate. Various taxes are failing to keep up with inflation and failing to generate the funding needed for both maintenance and expansion of all forms of transportation—from highways to light rail. Real estate has always been about location, location, location. But rather than the old saw applying to good schools, good jobs, good parks, etc., location may apply more to transportation than any other element. When homebuyers talk location, they mean they are concerned about: proximity to rail, better buses, pedestrian and bike paths, improved highways, public tollways that charge a premium at peak times to reduce congestion, public-private part- nerships that have expanded roadways, and even location in a state, region or municipality that is focused on transportation financing. 20 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 Photo courtesy of Metro Transit SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 21
  12. 12. C. Kenneth Orski, editor and publisher of Potomac, funded tollways and long-term leases of existing won the first bid to build a highway from Dallas to “Pennsylvania and New Jersey are heavily Maryland-based Innovation Briefs, said every source turnpikes to for-profit companies. San Antonio. It is the first of four Trans-Texas financially squeezed and their turnpikes will of transportation funding is falling short. In Texas, the state converted some High Corridors that will eventually include high-speed, probably be sold. The Jersey turnpike will pull “Local and state jurisdictions are running out of Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes into High limited-access highways separated for trucks and down maybe $20 billion. I have faith that the money for transportation. All the money is used for Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. cars; tracks for high-speed rail, commuter rail and private sector guys will run it well, but are the maintaining what they have,” he said. “They are While HOV lanes have traditionally been freight rail; plus space for utilities, maintenance lease proceeds being put into transit and short of any capital that would expand the system. reserved for public transit plus car pool vehicles and future expansion. transportation?” asked Pisarski, author of Everybody is scrambling madly in search of new with two or more occupants, HOT lanes charge a In Chicago, a long-established highway was Commuting in America III released by the financing sources.” premium price for the fast lane. virtually sold, via long-term lease, to generate Transportation Research Board of the National The main source for highways is the federal Buses and vehicles occupied by three or more dollars for transportation. Academy of Sciences. Highway Trust Fund supported mostly through the people still ride free, but cars with only two people The Chicago Skyway, a six-lane, nearly eight- While new, creative financing options abound, federal manufacturers’ excise tax on gasoline, in them pay an extra $2 toll. The entire operation is mile toll bridge that connects the Indiana Toll Road several states and municipalities are expanding which has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon for cash and slow-down free, operated by transponders to the city’s Dan Ryan Expressway, was leased for public transit through the tried and true means of more than a decade. sold to a limited number of car poolers who qualify. 99 years to a Spanish-Australian group. taxation approved by ballot issue. “There is a huge political resistance to raising Other states are building new lanes or the gas tax in Congress,” Orski said. “There also is converting existing lanes into HOT lanes that will resistance in state legislatures,” because states also charge a higher price for use at peak hours. Public More than 200 transportation issues went heavily tax gasoline, but with high crude oil prices, transportation and some car pooling gets a free state governments are reluctant to add insult to ride, but individuals pay a much higher cost to use on the ballot and voters supported more injury by adding higher gas taxes to spiraling costs at the pump. the fast-moving lane during morning and evening commute peak hours. than 70 percent of them. Orski said that while tax revenue is basically The idea is that HOT lanes reward public transit stagnant, the demand for transportation is and high occupancy vehicles, reduce congestion by In return for $1.83 billion up front, the Skyway Art Guzzetti, vice president for policy at the increasing very rapidly in terms of tremendous charging a higher price for use and increase Concession Company will collect all tolls and American Public Transit Association, says the growth in both vehicle miles and number of cars on revenue to pay for expansion. concessions for one year shy of a century. The demand for light rail and other forms of mass the road. Texas is also leading a movement among the revenue to the city pays for many things, but it is transit is on the rise as 34 million Americans use “By 2009, the Highway Trust Fund will zero out. states to work with private firms to add lanes or not solely dedicated to public transit or highways, transit each day and millions more are demanding The billions of dollars in the balance have been build entirely new highways. In many of these prompting criticism. it for their neighborhoods. spent down, so only the funds collected that year will scenarios under development or study, the private “It’s like mortgaging the house to go to dinner,” Guzzetti cites as evidence the Center for be the balance,” he said of the alarming depletion of operator will finance construction in return for a said Alan Pisarski, a 40-year veteran transportation Transportation Excellence (CFTE) study federal dollars in the face of growing demand. long-term lease that allows it to charge tolls and expert based in Falls Church, Va. “Some future mayor “Transportation at the Ballot Box—Voters Support Several states are looking to fund transportation fees to make earnings on its investment. of Chicago is going to look back and say (sarcastically) Increased Investment & Choice.” through: toll lanes with premium prices, privately- Cintra-Zachary, a Spanish-Texas consortium, “‘what a good idea this was—you solved your The Washington, D.C.-based CFTE research problems back then and now we’re done.’” found that, from 2000 to 2005, communities in 33 Pisarski said there is great danger in virtually states approved more than $70 billion in By 2009, the Highway Trust Fund will zero out. selling off the transit assets of the future to pay for the pension costs and other budget shortfalls of today. transportation spending—much of it for public transit. In that span, more than 200 transportation 22 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2007 Photo courtesy of Metro Transit SUMMER 2007 ON COMMON GROUND 23