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Neal Pierce on Transit in the US

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  • Eric Bruun
    Lee This article seems relevant after our discussion about Washington DC and transit. Eric NEAL PEIRCE COLUMN For Release Sunday, December 3, 2006 ©
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2006
      This article seems relevant after our discussion about Washington DC and transit.

      >  For Release Sunday, December 3, 2006
      >   © 2006 Washington Post Writers Group
      >  By Neal Peirce
      >        Where?s our mobility scenario?  As the country adds its next 100
      >million people by 2042, what?s to save us from massive roadway congestion,
      >incredibly long commutes, and a degraded environment?
      >         Increasingly, we resist new gas taxes and vote down referendums
      >for more roads; instead, many people insist, ?fix it first.?  New
      >privately-financed toll roads?   Highway proponents are moving toward the
      >option, but the public reacts skeptically.
      >        So how about public transit -- new streetcar lines, regional heavy
      >and light rail, commuter lines?  Polls show people strongly in favor, to
      >get to work, to reach entertainment and stadiums, at least to ease other
      >drivers off the roads.  More than two-thirds of transit-related measures
      >were approved by voters in last month?s elections.  Kansas City suggested
      >the shifting public sentiment -- after earlier rejections, voters approved
      >a ballot measure authorizing a 3/8 cent sales tax for a 27-mile light-rail
      >        Just since June, St. Louis has opened a $678 million, eight-mile
      >expansion of its existing, previously one-route MetroLink light rail
      >transit line.  Inaugural commuter rail lines have opened to serve Nashville
      >and Albuquerque. Two weeks ago, Denver?s 14 miles of light rail suddenly
      >expanded to 33 as a $879 million southeastern extension opened to much
      >fanfare and boasts about the project?s on-time, under-budget completion.
      >        New highways have fueled the American economy by staggering sums
      >since World War II. But the new Denver line suggests transit can be
      >economically potent too: even before the extension opened, a stunning $4.25
      >billion in new residential or commercial development was either underway or
      >planned near the new line?s 13 station locations.  And those breakthroughs
      >don?t even count the immense impact likely from the 119-mile FasTracks
      >system that Denverites voted for in 2004, expanding to all corners of their
      >big region in the years ahead.
      >        Add in the highly successful regional rail lines being built in
      >such regions as Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Dallas and Minneapolis,
      >and a new American transit future emerges.  Since 1995, public transit
      >ridership has expanded 25 percent (to 9.7 billion trips in 2005).  From 25
      >in 2000, the country?s fixed-guideway (rail or bus) transit systems are
      >likely to grow to 42 by 2030, adding 720 stations to today?s total of
      >        Yet as expensive as new and expanded transit may be, the ultimate
      >question isn?t money (indeed the federal government?s ?New Starts? fund is
      >swamped with 200 applications and shrinking dollars).  Rather, it?s whether
      >we have the will to reshape urban America in more compact, livable, energy-
      >and climate-change conscious ways.  That means organizing regionally --
      >across our citistate regions -- on multiple fronts:
      >        + Champion transit-oriented development -- new or expanded town
      >centers and housing near transit stops, aggressively planned and zoned for
      >high densities.  No more stations sitting alone in the midst of vast
      >commuter parking lots.  The Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood
      >Technology (CNT) even recommends recycling existing station parking lots --
      >23 million square feet in the Chicago area alone -- for more intense
      >business/residential development, shifting parking to smaller scattered
      >lots or multi-story garages.
      >        + Make transit stops beacons of living for America?s new millions.
      >Already, the CNT reports, areas around stations support more race and
      >income diversity, city and suburban, than the average neighborhood.  But
      >for new suburban stops, it?s critical to assure moderate-income housing
      >opportunities (employing devices like inclusionary zoning).
      >        + Inventory our millions of acres of ?fallow? sites -- brownfields,
      >abandoned railyards, failed shopping center sites, low grade commercial
      >strips.   Then create strong incentives for owners to combine, recycle,
      >redevelop them.  And work up the political courage to say ?no? to NIMBY
      >groups trying to block reasonably denser housing and development in their
      >        + Do away with mandatory parking slots for new buildings-- let the
      >market decide.  Discover transit opportunities in all sorts of settings.
      >Along with rail or bus rapid transit at development nodes, encourage linear
      >development along streetcar lines -- an historic formula several cities are
      >now reinventing.  And work to convert auto-only, low-grade retail strips
      >into tree-lined, transit-served boulevards.
      >        + Focus on reducing auto trips for errands -- they?re much more
      >numerous than commute trips, studies show.  To keep the cars parked, make
      >?erranding? by foot or cycling much easier.  Even older ?spread? suburbs
      >without any transit, suggests Stewart Schwartz of the Washington area?s
      >Coalition for Smarter Growth, could develop rezoned pockets of land for
      >stores or service accessible by foot or bike.  Plus, we can return to
      >siting schools where kids can walk or bike, skipping the mommy chauffeurs
      >and big yellow buses.
      >        + Encourage employers to broaden telecommuting and flexible hours
      >-- a huge, but only lightly tapped, Internet-age appropriate resource.
      >        Finally, and critically, we need fresh vision to associate
      >compactness with lively and resilient towns, combatting climate change, and
      >making us less dependent on foreign oil.  We owe it to ourselves and our
      >children -- a new, highly relevant 21st century patriotism.
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