Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting citizen buy in (literally) for transportation projects means that transportation projects get funded

When I was working on the Western Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan, I included in the discussion of possible funding sources the example of bond funded projects elsewhere, such as Seattle's Bridging the Gap project, which uses bond and other revenue sources to fund a specific campaign for streetscape, bicycling, transit, and other transportation improvements, and parks bonding programs which often fund trails development. That section of the text was excised from the posted draft.

I think that's a mistake.

Yes infrastructure costs money and people tend to not want to increase their taxes. But the voter approval of the Seattle Bridging the Gap initiative ($365 million over 9 years), the fact that most parks bond referendums are passed, such as in San Jose, California which has an aggressive program for creating trails, and the fact that a majority of transportation bonding initiatives are passed proves if you want to bring about significant improvements in transit and bicycling infrastructure in shorter periods of time, then you have to consider bonding initiatives and referendums.

Another example is the transit expansion program in Los Angeles. Today's LA Times has a story, "Los Angeles County is poised to accelerate its rail projects," discussing the big rail expansion program in Los Angeles, as a result of the passage of Measure R, a local sales tax measure where the revenues are dedicated to transit infrastructure development. From the article:

The rail expansion has been mostly shielded from cutbacks related to the bad economy because a large portion of the funding comes from Measure R, the .5-cent sales tax voters approved in 2008.

The budget proposes more than $1 billion for Measure R projects that also include scores of highway efforts, including $11.5 million for planning of the High Desert Corridor that would connect the Antelope and Apple valleys and funds for an extension of the Valley busway, known as the Orange Line, from Canoga Park to Chatsworth.

While the referendum and initiative process can be fraught with peril, there is something to be said for putting out plans before the community and really campaigning for consensus and approval.

DC doesn't do this, and to some extent, I think our programs and initiatives suffer as a result.

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