Category Archives: Smart Growth
The Richmond Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission presented its Final Report and Recommendations to Mayor Dwight C. Jones and the City of Richmond. The report represents nearly two years of research, public input sessions, and committee work. The commission’s findings stress the need for a regional rapid transit transportation system and a comprehensive housing policy. Commission Co-Chair Ellen Robertson plans to have the report presented to City Council during their informal session tonight, January 28, 2013.
The Virginia General Assembly moves pretty fast, leaving citizens with many concerns about what is happening with transportation. Despite the extensive media coverage, the details keep changing and many Virginians aren’t quite sure of the details lawmakers are proposing and debating. To help educate everyone about what’s going on, I’m summarizing the most recent developments and policy concerns.
Transportation is deeply connected to housing and we have to ask some serious questions about the current transportation proposal moving through the Virginia legislature. We know that the lack of affordable housing has forced Virginians to live farther away from their jobs which adds more congestion on our roads. We need a 21st century transportation solution.
Gov. Bob McDonnell has put forward a transportation proposal which basically:
- Raises the sales tax
- Permanently diverts more of the sales tax away from the General Fund (which also funds core services like education and health care) toward transportation
- Eliminates the gas tax
- Increases some transportation related fees, such as a fee on hybrids
As the 2013 Virginia General Assembly comes close to passing a significant new transportation package, there are critical questions that must be answered if all Virginians will be paying more taxes for transportation.
Will new transportation developments improve access that low and moderate income Virginians have to areas of high employment growth? Over the past few decades, the spatial mismatch between job creation in the suburbs and low‐income workers in the inner city has become more severe. This imbalance between jobs and housing deprives citizens living in areas where housing is affordable from accessing employment opportunities in high job‐growth areas. New transportation developments must focus on increasing access low income Virginians have to areas of high employment growth. This means not only roads, but also options such as mass transit.
For example, only 53% of the region’s jobs are served by the Greater Richmond Transit Corporation. Very few bus routes even extend into the surrounding counties. Those that do are primarily express lanes serving people coming into the city for jobs, not people going out of the city for jobs. This data was published in a report by HOME in December 2012 entitled Where You Live Makes All The Difference: An Opportunity Map of the Richmond Region.
Problem: Virginia’s transportation system is outdated and inhibits economic growth.
Solution: Connect transportation to housing, education and job growth.
Understanding and improving the connections among jobs, transportation, and affordable housing needs to be a top priority for decision makers and citizens across the commonwealth. Development in the suburbs has been largely auto‐centric. As such, there is now more demand placed on Virginia’s roadways than ever before as sprawl development has forced people to drive farther to get to work, school, and other activities.
Over the past few decades, the spatial mismatch between job creation in the suburbs and low‐income workers in the inner city has become more severe. This imbalance between jobs and housing deprives citizens living in areas where housing is affordable from accessing employment opportunities in high job‐growth areas. Often, public transit options are non‐existent or severely limited in suburban employment centers. Virginia should move away from subsidizing sprawl and towards promoting mixed income, mixed‐use developments. We should eliminate regulatory barriers to more compact development with a mixture of residential and commercial uses and housing with a mixture of styles, sizes, and prices. We should promote regional planning, incentives to guide new development to designated growth areas, and developments which serve a range of incomes. Virginia should provide greater transportation options by reorienting state and local expenditures to advance alternatives to driving.
Where you live directly influences your ability to access the opportunity cycle
By 2040 the population of the United States will be predominantly people of color. The evidence put forth in Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia’s new report Where You Live Makes All the Difference: An Opportunity Map of the Richmond Region suggests that if our economic development and housing policies continue to isolate and exploit this population, the future vitality of the region is in trouble.
The Richmond region has long suffered from the repercussions of its past. Beginning in the 1930s, federal housing policy promoted segregation through incentivizing the growth of white, middle class suburban areas while starving the inner city of credit. The result has been intergenerational, concentrated poverty in some of the oldest neighborhoods of the region, while increasingly remote neighborhoods, available only to those with the necessary means, continue to blossom and flourish. Only by understanding the mechanisms that have woven the fabric of opportunity throughout the Richmond region will we be able to move forward.
94th out of 100 Isn’t That Bad: Transportation Policy Hinders the Future of Richmond
Recently, the Brookings Institute released a report entitled, “Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit.” The report analyzed data from 371 transit providers in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas across two categories. For the first category, transit coverage – the share of metropolitan jobs that are served by public transit – the Richmond region ranked 94th, with only 48.9 percent of metro area jobs served by public transit. In the second category, labor access rate – the share of the metro population that the typical job can reach in 90 minutes via public transit – the Richmond region ranked 82nd, with only 16.2 percent of the metro population having access to the typical job. The report further dissects transit coverage along city and suburban boundaries. Not surprisingly, in the Richmond region, transit coverage serves 97.8 percent of the city population within our metro area, but only 29 percent of the suburban population.