Problem: Virginia’s transportation system is outdated and inhibits economic growth.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.
We need to promote transit oriented development. Incentives such as increased density, faster permitting, and technical assistance for projects within walking distance of transit stops can help to promote affordable housing options in areas with greater transportation choices. Virginia should diversify its transportation investments. Instead of focusing solely on road construction and maintenance, more funds need to be invested in alternatives to driving that extend and improve connections within localities and regions. This includes greater funding for public transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, bus rapid transit and light rail.
Such strategies will reduce transportation costs to both the state and local governments, and serve citizens better. Developments that allow people to live near jobs and education opportunities will lower transportation costs and increase economic gains for all. In this way, Virginia can create a 21st‐century transportation solution that will foster economic growth. Creating a 21st‐century transportation solution requires new revenues. Raids on the general fund and debt‐funded projects will not provide the investments needed for the commonwealth’s transportation needs. Not only does the lack of a transportation solution hurt Virginia’s economic outlook, it also prevents the state from making significant headway on other issues.
This article originally appeared in HOME & VHC’s 2013 Housing Policy Agenda