Key Strategies for Addressing Livability Objectives in Implementation and M&O
The transportation decisionmaking process is designed to help build consensus for projects so that by the time they are ready for implementation, there is broad community support and funding available. Motivating decisionmakers and citizens to pass a special tax referendum for a new transit system, critical roadway connections, or other projects that support livable communities is more likely when the community vision is clear and well understood by the general public and elected officials. When people have clarity about how a particular project will benefit them personally, they are more likely to support implementation and long term management and operations.
Sometimes, even when there is consensus about a project, implementation can often be stalled due to a lack of funding, or funding delays. One way to address funding shortfalls is to bring new monies to the table. As noted in previous chapters, planning for livable communities requires bringing multiple partners into the transportation planning process. With multiple partners comes the opportunity for more creative approaches to funding. For example, engaging private sector interests in transit and corridor planning projects can help identify improvements that provide mobility and access that the private sector is willing to help pay for. This is especially true if the private developer can reap some additional value out of their property by incorporating livability design principles at the site planning scale. For instance, if a developer is given a density bonus to build more housing or commercial space within a TOD area, they might also be willing to fund new streets to create shorter block sizes, and adjacent streetscape and intersection improvements to encourage more walking, biking, and transit access. Corridor planning can help coordinate private developer investments in building a parallel local street network, while using limited public investments to ‘connect the dots’.
Another approach is to seek opportunities to bundle several projects that provide multiple livability benefits in pursuit of major grant opportunities. The HUD Sustainable Community Grant program and other combined HUD-DOT programs encourage this type of approach. They seek to fund projects that demonstrate livability benefits such as access to affordable housing, increasing transportation choices and economic competiveness. This place-based approach can help planners identify the full range of Federal, State, local or private sector resources that can be focused on project implementation. These might include housing (affordable housing and community development block grant funding), environmental (brownfield, water and sewer grants), economic (private sector partnerships), and transportation resources (flexing existing sources for full range of multimodal choices).
Photograph of roadway under construction for a green streets project in Arlington, Virginia. Project includes pedestrian intersection improvements and the creation of a bio-retention swale in the median. This project is part of the county's Neighborhood Conservation Program which directly engages citizens in identifying project scope and needs within their neighborhoods and prioritizing projects annually.
Another strategy is to revisit local and State transportation funding policies to assess how well they do or do not support livability principles. For instance, impact fees are a common tool used by many communities to fund transportation projects. However, many impact fee programs are limited in terms of how those dollars can be used, and may be allocated only to new roadway capacity projects. An alternative strategy might involve replacing impact fees with mobility or transportation district fees that would allow the local government more flexibility to use dollars to expand transit, walking and biking networks, or fund the long term operating costs of a new bus line. This approach can also be used to help create incentives for the private sector to create more smart growth development patterns. For instance, mobility fees could be indexed to VMT, or fee waivers could be used for projects that support TOD. Using livability factors to reassess transportation funding is one way to break down implementation barriers, while identifying ways to encourage the private sector to advance livability in project design.
Funding new construction and long range operating costs can be supported by identifying value capture opportunities where new transportation investment can be tied to increases in property values and associated tax revenues. This linkage can help to build support for using those additional revenues to reinvest in existing facilities – whether by funding transit operating costs or funding long term enhancements for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure as new development comes online.
Implementing smart growth principles in support of livability has been shown to have long term benefits on property values. A recent US EPA report, "Market Acceptance of Smart Growth," documents numerous case studies of master planned communities to illustrate this point. The report compared resale data from 18 smart growth developments and 18 conventional suburban developments across the US to contrast their appreciation between 1998 and 2004. The results showed consumer acceptance of smart growth projects based on long-term housing values. Housing units in these developments not only hold their value over time, but in more cases than not, buyers are willing to pay a premium to live in these projects over other competitive suburban housing units in the same market.
In addition to project implementation and funding, livability principles can also be advanced through management and operations (M&O) strategies. For example, signal timing plans can incorporate transit priority while also helping to improve mobility that balances vehicular and bus traffic, pedestrians, and bicycle access, supporting community vitality, safety, and the environment. The emerging integration of urban design and context-sensitive roadway design can also help improve both vehicular operations and multimodal choice and access. Examples include boulevard designs for major roads, with separate through lanes and local access lanes, bicycle, and pedestrian facilities; re-purposing of excess lanes for separated 'bicycle tracks' and pedestrian plazas, and use of roundabouts to improve vehicle traffic flow, safety, and pedestrian access, while enhancing aesthetics and reducing emissions.
M&O strategies can support livability and sustainability at multiple scales through several means. These include:
In the long term, fully integrated transportation finance and billing systems could allow customers in any system to use a single-payer card for all transportation-related expenses including vehicle fuel and maintenance, bike maintenance, pay-as-you-drive insurance, tolls, transit, parking, car-share and bike-sharing rental, and taxis. Tax-deductible and employer subsidies could be automatically credited to cards, with graphs on monthly bills showing comparisons of cost per mode against prior month and year, like those on utility service bills. The summary data would allow regional system operators and policymakers to track usage, determine cost-effectiveness of investments, and plan system improvements.