|Congressman Earl Blumenauer spoke about the connections between transportation, land use, and housing, and how TCSP is helping to address these connections. |
TCSP is ultimately about providing choices: choices in how we get around, and choices in the types of communities we live in. Some people feel that the livability/Smart Growth movement is trying to restrict choices and make people do what they don't want to do. For example, some people view Portland's land use controls as restricting choice. But in reality, they are increasing both our transportation and housing options. If choices in Portland are so restricted, why do polls show that people enjoy living there so much? Why have population and employment in the region continued to grow?
Transportation, land use, and housing must all be considered together. They have been considered separately for too long. Some in the housing industry argue that we need suburbanization to provide a rotation in the housing stock so that there is an affordable housing supply for everybody. But neighborhood stability - and a guarantee that a house will not lose value - is a critical component in housing affordability. A minimum wage family cannot afford an average one-bedroom apartment in a single county in this nation.
The Portland region has benefited from the type of planning approach that TCSP is fostering. The region, with the LUtrAQ study of the early 1990s, was a pioneer in connecting transportation and land use. Portland asked whether they could address traffic congestion and air quality through alternatives to a highway beltway, and they found that they could. The Congressman was excited to see all of the great ideas that are coming out of TCSP projects in other areas of the country. He indicated that good ideas and implementation start at the local level with creative thinkers. He hopes that more unrestricted funds can be made available to implement TCSP projects.
In response to a question, Congressman Blumenauer expressed optimism regarding Congress' interest in livability and growth issues. The Congressman is currently working with two or three dozen congressional candidates who are interested in the growing movement for open space preservation, traffic congestion, affordable housing, and counteracting sprawl.
In response to another question, the Congressman also noted that federal funding has in the past been biased toward highway construction. The Interstate program provided a 90 percent match, or essentially "free" money for local communities. We need to continue to work to provide localities with the option of whether to use their money for highways, transit, or other transportation projects, rather than biasing federal funding toward one mode.
Another participant raised a question about the difficulty of achieving federal involvement in land use, and noted that FHWA has been hesitant to become involved in this area. The Congressman noted that the federal government has actually been involved in land use since its very inception - through taking land from the American Indians, platting the country, supporting railroads and ports, and establishing federal land management areas such as the Bureau of Land Management and the national forests. As a result, the government should not apologize for a current involvement in land use. Furthermore, communities continue to allow land development by freeway interchanges, then ask Uncle Sam for money to widen the highway as traffic increases. He stated that local land use decisions affect federal policy, and the government has a right to participate in these decisions. Finally, federal agencies have the opportunity to set a precedent for managing land and using it wisely (i.e., in the reuse of military bases for open space and development).