HUD’s new “Sustainable Communities Initiative” (SCI) represents the best of the new administration – looking forward creatively towards a new metropolitan future, and crossing bureaucratic silos to engage transportation policy, environmental policy, and housing policy in the same program. However, the SCI program also demonstrates the potential pitfalls of trying to move progressive policies without engaging the real continuing divisions of race and class in our society. We believe that the SCI program has the potential to advance the goal of racially and economically integrated and environmentally sustainable regions. However, to achieve this goal, the program needs to take these issues on explicitly. We are encouraged by recent comments made by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who all stated, in effect, that “sustainable must be equitable” at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference on February 2010. That commitment was memorably reinforced by HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims in his inspiring remarks to conclude the conference. HUD and its partners, DOT and EPA, have been provided with very broad latitude in designing the SCI planning grant program through the very general explanatory language of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of December 16, 2009; thus, in terms of developing national models for achieving both greater social justice and enhanced environmental sustainability, HUDDOT- EPA must set the bar very high for the pilot planning grant program – and must take into account their mutual obligation to affirmatively further fair housing in any federal program affecting housing and urban development.
Transportation Justice (Research)
Reforming and strengthening metropolitan governance are critical to attaining a growing, fair, and sustainable national economy. In today’s global economy, metropolitan areas are the relevant competitive unit. Firms make location decisions based on evaluations of entire metropolitan labor and housing markets and transportation systems, and not simply on evaluations of local areas. In addition, the scope of many important public policy concerns, such as congestion, pollution, and environmental issues, exceeds local boundaries to cover entire regions. Despite the growing relevance of metropolitan regions in the national and global economies, policy decisions are rarely made at the appropriate regional scale. In fact, most metropolitan areas in the United States are governed by highly fragmented systems that are dominated by local governments. High levels of political fragmentation produce inefficiency and inequality in metropolitan areas, undermining the possibility of fair and sustainable growth. Metropolitan areas could be reinvigorated by establishing regional institutions to coordinate decisions across policy areas in ways that promote efficiency and expand opportunity for all residents. The harms of regional political fragmentation are many and tightly interrelated. Political fragmentation provides incentives for inefficient land use practices and leads to sprawling residential development that consumes valuable natural resources in an unsustainable fashion. It stunts regional job growth by fostering zero-sum competition among local jurisdictions, providing minimal net developmental gains for the region as a whole. By boosting job sprawl and contributing to unclustered job growth, political fragmentation creates an unsustainable growth pattern that undermines the development of transit options. This contributes to ever-expanding congestion, accelerates the growth of regional vehicle miles traveled, and torpedoes the national efforts to curb greenhouse emissions. It encourages exclusionary zoning practices that geographically concentrate most of the region’s affordable housing stock in urban and inner suburban areas, which already struggle with high concentrations of poverty. By encouraging such harmful land use practices, fragmentation intensifies racial and economic segregation in metropolitan areas, undermining social and economic opportunities for low-income residents and residents of color who disproportionately live in the region’s opportunity-deprived, segregated neighborhoods. Finally, fragmentation deepens regional inequalities among local jurisdictions by intensifying their shortsighted and harmful competition for additional tax base.
Civil Rights harms caused by bus service cuts:
Barriers to employment. High unemployment, mostly low wage jobs in transit-dependent areas; jobs in other areas difficult or impossible to reach, especially at night and on weekends. Barriers to education, health care, healthy food, recreation. Longer end-to-end travel time & more transfers. More money spent on fares, less time with family, more chance of arriving late to school or work. Longer walks and longer waits. These are hardships and safety concerns, especially for elderly and disabled and those traveling at night. Physical & mental distress. - Recognized nationally for its historic civil rights Consent Decree and signature creative tactics, the Bus Riders Union is a multiracial dynamo of 200 active members, 3,000 dues-paying members, and 50,000 supporters on the buses of L.A. The BRU has literally saved public transportation in Los Angeles and become the country's largest grassroots mass transit advocacy organization. From our focus on mass transit, the BRU carries out a wide, multi-issue progressive agenda based in comprehensive principles of unity and strong membership agreement.
As California’s population continues to expand and places like the Bay Area metropolitan region experience new development pressures, land use and transportation planners, economic development agencies and policy makers must carefully weigh the economic and environmental benefits and costs of growth. If we focus new growth in higher-density developments served by public transit, what might be the impacts of such “smart
growth” on low-income households, the racial diversity of communities, and the viability of small or family-owned businesses? In San Jose, the largest city in the Silicon Valley high-tech industry cluster, there has long been pressure to better match housing availability – for workers of all
income levels – with jobs availability. Such efforts seek to reduce the time workers must spend commuting to and from their jobs, mitigate the air pollution and global warming effects of such automobile travel patterns, preserve greenfield lands in less urbanized locales, improve quality of life for workers, and prevent worker productivity declines attributable to burdensome commute times. These goals can, however, get buried under the counter-pressures a city faces to retain and expand its job base, while also increasing tax revenue from non-residential developments such as retail power centers or office parks (Elmer et al. 2006). Toward these multifaceted ends, San Jose has joined a growing number of cities that are experimenting with transit-oriented development around light or heavy fixedrail transit stations. Over the long run, the city is looking forward to the addition of four new BART stations that will comprise the commuter rail agency’s Silicon Valley extension into Santa Clara County. The first of these four San Jose stations will be built at the site of the current San Jose Flea Market in the Berryessa neighborhood.
CC&S and ABAG partnered to support and inform local and regional innovation connecting schools to the Bay Area’s regional development and conservation strategy (FOCUS) and the Sustainable Communities Strategy as mandated by California’s climate change legislation, Senate Bill 375. Our new report identifies tangible policy levers at both the regional and municipal levels that realize the co-benefits of pursuing complete communities and high-quality education in tandem. We describe the regional educational landscape and develop recommendations about specific strategies to achieve cross-sector “win-wins.”
* What are the educational impacts of non-school policies, such as housing, transportation, and other regional planning investments?
* What are the impacts of educational efforts on non-school issues, such as housing choice, sustainable transportation utilization, and community-building opportunities?
* How can the region’s policy and practice interventions and investments in housing and transportation be made to strategically support improving school quality?