Monday, November 15, 2010

Imagine KC Series to Focus on Sustainable Community Efforts in KC

Over a year ago, KCPT aired a program on what Kansas City would look like in the next couple of decades titled "Imagine KC". The show focused a lot on how our metro area would grow and the need for denser, sustainable communities complemented by mass transit. You can see a clip of that show on the right sidebar of this blog.

It was a lively program featuring an interesting discussion of government officials, community activists, and regular citizens and brought focus to a sorely underdiscussed topic in this community - how will we grow?

I am pleased to see KCPT will be covering the topic in a year-long series beginning this Thursday at 7:30.
Featured areas for the first episode will include looking at the revitalization of downtown Lee's Summit, the new Troost Bus Rapid Transit, and community involvement with projects like "Tulips on Troost." Throughout the series other possible topics could be trails and creating "walkable" communities, transportation in all its forms, using energy efficiency, conservation, urban design and ultimately what citizens can do to affect change in the region.
 KCPT has really done an outstanding job facilitating this discussion, and I hope more and more citizens get a chance to watch, discuss, and demand their elected officials give weight to developing sustainable communities as part of our future growth.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lewis Diuguid of the Star Calls for More to Be Done for Bikes

Another bit of older news, but a nice column by Kansas City Star columnist Lewis Diuguid on the perils of riding your bike in Kansas City and the need for greater accommodations for bicyclists in our city.

This town and its drivers are not ready to share the road with anyone not wrapped in a ton of glass, plastic and steel. I took quiet Admiral Boulevard to the Paseo and then to Independence Avenue. I got off that busy and dangerous road at Benton Boulevard, taking it south past The Concourse Fountain, where pink water was shooting in the air for breast cancer awareness. St. John Avenue took me home. It was a nicer route for bicyclists.

One day, Kansas Citians will be ready to fully share the road with two-wheelers. But it may take gasoline going to $5 a gallon and more people parking their cars for the economical convenience of biking wherever they need to go.

Kansas City Awarded $4.25 million Grant for "Sustainable Communities"

I am catching up on some old news, so here's a good piece of news from a few weeks ago. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $4.5 million to the Kansas City metro area to support more liveable and sustainable communities. It is a new three year proposal called Creating Sustainable Places "intended to build economic competitiveness by connecting housing with good jobs, quality schools and transportation."

Kansas City was just one of forty-five areas awarded grants. It will be interesting to see what projects the money is used for.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Deficit Commission and its Effect on Walkable Communities

President Obama's Deficit Commission will soon come out with recommendations with how to reduce our national debt.

Here is a draft of the power point presentation on their policy recommendations.

There are three proposals in particular that could have major implications for urban growth and walkable communities.

1. Eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction

The mortgage interest tax deduction has helped subsidize home ownership, primarily in suburban areas. It has helped encourage larger houses, on larger lots, leading to more sprawl. Eliminating this at least removes the tax incentive to build bigger and gives a more level playing field for developers wanting to build denser housing projects.

2. Raising the gas tax 15 cents to pay for transportation costs.

While I'm sure this would be unpopular, this could get more people out of their cars and using mass transit, increasing riderships and perhaps justifying new transit lines and newer dense transit-oriented development. And the hope is that at least some of the revenue generated by the tax increase would help fund new transit lines.

3. Eliminating earmarks

I'm not sure if the Commission means eliminating all federal infrastructure projects entirely (and passing them onto states?). I suspect they mean adopting the infrastructure bank idea that used to have bipartisan support until some Republicans decided they didn't want to support anything supported by the President. The Infrastructure Bank would be an independent commission that would award federal funding on a more competitive base, leverage private money to put infrastructure projects where they would maximize investment, not based on the political process like they are now. This could dramatically help urban areas which need infrastructure projects the most, and we might see an end to major infrastructure projects in rural areas that help only a few residents but are built thanks to influential Congressmen (see the Bridge to Nowhere, for example)

These proposals face serious uphill battles to win approval as they will be very unpopular politically. But if politicians are willing to do the serious work this country needs to do to solve our deficit issues, urban areas could be the beneficiaries.