Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Do We See Some Movement Here

Is it possible that we are seeing some movement on the Federal level toward cooperation between housing and transit?

Back on March 26th a Senior Fellow from the Brookings Institution testified before two Congressional Committees, urging that a change be made in the Housing and Transit policies of the Federal Government. In these testimonials, Robert Puentes argues that housing and transportation are irreversibly linked and that, in the face of the current recession, more integrated planning is needed.

I have posted on this before. On the need for the City to plan for the housing needs AND the transit needs at the same time. That no longer can we allow the land use patterns to dictate where the mobility challenged may live, while at the same time ignoring the transportation needs of the residents of the housing challenged. Why is it the the planners will not engage the transit authority before the housing gets built, nor will the transit planners consider routes until the ridership demand reaches a set level?

In the past, plans from the '30s and "40s showed the transit routes proposed which would cover the immediate future streets, yet from the '50s on that has not been the case.

The Federal government is no better, they have seemed to compartmentalize their interests into narrowly defined solutions conforming to tightly set criteria. In this case, housing is to be funded based on the lowest cost property and location without consideration of access to shopping or employment. Simultaneously, the transportation funding is generally based on trip demand and congestion levels without distinction of mode or concentration of trip timing.

One case in point that comes to mind would be the area around Gainesway Shopping Center. When planned in the late "60s and early "70s, the area was primarily starter homes that had been appended to the Gainesway subdivision, which itself was a section of ranch houses catering to the recently arrived industrial expansion, executives and UK staff. The shopping center occupied the center of the generally residential area, along with a park, 3 schools and apartments housing. Transit served the area and in the initial stages traffic moved both ways, in and out, but as lifestyles changed and an auto-centric mindset established itself the ridership frequency declined to just rush hour peaks. The executives moved up or retired and the starter homes proved to be smaller than necessary, so those owners moved up and out. The apartment housing evolved into lower income and eventually to public & senior housing where auto owership is more of a luxury. As the residential changed the shopping center declined to nothing and was replaced with social service office space. The social relationship dynamics reversed themselves 180 degrees and theoretically, the land uses of the center should now be on the edges, closer to the major roadways(and transit).

This weekend, came the news,
Two of President Obama’s Cabinet secretaries–Shaun Donovan of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Ray LaHood of Transportation (DOT)–are promising to make their bureaucracies work together. And not just in stuffy interdepartmental meetings in Washington, but in crafting their programs as they impact communities nationwide.
This will reflect a Federal policy change of an equally remarkable 180 degree reversal. It also precedes the expected changes of the White House Office on Urban Affairs, which is just in the planning stage itself.

Seeing as how everything happens in Kentucky a few years later than the rest of the nation, I can't help but wonder when we will see this kind of cooperation of land use and housing.

1 comment:

Ahavah Gayle said...

I despair at Lexington's backwardness and inability to grasp the concept that building an entire metro area on no serious transportation except gas/diesel cars and gas/diesel powered buses has no where to go, literally. If this means just making a half-a$$ed non-effort to kind of put buses sort of maybe more or less within a mile or so of new developments, that is entirely unacceptable and ultimately unsustainable.

As things stand now, they need to make some kind of effort to get real electric mass transit (streetcars, trolleys, trams, monorail, or whatever) to the already built neighborhoods - and you don't see that happening, now do you? They can't think outside the box - worse, they deny the box exists. But private automobiles can't last as any metro area's major transportation source beyond the next decade or so, and if they aren't already tackling that problem as a top priority, there is not a snowball's chance in heck that they will seriously integrate new development with sustainable transit.

How could they, when there's no sustainable transit to integrate? The existing bus system is a condescending nod to the poor, presumed by Lexington's powers that be to only serve the underclasses. It's terribly ironic that they'd have such a redneck, backwoods view of mass transit - especially when the Equestrian Games are going to be bringing sophisticated Europeans who will surely ridicule such ignorance.