Thursday, November 10, 2005

At Last, a Governor Who Will Look at Land Use

The state Senate task force examining transportation issues has avoided touching the nexus of transportation and land use as if it were a postal package laced with anthrax. But there's no evading the issue. Gov.-elect Tim Kaine wants to put land use front and center. Now.

As the Washington Post put it this morning:

As a candidate, [Kaine] called traffic congestion on the state's roads a "crisis" and vowed to convene meetings with average people and transportation experts to discuss solutions.

"We must ensure that taxpayer dollars marked for transportation are only used for transportation, and we must better connect land use and transportation planning," Kaine said at a news conference at the Marriott Hotel in Richmond. ... Without taking these first crucial steps, we cannot move Virginia forward on transportation."

The election has done wonders to clarify the political dynamics of the transportation debate. Sentate Finance Chair John Chichester and his senatorial allies have been maneuvering all year to raise taxes for transportation to the tune of $1 billion to $2 billion annually. Here are the realities they now face:
  • Russ Potts, who staked his gubernatorial campaign on aggressively tackling traffic congestion by raising taxes, was a blow-out at the polls. Clearly, his message did not resonate with the public.
  • The House of Delegates retains a firm low-tax Republican majority. House Speaker William Howell has made it clear that he does not want to raise taxes for transportation.
  • Tim Kaine is not averse to raising taxes for transportation, but he won't do so without a constitutional amendment protecting transportation dollars from fiscal raids by the General Assembly. Furthermore, he understands that simply funding Business As Usual transportation policies -- i.e. without linking land use and transportation planning -- is a questionable use of money.

It may be necessary to raise transportation taxes down the road, as maintenance spending gobbles a growing share of state revenue and leaves less for new construction, but Kaine's instincts are absolutely right. Transportation cannot be addressed in a vacuum. The pattern and density of development has a tremendous influence on how often people drive, how far they drive and the stress they put on the road grid. Transportation and land use must be addressed together.


At 2:15 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Now the fun begins. Someone is going to have to explain how to link land use and transportation. Others will quickly add water, sewer, schools, fire, safety etc.These are strictly speaking not part of this discussion.

With regard to transportation, it has not been shown that any particular plan actually results in less transportation requirement, less pollution, less energy need, or less overall cost in either the short or long term. One obvious approach is one proposed by Barnie: send the jobs and development to the country where we need it. That will be opposed by the open space and antisprawl crowd.

Another approach will be to follow th infill, increased density, shared ride approach, which will be opposed by Fairfax Citizens for Rational Growth among many others who will want to see the evidence that this will improve transportation, not that it will be less worse at some time in the future.

A third approach will be some combination of the above, which will be viewed by some as business as usual.

Road planning is a multi-year process and combining that with a land planning will stretch the process further. Someone is going to have to explain how all that is going to happen without wrecking peoples entire lives. This already happens when land is in a proposed roadway, for which there is no funding. In this case the state can't buy the land and the owners can't sell it. In such cases the land is being rented by the planners at no cost. Clearly this is unfair.

There are a lot more questions than answers.

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

As a way to begin to think about this Atkinson's suggestions previously quoted on this blog apply:

-Respect the desire of Americans to live where they want to

-Reject today's fashionable defeatism about congestion

-Speed development and deployment of new transportation technologies

-Tackle NIMBYism head on

-Create regional transportation councils

-Reduce public subsidies and rely more on user fees and public-private partnerships

-Restructure the relationship between the federal government and the states

But a better and more balanced view is quoted below:

Commission on Population Growth and Development
Ten Specific Virginia Planning Goals: An Action Plan for the Commonwealth

1. Establish a strong state-local partnership to encourage growth
which will promote the prosperity of Virginians and sustain the
natural resource base of the Commonwealth for future generations.

2. Plan for growth in a manner that ensures the timely, orderly and economical provision of the public infrastructure and services
necessary to support that growth.

3. Enhance and protect traditional resource based industries and
other aspects of a productive rural economy.

4. Encourage revitalization and infill development in urban areas
to maximize the value of investments already made and enhance the quality of life in these communities.

5. Require consistency between transportation planning, public
investments and local comprehensive planning, and broader
goals for economic development, resource protection and urban

6. Provide a framework for the development of affordable housing
in all localities throughout the Commonwealth.

7. Protect valuable and sensitive natural, cultural and historic
resources in the Commonwealth as a legacy for future generations.

8. Balance public and private interests in making decisions that
will shape the future growth and development of the Commonwealth
consistent with generally accepted principles of public responsibility and private property rights.

9. Ensure that local governments have the authority and financial
resources necessary to function as full partners in implementing
state and local goals.

10. Achieve regional planning coordination on issues that transcend
local boundaries or where economies of scale offer
significant local or state savings.

It is intereswting to note the similarities here:

Both support some form of new regionalism and government restructuring (Fundamental Change?)

Both support some form of property rights ("live where you want to" and "balance public and private interests")

Both promote some form of growth ("reject defeatism about congestion" and "promote the prosperity of Virginians" and "plan for orderly growth")

But the commission on growth and development also echo's Shucets comments on "do no harm to rural areas" when they promote enhancing and protecting a productive rural economy.

I hope our new governor looks and land use with both eyes open.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

The GA's dynamics might be different this session. Last time, the Democrats had an incentive to support the Governor's request for higher taxes. With the Senate already in tow, it took only a small portion of House Republicans to make the tax increases work.

This time, we have the new Governor saying other changes must come before any tax increase. The Senate can do is usual thing, but even there, the incentive of many Democrats should be to try to support Tim Kaine. Likewise, in the House, most Democrats should be supportive of Kaine's plans to require changes in multiple other laws and policies (protection for the transportation trust fund, land use, adequate public facilities(?), and development impact fees/proffers(?)) before he would consider tax increases. The House GOP should still be rather resistant to tax increases. Where do those factors lead besides a very interesting session?


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