The federal government isn’t really set up, institutionally, to think in a comprehensive way about how transportation and land use issues fit together and determine the kind of communities we live in. Fortunately, officials who are attuned to the problem can find ways to cope with it. Thus, today came the welcome announcement that the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation will be teaming up to do interagency policy on sustainable communities. Some choice slices from the HUD release:
DOT and HUD have created a high-level interagency task force to better coordinate federal transportation and housing investments and identify strategies to give American families:
* More choices for affordable housing near employment opportunities; * More transportation options, to lower transportation costs, shorten travel times, and improve the environment; and * Safe, livable, healthy communities.
The task force will set a goal to have every major metropolitan area in the country conduct integrated housing, transportation, and land use planning and investment in the next four years. To facilitate integrated planning, HUD and DOT seek, through HUD’s proposed Sustainable Communities Initiative which it will administer in consultation with DOT, to make planning grants available to metropolitan areas, and create mechanisms to ensure those plans are carried through to localities. DOT will encourage Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to conduct this integrated planning as a part of their next long-range transportation plan update and will provide technical assistance on scenario planning, a tool for assessing future growth alternatives that better coordinate land use, and transportation planning.
This is all very good stuff. Of course to an extent these are inherently local issues and not much progress can be made unless state and local officials are willing to see beyond ever-wider highways and ever-further-away new exurban developments. But for the past several years a number of jurisdictions who’ve had good ideas have found themselves stymied by a hostile federal government. Now we’re looking at a the reverse — a federal government that’s trying, as best it can, to actually encourage best-practices and lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth.