U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Listening Session


03-08-10

Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Listening Session
Hartford, CT

Thank you for that introduction, and thank you for being here today to provide your input on Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program.

On behalf of Secretary Ray LaHood, it is truly my pleasure to be here today. I am eager to hear your thoughts on the structure of the new Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program.

As, the Deputy Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration, I know that transit plays a vital role in enhancing community livability and environmental and energy sustainability. Having spoken at numerous events around the country on this subject, I am keenly aware that it resonates with all corners of America—urban, suburban and rural.  In developing a truly national policy on livability and sustainability we need to be mindful that it must be relevant across that full spectrum.

I’d like to take a few moments to update you on the progress that we have made in these and other areas in recent months.  Specifically, I would like to address the DOT’s TIGER program, Livability and Sustainability initiative; our revised New Starts criteria; and how those support regional planning.

TIGER Program

In February 2010 on the anniversary of the Recovery Act, President Obama and Secretary LaHood announced the award of $1.5 billion to 51 projects across the country.  As a flagship, truly multi-modal discretionary program, DOT received $60 billion dollars in requests for only $15.billion available—indicative of the pent-up demand for creative projects, and a new way of evaluating them.

There was a cross-section of modes represented:

This wide mix reflects, in part, that Livability was a core criterion in the evaluation process, and EPA and HUD were partners in assessing that factor among the candidates.  In all, DOT estimates that 22 of the 51 projects selected have some direct bearing on improving the nature of the communities where they are located.

With the FY 2010 appropriations providing another $600 million for “TIGER 2”, we have a chance to extend the good work that was initiated with this new program.

Livability

Livability really has been a core objective of many FTA programs for years!

Recent adoption of the FY 2010 budget advances FTA’s core existing programs that support community livability and environmental sustainability.

Formula programs are the bread and butter of FTA, but they generally get short shrift in the public limelight.

Beyond getting our formula funds out the door, helping transit agencies maintain existing capital , and keep it in a State of Good Repair so it is reliable and safe, is one of the KEY things we can do to SUSTAIN the ridership that we already have, and ATTRACT new riders.

We can also sustain and increase ridership, and create more livable communities, by providing targeted technical assistance for transit-oriented and joint development, which I’ll talk about later.

New Starts

New Starts is another key program that supports livability, as well as many other mobility objectives (like congestion reduction), by helping communities increase their transit options.

For the FY 2011 New Starts recommendations, we have recommended a full funding grant agreement for the Hartford/new Britain Busway.  The overall cost of the project is $573 million, with $275 million recommended as the federal share.

As you might imagine for this extremely competitive program, the basis for selecting these New Starts projects is the subject of on-going interest and debate! As you know, in January 2010, we announced a significant policy shift in our New Starts program. With President Obama’s and Secretary LaHood’s leadership, we effectively rescinded the cost-effectiveness pass/fail threshold instituted in 2005.  That threshold severely limited FTA’s ability to adequately consider the full range of benefits New Start candidate projects would provide, particularly as they pertain to transit-related growth and economic development, as part of the project selection process.  We will be pursuing rule-making to reframe cost-effectiveness in a much broader way, and we welcome your input and comments in that effort.

Other FTA livability programs

There’s always a lot of emphasis on New Starts…so I want to take a moment to draw your attention to some other programs that support livable communities.

For example, in December 2009 we issued a NOFA for two types of transit projects: Urban Circulator Livability projects, and Bus Livability projects.

Proposals have been received, and we are targeting spring 2010 for award of these grants.

The project selection criteria for both programs focus on livability, environmental sustainability, and leveraging of other federal funding from HUD and EPA (our Sustainable Community Partners).

Finally, we are continuing a long tradition of working with our local partners to advance livability concepts within our existing programs.

Recent actions and new information

Bike and pedestrian policy

We issued proposed policy statement in FR on Nov. 13th to expand the catchment area around transit stations and stops - to 3 miles for bikes and ½ mile for pedestrians - for eligible projects. Comments were due Jan. 12th. We are now reviewing them.

TOD

We are continuing our work with the Center for Transit Oriented Development (CTOD) to provide technical assistance resources for communities and regions implementing TOD.

Given our focus on preserving and increasing affordable/mixed income housing near transit, we worked with the CTOD to publish a guide book for local government on developing mixed-income housing around transit stations and along transit corridors.

We are also working with CTOD to develop two interactive, web based tools: the TOD Database AND the Mixed Income TOD Action Guide. Both will debut soon!

In addition, we’ve updated FTA’s livability website with helpful case studies and resources.

FTA wants to help you plan and implement Smart Growth and TOD in regional settings….and we’ve got great technical assistance and training programs that you can tap into, such as:

The joint FTA/FHWA Transportation Planning Capacity Building (TPCB) Program, which features our peer exchange program. 

Training courses offered by the National Transit Institute (NTI) and the National Highway Institute (NHI), including:

  1. Transit Oriented Development,
  2. Coordinated Transportation and Land Use Planning,
  3. Context Sensitive Solutions in a Multi-Modal Environment

Federal Support for Regional Planning

FTA is at the forefront of supporting livable, sustainable communities.  We are role models for intermodal partnership. Our Transportation Planning program is jointly funded by FHWA and FTA. We enable local leadership. Through a new partnership with EPA, we provide technical assistance to locals through the Smart Growth Implementation Assistance program.

We encourage development around transit investments, and recognize that complementary transportation modes support access to stations.

Just as we have partnered here today to hear your thoughts and ideas, the USDOT is committed to working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency to support cooperative regional planning efforts that integrate housing, transportation, environmental impact and economic development.