You can always find a much more detailed calendar with week-to-week events over at the Smart Growth Network
What No One Is Telling You About The Future of New Jersey
New Brunswick, NJ
June 13, 2008
PlanSmart NJ invites you to day-long, statewide conference that will offer a cutting-edge, worldwide perspective on New Jersey's economic, environmental, and social justice challenges and opportunities. Nationally and stateknownspeakers will speak frankly about New Jersey's economic, environmental, and social future. State experts will get specific about New Jersey.
Community Tree Leadership Forum
Santa Cruz, CA
This two-day event is designed for staff members and volunteers of urban forestry nonprofits. The objective of the Community Tree Leadership Forum is to increase the impact of the nonprofit and community organizations working on urban forest issues by providing in-depth training to strengthen management and leadership skills within our sector. At this event, participants will have the opportunity to learn about fundraising, legislative advocacy, and marketing.
Rethinking Food, Health, and the Environment
New York City, NY
The institutes will include seminars on the latest research in nutrition and sustainable education; how-to sessions with leading practitioners; field trips to regional farms and schools engaged in rethinking school food; and opportunities to share experiences and model the practices of a learning community.
Pro Walk/Pro Bike
Join with hundreds of bicycle and pedestrian advocates, elected and appointed officials, bike/ped specialists, transportation experts, land-use planners, safe routes to school coordinators, public health practitioners, and many more who want to make our cities and communities more walkable and bicycle-friendly places.
Rally 2008: National Land Conservation Conference
Rally is the largest land conservation training and networking event in America. Each year, more than 2,000 people attend Rally, including land trust professionals, landowners and local conservation leaders -- all dedicated to protecting farms, forests, trails, parks and natural areas in their communities.
San Francisco, CA
Rail~Volution brings together a unique cross-section of concerned citizens, business leaders, academics, elected and federal officials, planners, and transit operators. To date, it has attracted representatives from hundreds of cities from all over the world. No other conference provides for such diverse collaborative exchange, problem solving, and discovery.
New Partners for Smart Growth
January 22-24 2009
The Local Government Commission is conducting a formal Call for Session Proposals for the 8th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, which will be held January 22-24, 2009 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This covers any proposals for breakouts, workshops, trainings, tours, or networking activities. The submittal deadline is June 25, 2008. Access the form and instructions here.
Active Living Research is seeking abstracts to be considered for presentation at the 2009 Annual Conference on February 18-20, 2009 in San Diego, CA. Abstracts are welcome on all topics related to active living policies and environments. The theme of the 2009 conference is "Active Communities for Youth and Families: Creating Momentum for Change," and abstracts related to the theme are particularly encouraged.
The abstract submission deadline is Wednesday, July 30, 2008, 1:00 pm PDT. The full call for abstracts is here. They're also seeking to recognize innovators who have impacted policies along these lines. More information about that is here.
IN THIS ISSUE
Capitol Hill hearing on climate and smart growth
Gas prices changing the face of America
Gas prices and complete streets
Transit use up, transit stressed
Capitol Hill hearing on climate, energy and smart growth
After months of focusing mostly on fuel-efficiency standards and renewable energy subsidies, Congress this week held its first substantive hearing on the role that smart growth, walkable neighborhoods and transit must play in curbing climate change and oil dependence.
Smart Growth America's David Goldberg joined four other panelists in testifying to the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence in a hearing entitled "Planning Communities for a Changing Climate-Smart Growth, Public Demand and Private Opportunity."
Also testifying was Growing Cooler co-author Steve Winkelman of the Center for Clean Air Policy, as well as Greensburg, Kansas city administrator Steve Hewitt. Greensburg is the town wiped nearly clean off the map in a tornado last year, and they have rebuilt the city using the latest in green design, including the building of a new street grid to increase walkability and accesibility, thereby reducing car trips.
David told the committee:
"We can significantly reduce our nation's dependence on oil and shrink our carbon footprint, while helping Americans avoid high gas prices and time in traffic, simply by meeting the growing demand for conveniently located homes in walkable neighborhoods, served by public transportation. The even better news is that we do not have to wait for someone to invent convenient, "green" neighborhoods -- we have the know-how to build them right now, as we have for many years."
You can download all the testimonies here, including Steve Winkelman's. Among our concrete policy recommendations:
Address our development patterns and transportation choices in climate legislation to encourage walkable neighborhoods with better public transportation options.
Ensure that the next surface transportation bill, up for reauthorization in 2009, reduces our dependence on oil and our global warming emissions.
Reform the current tax code to better encourage the kind of development and transportation choices that result in more climate-friendly, energy efficient, lower cost options for Americans.
Check in with the blog on a regular basis for some quotes and other updates from this exciting hearing.
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Gas prices changing the face of America
Almost overnight, gas prices have become the most pressing issue in the minds of Americans. Desperate for solutions, many of us already have grabbed the low-hanging fruit: Combine trips. Work from home occasionally. Drive the sedan instead of the SUV. Carpool. Vacation close to home.
Most people don't expect things to get much better any time soon: A poll commissioned by SGA and other groups earlier this year showed that 92 percent believe gas will only get more expensive in the coming years. Though struggling with near-term implications, many are starting to wonder how a future of costly energy will reshape their lives and landscape. You can already see it in the housing market, where people are unable to unload McMansions in partly-finished, distant subdivisions for the same reason they can't sell their large SUVs: Potential buyers don't want the high gas bills. Just this week, the Wall Street Journal, CNN and the Los Angeles Times all reported on how expensive gas is reshaping consumer demand.
Americans are beginning to ask themselves the big questions: "How did we get to a situation where the only option we have is to drive? Why can't I take a train to work? Why can't my kids walk to school like I did?"
With 95 percent of Americans lacking easy access to public transportation and untold millions living in unwalkable places, the time is now to increase our investment in strategies to lessen our need for gasoline and oil: better public transportation, more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. Given the situation with escalating gas prices, global warming, and our dependence on oil, we need better alternatives to protect us from the pain of the pump.
Read the recent coverage, and stay up-to-date with our continuing commentary on the topic of gas prices with the SGA blog.
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Gas prices and complete streets
Guest column from Barbara McCann, coordinator of the Complete Streets Coalition.
As Americans watch the seemingly inexorable climb in gas prices, many are looking at their streets in a new way. …The stories are everywhere - the American Public Transportation Association reports a surge in transit ridership, even as transit agencies prepare to celebrate "Dump the Pump Day"; NBC News is reporting on an increase in bicycle commuting and numerous stories have reported on more people choosing to walk. Mike Luckovich, editorial cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, summed it up with his 'bike jacking' cartoon last week. (click to view)
But while some SUV owners may be on the lookout for a bicycle to steal, the first step for many commuters is more likely to be a close look at their streets: is there a sidewalk, and a safe way to cross? Are there bike lanes I can use? Where does the bus stop, and does it offer more than a pole in the grass to wait by? In too many communities, the answer is still 'no.' Bicycle and pedestrian facilities (and decent bus stops), have been treated as nice 'amenities,' rather than as essential transportation infrastructure. …. The folly of that approach is becoming all too clear, as Americans survey their neighborhoods in dismay - and resign themselves to paying at the pump.
…. The gas price spike is lending new urgency to the movement for complete streets. The Buffalo City Council passed a Complete Streets ordinance on May 27, calling for all future road construction, reconstruction, and public works projects to take into account the needs of all travelers, including bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users. Buffalo City Council member Michael LoCurto pointed to the rising price of gasoline as an impetus to pass the complete streets legislation. "With gas up to $4 per gallon, we need more options for how to get to work. Making this city progressive-forward-thinking in terms of transportation-is a plus...."
Read the rest of Barbara's post
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Walkable Greensburg ready for a sustainable future
Two fascinating stories in the aforementioned House hearing came from two opposite sides of the globe, and arose from radically different circumstances.
Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the Masdar Initiative in the United Arab Emirates city of Abu Dhabi, testified about the Masdar Inititiave - where a city will be built from the ground up to be the first zero-carbon community in the world. It's an enormous project, with some of the brightest, most innovative minds in the world on sustainable architecture and design working together to build things that haven't yet been invented. It's slated to be car free, with the use of extensive public transport and personal public transport - as well as walking - to help residents get around.
The other story is a much smaller tale. Greensburg, Kansas, a town of 1500, was literally wiped from the map by a severe tornado last year. The small town, struggling to keep population before the disaster, faced its likely death knell. It seemed hopeless that anyone would stay in light of such huge devastation. But stay they did.
The city's leaders took the opportunity to start from a clean state, and recreate Greensburg as a town of opportunity, by making it the first green city in American built from the ground up. But City Administrator Steve Hewitt told committee members that federal agencies, rather than supporting the effort fully, were refusing to fund the most energy-efficient construction, leaving Greensburg to fill the financial gaps. (For some great background on what Greensburg is doing, check out Worldchanging.)
However, for all their plans about powering the entire city with wind (with a surplus left over!), making every single building in the city LEED Platinum certified, and striving for carbon neutrality, the most impressive part of their plan has nothing to do with the kinds of techno-wizardry of Masdar. Rather, it's based on the simple concepts of planning that our historic communities - including Greensburg - were built on.
They went back to their roots as a walkable small town (it's only a mile across), laid down a complete street grid, and have plans to recast Greensburg into a mixed-use, walking town where car trips are massively reduced, energy consumption and emissions are low, and opportunity is great.
Read the full post about Greensburg
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Transit up, transit stressed
With more Americans enduring pain at the pump, they're turning to public transportation in record numbers. They are looking for and finding alternatives to filling up the gas tank and getting on the train, streetcar, or bus. Transit agencies nationally today urged Americans to "Dump the Pump" and take public transportation, gaining widespread news coverage.
But can those already stressed systems carry the load?
Many underfunded and subsequently under-maintained transit systems are facing budget shortfalls, job cuts, and service cuts. Demand is going up for transit nationwide, but many systems are having a hard time meeting the demand. After all, buses (and some trains) also run on the same expensive gasoline, though they use it more efficiently by moving more people. And investments in new capacity (or even regular maintenance) have been neglected in some places. MARTA in Atlanta is facing another shortfall this year, cutting jobs as a result.
MSNBC reported on transit ridership continuing to trend upwards, and how it's placing a heavy burden on a lot of systems that are running at or near capacity. As they say, transit ridership is at its highest point in 50 years right now.
Nationwide, Americans took 2.6 billion bus, subway, commuter rail and light rail trips in the first three months of the year, 85 million more than in the same period in 2007, the American Public Transportation Association said. While many major cities have invested heavily in mass transit over the past 15 years, many more have not. Now that people are demanding service, there isn't the infrastructure to provide it.
There was an appropriately timed editorial in the Washington Post this weekend about the state of our public transportation infrastructure - and the need to invest in it to keep America moving in an age of high gas prices, pointing out that "the rush to mass transit is accentuating what has been plain for years - that America's investment in its public transportation infrastructure is glaringly, perilously inadequate."
In an era of declining transportation revenue if the funding mechanism stays the same, we can't afford more bridges to nowhere and new interstates to "out there somewhere" as our existing infrastructure crumbles and people look increasingly to public transportation that is either non-existent or struggling to meet the demand.
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