Transportation Reform in the South

SELC's transportation reform work envisions more efficient, less polluting ways to move goods and people across the South.

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Transit improvements fuel economic growth More »

As interested home buyers and renters consider the advantages of living near transit, Senior Attorney Trip Pollard, who heads SELC’s Land & Community Program, examined how improving one city’s transit system is boosting economic activity while providing cleaner transportation choices and other benefits. In a recent edition of the Richmond Area Realtor’s Housing Interpreter, Pollard along with co-author Lisa Guthrie, Executive Director of the Virginia Transit Association, laid out the many ways expanding transportation options are helping cities like Richmond.

Portions of the article are excerpted below and you can read the full article at this link.


Localities are expanding transportation options nationwide, providing better access and more public transportation, rail, bicycling and walking choices. Here in the Greater Richmond Region, significant steps have been taken recently to address one of our greatest transportation gaps — the lack of effective regional public transportation services.

The surge in attention to transit and other transportation choices is primarily due to the multiple benefits these options offer; helping to boost economic activity, relieve traffic congestion, provide greater access to jobs, revitalize communities and reduce vehicle pollution.

Forward-thinking communities increasingly recognize that a community’s ability to successfully attract and retain young professionals and prosperous retirees depends on a strong transit system.

In addition, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), transit generates $4 in economic returns for every $1 invested and residential property values performed 42 percent better on average if they were located near public transportation with high-frequency service.

This is an exciting time for transit in our region. The new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the Pulse, is the largest transit infrastructure investment in the city in decades. The Pulse will begin to roll down Broad and Main Streets in 2018, running buses every 10-15 minutes along its 7.6-mile route.

GRTC will launch a new transit network plan at the same time as the Pulse. The network plan will better integrate existing routes with the new system, and it will also provide more frequent service on other routes, but with fewer stops, to go farther faster.

The economic study GRTC conducted concluded that the Pulse could significantly increase local property values, including raising residential property values by $349 million to $1.2 billion. To help capture potential benefits, city council recently adopted a Pulse Corridor Plan that will encourage greater development near the new transit stations with an emphasis on more compact, mixed use development and fewer parking lots, while also providing incentives for providing affordable housing.

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The South's auto-centered transportation approach contributes to nearly every serious environmental problem we face today--from air and water pollution, to loss of rural lands and natural areas, to climate change. SELC is pursuing an alternative approach through a region-wide effort to promote cleaner transportation options and to advance policies to curb sprawl and protect the special places in the South that we cherish.

Halting the Most Destructive Highway Projects

State transportation departments in the South have too often built massive, destructive highways and bypasses that do little to improve our long-term mobility, safety, economy, or quality of life. Instead of reducing congestion, these costly new projects often subsidize development farther out into the countryside, causing "planned sprawl" and quickly filling up with traffic by essentially forcing people to drive everywhere for everything.  Sprawling development, coupled with a failure to invest in alternatives to auto and truck travel, has made the South's per capita driving distances and tailpipe pollution levels some of the worst in the nation.

SELC is challenging the most ill-conceived and expensive highway proposals in the South. These projects would increase air and water pollution, destroy valuable natural areas and farmland, worsen the region's carbon footprint, and pave the way for yet more far-flung development.  Instead, we are advocating for low impact, more effective solutions to transportation problems, such as targeted improvements to existing highways.

SELC's Vision for Transportation

In addition to advancing alternatives to damaging projects, SELC is promoting fundamental policy changes at the federal, state, and local levels, including

• More transportation choices: We are spurring investment in cleaner and more efficient alternatives to driving, such as transit, intercity passenger rail, and freight rail.
• Fix-it-first: We are urging our states and metro areas to repair thousands of roads and bridges and to improve the efficiency of existing roads, rather than to pour money into new highways and bypasses.
• Linking transportation and land use: We are promoting development patterns that curb sprawl, reduce the cost for public services, and promote public health by providing choices for getting to work, shopping centers, school and other destinations.

If we change our approach to transportation, as the South continues to grow we can foster vibrant economic growth and communities with a range of mobility and living options while protecting our health and our environment.