Today, I'll be joined by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan testifying before the Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing & Urban Development Subcommittee. We'll be talking about a key item on the Obama Administration's agenda, livable communities.
I think by now it's pretty clear that Americans want the kind of communities that are walkable, that offer a sense of connection to their neighbors. Everywhere I've been in the US during the past 16 months--and I've been to more than 80 communities in 35 states--people have been telling me they want more public transportation and walkability with less congestion and sprawl.
Now, maybe it seems more obvious that walkable communities and communities served by transit work well for urban centers. But I want the Subcommittee to know this model works great for small towns and rural communities.
In fact, the livability Americans say they want comes to us from rural communities with town centers that are walkable and accessible to all ages and income groups.
But rural communities also face special challenges that have threatened the kind of traditional community design that nourished livability. Past transportation policies have resulted in many rural Main Streets being bypassed by the interstate highway system--contributing to the decline of once-vibrant business centers.
Many rural communities located close to cities have lost farmland and open space as urban areas spread outward.
Readers may be surprised to know that transportation costs are often significantly higher for residents of rural communities, especially those with longer commutes to employment centers.
So the Obama Administration's Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities wants better coordination of housing and transportation to protect and safeguard open space and
agricultural land in rural areas, preserve the traditional culture of
rural town centers, and provide rural residents with transportation
options that decrease their household costs.
Certainly, livability in rural areas will look different from livability in urban city centers, but the outcome--a small town with a walkable Main Street lined with spaces for retail, employment and housing is achievable.
Recently I blogged about Tupelo, Mississippi, and its support of bicycle and pedestrian access.
Bath is a
small town in southwest Maine whose historic downtown area is a model of
a livable community. The town provides two trolley loops to transport
residents and tourists through downtown, reducing the need for on-street
parking. Bath’s street design encourages citizens to get out of their
cars, which in turn supports local merchants through increased foot
My favorite example is Dubuque, Iowa, which I had the pleasure of visiting last year. In its Historic Millwork District, Dubuque is redeveloping old factories and mills–-dormant since the early part of the 20th century–-to create new mixed income housing, workplaces and entertainment.
Sustainable transportation options are important to this plan. Dubuque's trolley bus now connects the Millwork District to downtown. We also funded a project to design streets in this district that are attractive, convenient and safe for a broad range of users, including drivers, public transit, pedestrians, bicyclists, people without access to automobiles, children and people with disabilities.
You know, Dubuque’s efforts helped attract IBM to move an IT services center
to the area, where it will provide over 1,300 new jobs for the
city. With its "Smart City" partnership with IBM, Dubuque has become a
model for other cities seeking new livable uses for its established
DOT has made a special effort to promote livability in rural and tribal communities through our TIGER discretionary grant program. Through our pilot program to support bus-transit/livability projects. Through our recently announced bus system upgrade program.
Livability means building the communities that help Americans live the lives they want to live--whether those communities are urban centers, small towns, or rural areas. And this DOT is working hard to make that possible.