CNT in the News

Americans Increasingly Want to Live in Walkable Cities

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | February 13, 2018

Urban neighborhoods where residents primarily walk are both more economically vibrant and also more expensive than their suburban counterparts. Two researchers from the Brookings Institution, Christopher B. Leinberge and Mariela Alfonzo, studied different neighborhoods in the greater Washington, D.C., area, judging the “walkability” of different neighborhoods on the basis of features such as aesthetics, personal safety, traffic signals and pedestrian amenities like good sidewalks and street furniture. They found a strong correlation between the walkability of a neighborhood and its economic health.

For each step up the five-tiered walkability scale developed by the researchers, a store was likely to boost its sales by nearly 80 percent, thanks to increased foot traffic. They found that these increased sales occurred because, while walkers and transit users spend less per visit to local businesses than drivers do, they make more visits. Rental rates for apartments, office space and storefronts were higher as well.

This exposes one of the underlying economic tensions in walkable communities. Lower transportation costs often come alongside higher rents, placing these neighborhoods out of reach for lower-income Americans.

“Based on data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, we found that places with fair to very good walkability have significantly lower transportation costs than do places with poor to very poor walkability,” wrote Mr. Leinberge and Ms. Alfonzo. “Alternatively, walkable areas have significantly higher housing costs than those with fewer environmental amenities.

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Where D.C.'s Households Are Most Underserved By Transit, Mapped

Curbed Washington DC | February 7, 2018

For the majority of households in Washington, D.C., they are well-served by transit, whether that be by bus or the Metro system. Even so, there are still gaps in the city that don’t meet the minimum benchmark for service in a comparable area. According to the Gap Finder tool from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), 25.2 percent of households in the District are underserved by transit. In order to meet minimum standards, the average wait time for transit in these neighborhoods would need to reduce by 12 minutes.

In comparison to other U.S. metro areas, the District is actually doing fairly well, believe it or not. For Miami residents, about 42 percent of households qualify as living in transit gaps, while over 55 percent of Houston households live in transit gaps.

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Can the CTA and Metra Play Nice?

Chicago Reader | February 7, 2018

For decades transit experts and advocates have pushed for a much cheaper, quicker solution to bring rapid transit to the far south side of Chicago. The Metra Electric District route, aka the Electric Line, runs more or less parallel to the Red Line and makes eight stops within Roseland, Pullman, and other neighborhoods that would be served by the four extension stations, which are planned near 103rd, 111th, Michigan at 115th, and 130th Streets. Currently the Electric Line runs sporadically during nonrush periods. Running it more frequently, offering, say, 24-hour service at 15-minute intervals, and integrating its fare system with the CTA could likely be done at a fraction of the cost of a Red Line extension.

It could also be done a lot more quickly. The proposed Red Line project involves acquiring about 150 properties and building elevated tracks and stations. According to the CTA, it won't be fully operational until 2026 at the earliest, and work won't begin until 2022. The Electric Line conversion, which would only require retrofitting existing infrastructure, could almost certainly be completed sooner.

It's too bad the CTA and Metra don't play well together. It's not just that the CTA primarily serves the city, Metra the suburbs. Like the RTA and Pace, each of these transit agencies has its own board of directors—Emanuel appoints the majority of CTA board members, while most of the Metra directors are chosen by politicians from Republican-controlled suburban county boards. On top of that, the CTA and Metra compete with each other for funding and ridership.

"There are well-documented and systemic governance and financing problems that make the lack of cooperation between transit agencies predictable," said Active Transportation Alliance executive director Ron Burke. "From the slow journey to a universal fare card, to funding decisions not tied to a strategic transit vision for the region, to the inability to convert the Metra Electric into a CTA-style service in Chicago, these shortcomings are a function of systemic problems."

Center for Neighborhood Technology Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Scott Bernstein noted that the CTA and Metra still vie with each other for infrastructure grants from the Federal Transit Administration. "They don't lobby together and they don't put in joint applications, so in what way could you say that they aren't competing in that regard?"

Bernstein said he'd also like to see the RTA, the CTA, and Metra, which each have separate programs for promoting transit-oriented development, work together on this front, something that could not only save money but potentially attract more private-sector investments.

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Where Are the Gaps in Your Transit System?

Streetsblog USA | February 6, 2018

Where should your city aim to add transit service? The places where more buses and trains will be most useful are areas where lots of people live or work, but there’s not enough service to meet the demand.

new data tool from the Center for Neighborhood Technology helps pinpoint these locations in cities around the U.S. The “Gap Finder” — an extension of CNT’s All Transit database — overlays demographic data and transit schedule information on maps that highlight where more people would ride transit if service levels were higher.

The transit gaps mapped by CNT are not to be confused with “transit deserts” — areas with no transit at all. Areas with some transit service may still not have nearly enough to adequately serve the people who live or work there, while areas without any service may be so spread out that fixed-route transit won’t do much good.

“The goal is to understand where transit need is being met” and where it’s not, said Zak Accuardi of TransitCenter, which funded CNT’s work.

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Urbanisme et Ecologie, Entretien Avec Steve Perkins

Revue Limite (France) | February 5, 2018

Ancien vice-président du Center for Neighborhood Technology à Chicago aujourd’hui à la retraite, Steve Perkins se confie à Limite par skype. Il nous raconte comment le groupe de militants écologistes s’est transformé par son expertise technique en l’un des cabinets de conseil en urbanisme durable les plus écoutés aux États-Unis. En particulier, il pose un regard professionnel sur les transports publics.

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Northwest Arkansas Hears of Housing Concerns--CNT Data Cited

ArkansasOnline | February 5, 2018

Northwest Arkansas is showing the early signs of an affordable-housing shortage but can avoid a full crisis if its people can work together now, local and national experts said this weekend.

The Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and the Walton Family Foundation held a series of talks and panel discussions on Saturday and Sunday looking into how to ensure the area has enough apartments and homes that are attainable with low and moderate incomes. The symposium marked the beginning of a longer project to help expand housing options in the area.

Local residents overall spend about a quarter of their income on average on rents and mortgages, which is a pretty typical percentage around the country. But the metropolitan area's relatively scattered layout sends another quarter of the paycheck to transportation costs. Those costs combined take up more than half of the average income, higher than in Chicago and Seattle, according to the Chicago-based urban research group Center for Neighborhood Technology. Problems like these can grow until they reach the crisis level, like on the California coast, where many people can't afford to live anywhere near the cities they work in, several speakers said. But Northwest Arkansas can also turn the trend around.


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