You are browsing the archive for initiatives.

An Initiative a Day 1.2: Fix it first: continue to privilege projects that maintain the existing road network in a state of good repair

January 21, 2014 in Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Recommendation 1: FOCUS NEW RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT ON SITES WITHIN ESTABLISHED COMMUNITIES

Initiative 1.2: Fix it first: continue to privilege projects that maintain the existing road network in a state of good repair, rather than building additional capacity.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) are required to develop fiscally-constrained plans identifying a series of projects and programs that enhance a region’s transportation system and can be funded through projected revenue for transportation. To accomplish their growing list of desired transportation improvements within their jurisdiction with the available funding defined by their forecast revenues, MPOs must screen proposed projects for need and responsiveness to the priorities of the metro areas they represent. Project selection criteria are created to aid this process.

Notwithstanding the pressure to meet the growing need to maintain existing infrastructure, project selection criteria may still emphasize expansion of infrastructure capacity as the best response to transportation needs. Capacity enhancement investments can reduce congestion and improve regional travel times by adding lanes to existing roads, reduce vehicle miles traveled by adding entirely new roads to the system, and promote economic development by increasing mobility in key areas and corridors. These are incontrovertible objectives and have continued to drive transportation decision-making because of the strength of their message: economic vibrancy and prosperity in a region depends on having a reliable transportation system that moves people and goods efficiently. Simply put, this approach assumes that continued investment in new system capacity is critical to regional growth.

Often overlooked in this approach is the fact that the growing legacy of infrastructure must be maintained to be functional, safe, and useful. Focusing transportation resources on adding to the infrastructure network means that the ever-greater need for maintenance may not be met with constrained levels of funding. Historically, many state transportation agency budgets reflect a preference for new construction and transportation system expansion, not assigning as high a priority to system maintenance. Until the current federal transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), was enacted, states were able to transfer as much as half of the funding dedicated to highway and bridge maintenance to other uses (including highway capacity). MAP-21 has streamlined maintenance programs and required states to set targets for bringing their transportation systems to good states of repair. Even then, many states have outstanding maintenance obligations beyond what they can afford.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. States and regions throughout the United States face a growing challenge of insufficient funding for transportation needs and, more pointedly, insufficient funding to maintain existing transportation infrastructure. Amending project selection criteria to better recognize the importance of maintenance and a state of good repair in public infrastructure is a fundamental way to change how transportation funding is applied. Taking this step at the MPO level gives the maintenance of key transportation facilities a place in regional investment discussions recognizes that many of a region’s existing centers of economic activity already depend on this infrastructure and that these needs will not be met if existing infrastructure falls into disrepair.

The Boston Region MPO, representing a large area of nearly 3 million inhabitants—similar in population to Northeast Ohio—uses a set of project selection criteria that emphasize a state of good repair (referred to as ‘System Preservation, Modernization, and Efficiency’) as the single greatest evaluation category.[1] These criteria are together given more weight in the score-based evaluation system than mobility factors. Specific criteria include how a project improves substandard pavement, improves traffic signal equipment condition, improves intermodal connections (including to transit), and implements intelligent transportation systems (ITS) strategies.

GETTING IT DONE. MPOs must lead this initiative in their role as the designated urban and regional transportation planning entities and principal conduits of federal funding for system improvements. The most direct lever for MPOs in this regard is contained in the selection criteria they employ to prioritize projects for their metropolitan area’s Transportation Improvement Program. Northeast Ohio’s MPOs have varying degrees of specificity in and attention to their project selection criteria; all MPOs should revisit their criteria and consider modifying language to support system maintenance and preservation.

TOOL: The Stark County Area Transportation Study (SCATS) develops a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) as part of a schedule of transportation improvements recommended for implementation within the next four years. The State of Ohio requires that the TIP’s be adopted every 2 years to coincide with the Ohio biennium budget. The SCATS Policy Committee has developed a project selection process which includes points for system preservation (i.e. projects that maintain rather than expand the existing system as opposed to expansion).

http://www.co.stark.oh.us/internet/HOME.DisplayPage?v_page=rpc

 

Potential Lead

Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Low

 

[1] Boston Region MPO selection criteria, http://www.ctps.org/Drupal/data/html/plans/TIP/TIP_Evaluation_Scoring.html

An Initiative A Day: 1.1 – Encourage infill and redevelopment

January 20, 2014 in Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Recommendation 1: FOCUS NEW RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT ON SITES WITHIN ESTABLISHED COMMUNITIES

Initiative 1.1: Encourage infill and redevelopment through the use of tax credits and other direct and indirect public incentives.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Municipalities have a number of tools at their disposal to incentivize redevelopment and infill. Federally-funded tools include Community Development Block Grants, New Market Tax Credits, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and Historic Tax Credits. State incentives exist through JobsOhio grants, tax credits, and the Brownfields fund. Local incentives can take the form of tax abatements, designation of tax-increment financing (TIF) districts, and capital investment in new infrastructure or infrastructure improvements.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Application of incentives is a critical element of redevelopment and infill development project finance. These projects, generally more fiscally sound for municipalities, are often difficult propositions for developers given the higher up-front costs of building on existing urban land. Factors driving this include presence of contamination and the possibility of opposition of projects by current neighbors, both of which municipalities are obligated to address, thus lengthening the development negotiation process. Other factors can include land assembly costs and reluctance of lending institutions to extend financing to project proponents. Availability of financial and tax incentives are thus crucial to offsetting the costs imposed by the greater friction developers encounter in delivering infill or redevelopment projects.

GETTING IT DONE. Municipalities must prioritize the incentives they make available to projects that intelligently reuse and “upcycle” urban land. When this is not enough, municipalities should consider organizational solutions, encouraging the formation of community development corporations, business improvement districts, and other intermediary entities that can organize the interests of property owners and facilitate the project delivery process. MidTown Cleveland, Inc., a community development corporation in Cleveland, is an example of this. MidTown Cleveland has worked closely with the City of Cleveland to deliver many successful redevelopment projects, employing innovative financing methods and assuming some predevelopment costs to complement traditional subsidies .

Municipalities must also explore policies and financing structures and, where applicable, pursue changes to policy that can extend redevelopment and infill development benefits once thresholds are reached. These thresholds can include exhaustion of candidate structures for adaptive reuse or exceeding specific income limits, both of which are important benchmarks for leveraging state and federal tax credits.

One potential tool is the Special Improvement District (SID). Enabled by the State of Ohio in 1994, SIDs are mechanisms that permit stakeholders in an area to provide funding for that area’s development. Property owners pay assessments on their property value, which provide the resources needed to create enhanced services for the district. SID-supported services do not replace existing city services, but augment them in ways that strengthen the area’s economic viability through incentives, programs and working with local government. SIDs are in use throughout the country in over 1,200 cities, including communities in Northeast Ohio such as Akron and Cleveland.

Downtown Cleveland Alliance (http://www.downtowncleveland.com/about-us/special-improvement-district.aspx)

Downtown Akron Partnership (http://www.downtownakron.com/about/special-improvement-district)

Ohio Revised Code, Chapter 1710: Special Improvement Districts (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/1710)

University Lofts: Located on the Euclid Corridor—a Bus Rapid Transit Route—University Lofts is a mixed-use residential development within Cleveland State University’s Campus. An infill vacant lot and restored National Historic Registered properties were redeveloped as apartments and ground floor retail with State and Federal Historic Tax Credits and New Market Tax Credits.

Tremont Pointe: Revitalized Tremont Point is an anchor site in a burgeoning mixed-use neighborhood that was developed through the use of Low Income Housing Tax Credits and the federal HUD Hope VI program. The redevelopment replaced 241 aging public housing units that were cut off from the surrounding neighborhood with a mixed-income village, tied into the historic emerging neighborhood. 189 new units were constructed that complement the surrounding city fabric and connects residents to their community.

Potential Lead: Municipalities

Target Community:Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity: Low

 

What’s missing from our Library?

November 13, 2012 in Conditions and Trends, Sustainability, Toolkiit

In developing our Conditions and Trends Platform, NEOSCC staff, Consortium members and over 150 subject-matter experts distilled information from public policy plans, planning initiatives and other resources from across the region into a comprehensive set of findings about our region. These findings are the heart of this Conditions and Trends Platform. They are not a definitive list; instead, they are a starting point for understanding our region. And there are no solutions or recommendations within these findings; any recommendations resulting from NEOSCC’s work will be developed in collaboration with Northeast Ohio’s leaders and residents. This information included 100′s of planning efforts completed and underway throughout Northeast Ohio.

NEOSCC has compiled pre-existing policy plans and initiatives that are available across the Ohio region into a searchable database.  Our question to you is… what is missing?  Visit our Vibrant NEO 2040 Library and let us know.

 

What Can I Do Today?