Investing in Livable Cities to Meet 21st Century Transportation Challenges
By Ron Thaniel, Gene Lowe and Judy Sheahan
February 1, 2010
Demographic change, urbanization and climate change are shaping our future and posing daunting global challenges. For the first time in history, half the world's population now lives in urban centers. Experts predict that 90 percent of the future population growth will be concentrated in cities. These trends and numbers underline the fact that mobility is the biggest challenge when it comes to ensuring sustainable growth for the future. - Siemens. The U.S. Conference of Mayors thanks Siemens for sponsoring this Special Plenary Session on Investing in Livable Cities to Meet 21st Century Transportation Challenges.
"We are at a defining moment as we start a new decade of this Century," Conference Transportation and Communications Committee Chair Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper proclaimed, welcoming the Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs Adolfo Carrion, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, the Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Ron Sims, and the Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy Polly Trottenberg to the January 20 Investing in Livable Cities to Meet 21st Century Transportation Challenges Special Plenary during The U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting.
Hickenlooper continued, "The next transportation bill will decide if federal policy-makers are going to continue the antiquated funding priorities and delivery systems that lets states, not cities and their metros, decide in nearly all cases where and how the lion's share of our federal surface transportation dollars are spent - with the product line, all too often from this delivery system, being the building of more roads and highways."
Hickenlooper then asked, "Are federal policy-makers going to get it right and reverse decades of underinvestment in our nation's cities and their metro areas by rebuilding the infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption, utilize cleaner and alternative fuels, and increase the movement of people and goods by more energy-efficient vehicles and systems?"
It is time for a significant paradigm shift in federal policy, said Hickenlooper, "…one that empowers mayors and other local leaders to set priorities in their areas, beginning with enhancing the livability and economic viability of their cities, and their neighborhoods, by integrating transportation, housing, land use, and economic development."
Joining his call for a new set of federal transportation priorities were Conference of Mayors Co-Chairs for the Sustainable Development Task Force Southfield (MI) Mayor Brenda Lawrence and Oak Park (IL) Mayor David Pope. "We need to shift our thinking beyond the traditional approaches of transportation investment that served us well post World War II but does not meet our needs in the 21st century," said Lawrence. "An antiquated transportation system that causes time to be wasted, contributes to air pollution, and consumes valuable and finite energy resources is obsolete."
Pope highlighted the urgency stating, "Current projections are that by 2040, we'll have 95 million more people requiring transportation and transit services, while at the same time on our current trajectory, it is expected that our vehicle miles traveled will more than double to seven trillion miles by 2055."
"There is, however, a compelling alternative where we can build upon our metropolitan areas that are already home to four out of five Americans and we can strengthen our cities and rebuild our communities, helping make them highly desirable places where people want to live, work, and play - tying together transportation and land use," said Pope.
Carrion said that the White House Office of Urban Affairs is working on policy "built on a responsible and sustainable infrastructure platform in our metropolitan regions where the lion's share of people and the businesses and the jobs are." He said, "Funding needs to be more directly given to the municipalities and more latitude needs to be given to you to do what you do best."
Jackson said that sustainable development is not only good for the environment but also for the economic vitality of a region. She also acknowledged that mayors were leading the way on sustainability. "We [the federal government] are building on the work that many of you are already doing," Jackson said. "This isn't a matter of trying to put more requirements on you. We will be successful if we actually find a way, if not to incentivize, to get out of the way to help make it easier for you to do smart growth, for you to implement those ideals when you have the opportunity to do so."
Sims said that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) should no longer be seen as just a housing agency. "We are now a development agency and that requires some very significant changes for HUD and how it does business."
"Our focus is to make sure every metropolitan area, every community be competitive in the 21st century; the federal government must make sure it is a partner in that process," Sims said. "Our goal is to reduce impacts on global warming, to make transportation efficient and to make communities livable and sustainable," he added.
Trottenberg said she was "sympathetic to all the struggles the cities around the country have had in getting the resources they need. For us [USDOT], livability is a fundamental and long overdue change in America transportation policy."
"Livability is going to be one of our top priorities in the reauthorization bill going forward," she added.
Juergen Wilder, Vice President with Siemens Mobility, provided mayors with an exciting new holistic concept in transportation that is transforming today's cities into metropolises that provide reliable, safe and efficient ways to move people and goods without harming the environment. "To ensure mobility in the future, we need to closely network transportation and information systems. Whether transportation takes place within urban centers or in cities and countries - the multiple challenges can only be mastered only if all transportation modes are sensibly coordinated and function smoothly," said Wilder. "To meet these needs, Siemens offers integrated mobility solutions that ensure safe, economical and environmentally compatible passenger and freight transportation."
Bringing the discussion to a close, Hickenlooper said, "Going forward, and with a focus on the next surface transportation bill, all federal-assisted transportation investments must emphasize sustainable transportation investments, led by integrating transportation, housing, land use, economic development, and the environment."