Capital Region Sustainable Communities

foster regional collaboration, conduct planning and pursue demonstration projects for sustainable communitiess

Skip to content
Sustainable Communities Website Home
Sustainable Communities Blog Home
← Older posts
CRSC market study underway

Posted on June 19, 2012 by Moderator
Capital Region Sustainable Communities (CRSC) hired a consultant team last week to study the potential demand for housing and business that would result if a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and more walkable and bikeable developments were pursued in the Madison region. The consultant team is led by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and supported by Seth Harry & Associates, and Peloton Research Partners.

The team will first project housing and business demand, over approximately the next 30 years, under current trends – that is, without a BRT system and with current growth patterns and levels of walkability and bikeability.

Next they will interview people in the area, such as developers and businesses, to learn from their perspectives and knowledge about the real estate market.

The team will work with CRSC and local people to develop alternative development options, or scenarios. This work will be informed by the BRT study being conducted for CRSC by SRF Consulting Group. It will also use an inventory and assessment of infill and redevelopment sites along the corridor, prepared by the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) with help from City of Madison and Dane County. Development options could include varying levels BRT service and increases in walkability and bikeability.

A number of representative building and development types will be established that would be appropriate for infill and redevelopment in the different alternative development options. The development types will be used to estimate housing and business demand that could occur and what it might look like under different development scenarios. The levels of possible development will inform the BRT Study, helping SRF to estimate potential ridership.

The Market Study is guided by an oversight committee that includes members of the CRSC Partnership. Opportunities for public comment and participation will occur at a number of public meetings and at CRSC events, such as the presentation, ”Transportation Options for a Strong Economy.” The first public meeting will occur on September 10, combining information for both the BRT and market study.


Posted in Corridors, Economy, Scenarios Planning | Tagged Bus Rapid Transit, CARPC, CRSC, Infill, market study, redevelopment | Comments Off
CRSC to host, “Transportation Options for a Strong Economy”

Posted on June 19, 2012 by Moderator

The Capital Region Sustainable Communities (CRSC) partnership will host Scott Bernstein, President of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, for a free presentation event titled “Transportation Options for a Strong Economy” on Wednesday June 20th at 4:30 p.m. at the UW’s Memorial Union. Bernstein will address the connections between transportation and the regional economy, and present the newest data available for Dane County using the H+T® Affordability Index, a tool created by CNT to measure the combined cost of housing and transportation as a share of household income. The event is the first of a series being planned for 2012, building on the themes and momentum generated by CRSC as it works to advance a regional vision, goals, and performance measures for sustainable development.

In addition to spurring conversation about the long-term impacts of short-term transportation choices, the event is intended to frame and inform projects that are underway to improve the area’s major transportation corridors. Two such projects recently launched by CRSC are a study of the potential for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the Madison region, and a parallel Market Study of the potential for infill and redevelopment along transit corridors. The first of two public meetings for the BRT Study is scheduled for September 10, and additoinal public input will occur during the City of Madison’s Transportation Master Plan process, likely to start this fall. The Madison Area Transportation Planning Board is leading the BRT study, which is expected to be complete early in 2013.

Bernstein first presented H+T Index data for the Madison area at last year’s Capital Region Planning Conference. That data showed that region-wide, households alone spend more than $2 million for the cost of personal transportation, and the impacts of foreclosures and changing gas prices have affected some communities more than others. Archived materials from the 2011 event are available here. The event is free and open to the public, and organizers invite area leaders from all sectors, as well as anyone interested in regional trends in housing, transportation, economic resilience and sustainability. To find the room for the talk, check the “Today in the Union” (TITU) boards at Union entrances or online the day of the event.

Posted in Corridors, Economy | Tagged Bus Rapid Transit, CARPC, CRSC, market study, Transportation | Comments Off
Bus Rapid Transit study underway for Madison region

Posted on May 30, 2012 by Moderator
Capital Region Sustainable Communities (CRSC) recently launched a study of the potential for Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT in the Madison region. The Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC), which serves as the lead agency for CRSC, on May 9 commissioned a team led by SRF Consulting, to determine whether and how a BRT system could work in the Madison area.

BRT can offer the benefits of light rail – faster and friendlier service – but with buses and, hence, at a much lower cost. BRT components can include:

Dedicated travel lanes – usually along major arterial roadways
Level boarding from stations
Ticket purchase at the station instead of on the bus
Longer, more rail-like buses
Multiple door boarding and exit – made possible with off-bus ticket purchase
Signal prioritization – planner speak for being able to turn the traffic signal to green
Fewer stops than regular bus service – generall between 1/4 to 1/2 mile spacing
Branding – t0 create an image distinct from regular bus service
Not all BRT systems include all of these features. In fact, one of the advantages of BRT is flexibility: it can include the combination of features that best match the community and the corridor. Generally, the more urban the corridor, and the greater the potential for ridership and need for transit, the more features will be employed.

An example of a “full BRT” (all or most of the above features) is the HealthLine in Cleveland, OH. It travels 7.1 miles along Euclid Avenue, connecting downtown to Cleveland State University and a medical complex including University Hospital. Opened in 2008, the HealthLine serves over 15,000 passengers per day, an increase of 60% from regular bus service that previously served the corridor. Buses arrive at stations every 2 to 3 minutes during peak hours at speeds averaging 12.5 miles per hour, an increase of 34% from previous regular bus service. The project cost $200 million: $50 million for buses and stations, $150 million for streetscape and roadway improvements along the corridor (the project included a major street reconstruction, much of which was above and beyond the BRT).

Real estate investments along the Euclid Avenue since the HealthLine opened are estimated at $4.2 billion. This level of investment, notably during a recession, helps answer a lingering question about BRT: can it spur development like rail transit is known to? The Health Line shows that, at least when combined with overall significant corridor improvements along a major urban corridor, BRT can be part of urban revitalization. View a video of a Case Study of the HealthLine here.

Eugene, OR, closer in size to the Madison area (with a metro population of 351,100), opened their Emerald Express (EmX) BRT system in 2007. It serves 4,700 riders a day (74% increase from bus service) along 4 miles. EmX has dedicated bus lines along 1.6 miles, demonstrating the flexibility to adjust the system to local conditions. EmX increased speeds 30%, from 11.5 to 15 mph. It cost $24 million.

For the Madison area, SRF Consulting – along with Kimley-Horn & Assoc., Connetics Transportation Group and Urban Assets – will conduct the following:

Establish and analyze routing alternatives
Identify passenger facility and fleet needs
Evaluate enhancements to the roadway network (needed for BRT)
Identify the feasibility of signal priority, and
Identify options for express bus connections to outlying communities
The Madison Area Transportation Planning Board (the federally-designated Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO for the region) is the primary coordinator for the BRT study. The MPO has established a Steering Committee of area transportation staff and officials to help guide the Study.

The first of two public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 11. Additional public input will occur during the City of Madison’s Transportation Master Plan process, likely to start this fall. The BRT Study is expected to be complete early in 2013.

Posted in Corridors, Uncategorized | Tagged BRT, BRT Study, Bus Rapid Transit, CARPC, corridor, CRSC, Madison Area Transportation Planning Board, MPO | Comments Off
North Mendota survey responses favor “compact” development

Posted on May 29, 2012 by Moderator
Residents in the City of Middleton, Village of Waunakee, and the Towns of Westport and Springfield – the “North Mendota” area – recently weighed in on what they want to see for future growth. 409 residents, as well as 61 others (either non-residents or did not answer residency question), filled out surveys at polling stations around the community (290 total surveys) or online (180) between April 3 and May 13, 2012.

People were asked to consider three options, or scenarios, for growth over the next 25 years to accommodate the estimated population increase of approximately 16,000 people and the businesses, civic uses such as schools, and infrastructure such as roads that would also be needed. The three options accommodated the estimated growth with different levels of densities, mixing of land uses, amount of infill development and redevelopment, and protections for environmental resources, farmland and open space. The three options, developed by a locally-appointed steering committee and staff team, considered by residents were:

Public Outreach – A scenario reflecting preferences expressed at public meetings and earlier on-line polling with modestly higher levels of density and mix of uses than their adopted plans, and existing levels of infill development, redevelopment and environmental, farmland and open space protection.
Dispersed Character – Showing reduced densities, mixes of uses, infill and redevelopment, and environmental, farmland and open space protections.
Compact Character – Essentially the contrast to dispersed character, with higher levels of each characteristic.

People were asked to view information about the scenarios including images, maps, and data showing depicting the land area consumed by development, land uses, and long-term impacts related to environment, taxes and infrastructure costs, jobs and shopping, travel, and health. They were then asked to rank the scenarios and provide reasons for their choices. Looking at all 470 responses, 58% selected the Compact Character scenario as their top choice. Public Outreach came in second with 29% and Dispersed Character third with 19%.

Middleton (154 responses) and Springfield (22 responses) residents showed the strongest preference for compact development, with 72% and 70% ranking that option first, respectively. Westport (139 responses) residents preference for compact growth was the weakest with 44% ranking it top; 35% picked Public Outreach and 28% Dispersed. Waunakee (94 responses) residents also picked Compact as top choice (52%) but Dispersed as second (28%) and Outreach third (26%). Springfield residents also picked Dispersed as their second choice.

For those who picked the Compact Charcter, the following are among the reasons cited:

Amount of open and protected land
Amount of farmland acres and revenue preserved
Amount of acres developed per new resident
Level of walking and biking
Amount of change in driving miles
Overall neighborhood character
Level of physical activity
Those who ranked Public Outreach first cited:

A balanced approach
Overall neighborhood character
Amount of open and protected land
Amount of acres developed per new resident
Amount of farmland acres and revenue preserved
Those picking Dispersed Character liked:

Amount of acres developed per new resident (probably for the opposite reason)
Overall neighborhood character
Amount of open and protected land
Level of change in driving miles
Livability for persons 65 years or older
Privacy
Scenario planning in North Mendota was part of Future Urban Development Area, or FUDA, planning. FUDA is joint planning among neighboring communities and the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) to “protect vital natural resources, promote efficient development, and preserve farmland.” FUDA planning is a component of Capital Region Sustainable Communities (CRSC).

The next step is for the local Steering Committee to identify a “preferred scenario.” The Committee will look at community input and combine parts of the top scenarios into the preferred scenario. They will recommend to the City, Village and Towns that the preferred scenario be used to update local comprehensive plans. CARPC will consider look at the recommendations and the subsequent comprehensive plan updates to inform regional planning.

Posted in Scenarios Planning, Uncategorized | Tagged CARPC, CRSC, FUDA, Future Urban Development Area, Middleton, scenarios planning, Springfield, Waunakee, Westport | Comments Off
Madison area rankings for Clean Economy

Posted on May 23, 2012 by Moderator
As Bruce Katz, with the Brookings Institute, recently reported, being a sustainable region yields economic and health, as well as environmental benefits. Katz cited a report by Monday Morning, the respected Scandinavian think tank. The report, Copenhagen – Beyond Green, detailed the effect of building a city that is high in spatial efficiency and rich in transport choices:

“Residents who cycle to work or school are healthier, so health care costs decline (by an estimated $380 million a year). Fewer cars on the road means less congestion and fewer accidents, so additional savings are realized.

“Yet the big effect from sustainable development may be indirect and global, as specialized firms naturally rise and expand to meet the growing demand for clean services and clean products. Monday Morning’s report finds that Copenhagen’s clean sector has been a critical contributor to the region’s economy in the past decade, with green exports outpacing all other sectors by growing at an astounding 77 percent between 2004 and 2009.”

Portland is nurturing its clean economy with a Green Investment Fund to provide grants for residential and commercial building projects. Now the city is striving, like Copenhagen, to reap the economic rewards of sustainable development through business formation, firm expansion, job growth and private investment. In February, Portland released its first regional export plan to double exports over five years by building on the region’s distinctive economic and physical attributes. A critical pillar of this strategy involves increasing the export orientation of firms in the burgeoning clean technology sector to serve growing markets in Asia, Latin America and elsewhere.

How does Madison stack up in the competition to capture its share of clean economy jobs and businesses? The Brookings report, Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment, provides comparative data for the top 100 metro areas. As the chart shows, Madison has outperformed the nation as a whole, and ranks middle of the pack in most other measures: size and growth rate of clean economy, and amount of exports created per clean economy job.

Where Madison shines is in the measure of clean economy intensity. Madison’s 12,337 clean economy jobs make up 3.5 percent of all jobs in the region. On this measure of concentration, its clean economy ranks 7 (the PDF of Madison area clean economy data and rankings is here).

The largest sectors of clean economy jobs in the Madison area are conservation jobs (2,717 in 2010; up 27% from 2003) and regulation and compliance (2,249; up 0.2%). The fastest growing clean economy jobs (2003-2010) are biofuels/biomass (+42% with 145 jobs), smart grid (39% with 10 jobs), and conservation (see above).

The Madison Sustainability Commerce Center, a project of Capital Region Sustainable Communities, could be an opportunity to catalyze the clean economy in the area. In the planning phase, the Center would house and nurture green business and jobs, that also help the region meet its sustainability goals.

Posted in Economy | Tagged Brookings, Bruce Katz, Clean Economy | Comments Off
From an Equity Standpoint, Place Matters: Brookings Report

Posted on May 19, 2012 by Moderator
A recent Brookings Institution report looks at the link between school quality, housing costs and race. The report, Housing Costs, Zoning, and Access to High-Scoring Schools, analyzed national and metropolitan data on public school populations and state standardized test scores for 84,077 schools in 2010 and 2011.

Some of the key findings are:

Nationwide, the average low-income student attends a school that scores at the 42nd percentile on state exams, while the average middle/high-income student attends a school that scores at the 61st percentile on state exams. This school test-score gap is even wider between black and Latino students and white students. There is increasingly strong evidence—from this report and other studies—that low-income students benefit from attending higher-scoring schools.

Across the 100 largest metropolitan areas, housing costs an average of 2.4 times as much, or nearly $11,000 more per year, near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring public school.

Large metro areas with the least restrictive zoning have housing cost gaps that are 40 to 63 percentage points lower than metro areas with the most exclusionary zoning. Eliminating exclusionary zoning in a metro area would, by reducing its housing cost gap, lower its school test-score gap by an estimated 4 to 7 percentiles—a significant share of the observed gap between schools serving the average low-income versus middle/higher-income student.

Summing up the findings, the authors state: “As the nation grapples with the growing gap between rich and poor and an economy increasingly reliant on formal education, public policies should address housing market regulations that prohibit all but the very affluent from enrolling their children in high-scoring public schools in order to promote individual social mobility and broader economic security.”

How does the Madison metro area fare? Better than most metro areas it turns out. The Madison metro rankings, out of 100 metro areas, are:
38th most restrictive zoning (62 metros had more restrictive zoning)
82nd most economically segregated (81 metros were more segregated)
98th highest housing cost gap (97 metros had higher gaps)
82nd highest test score gap (81 metros had higher gaps)

A couple things stand out from this ranking.
First, given recent attention to the acheivement gap in Madison (try googling “madison school acheivement gap”), it may surprise some that the Madison area compares so favorably to other metro areas with respect to test score gap. While the gap remains a significant problem that needs to be reduced, apparently most other areas fare worse (many have larger concentrations of poverty). Madison area overall compares favorably to other regions on these measures – although pointing this out should in no way diminish resolve here to prioritize and tackle these issues.
Second, just beause Madison area ranks near the top in terms of housing cost gap (one of lowest cost gap between housing costs in high vs. low scoring school districts), it does not mean housing costs are not a problem here. Thrive’s Advance Now report identifies the Madison region as a high-cost area for housing (see page 17) relative to it’s peer communities. The median home price is almost 4 times the median income in the Madison area, higher than all six peer communities and the national average.
Posted in Equity, Uncategorized | Tagged achievement gap, Brookings Institute, equity | Comments Off
Amazon’s new headquarters in central Seattle – Can Madison attract corporate headquaters as infill projects?

Posted on May 16, 2012 by Moderator
Amazon unveiled preliminary plans for their 3 million square foot new headquarters on a 3-block infill site in downtown Seattle – as reported in A/N Blog. It is the largest development proposal in the history of the city.

The project does not involve forcing a suburban campus style development into a city environment. It places high-density, tall buildings into the existing block structure.

Why is Amazon putting their new headquarters in a high-rise development in downtown instead of a spread-out campus with cheaper land and loads of parking? There are probably a number of reasons, one of which is likely that their high-tech workforce values urban location and amenities.

What lesson does this offer for Madison, WI? First, let’s state the obvious. Madison is not Seattle. It is much less likely to attract one of the world’s top companies to set up headquaters in its downtown area. However, Madison is a high-tech center on a smaller scale. The workforce for it’s targeted high tech business cluster also seeks urban amenities. Exhibit A: Shop Bop, the online clothing retailer – incidentally owned by Amazon – located in the former Marquip building on East Washington. Exhibit B: Madison Metro recently added a new express bus to transport workers, who live in central Madison, to the Epic Systems campus on the edge of the central urban area.

Could Madison attract a smaller version of Amazon in the Capital East District? Communities sometimes ask, are we ready (meaning, do we have available large sites) if another Epic comes along? Why not also ask, are we ready for a larger company to set up shop on an infill site? Or, what are we doing to help make that happen?

Posted in Corridors, Uncategorized | Tagged Infill | Comments Off
CRSC can learn from “national model for transit equity”

Posted on May 11, 2012 by Moderator
As reported in NRDC‘s Switchboard, “Transit analysts Reconnecting America and the Denver equity coalition Mile High Connectshave released an impressive compendium of maps and research showing how expansion of that city’s transit system could bring major opportunity to traditionally underserved populations – if local agencies take the necessary steps to prepare and coordinate. ”

As Capital Region Sustainable Communities explores the potential of developing a regional bus transit system, with Bus Rapid Transit and express buses, we can learn much from the Denver experience.

According to Reconnecting America, the Denver Regional Equity Atlas “is a visual representation of demographics, education, employment, health care and housing in relation to transit. . . . The Atlas emphasizes the need to ensure access to opportunity for everyone in the region, especially improving connections for the region’s most economically disadvantaged residents. The future transit network will better connect people to jobs, healthcare providers, schools, grocery stores, parks and other essential destinations, but there are challenges in ensuring that the people who use and need access to public transportation the most have the opportunity to live, work, learn and play in transit-oriented communities.”

Mile High Connects is a broad partnership of organizations from the private, public and nonprofit sectors that are committed to increasing access to housing choices, good jobs, quality schools and essential services via public transit. By increasing resources, influencing policy, working with residents and leveraging the current and expanding Metro Denver transit system, Mile High Connects will use transit to promote a vital region full of opportunity for everyone. Our mission is to ensure that the Metro Denver regional transit system fosters communities that offer all residents the opportunity for a high quality of life.”

It includes large foundations including The Ford Foundation, Gates Family Foundation and Surdna Foundations, as well as local foundations (Housing & Homelessness Funders’ Collaborative, Colorado Health Foundation) and businesses (U.S. Bank, First Bank) and community groups – FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities.

It is exciting to see the philanthropic and business community step up to the plate and work together to help ensure that the region maximizes the benefits of a major transportation investment in a way that also reduces barriers to opportunities, especially for low-income communities.

Madison is not Denver, and we will not see transit investments in the billions. We are, however, a growing region with a need for higher capacity and more regional transit. As we look towards investing in our transportation infrastructure, let’s learn from Denver – as well as the Twin Cities – and come together to maximize and equitably distribute benefits for our region.

Posted in Corridors, Equity, Regional Collaboration, Uncategorized | Tagged corridors, CRSC, transit | Comments Off
Environmental Conditions in North Mendota Area

Posted on May 8, 2012 by Moderator
A detailed assessment of environmental conditions in the “North Mendota” planning area was released in final draft form by the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC). The North Mendota planning area was identified through Future Urban Development Area (FUDA) planning as the potential urban growth areas of the City of Middleton, Village of Waunakee as well as all of the towns of Springfield and Westport in Dane County, Wisconsin.

The “Environmental Condition Report” (ECR) includes an inventory and assessment of the natural and agricultural resources in the planning area. The ECR estimates how much land may be needed to accommodate projected growth over the next 25 years, given recent development trends. Finally, it identifies how much “developable” land is available within the Urban Service Area, and estimates how much land outside the USA will be needed to accommodate growth projections.

The ECR assessments were used to identify possible growth options. Working with the joint municipality Steering Committee and staff, and incorporating public input, CARPC prepared three alternative development scenarios for consideration by area residents. The Steering Committee will identify and recommend a “preferred scenario” to each communities governing body. The preferred scenario will be used to guide updates to local comprehensive plans and regional plans.

CARPC provides FUDA planning services to local municipalities to protect vital natural resources, promote efficient development, and preserve farmland through cooperative planning for long-term growth.

Posted in Scenarios Planning, Uncategorized | Tagged CARPC, Environmental Condition Report, FUDA, Middleton, North Mendota, Springfield, Waunakee, Westport | Comments Off
DeForest-Windsor survey reveals growth preferences

Posted on May 7, 2012 by Moderator
The votes are in. At close of polling, 112 completed surveys showed that survey respondents in the Village of DeForest, the Town of Windsor, the Town of Vienna and elsewhere preferred the “compact” growth option over the “adopted plan” and the “dispersed” scenarios. Scenario rankings are shown in the tables below for DeForest, Windsor and Vienna (there were also 29 respondents from other locations).

The compact scenario showed homes closer together and some homes mixed with shops, a wider range of housing choices, and more land set aside for environmental protection and open space. The dispersed scenario represented the least dense development and least level of environmental and open space protection. The adopted plan showed a middle range option.

The adopted plan scenario ranked a very strong second overall. Using an instant run-off method of voting, the adopted plan scenario rises to the top. Under instant run-off, if a top choice fails to capture a majority vote, the second choice then rises to the top. This method identifies the option that the most people can accept, even if most people do not get their first choice. Almost all voters chose the adopted plan as their second choice.

People were asked to vote, online and at stations around the community, for one of three possible scenarios of growth over the next 25 years. The scenarios included estimates of how many people would be acoomodated in that time period. Population estimates ranged from 7,950 in the dispersed scenario to 22,400 in the compact scenario. To inform the voting, polls presented information about long-term impacts of each of the scenarios. Impacts presented included land use efficiency; taxes, jobs and shopping; environmental; travel; and health.

The next step is for the local FUDA Steering Committee to identify a “preferred scenario.” The Committee will look at community input and combine parts of the top scenarios into the preferred scenario. They will recommend to the Village and Towns that the preferred scenario be used to update local comprehensive plans. CARPC will consider look at the recommendations and the subsequent comprehensive plan updates to inform regional planning.

The polling was part of Future Urban Development Area, or FUDA, planning. FUDA is joint planning among neighborhing communities and the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) to “protect vital natural resources, promote efficient development, and preserve farmland.”

Posted in Regional Collaboration, Scenarios Planning | Tagged CARPC, DeForest, FUDA, North Yahara, scenarios planning, Vienna, Windsor | Comments Off