With the six-year federal transportation spending bill up for renewal this year, major changes could be in the offing. For the first time ever Congress is entering this reauthorization debate with its main repository of federal transportation funds, the Highway Trust Fund, insolvent. At the same time America is changing demographically and socially, leading to shifts in the kinds of transportation options that people want. Congress will have to meet these new needs and find new sources of funding.
With Americans seeking out new forms of transportation in congested urban areas, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is emerging as a relative.ly low-cost alternative. The 25 BRT systems now in operation across the United States vary considerably, but most share characteristics such as dedicated lanes, larger capacities than regular buses, faster trips, and more rail-like stations. Although new BRT systems in places like Boston and Eugene, Oregon, have proved highly popular, some opponents contend that light rail systems are generally a better choice.
Light rail systems are trains that are lighter and shorter than commuter rail or heavy rail systems. Although light rail represents only a small portion of the public transportation market, it is the fastest growing mode of public transportation and has been shown to provide a significant stimulus to surrounding economies. But the recession is slowing light rail expansion plans and forcing service cut-backs and fare hikes.
The 2009 Growth and Transportation Survey, sponsored by the National Association of REALTORS® and Transportation America, asked Americans how their communities are handling development, how development affects them, and how the transportation needs of communities can best be met. Respondents favored increased investment in bus and rail systems and policies to encourage denser development over building new roads as priorities for federal and local governments facing challenges of economic stagnation, population growth, and traffic congestion.
REALTORS® recognize the impact that quality education makes in every aspect of society. The future of business and industry, the real estate market and homeownership, our communities, and our nation depends on well-educated citizens and a well-educated workforce. To that end, we support programs and policies that promote quality education by efficiently financing capital construction, maintenance, and operations of our public school systems. We believe that public education is a state and local issue.
The REALTORS® Code of Ethics commits members of the REALTOR® organization to providing equal professional service without discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender (sex), sexual orientation, disability (handicap), familial status, or national origin. That commitment reflects the same principles embodied in the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits such discrimination in housing-related transactions.
In 2010, the Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS® (CTAR) in South Carolina was faced with a difficult decision. Should they support tax increases to fund infrastructure improvements to local schools? And which of two proposals should they support? The first called for a one-cent sales tax over six years. The second--approved by the school district--called for an increase in property taxes. Before taking a position, CTAR decided to find out more about public sentiment on the issue.
The Washoe County School District, which serves Reno/Sparks and the surrounding area in Nevada, faces some tough challenges--including the threat of budget cuts during the 2011 legislative session and low graduation rates and proficiency levels in K-12 schools. The district has a new superintendent, Dr. Heath E. Morrison, with a bold strategy for reforming the schools, and community leaders want to get behind him.
In 2010, the public education committee of the MetroTex Association of REALTORS®--which has a long history of supporting area schools--established a grant program to fund special projects at area public elementary, middle, and high schools and invited local student organizations to take the initiative and apply. In the program’s first year, the committee selected three winning proposals from more than 20 applications. Students at the Caesar Chavez Elementary School in inner-city Dallas proposed the creation of a powerhouse of a chess club.
There’s a national movement afoot to get more kids to walk and bike to school--and the momentum just keeps building. The reasons are clear. In 2009, only 13 percent of children ages five to fourteen walked or biked to school--compared to 48 percent in 1969. Studies have shown that even kids who live within a mile of their schools aren’t walking in significant numbers. But that’s starting to change. International Walk to School Day has become a major national event attracting millions of participants.