REALTORS® Take Action Making Smart Growth Happen
“Public transportation is a benefit to cities and developers looking for ways they can enhance smart growth and sustainable development,” says Taylor Oldroyd, chief executive officer of the Utah County Association of REALTORS®.
REALTOR® associations have long known that people frequently make housing choices based on proximity to transportation. That’s why REALTOR® associations across the country are educating about, and advocating for, public transportation. In Utah, Colorado, and Florida, REALTOR® associations have sponsored events that showcased local public transit projects and reached hundreds of officials from government, business, organizations and educational institutions. In Indiana and Virginia, REALTOR® associations are engaged in ongoing advocacy of public transit plans and expansions. The results everywhere are increased public awareness, and collaborative efforts to develop and expand public transportation options.
The Utah County Association of REALTORS® has been hard at work promoting FrontRunner South, a commuter rail line utilizing a 45-mile stretch of an existing Union Pacific Railroad corridor to connect downtown Salt Lake City with Provo. It opens to the public on December 10, 2012.
With the help of a NAR Smart Growth Grant, the Utah County Association of REALTORS® sponsored an event that provided an opportunity for elected officials and the public to learn more about FrontRunner South. The August 17 event brought together more than 100 stakeholders, including the governor, and gave many the first chance to step aboard a FrontRunner South passenger car. The Association also helped build awareness and educate the public though a series of print ads that explained the Utah Transit Authority project.
The Denver Metro Area REALTORS® (DMAR) have been engaged throughout all aspects of an expansion plan for Colorado’s West Rail Line — the latest step in an eight-county, comprehensive transit expansion plan called FasTracks that will expand the Regional Transportation District’s light rail corridor an additional 12 miles from downtown Denver to Jefferson County and the city of Golden. DMAR partnered with the Denver Regional Council of Governments and sponsored a tour and seminar for nearly 100 REALTORS® and elected officials, which included a close-up look at the West Rail Line construction and the chance to learn more about land use along the corridor. DMAR hopes to hold another event showcasing the light rail cars shortly before the line opens to the public in April 2013.
Florida’s SunRail will connect Orlando and Central Florida by commuter rail when it begins operation in May of 2014. Recently, the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association organized and hosted an opportunity for fellow REALTORS®, chamber of commerce members and elected officials to experience the benefits of commuter rail first hand. Approximately 170 people hopped aboard the train and travelled the construction route to check out SunRail’s progress. During the trip and a presentation that followed, attendees learned more about the economic and land-use impact of the project and the benefits of transit-oriented development. Completion of the 61-mile SunRail project will boost economic development all along its route, including current plans for more than $1 billion in projects ranging from apartment buildings to commercial and retail space.
“As Central Florida continues to grow, so will the demand for higher density development. Public transportation, while being a key catalyst for this type of development, will also relieve existing over-burdened roadways. Our new commuter train — SunRail — makes use of existing tracks that parallel main traffic arteries and pass many of our key employment and entertainment centers. Central Florida, like all other regional economies, needs a reliable public transportation rail system as part of a smart-growth strategy,” says Stephen Baker, chairman of the board of the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association.
While many associations are educating and promoting projects currently under construction, other associations are active in advocating for development and expansion of public transportation options. The Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of REALTORS® (MIBOR) is actively supporting and advocating for a multi-modal transportation system that would include higher quality bus service, light rail and commuter rail. MIBOR, in collaboration with the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, is working to place a referendum on the Indianapolis-region ballot in 2013 that would seek taxpayer support for revenue for public transportation development. (See Creative Funding article on page 36.)
In Virginia, the Hampton Roads REALTORS® Association has long been a supporter of light rail in the region. Currently the area benefits from The Tide, a light rail line that serves Norfolk and began operation in 2011. The Association hopes to spread those benefits to neighboring Virginia Beach and is working with planners and officials to educate the public on the benefits of light rail and advocate for expanding The Tide. The Hampton Roads REALTORS® Association, along with NAR, have been promoting and supporting a fall advisory referendum question on the proposed expansion. The referendum question asks voters in Virginia Beach if the city council should use “all reasonable efforts to support the financing and development of The Tide light rail into Virginia Beach.” Members of the Hampton Roads REALTORS® Association say ‘Yes’ to the referendum question and have been working hard to persuade voters to say ‘Yes’ as well.
Through education, promotion and advocacy, REALTOR® associations across the country are working to ensure that homeowners, developers and communities benefit from a variety of public transportation choices. When it comes to public transportation, REALTORS® are on the right track in helping connect communities and promote regional growth and prosperity.