Friday, January 14, 2011

Jobs, Transportation, and Housing Symposium

On Thursday morning there was a Jobs, Transportation, and Housing Symposium. About 100 people came to the Regional Building in Chesapeake, with the group roughly evenly split between housing and transportation advocates.

Being from Virginia Beach, I'm well-aware that we often get portrayed as the brake on regional efforts. Therefore, I was happy to see Virginia Beach dominate a regional forum in Chesapeake.

Mary Kay Horoszewski, Executive Director of the Virginia Beach Community Development Corporation (VBCDC), gave the opening remarks and served as Moderator. Dwight Farmer, Executive Director of the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) and Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC), made brief remarks. Following that, Andy Friedman, Director of Virginia Beach's Department of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation (DHNP) spoke. He noted that traditionally housing was assumed to take care of itself, while transportation was looked at almost solely based on the automobile. Both attitudes are outdated, and we need to note the interrelation between the three.

The first speaker was Trip Pollard of the Southern Environmental Law Center, who made a Presentation on his White Paper Jobs, Transportation, and Housing: Connecting Home And Work. He gave us a few nuggets. First, the vast majority of Hampton Roads' households spend over 45% of household income on housing and transportation combined, a percentage with serious long-term negative ramifications. Second, Virginia leads the nation in largest percentage of people commuting to jobs outside their county of residence. (That helps explain our transportation problems....) Third, when doing a long-term roads plan, the Charlottesville region looked at an alternative featuring a robust mass transit system. The alternative would cut the need for building new roads in half. Fourth, often we have mass transit in the wrong place for it to get people to quality jobs. Pollard used a map that placed the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) route system against where the jobs were. The mismatch was stark. (Having studied GRTC's route system somewhat, I knew it was worse than the graphic portrayed it.)

Next was Dr. Camelia Ravanbakht, Deputy Executive Director of the TPO. She covered existing transportation in Hampton Roads. First, our Vehicle Miles Travelled has grown at nearly twice the rate of population growth and new roads construction. Second, our number of registered vehicles has grown at more than three times the rate of population growth. Third, Senior Citizens will nearly double as a population percentage regionally by 2030, with 25% of them currently non-drivers. Fourth, the nuke fell under the 2034 Long Range Transportation Plan for the region, which planning is just starting on: the number of candidate transportation projects in Hampton Roads is about 15 times the ability to pay for them with current funds! (Hampton Roads, we have one hell of a problem!)

Andrew Heatwole then spoke. First, he noted parking was going to be a huge problem in doing redevelopment. There may be a need for a Parking Authority. Second, single car households can afford a mortgage $100-120k larger, as the reduced transportation costs can be placed towards housing in the family budget. Third, car trips per day by those living in Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) areas is 3.55, versus 10 in suburbia. Fourth, he gave figures from a study on transit usage for commuting. 35% will use transit if there is a stop at the office, 23% if a stop within a quarter mile, and 10% with a half mile walk. Fifth, Form-Based Zoning would help redevelopment in Virginia Beach.

We then heard from Barry Frankenfield, Manager of Virginia Beach's Strategic Growth Area (SGA) Office. (For all I've dealt with Barry, I didn't previously know he was a landscape architect by training.) Frankenfield spoke of Form-Based Zoning in the works for the Resort Area, while overlay districts are being looked at elsewhere. There are two key things Virginia Beach is looking for in SGA redevelopment proposals: good design, and it makes economic sense.

Next speaker was Frank Spadea, CEO of Franciscus Company, which specializes in building affordable housing. He addressed obstacles Franciscus has faced in constructing such units.

Finally, there was Cynthia Whitbred-Spanoulis from Virginia Beach's Department of Economic Development (DED), pinch-hitting for DED Director Warren Harris. The breakdown for jobs creation in Virginia Beach is existing companies expanding (80%), new startups (18%), and relocations here (2%). The number one thing companies are looking for is workforce development: not only existing workforce here, but the ability to attract applicants to move here to work.

Things wrapped up with a Question and Answer Session.

I spotted the camera out that HRPDC staff normally uses for taping HRPDC and TPO meetings for YouTube, so the program might be online later.

The forum was sponsored by Housing Virginia, Hampton Roads Housing Consortium, Hampton Roads ULI, Tidewater Builders Association, Virginia Beach Community Development Corporation, The Housing Roundtable, and Light Rail Now. In addition, the forum was supported by BB&T.


thesh00ter said...


from ur last reply, i hope so. especially after the information you presented in this article. i hope this info can get to Mcdonnell

thesh00ter said...

another thing, why doesn't anybody lobby for mass transit? fill me in please i've probably missed a lot