Writing laws to promote transit and infrastructure

BeyondRevenue

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We often talk about individual projects because each of those is tangible and specific. We kvetch about the rules restricting each project and the very real political landscape hindering our collective goals. We rarely read about what about what policies are being forwarded at the state and local level - unless those policies are being touted in campaign messaging. Does anyone on this board have any policies in mind, on paper or proceeding through the political process that we can all contribute to? Are there any wonks here that can actually make things happen? Can I get an F-Line linked to a backslapping kickbacker on Beacon Hill?

I saw the post about extending Commuter rail to NH and I feel the same sense of frustration about how a good idea in 2008 is pretty much still a good idea in 2021. An earlier poster said "I was a literal high schooler when this was first discussed."
For that poster and all of us, I'm asking what can we do to make things happen. Cynics, GFY. You can STFU and BTFU. If you want to roll up your sleeves, this is the place to do it.
The phrase "We're the ones we've been waiting for" keeps echoing in my head. Who among us here on this forum can move the needle?

Does anyone have a policy initiative they wish to forward?
 

BeyondRevenue

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Okay, I'll kick us off with a policy possibility from last night's after dinner progressive round table. It's a little green (ideologically and developmentally) but here goes:
For each 1000 square foot of planned development in the City of Boston, a prospective developer needs to recapture an acre of cleared land somewhere else in the Commonwealth (it can be paved, deforested, polluted, Superfunded, otherwise ruined or poorly used). This ties the needs of the present directly to correcting the mistakes of the past, intertwining our collective fortunes, and giving tangible moral cover to developers and designers who are trying to build positively with dense TOD or generally smart growth. A possible example: when a project like Echelon in South Boston is proposed, an abandoned strip mall in North Adams gets slated for conversion back to forest. We need to bridge the rural urban divide with common purpose. We need to defund sprawl. We need to fix what we've wrecked. We need policy to do that.

Thoughts?
 

KCasiglio

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An irony is that you could do a ton of good without writing any new laws, just getting rid of the bad ones would go a long way (parking minimums, setback requirements, strict design standards, maximum floor-area-ratios, density caps even near transit, etc etc)

What you propose sounds interesting but I don't feel comfortable offering an informed opinion on its viability.

One thing I would suggest is simply looking for best practices and copy/pasting. For example: Cambridge's Cycling Safety Ordinance or Newton's Transit Oriented Re-zoning
 
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JumboBuc

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Thoughts?
This sounds to me like just another barrier to dense TOD and smart growth.
An irony is that you could do a ton of good without writing any new laws, just getting rid of the bad ones would go a long way (parking minimums, setback requirements, strict design standards, maximum floor-area-ratios, density caps even near transit, etc etc)
Right, we should be making it easier to build densely and sustainably, not harder. Most current regulation and legislation in this area ends up making it more difficult to make progress.
 

tysmith95

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Okay, I'll kick us off with a policy possibility from last night's after dinner progressive round table. It's a little green (ideologically and developmentally) but here goes:
For each 1000 square foot of planned development in the City of Boston, a prospective developer needs to recapture an acre of cleared land somewhere else in the Commonwealth (it can be paved, deforested, polluted, Superfunded, otherwise ruined or poorly used). This ties the needs of the present directly to correcting the mistakes of the past, intertwining our collective fortunes, and giving tangible moral cover to developers and designers who are trying to build positively with dense TOD or generally smart growth. A possible example: when a project like Echelon in South Boston is proposed, an abandoned strip mall in North Adams gets slated for conversion back to forest. We need to bridge the rural urban divide with common purpose. We need to defund sprawl. We need to fix what we've wrecked. We need policy to do that.

Thoughts?
There's currently a state program that pays farmers the difference between the developer value of the land and the farm only value of their land. When that occurs the property is restricted to farming or preservation use forever. It's funded by the state.

Not exactly what you're proposing but it does prevent sprawl in the region somewhat.

 

Tallguy

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We often talk about individual projects because each of those is tangible and specific. We kvetch about the rules restricting each project and the very real political landscape hindering our collective goals. We rarely read about what about what policies are being forwarded at the state and local level - unless those policies are being touted in campaign messaging. Does anyone on this board have any policies in mind, on paper or proceeding through the political process that we can all contribute to? Are there any wonks here that can actually make things happen? Can I get an F-Line linked to a backslapping kickbacker on Beacon Hill?

I saw the post about extending Commuter rail to NH and I feel the same sense of frustration about how a good idea in 2008 is pretty much still a good idea in 2021. An earlier poster said "I was a literal high schooler when this was first discussed."
For that poster and all of us, I'm asking what can we do to make things happen. Cynics, GFY. You can STFU and BTFU. If you want to roll up your sleeves, this is the place to do it.
The phrase "We're the ones we've been waiting for" keeps echoing in my head. Who among us here on this forum can move the needle?

Does anyone have a policy initiative they wish to forward?
You could get involved in Transitmatters
 

BeyondRevenue

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An irony is that you could do a ton of good without writing any new laws, just getting rid of the bad ones would go a long way (parking minimums, setback requirements, strict design standards, maximum floor-area-ratios, density caps even near transit, etc etc)

What you propose sounds interesting but I don't feel comfortable offering an informed opinion on its viability.

One thing I would suggest is simply looking for best practices and copy/pasting. For example: Cambridge's Cycling Safety Ordinance or Newton's Transit Oriented Re-zoning
Good start! One of the strongest infrastructure improvements we can make is changing the law. We all know that NIMBYs use everything above to kill any TOD project. The existing rules favor their status quo obstructionism so we need to change those rules.
BTW, FAR is first on my list to die! FAR regulations pre-date air-conditioning, elevators, and most indoor plumbing! And the history of setback rules starts out racist and gets perfected post war. One of the most outlandish semi-verifiable claims was that we need to be able to clear city blocks after nuclear attacks! Needz 15' setbacks because commies!

Which one of us is a lawyer? So how do we kill the bad laws in a concerted, methodical way at the state level? You have better than a handful of people here ready to write stuff. How do we get existing codes changed?

The act of making change happen is as viable as you make it. I've seen cool things happen in government before. Most times, I honestly think we forget to ask for what we want.
 

Tallguy

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RBC is in the public eye. And OLX/GLX (Needham) is such low-lying fruit with demonstrated community support.
And of course, Regional Rail implementation
 

BeyondRevenue

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This sounds to me like just another barrier to dense TOD and smart growth.

Right, we should be making it easier to build densely and sustainably, not harder. Most current regulation and legislation in this area ends up making it more difficult to make progress.
Yeah... I'm workshopping it here. :) The key is if you want to stop something, tax it.
It could be worded to focus on killing mall-ish development and SFDs. Maybe if the swap hit harder on surface parking lots than actual building space it would work better. Penalize non-built footprint, not total square footage.
As conceived, this 'acre swap' would primarily be a tool to limit sprawlish development. Smaller footprints with better density would make more sense. It would take the APR above - which seems to just focus on farms - to make a lot more things eligible for cash the Commonwealth doesn't have to take from regular people. For instance, I see a possibility where you could sell your a rural house to this new Commonwealth Land Reserve Trust... like if you're the only house on a rarely driven rural road. The CLRT could buy your house and close the road. The state doesn't have to maintain the road (houses are cheaper than roads), the owner doesn't have to sell to a sprawl maker and nature reclaims the space.
 

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