This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
University at Buffalo, State University of New York
MAY 1, 2011 FINAL REPORT
Awakening Public Participation to Improve Public Transit: Civic Engagement in Shaping Revenue Generation Strategies
University at Buffalo, State University of New York MAY 01, 2011
Niraj Verma, PhD and Daniel B. Hess, PhD Department of Urban and Regional Planning University at Buffalo, State University of New York 3435 Main Street, 116 Hayes Hall Buffalo, New York 14214-3087 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Research Foundation of SUNY on behalf of SUNY ay Buffalo, University at Buffalo, 402 Crofts Hall, Buffalo NY 14260-7003
FINAL REPORT Report Number: FTA-NY-26-1008-2009.1
Federal Transit Administration Office of Planning and Environment U.S. Department of Transportation 1200 New Jersey Ave, SE Washington, D.C. 20590 Available Online [http://www.fta.dot.gov/research]
REPORT DOCUMENTATION PAGE
OMB No. 0704-0188
Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 1 hour per response, including the time for reviewing instructions, searching data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. Send comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden to Washington Headquarters Service, Directorate for Information Operations and Reports, 1215 Jefferson Davis Highway, Suite 1204, Arlington, VA 22202-4302, and to the Office of Management and Budget, Paperwork Reduction Project (0704-0188) Washington, DC 20503.
PLEASE DO NOT RETURN YOUR FORM TO THE ABOVE ADDRESS. 1. REPORT DATE (DD-MM-YYYY) 2. REPORT TYPE
3. DATES COVERED (From - To)
May 1, 2011
4. TITLE AND SUBTITLE
March 2008 to May 2011
5a. CONTRACT NUMBER 5b. REPORT NUMBER
Awakening Public Participation to Improve Public Transit: Civic Engagement in Shaping Revenue Generation Strategies
5c. PROGRAM ELEMENT NUMBER
5d. PROJECT NUMBER
Niraj Verma, PhD Daniel B. Hess, PhD
5e. TASK NUMBER 5f. WORK UNIT NUMBER
7. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION NAME(S) AND ADDRESS(ES)
Department of Urban and Regional Planning University at Buffalo, State University of New York 3435 Main Street, 116 Hayes Hall Buffalo, New York 14214-3087
9. SPONSORING/MONITORING AGENCY NAME(S) AND ADDRESS(ES)
PERFORMING ORGANIZATION REPORT NUMBER
10. SPONSOR/MONITOR'S ACRONYM(S) 11. SPONSORING/MONITORING AGENCY REPORT NUMBER
Federal Transit Administration – Kimberly Goins U.S. Department of Transportation 1200 New Jersey Ave, SE, TPE-10 Washington, D.C. 20590 [Website URL:http://www.fta.dot.gov/research]
12. DISTRIBUTION AVAILABILITY STATEMENT
Available from National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161. NTIS Sales Desk 1-800-553-6847 or (703) 605-6000; fax (703) 605-6900; TDD (703)487-4639, email [email@example.com]
13. SUPPLEMENTARY NOTES
14. ABSTRACT (Maximum 200 words.)
This study designs and tests the viability of a learning model of public participation that engages residential and business developers, realtors, and residents in cooperative discourse with public officials, transportation planners, office tenants, and representatives of nonprofit organizations representing minorities, the indigent, and the disabled. The goal is to co-determine revenue generation strategies and to promote transit use by negotiation between stakeholders. Using off-street parking in Buffalo as the “currency” of transit-oriented development, the study explores the feasibility of replacing parking with public transit passes. The results suggest: (1) customer expectation and demand—rather than code compliance—drive developers’ decisions about providing off-street parking; (2) minimum parking requirements can be unbundled from purchase or rental prices but parking remains a key factor in decision making about downtown living; (3) there are significant barriers to residential development including red tape for developers, site acquisition, market potential and little public engagement, and (4) lack of a sense of neighborhood is a deterrent to residential
14. ABSTRACT (Maximum 200 words.)
This study designs and tests the viability of a learning model of public participation that engages residential and business developers, realtors, and residents in cooperative discourse with public officials, transportation planners, office tenants, and representatives of nonprofit organizations representing minorities, the indigent, and the disabled. The goal is to co-determine revenue generation strategies and to promote transit use by negotiation between stakeholders. Using off-street parking in Buffalo as the “currency” of transit-oriented development, the study explores the feasibility of replacing parking with public transit passes. The results suggest: (1) customer expectation and demand—rather than code compliance—drive developers’ decisions about providing off-street parking; (2) minimum parking requirements can be unbundled from purchase or rental prices but parking remains a key factor in decision making about downtown living; (3) there are significant barriers to residential development including red tape for developers, site acquisition, market potential and little public engagement, and (4) lack of a sense of neighborhood is a deterrent to residential choice. In this sense, minimum parking requirements are viewed as an unnecessary regulation that could be eliminated and the result would be little change in development practices until markets and consumer demand changes.
15. SUBJECT TERMS
public transit, development, parking, minimum parking requirements, public participation, Rust Belt, Buffalo
16. SECURITY CLASSIFICATION OF:
. REPORT Unclassified. b. ABSTRACT Unclassified. c. THIS PAGE Unclassified. 17. LIMITATION OF 18. NUMBER ABSTRACT OF PAGES 19a. NAME OF RESPONSIBLE PERSON 19b. TELEPONE NUMBER (Include area code)
This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The United States Government assumes no liability for its contents or use thereof. The United States Government does not endorse products of manufacturers. Trade manufacturers’ names appear herein solely because they are considered essential to the objective of this report.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Executive Summary .............................................................................................................2 Acknowledgements..............................................................................................................4 Chapter 1: Introduction and Background.............................................................................5 Chapter 2: Public Participation Methods .............................................................................7 Chapter 3: Findings and Conclusions ................................................................................15 References..........................................................................................................................19 Appendix 1: Literature Review..........................................................................................22 Appendix 2: Interviews......................................................................................................29 Appendix 3: Focus Groups ................................................................................................45 Appendix 4: Pilot Community Workshop .........................................................................50 Appendix 5: Community Workshop..................................................................................59
This project proposes and then tests the viability of a learning model of participation to encourage developers and residents, as well as local government, citizen groups and other stakeholders to co-determine the balance between new development and enhanced public transit provision and utilization in the City of Buffalo. To allow flexibility in participation, the project relies on key issues affecting public transit, such as transitoriented development (TOD) and reduction in number of parking spaces and on-street parking, as the “currency” of discussion. The perspectives of a range of stakeholders, including residential and business developers, public officials, transportation planners, commercial and residential realtors, office tenants, residents, and nonprofit organizations, are considered. A participatory process is designed to better understand areas of convergence and divergence among the preferences and practices of these stakeholders. The requirement to provide off-street parking for new and rehabilitated residential development is seen as a critical issue shaping urban development. Substitutes for offstreet parking, such as public transit passes, or the complete removal of off-street parking are also considered. In cities with declining population like Buffalo, it can be difficult to simultaneously encourage downtown residential development and protect and enhance public transit use. However, considerable gains can be made by reviewing and aligning policies, practices, and competing interests of various stakeholders. To this end, this study investigates how various actors are vested in particular practices by using facilitation and community-building techniques, public meetings, and participatory workshops for key stakeholders. The goal is to build consensus around potential points of agreement. In addition to traditional in-depth interviews and focus groups, a method of rapid and interactive participation is used in workshop settings where participants signaled their responses using hand-held “clickers”. The technology assisted in efficiently managing participation without compromising substantive feedback. The results suggest the following: (1) since much of downtown housing is scattered, unconnected, and lacking basic service amenities, a lack of a sense of neighborhood is a deterrent to residential choice; (2) customer expectation and demand—rather than code compliance—are the driving forces in developers’ decisions regarding off-street parking; (3) although minimum parking requirements might be relaxed (or “unbundled” from purchase or rental prices) to stimulate other parking arrangements, parking remains a key factor in decision making about downtown living; (4) despite increasing demand for affordable downtown residences and an “urban lifestyle,” there are still significant barriers to residential development including red tape for developers, site acquisition, market potential and little public engagement. In this sense, minimum parking requirements are viewed as an unnecessary regulation that could be eliminated and the result would be little change in development practices until markets and consumer demand changes.
Overall, TOD in Buffalo remains an opportunity with tremendous potential given the city’s built form and density, street network, existing Metro Bus and Metro Rail service, and availability of developable parcels and buildings for redevelopment. However, until public demand for easy access to transit increases, TOD will likely be a low priority for developers. Public involvement and public education are seen as powerful strategies for influencing behavioral change aimed to increase focus on multi-modal transportation planning and sustainable development. As the public becomes more informed about the cost and impact of automobiles and parking, demand for public transit and TOD may increase. Additionally, an increase in multi-modal transportation options and transitsupportive development can positively affect people’s physical activity levels and community conditions in downtown neighborhoods. The findings suggest that while regulatory approaches, where concessions are extracted from developers in return for permission to build, might work in high-growth Sun Belt environments, they have little applicability in Buffalo. In Buffalo and other Rust Belt places, cities rely on development to attract new businesses and residents and they must simultaneously promote public transit use. In such settings an educational/participatory approach to development and parking provision is of significantly greater relevance. In the Rust Belt context, public participation opens the possibility of the planning community tapping into and “spending” social capital in the design and implementation of projects. Social capital can serve as a partial replacement for scarce or absent public funds in facilitating development and growth in Buffalo.
This project was funded by the Federal Transit Administration Public Participation Pilot Program and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. The authors acknowledge contributions to the research from Eve Berry, Esther Dsouza, Ellary Mori, Richard Mrugala, Paul Ray, Danielle Rovillo, and Jessica Kozlowski Russell. Others who provided assistance include Al Price, Donna Rogalski, and Bob Shibley. Most of all, the authors thank the people who participated in the research through interviews and focus groups. Without their thoughtful insights, this research would not have been possible.
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
For many American cities with extensive public transportation networks and relatively vibrant economies (such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and Boston), funding for public transportation occurs through a complex web of public and private subsidies and user fees. In these contexts, public participation comes about through mandated public hearings, environmental impact reports, voting on special assessments, and other similar measures. Competition between developers allows local government officials in these cities to negotiate with developers from a position of strength and to thus ensure that new development does not negatively impact urban design form, does not reduce livability, and does not lessen the supply of public transit service (or the potential supply of public transit service). Local governments use design review, development impact fees, transferable development rights and other regulatory devices to raise revenue and awareness in promoting desirable development outcomes, such as transit-oriented development (TOD). In cities faced with declining population, however, resources are strained, development is scarce, and regulatory approaches are difficult. Local governments in these cities try to entice new development but have limited opportunity to mitigate the effects of new development through impact fees or other revenue generation. Citizen groups in declining cities face a similar paradox. Due to limited demand for new development, limited opportunities exist for cities to use required development fees to meliorate the effects on public transit or to reduce automobile dependency of new development. Yet, citizen groups want to stem population decline from their cities while simultaneously striving to improve livability. This leaves government officials, particularly public transportation agencies, and citizen groups in declining cities caught in a conundrum, and their promises of future development become hopeful gestures rather than projections based on sound analysis and planning. This project tests the viability of a learning model of participation to address this paradox. In contrast to regulatory models in faster growing cities, the learning model encourages developers and residents, as well as local government and citizen groups and other stakeholders to co-determine the balance between new development and better transit provision and utilization through an in-depth participatory process. To allow flexibility in participation while focusing the process towards measurable outcomes, the project relies on key issues affecting public transit, such as TOD and reduction in number of parking spaces and on-street parking, as the “currency” of discussion. While the idea of TOD supports public transit use, the conversation around parking is supported by scholarly research in transportation planning (Shoup 1997), where regulating parking is viewed as an important instrument in defining urban structure, public transit promotion, and improving livability in urban areas. Although the overall scheme has broad applicability to Rust Belt cities that experience persistent decline, the study focuses on the City of Buffalo, New York. An old
manufacturing city at the eastern end of Lake Erie, Buffalo began to decline during the latter half of the twentieth century as the country’s manufacturing sector regressed. With a population peaking at over 500,000 during the 1950s, Buffalo has since lost nearly half of its residents, with a 2009 population of 273,300 persons (U.S. Census Bureau 2011). Accompanying this decline in population has been a steady decline of per capita wealth for those remaining in the city. The U.S. Census Bureau lists Buffalo as the fourth poorest city in the nation in 2007 among cities with over 250,000 people, after Detroit, Cleveland and Miami. The data paint a grim and challenging picture when considering revenue streams for public services. However, when Buffalo is viewed within its region and not simply a place circumscribed within city boundaries, we see a different story. On this regional basis, Buffalo no longer makes the bottom of lists, supporting the thesis that its financial woes are not entirely a matter of people picking up and moving to other cities. Instead, a large part of this demographic shift has been the result of the post-World War II suburbanization of America, or the flight of the middle class from urban areas facilitated by the proliferation of the automobile, to new, lower density settings along the urban periphery. Indeed, this story has been oft repeated in other Rust Belt cities, stretching from Duluth (Minnesota) and Minnesota’s iron mines through Gary (Indiana), Detroit (Michigan), Cleveland (Ohio), and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), all early 20th century centers of heavy manufacturing (Cooke 1995). The demographic changes accompanying the economic downturn of cities in the Rust Belt thwart conventional attempts to reduce the dependency of the public transportation industry on government subsidy. For instance, if new downtown residential development adds large amounts of off-street parking, the city would have to choose against this new development and the need to decrease density of automobiles and accompanying congestion (Shoup, 1997). Using a learning model of participation, this project aims to engage key stakeholders in conversation to promote learning about the benefits of highdensity development, reduction in off-street parking, TOD, and the promotion of public transit to mitigate the negative effects of auto-oriented development. Following the introduction, this report describes the learning model of participation and its constituent parts (Chapter 2) and then moves on to findings and conclusions (Chapter 3). This simple organization has been used to increase readability. Details of each method (interview, focus group, and workshop) are included in the appendix, which also contains actual questionnaires used and the results obtained.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION METHODS
A key basis of this study is that any new scheme for raising revenue—whether direct or indirect—for improving and increasing public transit service is likely to be complex, controversial and polarizing. Consequently, adequate public education and participation process is needed to engage various stakeholders in understanding new plans or policies for public transit, including their magnitude and implementation. In particular, this study focuses on the perspectives of residential and business developers with other actors in downtown development, including public officials, transportation planners, commercial and residential realtors, office tenants, residents, and leaders of nonprofit organizations representing minorities, the indigent, and the disabled. Using the deliberated views of these stakeholders, the project tests the viability of a learning model of public participation and its potential to generate key information on the trade-offs between new development and the mitigation of its negative effects on public transit provision and use. Using facilitation and community-building techniques, public meetings and participatory workshops are conducted for key stakeholders, designed to build consensus around potential points of agreement. Throughout the project, public participation is stimulated by use of a variety of tools, including interviews, focus groups, and workshops. The core method consists of collecting primary data that helps to understand how various actors are vested in particular practices. The approach uses in-depth personal interviews to understand individual perspectives on public transit and development interactions. In addition, focus groups with developers, city residents, representatives of nonprofit organizations, and other stakeholders supplement the findings from scholarly literature. Learning Model of Public Participation The learning model of participation used for this study is shown schematically in the accompanying figure and is also described below. The approach consists of matching a variety of instruments with a diverse set of stakeholders. The selection of participants is conducted using social networks in Buffalo, the study site. After initial participants are identified, snowball sampling is used to identify additional participants for interviews and focus groups. The researchers are guided by a set of performance measures developed at the project inception. In total, 25 stakeholder interviews were conducted (which includes 4 pilot interviews and 21 additional interviews), two focus groups were conducted with 23 participants, and two community workshop were held with 79 participants. Throughout the course of the project, a total of 127 stakeholders representing a broad cross-section participated in the study, exceeding the researcher’s target number of participants.
A Learning Model of Public Participation
The categories of stakeholders considered include interviewees (developers, planners/government officials, realtors, transportation and urban planning officials), focus group participants (downtown residents, potential residents, downtown advocates, developers, bankers, non-profit officials), workshop participants (graduate students, citizens and residents, all of the above groups). The inclusion of a public participation specialist on the research team, who was familiar with social networks in Buffalo, facilitated the outreach process. Most stakeholder groups proved to be approachable and willing to contribute to the study. Of all the groups, however, developers were the most difficult for the research team to reach. Some interviewees suggested that developers were reluctant to agree to be interviewed because they are protective of their “product”. (a) Literature review and question framing The literature review presented in Appendix 1 summarizes related research from other Rust Belt cities, including research related to public participation in TOD and the relationship between parking and public transit. The review synthesizes knowledge about the diversity of techniques for generate revenue for urban redevelopment and public transportation. The review also provides the initial basis for formulation of questions to be posed during one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and workshops. (b) Pre-test questions and categories of participants To test the effectiveness of the questions for collecting data for the study, the research team conducted several test interviews with University at Buffalo faculty who possess indepth familiarity with the research topic. During the testing process, questions were challenged and/or corroborated as well as reformulated and, in some cases, simplified; in other cases, new questions and avenues of inquiry were added. The research team organized questions into subcategories so that interview participants could understand the logical progression of ideas in interviews and focus groups. (c) Interviews Twenty-five face-to-face interviews were conducted with a mix developers, community representatives, planners and government officials, and realtors. A sampling strategy (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) was used to select participants with direct and indirect association with downtown residential development. Interviewees often suggested other key participants in development, planning or community organizations to include in the interview, focus group or workshop phases of the project. The professional affiliations of interviewees are presented in the following table. The methodology for the interviews, the most time-intensive phase of the research, is presented in Appendix 2, along with the interview questions and a detailed synthesis of interview responses Interview duration ranged from approximately 45 minutes to 1½ hours.i
Affiliations of Interviewees Category Developers Community Representatives Planners and Government Officials Realtors Number of Interviewees 5 9 5 2
The developer interviewees included key staff from small, medium, and large developers, and all of the development organizations focus primarily on residential development except for one, which focuses on residential development and commercial development. The community leaders represent a diverse array of organizations, including community and neighborhood development, downtown business and downtown interests, banking organizations, and non-profit entities that promote special interests associated with city development. The interviews with government representatives include urban planning and transportation planning staff who work for they city government or other public entities. The two realtors’ interviews are associated with the two top realty firms in the region that focus on urban residential properties. Key findings from the interviews include the following. • Civic leaders should seek to better educate people in the region (not only in the city) regarding public transit. Readable articles in the media could promote multi-modal transportation planning and sustainable development. Civic leaders should seek to establish broad public debates about the interaction between transportation, development, quality of life, and a sustainable environment. The majority of new downtown housing units are rental. There is demand for units that can be purchased. Pent-up demand for downtown residences and especially for an “urban lifestyle” centered on condominiums or loft-style apartments There are significant barriers to residential development. Developers of residential projects in Buffalo are motivated and creative and face challenges related to the region’s population and economic decline. Providing required off-street parking is usually not a struggle for developers. Residential development is key to creating/re-creating downtown. Developments are scattered or located within small neighborhood pockets. These pockets are not well connected to activity centers, potential activity centers, or key transportation routes. Until neighborhood services are available, developers see little demand for housing units with less than the minimum required parking.
For those who can afford to own an automobile, an automobile-free lifestyle is not viewed as realistic in Buffalo. Off-street parking is a “given” in the development process and developers have difficulty thinking about “unbundling” parking from other development costs. Given the city’s density and traditional built form, there is great potential for TOD in Buffalo. The local public transit agency, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), lacks power to influence the development process. Civic leadership should pursue TOD more aggressively. Citizens know little about the true costs of development and the challenges of the development approval process.
(d) Focus Groups Two focus groups with downtown neighborhood development advocates and downtown residents (current and potential) were an important element in this research project.ii The focus groups differed from one-on-one interviews because the dialogue among the many participants in focus groups let to a richer, more textured conversation. Focus groups also yielded an immediate sense of topics on which there is consensus about a particular issue (such as the poor quality of the public school system as an impediment for young couples living downtown) as well as where a range of views exists (such as community readiness for TOD). Focus group participants were recruited with the help of the public participation specialist, the local LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), and staff from two local foundations. The first focus group included participants involved with downtown residential and commercial development, including developers, architects, financiers, nonprofit economic development advocates and investment capital firms. By the end of focus group 1 (with professionals) the research team understood the key themes related to the research questions from the perspective of experts. The second focus group was targeted at young professionals (ages 25 to 45 years) who either live downtown or would consider living downtown. In focus group 2, the team brought the expert knowledge (developed in focus group 1) to bear on the perspective of customers/consumers (downtown residents and potential residents). This strategy brought realistic perspectives to our research, as the research team stretched beyond professionals talking about their “pet” projects. In all, 23 people (16 males and 7 females) attended the focus groups. Each focus group lasted between 60 and 90 minutes. The focus group questions and summaries of participant responses are presented in Appendix 3.iii Key findings of the Focus Group 1 include the following: Encouraging public engagement to promote public transit is considered feasible, especially among young adults with an interest in “green” cities and in nutrition and exercise.
It is difficult to envision residential developments in Buffalo with less than minimum required parking or no off-street parking. Most Buffalonians depend on cars for transport, and the demand for downtown apartments among people without cars is likely to be small. Developers would likely experience difficulty establishing financing for projects with a supply of off-street parking that is considered less than the norm. There have been great strides recent years in establishing a residential component to downtown land uses, however the housing supply is limited in quantity and in affordability. Greater diversity in housing units offered will bring more people downtown, which will in turn trigger the establishment of important services (grocery stores, shops, etc.) viewed as critical to neighborhood development. While there is great potential for TOD in Buffalo, TOD is generally not considered in development projects.
Key findings of Focus Groups 2 include the following. Broader public input is needed for sound decision-making in Buffalo. It is difficult to live without a car in Buffalo—even downtown—given access to shops and neighborhood services. There is moderate interest in housing units without dedicated off-street parking, particularly if it reduces the rental or purchase price. Four categories of people are likely to prefer living downtown: young professionals without children, young people with economic means, people interested in making a lifestyle change, and “empty nesters” who prefer to shift from suburban to urban living. Most people are likely unaware of how expensive it is for developers to provide offstreet parking and how minimum parking requirements raise development costs and ultimately sales prices. Young couples without children (and not couples with children) live downtown largely because of poor quality public school system in the city.
(e) Workshop Presentations Community workshops were staged to achieve two main objectives (1) to present research findings, and to gather perspectives and viewpoints about transportation, parking, and downtown development in Buffalo; and (2) to test the use of clickers as a new method of public participation. The workshop included 25 questions (including 4 warm-up questions, 12 project-specific questions, 7 general transportation questions, and 2 regarding the usefulness of clickers). In addition, the two workshops allowed for broad dissemination of the project and findings. At the conclusion of all interviews and focus groups, the team then assembled the findings from both sets of activities into a workshop presentation; the team synthesized findings and created graphic representations (maps etc.) for questions to engage the public. A pilot workshop was conducted, which yielded considerable learning that reshaped the final public workshop. Questions incorporated findings from the study;
new, more speculative questions were also added to the workshop to probe for additional avenues for future research. During the community workshops, participants used interactive “clickers” (remote devices connected to software from Turning Point©) for providing feedback and input about study findings and additional, broader research questions on transportation development. Participants provide real-time electronic input to multiple-choice questions by pressing a button on a hand-held clicker to indicate their choice. Polling closes when most of the participants ‘click in’ their response. One of the barriers often cited about public forums is the tendency for a few individuals to dominate the proceedings at the expense of broad participation. The positive response (77 percent approval) to the use of the clickers during the community workshops is an indication that the use of such a tool can encourage participation from more attendees. In particular, the use of clickers during the workshop presentation and feedback increased the level of participation compared to a typical large group format. Specifically, the clickers ensure that participation is: (1) rapid; (2) anonymous; and (3) includes more people in providing feedback. Since the responses to questions were compiled in aggregate and response frequencies were displayed immediately, the stakeholder audience received instantaneous results. Participants were informed that the responses would be anonymous, which reduced any reluctance to offer an opinion. Although a traditional community forum or “Town Hall meeting” format allows for limited questions and answers, and only a handful of people participate actively. With the “clicker” approach, everyone participated, and many times throughout the workshop. Interest and energy levels among participants remained high throughout both the test workshop and the concluding workshop. Appendix 4 and Appendix 5 contain details about the workshops, including methodology, workshop questions, and a synthesis of responses. Key findings from the Pilot Workshop (44 graduate students from the University at Buffalo in attendance) include the following. Responses suggested a belief in strong market for housing without off-street parking in downtown Buffalo for which college students are the most likely customers. Participants had little awareness of the true cost of off-street parking. TOD has a high likelihood of success in Buffalo. Currently, the amount of off-street parking downtown is excessive. A majority of attendees would be interested in purchasing/renting downtown housing for a lower price if the unit did not include off-street parking. Seventy-eight percent of respondents felt that the use of clickers can encourage greater participation in public meetings.
Key findings from the Community Workshop (35 professionals and community members in attendance) include the following.
A majority of participants suggest there is not a market for housing without off-street parking in downtown Buffalo. TOD has a high likelihood of success in Buffalo. A majority of attendees would be interested in purchasing/renting downtown housing for a lower price if the unit did not include off-street parking. Eighty-one percent of respondents felt that the use of clickers can encourage greater participation in public meetings.
Limitations of Participation Methods The outreach methods have potential sources of error. First, the participants may not be representative of the whole population. Or they may be biased in a particular way, especially in the case of in-depth interviews where the total number of interviewees is limited. Some effects of these idiosyncrasies have been countered by selecting a diverse group of respondents, by representing various walks of life and various occupations, and by the use of multiple participation strategies of focus groups, interviews, and workshops. Second, while hand-held clickers are gaining popularity in classrooms and workshops, their use in research is much less prevalent. This raises the possibility that a rapid response technique may push some participants towards early voting in the interest of timely completion. If this is systematic it could cause a bias in response. Third, we had hoped to encourage more developers to participate in the study but despite consistent effort on the part of our research team we were unable to do so. There are some speculative but systematic reasons for this. Developers are self-employed and they may be unwilling to “donate” their time. They are also more reserved about discussing projects given the competitive nature of their work. Fourth, although many of our findings seem to logically apply to other Rust Belt cities it is not known if the lessons of the study are readily transferrable to other contexts. Similar projects will be needed in other Rust Belt cities to test the applicability of our conclusions in those contexts.
FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
This research project explores cooperative arrangements for addressing the need for development in Buffalo while at the same time mitigating the negative impact of such development on public transit. To this end, the project gathers information, including sentiments about the role of parking and TOD through a public participation process aimed at stimulating learning between stakeholders. Stakeholders include a diverse group that residents, developers, government officials, and others. This chapter summarizes key findings from the study. Enhancing Public Involvement Public awareness about the true cost of development, the development approval process and the actual status of downtown parking availability is quite low. Public involvement and public education are seen as powerful strategies for influencing behavior change, increased focus on multi-modal transportation planning and sustainable development. As the public becomes more informed about the cost and impact of automobiles and parking, demand for public transit and TOD could increase. An increase in multi-modal transportation options and transit-supportive development styles could change people’s physical activity levels and community conditions in downtown neighborhoods. Barriers to Coordinated Planning Despite an increasing demand for affordable downtown residences and an “urban lifestyle,” there are still significant barriers to residential development, including financing, red tape for developers, site acquisition, market potential and little public engagement. Downtown residential development projects are scattered or located within small pockets and are not well connected to activity centers, potential activity centers and key transportation routes. The NFTA should view parking provision as a complement to demand for public transit and it should become more active in engaging board public debate about the interaction between transportation, development, quality of life and a sustainable environment. The Market for Downtown Housing Participants in interviews and focus groups concurred that the primary groups interested in living downtown are empty nesters, young adults, young couples, and professionals. Although a number of other submarkets were noted, downtown urban living is seen as a lifestyle choice, which makes potential submarkets difficult to define by demographics or socio-economics. Since much of downtown housing is scattered, unconnected and lacking basic service amenities, a lack of a sense of neighborhood is a deterrent to residential choice, especially for transplants to Buffalo from other cities. The market potential for residents seeking
“hard loft” accommodations has been largely ignored by developers, who have instead focused on high-end residential units. Access to culture and entertainment was also mentioned as a motivator for downtown living. Development and Parking: Meeting Minimum Parking Requirements Customer expectation and demand—rather than code compliance—are the driving forces in developers’ decisions about providing a parking supply. Universally, interviewees and focus group attendees suggested that life in Buffalo without a car is impractical despite the existence of adequate public transit options—especially for downtown residents. The minimum parking requirement of one off-street parking space per unit within 500 feet of a residence does not appear to be a constraint for developers. Parking provision is guided more by consumer markets than by minimum parking requirements. Buffalo’s winter weather and the resulting challenges to mobility make proximity to parking a perceived necessity. A lack of effective and reliable snow clearance makes walking more difficult for those choosing to drive less or not at all. Site Development and Parking Considerations While surface parking (versus parking structures or underground parking) is the preferred choice of developers, it interrupts the flow of buildings and can reduce opportunities for or the convenience of walking, cycling, and riding public transit. The idea of “unbundling” parking from residential units as an option was viewed favorably. If minimum parking requirements were reduced by revising the municipal code, developers could build a less expensive product appealing to younger residents, especially in areas with easy access to public transit. Although interviewees and focus group attendees felt that minimum parking requirements could be relaxed to stimulate other options, most stated that parking is a key factor in decision making about downtown living. In this sense, minimum parking requirements are viewed as an unnecessary regulation that could be eliminated and the result would be little change in development practices until markets and consumer demand changes. Establishing Transit-Oriented Development TOD in Buffalo remains an opportunity with tremendous potential given the city’s built form and density, street network, existing Metro Bus and Metro Rail service, developable parcels, and buildings available for redevelopment. However, until public demand for easy access to transit increases, TOD will likely be a low priority for developers. Discussions about TOD generated significant interest during the interviews and focus groups, and a number of ideas were suggested to help stimulate developer interest in and public pressure for TOD. Across the board, participants in the study agreed that a closer working relationship between the NFTA, transportation planning organizations, and the development community should be encouraged.
Conclusions This project proposes and then tests the viability of a learning model of participation to encourage developers and residents, as well as local government, citizen groups and other stakeholders to co-determine the balance between new development and enhanced public transit provision and utilization in the City of Buffalo. To allow flexibility in participation, the project relies on key issues affecting public transit, such as TOD and reduction in the number of parking spaces and on-street parking, as the “currency” of discussion. The learning model stresses democratic participation, and is unique because of the breadth of stakeholders involved. Each group of stakeholders (including government leaders, developers, planners and other city government staff members, transportation professionals, city residents, students, representatives of nonprofit organizations, and others) learns from members within its group of stakeholders, and it also learns from other groups of stakeholders. This is a novel approach to public engagement in urban planning and development decisions. In a Rust Belt setting, the learning model used in this research project makes greater sense than a regulatory approach (which would be successful in high-growth settings such as the Sun Belt). In a learning model, the planning community can tap into and “spend” social capital through public participation in projects. If communities in general have two types of capital—fiscal capital and social capital—then the learning model proposed here shows that in the absence of significant fiscal capital in a Rust Belt city like Buffalo, the community must spend social capital in order for development and growth to occur. Although opinions are mixed about whether or not Buffalo has truly entered a period of economic “renaissance,” people in Buffalo seem to agree on the fact that the community has immense social capital that remains largely untapped as a force for change. Rust Belt cities have unique social networks that serve to foster a sense of community. Residents frequently refer to the fact that rather than the “six degrees of separation” between people that exist, people in Buffalo are separated by only one or two degrees of separation. In Buffalo and perhaps similar Rust Belt cities, public officials should mine social capital and its usefulness for public participation exercises as an important community resource. The research team noted during the interviews and focus groups that participants were generally well informed about Buffalo’s history, economics, and political dynamics. The researchers were impressed by a high degree of public awareness about important urban issues, and knowledge about downtown development promise and potential appears to be widespread. Although participants were less knowledgeable about the practice of property development, including meeting parking requirements and satisfying zoning ordinances, many were familiar with, and supportive of, TOD, bus rapid transit (BRT), and other elements of multi-modal transportation planning. The fact that our research
subjects were highly vested in their community—even lay people were versant on the development climate in Buffalo—made the public participation activities richer. The findings suggest that while regulatory approaches, where concessions are extracted from developers in return for permission to build, might work in high-growth Sun Belt environments, they have little applicability in Buffalo. In Buffalo and other Rust Belt places, cities rely on development to attract new businesses and residents and they must simultaneously promote public transit use. In such settings a democratic educational/participatory approach to development and parking provision is of significantly greater relevance. In the Rust Belt context, public participation opens the possibility of the planning community tapping into and “spending” social capital in the design and implementation of projects. Social capital can serve as a partial replacement for scarce or absent public funds in facilitating development and growth in Buffalo. Particularly among young professionals, interest in “green” development and sustainability initiatives is growing. However, the NFTA has not taken advantage of the potential ability of this interest to mobilize broad community engagement in planning for public transit. The NFTA could become more proactive in public engagement activities beyond standard public meetings by focusing targeted outreach activities around distinct interests. The recent example of the effectiveness of grassroots organizing through the Internet during the 2008 presidential campaign demonstrates an emerging way to tap and engage social capital. Regional summits on cross-cutting issues have also proven to be effective in building support for and understanding of complex systemic concerns and strategies for addressing them. In a community that is experiencing decline such as Buffalo, “community pathologies” are easier to detect than they might be in a growth region. “Pathology” is a deviation from a healthy or normal condition. “Community pathologies” can be defined accordingly as unhealthy conditions related to the growth and development of a city and the community’s involvement in and connection to that growth and development. For Buffalo—a city with distinct community pride, but also with a “chip on the shoulder” from decades in a position as an “underdog” city— pathologies get noticed readily by the community, especially since the community is highly self-aware of its own successes and failures. Consequently, public participation, when engaged effectively, can provide a powerful force for addressing community pathologies. Small successes are met with enthusiasm; consequently, Buffalo, and perhaps other Rust Belt cities, has a significant untapped resource.
Albion J., Alston, S. et al. (2006). International perspectives on road pricing. Conference Proceedings 34. Transportation Research Board. Washington DC. Bernick, M. (1996). Transit villages: Tools for revitalizing inner cities. Access, 9, 1317. Brookings Institution, The. (2008). Retooling for growth in America’s older industrial areas. Washington, DC [Online]. Retrieved from www.brookings.edu/events/2008/0408_industrial_areas.aspx. Cervero, Robert. (2007). Transit-oriented development’s ridership bonus: a product of self-selection and public policies. Environment and Planning A, 39, 20682085. City of Buffalo. (1993). “Chapter 511, Zoning.” Charter and Ordinances of the City of Buffalo. Buffalo, New York: City of Buffalo. Committee for the Study of Long-Term Viability of Fuel Taxes for Transportation Finance. (2006). The Fuel Tax: And Alternatives for Transportation Funding. Transportation Research Board. Washington DC. Cooke, Philip, ed. (1995) The Rise of the Rust Belt. London: UCL Press. DMJM+Harris. (2008). South Hills Transit Revitalization Investment District Planning Study. Prepared for Allegheny County Economic Development. Retrieved from http://www.mtlebanon.org/DocumentView.aspx?DID=2603 Ewing, Reid. (2005). Can the Physical Environment determine Physical Activity Levels? Exercise and Sports Science Reviews, 33 (2), 69-75. Federal Highway Administration. (1994) Innovations for public involvement in transportation planning. Retrieved from http://ntl.bts.gov/DOCS/trans.html. Frank, Lawrence D, and Peter Engelke. (2001). The Built Environment and Human Activity Patterns: Exploring the Impacts of Urban Form on Public Health. Journal of Planning Literature, 16 (2), 202-218. Franklin, J. P. (2007). Decomposing the Distributional Effects of Roadway Tolls. Paper submitted to TRB’s 86th Annual Meeting, Washington DC. Franklin, J.P. (2005). Nonparametric Distributional Analysis of a Transportation Policy: Stockholm’s Congestion Pricing Trial. Paper presented at TRB’s 84th Annual Meeting, Washington DC.
Franklin, J.P. (2006). The Equity Effects of Roadway Tolls: An application of Hicksian Welfare Measures with Income Effects. Paper presented at 11th International Conference on Travel Behavior Research, Kyoto, Japan. General Assembly of Pennsylvania. (2004). House Bill No. 994 Session of 2003: Amendments to Senate Amendments. House of Representatives, November 18, 2004. Glaser, B. G., and Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine. Joint Venture. (1998). Silicon Valley 2010: A Regional Framework for Growing Together. Retrieved from www.jointventure.org/publicatons/publicatons.html Lawley, Erin and Kim Lyons. (2008). Transit development plans moving forward. Pittsburgh Business Times. Retrieved from http://buffalo.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/stories/2008/02/11/story3.html?pa ge=2 [2008, July 16] Leinberger, Christopher. (2005). Turning Around Downtown: Twelve Steps to Revitalization. The Brookings Institution. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2005/03downtownredevelopment_leinberger.as px Loukopoulos, Peter and Ronald W. Scholz. (2004). Sustainable future urban mobility: using ‘area development negotiations’ for scenario assessment and participatory strategic planning. Environment and Planning A, 36, 2203-2226. Mahendra, Anjali. (2007) Vehicle Restrictions in Four Latin American Cities: Is Congestion Pricing Possible? Transport Reviews, 28 (1), 105-133. Mazmanian, Daniel A. and Kraft, Michael E. (2001). Toward Sustainable Communities: Transition and Transformations in Environmental Policy. Cambridge: MIT Press. National Transit Database. (2006 ).Transit Profiles All Reporting Agencies. Retrieved from http://188.8.131.52/ntdprogram/pubs/profiles/2006/2006-AllCompleteSet.pdf Newman, Peter and Jeffery Kenworthy. (1989). Gasoline Consumption and Cities: A Comparison of U.S. Cities with a Global Survey. Journal of the American Planning Association, 55 (1), 24-37. New York State Department of Transportation. (2008). “Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Program (formerly Section 9)” Transit Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.nysdot.gov/divisions/policy-and-strategy/transit-bureau/publictransportation/federal-transit-funding/section-5307.
Obligation Bonds. (2003). In Etzel, B.J., Webster’s New World Finance and Investment Dictionary. Indianapolis, Ind.: Wiley Publishing Inc. Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. (2005). Land Use Planning and Technical Assistance Program. Pennsylvania Governor’s Center For Local Government Services. Pinkston, E. and Zimmerman, D. (2004). Tax Credit Bonds and the Federal Cost of Financing Public Expenditures. Congressional Budget Office. Washington DC. Retrieved from http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/56xx/doc5624/0708_TaxCreditBonds.pdf San Jose, City of. (2003). Economic Development Strategy: Capital of Silicon Valley. [Online]. Retrieved from: www.sjeconomy.com/publications/. Shoup, Donald. (1997) “The High Cost of Free Parking,” Journal of Planning Education and Research, 17: 3-20. Sorenson, Paul A. and Brian D. Taylor. (2005) Review and Synthesis of Road-Use Metering and Charging Systems. Transportation Research Board. Washington DC. Thau, A. (2000). The Bond Book: Everything Investors Need to Know About Treasuries, Municipals, GNMAs, Corporates, Zeros, Bond Funds, Money Market Funds, and More. New York, NY: Mc-Graw Hill. Transit Cooperative Research Program Report 129. (2009) Local and Regional Funding Mechanisms for Public Transportation. Transportation Research Board. Washington DC. Retrieved from http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_rpt_129.pdf U.S. Census Bureau. 2011. 2005-2009 American Community Survey. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau. Zimmerman/Volk Associates, Inc. 2004. Market Analysis and Residential Market Potential for Downtown Buffalo. Buffalo, New York.
APPENDIX 1 LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction This review first discusses strategies for public transportation funding focusing on the nature of public participation involved. The goal is to document the nature of the mechanism, and the participatory mechanisms used in public participation strategies. These can range from individual negotiations with developers to standard procedures for securing trade-offs, propositions on a ballot to brainstorming or visioning in a problemoriented charrette or Citizen Advisory Committee (FHA/FTA 1994). Initially, no distinction is made between fast growing and declining cities. Rather an inventory of participatory mechanisms and strategies that can be used in transportation financing are identified. Following this inventory of concepts, the special context of Buffalo and its dilemmas, e.g., the effects of suburbanization and its impact on transportation, is discussed. Although the focus is Buffalo, trends observed in other Rust Belt cities also inform the discussion. Finally, the review explores the role of public participation in transportation planning for Buffalo by critically integrating some mechanisms of participation (noted from examples) and putting them it in the context of problems facing Buffalo. Public Participation and Public Transportation Funding Mechanisms Public transportation agencies currently use a combination of mechanisms to fund public transportation. Section 5307 (formerly Section 9) of the Department of Transportation’s Urbanized Area Formula Program designates funds to urbanized areas with populations over 200,000 (which also applies to Buffalo) through each area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The funds are allocated on a multi-tiered formula which includes population and population-density, bus revenue vehicle miles, fixed guideway revenue vehicle miles, fixed guideway route miles, and an Incentive Tier based on bus/fixed guideway passenger miles and operating costs (NYS DOT 2008). A recent report by the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP 2009) provides a helpful overview of transportation funding strategies. The report organizes individual funding strategies into five categories. These are: • • • • Traditional tax-based and fee-based transit funding sources (general revenues, sales tax, fuel tax, vehicle fees, advertising revenues) Common business, activity, and related funding sources (payroll taxes, car rental fees, parking fees, room/occupancy taxes, income taxes) Revenue streams from projects (TOD, special assessment districts, impact fees, tax-increment financing districts, right-of-way leasing) New “user” or “market-based” funding sources (tolling, congestion pricing, emissions fees, VMT fees)
Financing mechanisms (general obligation bonds, private activity bonds, tax credit bonds, certificates of participation, state infrastructure bank loans)
Below, we briefly review the prospects for participation focusing on broad categories rather than specific strategies within a category. Traditional tax-based and fee-based transit funding sources The tax-based and fee-based mechanism is the most widely used mechanism for transportation funding across the United States. Transportation funding does not enjoy a single and steady supply of revenue from one tax stream. Instead, a variety of tax sources are compiled to support public transit, largely to avoid competing with other prevalent municipal services funded using revenue from one stream such as police, fire, education and public health (TCRP, 2009). This funding mechanism requires broad involuntary fiscal participation. Through general or specific taxes, people contribute to public transit funding without much discretionary control. In other words, as taxpaying citizens they cannot withhold contributions to this fund base but they have little or no decision-making influence. While they contribute by default, there is little control or choice over how the revenue is apportioned. In addition, in suburbanized areas such a tax- or fee-based funding mechanism might suffer from a lack of public support because it may be borne by tax payers who are not users of public transit. The user fee financing principle provides an example. The highway user fee system was originally created to finance highway infrastructure, but was later diverted to fund public transportation and related programs. These diversions were rationalized as congestion mitigation on highways. However, those who paid these taxes expected improved roadways and were dissatisfied when that did not happen. At the same time, the cost of roadway construction and maintenance and subsidized public transportation continued to increase. This created a condition where the highway user fee system contended with the pressures of managing increasing highway expenses as well as dependent programs like public transit, all within an overall decline in revenue generation. In turn this led to disgruntled citizens who were unwilling to take cooperative actions necessary to increase revenues, thus creating even more loss of consumer confidence in the tax system (Committee, 2006). Common business, activity, and related funding sources Common business and related funding are broader but less widely used funding mechanisms. For example, fees are often levied on a consumer renting a car or purchasing a vehicle. These fees are then directed back to local government (agencies) and are often dedicated to specific projects like public transportation. Parking fees on city owned and managed parking spaces and garages is another strategy that lends its revenues to parking and road maintenance as well as public transportation. Consequently, public transportation is the responsibility of many: “the use of these revenue-raising
mechanisms represents, in part, a recognition that funding public transportation is a broad responsibility and that meeting this responsibility requires contributions of funds from sources whose yield is significant and whose participation is politically acceptable” (TCRP, 2009, p. 19). This type of funding mechanism has the potential to engage the public in a dialogue about transportation priorities. Broadly based fees suggest that everyone stands to gain from public transit availability, and its benefits are linked to the pursuit of broader community goals and objectives. There has recently been a rise in ballot initiatives for public transportation funding; according to the Transportation Research Board (TRB), 47 transportation related ballot measures having been put up for vote in 2006. Over 30 ballot initiatives were directly related to raising funds for transportation, including public transit. Of those, 71 percent were approved. This highlights how important a source of funding this type is and political support issues at the local level (TCRP 2009). Revenue streams from projects In TRB’s 2009 report, revenue streams from projects “include various arrangements that can be used to capture revenue primarily from the income streams of private business and related development activities benefiting from proximity to specific transit facilities and services” (TCRP, 2009, p. 1). Within this mechanism, the participatory opportunity is limited developers and private business. It also presents an opportunity to work directly with the stakeholders who are largely responsible for determining the built form of the city. Through direct negotiations, developers can be a potential source of change by supporting more public transit and less private auto ownership. At the same time, in situations where developers are in a position of strength, this type of funding mechanism can be ineffective at directing funding toward supporting public transit. In the case of transit-oriented zoning, for example, fees generated from can relieve funding pressure from transit authorities by direct fees paid by the developer in lieu of not constructing parking. Additionally, transit-oriented zoning can significantly increase ridership and thus revenues (Shoup 1997). For example, consider a developer who wants to convert a five-story abandoned office building near a light rail facility in the city center into a mixed-use facility with ground-level retail and four floors of condominiums. Because the project is predicted to increase traffic, the developer is required to provide additional off-street parking to accommodate residents’ automobiles. If the developer can exchange this requirement for the construction and maintenance of a station along the light rail, this could be marketed as transit-oriented zoning to potential tenants and walking access to the nearby market could improve livability and thus property values in the neighborhood. Additionally, the costs of asphalt covering, painting demarcations, and plowing and salting in the winter are additional costs associated with parking (Shoup 1997). The developer benefits by saving on operational costs and the public transportation agency benefits by having one less rail station to maintain, while having new destinations to serve. The example can equally apply to TOD for buses.
New “user” or “market-based” funding sources User fees or market-based funding consists of relatively newer funding mechanisms that use strategies such as congestion pricing, emission fees, vehicle miles of travel, and expanded tolling. Although these strategies have not yet translated into large revenues for transit funding (TCRP, 2009) they are an opportunity for increased participation. Congestion pricing involves paying a charge to access a chronically congested area. The dynamic price for usage can be determined by location, time, and variables such as type of vehicle. However, political opposition to such pricing schemes render this technique very difficult to enact (Mahendra 2007). London, England and Stockholm, Sweden have used this pricing technique. New York City attempted such a policy but was defeated during the political process. As a regulatory policy, congestion-pricing receives most of its public participation indirectly by way of the citizens’ right to vote for or against representatives holding one opinion or another regarding the policy. Given that the demand for access to Rust Belt downtowns is low enough that highway congestion of an intolerable magnitude seldom occurs, raising the price of access by establishing a congestion-pricing zone will likely reduce demand for access further. The only imaginable way that such a policy could gain popular public support within a metropolitan region like Buffalo, New York would be if public support swung overwhelmingly in favor of rail and bus investment with the intention to de-emphasize automobiles based on environmental concerns, a virtual impossibility given today’s lifestyles. Road use metering is a concept discussed modestly in planning literature (Committee 2006; Sorenson 2005). Like the concept of congestion pricing, road use metering imposes a user fee that charges auto drivers proportionally based on the type of vehicle they drive, the roadway they use and the time of day. However, whereas both congestion pricing policies described only charge drivers with a one-time entrance fee, road-use metering charges are based on the number of miles driven. Essentially this system turns all or specific roadways into toll-roads with the rate of charge based on the variables. This strategy offers some promise for slow- or negative-growth cities like Buffalo. By isolating the true expense of the roadway system and allocating it proportionate to use, the strategy encourages users to compare the cost of driving with the cost of alternative options, giving rise to a more enlightened decision making. This policy would benefit cities like Buffalo by favoring centralized population distribution, rationally motivating citizens to centralize and condense the spatial distribution of their lives. Financing mechanisms Financing mechanism are often times long-term debt instruments such as bonds, certifications of participation and bank loans. This funding mechanism is often reserved for large capital investments or projects rather than for general improvement funding. There are plentiful opportunities for public participatory processes in these funding mechanisms as the following examples will illustrate.
In the case of general obligation (GO) bonds, municipal securities are secured by the tax receipts of the issuing government body (Webster’s 2003). GO bonds are used to pay for schools, sewer systems or highways and transit systems, and allow the government to tax citizens to meet debt requirements on the bonds (Thau 2000). When a state or local government pledges to use legally available resources such as tax revenues to repay bond holders, bond holders have the right to compel the local government to levy, for example, property taxes to satisfy its obligations. To recover shortfalls from tax payer delinquencies, general obligation pledges must be voter authorized by local residents in favor of raising property taxes by an amount equal to debt service requirements over the life of a bond. This feature provides the political advantage of voter affirmation of the use of the bonds and allows the local government to not need to raise its property tax directly or find room in its budget to pay for debt service. Investors heavily rely on credit ratings assigned by several credit agencies. Tax-credit bonds, another example, are bonds on which the federal government pays "interest" in the form of credits against federal income tax liability. These have been proposed as a mechanism for financing various expenditures at all levels of government, allowing their purchasers to receive a non-refundable credit against their federal income tax liability instead of the cash interest that is typically paid on the borrowing that bonds represent. With tax-credit bonds, the federal government bears virtually all of the cost of borrowing—in the form of forgone revenues—even if the bonds are issued by a nonfederal entity such as a state or local government. Like any bond or financial instrument, the stream of tax credits that substitute for interest over the term of a taxcredit bond is not contractual; in principle, the credits could be revoked before the bond matures, leaving the bondholders little legal recourse to recover losses (Pinkston 2004) Strategies for Public Transportation Funding in Buffalo, NY Perhaps the most logical method for increasing the financial independence of public transportation agencies is to make efforts to increase the number of potential riders within their current service areas. This can be accomplished by increasing the number of individuals within the service area and/or increasing the frequency of public transportation. The goal of each objective is to increase ridership and therefore, fare revenues. There is, however, a relatively diminished demand for public transportation services in favor of the personal automobile. Also, since the late 1940s residential consumer preferences have overwhelmingly favored suburban and rural markets (Shoup, 1997). Some of these challenges are made more tenuous as the price of fuel and oilbased products has risen, from a small to a major component of the middle-class housing budget. The fuel price increases of 2007 and 2008 caused a heightened sense of vulnerability. What types of adaptive measures must occur in order to reduce dependence on automobiles and make public transit more realistic for many urban trips? One option might be to adapt cities to make high-density environments more attractive, improving
access to public transportation services and the origins and destinations it connects. However, even if cities are successful in attracting suburban residents to relocate to citycenters, the travel behavior of these residents will likely increase demand for parking facilities in turn to accommodate increased demand for driving (Shoup, 1997). For this reason it is necessary to ensure that such potential residents are attracted, at least to a moderate degree, by the potential of a lifestyle where the automobile is less critical. In other words, land-use patterns cannot be separated from demand to live in certain neighborhoods, and any hope to increase the revenues for public transportation agencies will depend on the redesign of city neighborhoods serviced by existing public transportation services (Brookings 2008; Leinberger 2005; Bernick, 1996). In the case of Buffalo, bus or rail service is accessible from just about anywhere in the city and thus an increase in population anywhere within the NFTA’s service area is likely to have a positive impact upon bus and rail ridership. With a greater number of potential customers within a transit agency’s service area, it is easier to attract additional customers to the services provided. Therefore, attraction of residents into the service area should be, and often is, a staple of any plan to increase public transportation revenues. Since public transportation agencies generally lack the capital necessary to make the investments in transit-oriented infrastructure, private developers must be included in planning. A recent study offers a particularly interesting perspective regarding how to successfully reduce the need for regulatory travel-demand management (or TDM), which would include our considerations regarding downtown residential development, the parking requirements associated with such development and its impact upon the fiscal health of public transportation services (Loukopoulos and Scholz 2004). The authors argue that the use of democratic process to include stakeholders and their preferences greatly increase the chances of producing successful policy. For large projects, the investment and effort are far too great to risk a policy that is either ineffective (i.e., raises the cost of access to a downtown already in low demand), or unpopular (i.e., raises the price of parking for citizens) because adequate attention was not paid to the diverse realities of the stakeholders involved. Bringing a representative sample of all stakeholders directly into the planning process via a systematic and transparent democratic method may have several positive effects. Allowing stakeholder representatives to react toward policy proposals during the planning stage of policy creation can make for sustainable outcomes (Mazmanian and Kraft 2001). Further benefits of democratic stakeholder involvement include the opportunity for stakeholders to negotiate their individual interests with assurance that their input will significantly impact policy formation. This serves to raise public confidence in the policy making process by counteracting public distrust that has resulted from the usual abstraction of such matters into exclusive governmental systems (Loukopoulos and Scholz, 2004). Stakeholder negotiation also serves to facilitate better understanding of the policy concerns outside of individual relationships. While including public participation in strategic planning is a positive development, doing so must occur in a systematic and transparent manner.
The Potential for Participation in Buffalo In the face of diminishing sources of public funding, public transportation agencies must find innovative ways to finance operational and capital expenses. In the Rust Belt region, such innovation requires the consideration of economic conditions unique from those in other parts of the country. Slow to negative growth prevents these cities from capturing sources of funding for public transportation via the regulatory methods successfully used in high growth regions. Within this de-industrialized region necessary reformation of current public transportation financing arrangements may be more successfully accomplished via a process of public education through public participation between local developers, citizens and other institutions.
The first pilot interview was recorded so that the researchers could study the questions and responses as they revised the question list; all other interviews were not recorded. The researchers began with a list of developers from a regional business directory published by Buffalo Business First, Western New York’s business newspaper (2008 Book of Lists). Snowball sampling was subsequently used to identify additional relevant participants. Community representatives were recruited from organizations with a focus on downtown development, neighborhood revitalization, homeownership or transportation/transit. Public officials were identified by project team members based on knowledge and experience with local government. Realtors specializing on downtown sales and rentals were identified from the largest realty companies. Interview Questions Market 1. In providing downtown housing, what market demand do you think developers hope to meet? 2. To what extent do you believe customers are interested in housing within transitoriented and pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly neighborhoods? 3. How important a factor is parking in a customer’s decision about housing in the downtown area? 4. How appealing to people is the thought living a life where they do not need to own—and park—a car in order to get where they want and need to go? Project/Site Selection 1. Among many possible projects and sites that developers might want to develop, what decision making processes is used when making site selection decisions? What are some examples of sites chosen/not chosen? 2. What role do existing parking/transit facilities play in site selection and design? 3. To your knowledge, do development projects tend to build to meet the minimum parking requirements, or tend to exceed minimum parking requirements? If so, by how much? Parking/Access
1. How challenging is it to meet the parking requirements in Buffalo’s municipal ordinance? 2. What other options are available for providing parking? 3. Do you believe that offering fewer parking spaces for residents—if transit service is improved—is a viable option? 4. As a way to reduce parking demand and increase the amenities offered to tenants, developers or building owners could provide each resident with a pre-paid unlimited ride transit pass purchased at reduced rates from the NFTA. Would you find such a program to be valuable in attracting tenants
Pricing 1. For residential projects developers are required to provide free, off street parking within 500 feet of a housing unit. By how much does this generally raise development costs (over providing no parking)? 2. Are you aware of any consideration of separating (or unbundling) the cost of parking from the rental/purchase cost? 3. Is there a share of development revenue developers would be willing to channel back into public transportation if it made significant improvements to nearby bus and rail service? 4. Is there an interest in availability of fund matching opportunities from various public agencies for public transportation investment on or near downtown residential development projects? Barriers 1. Please describe key barriers regarding downtown residential development. 2. Please describe key barriers related to providing parking for residential development? 3. Are there barriers in establishing transit-oriented development? Or pedestrianand bicycle-friendly development? If so, describe. Public Participation 1. How well informed is the public about the cost of providing parking vis-à-vis
development costs? 2. Can greater public awareness make an impact on the development process? 3. How might public interest and engagement in these issues be stimulated? 4. What forums or strategies could be offered to capture public opinion? Interview Summary 1. Please feel free to make additional comments or summarizing statements that have not yet been covered in the interview. Synthesis The following section summarizes responses of personal interviews into five broad themes: the market for downtown housing, site development and parking considerations, establishing TOD, enhancing public involvement, and barriers to coordinated planning. Key comments made by interviewees are included in the following synthesis, and we point out where interview responses were in agreement or disagreement. To preserve the confidentiality and anonymity of interviewees, their statements are attributed by code (developers are coded D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, community representatives are coded C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7, C8, C9; planners and government officials are coded P1, P2, P3, P4, P5; realtors are coded R1, R2). The Market for Downtown Housing Like many Rust Belt cities, Buffalo’s downtown core housed a population negligible in size during the latter half of the 20th century, and it was not until the 1990s that new residents began moving downtown. The market for downtown housing has been active according to some interviewees (R1), while other interviewees argue that the recent economic downturn has stalled projects (C1, C2). The project sought to identify downtown residents and potential downtown residents. Interviewees agreed that customers and potential customers of residential units in downtown Buffalo include professionals, young couples, families with very young children, and transplants from other areas. Other interviewees added transplants from Canada (R1), Buffalo-area natives returning to the region (C5, C6), educators (C7), senior partners of law firms (C7), families with means to send children to private schools (C4), people looking for housing with low maintenance demands (C9), and people looking for better access to culture (R1). Developers generally agreed that college students, young adults, professionals, and empty nestersiv are the most likely residents of downtown residential units (D1, D2, D3, D4). New apartments, lofts, and condominiums in downtown Buffalo are aimed at capturing empty nesters and young professionals, especially those moving to Buffalo from other cities for employment at the University at Buffalo or at the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus and nearby healthcare industry (D3). A developer said that downtown
residential units appeal to consumers seeking a higher level of access to cultural facilities than can be found in the suburbs (D4). For members of these various submarkets, living in downtown Buffalo—versus other city neighborhoods or suburbs—is seen as a lifestyle choice (C3). For example, a realtor reports interacting with people moving from suburbs to the city and downsizing from two or more cars to only one car (R1, R2). Residents relocating downtown from elsewhere in Buffalo provide lesser net benefits to the city than people from the suburbs or other metropolitan areas (C1, C2). Established neighborhoods and unique buildings appeal to many potential residents of urban residential units. In Buffalo, there are many historic buildings with unique character, and developers have a preference for rehabilitating existing buildings for residential projects before they build new buildings for residential projects (C3). This is the case everywhere except for downtown Buffalo’s waterfront neighborhood, where all residential projects are new construction (C3).v However, construction costs everywhere are high (R1, R2, C5), especially new build (D3). A majority of downtown residences built in the last 10 to 15 years have been rental units, and only a small number have been condominium units. Many interviewees had difficulty imaging empty nesters leaving city or suburban homes that they own to live in a rental unit. The Buffalo region has a diversity of housing that is reasonably priced (compared to other U.S. metropolitan areas and especially high-growth places) in city, suburban, village, and rural setting. Housing located in downtown Buffalo’s waterfront communities is priced for people with higher incomes, is exclusive, and is isolated (R1). The city is often perceived to be less attractive than the suburbs for many families with young children, as city public schools are seen as inferior to suburban public schools (C4, D1, D2, D3, R1, R2, P4). Other reasons why the city is seen as less attractive include fear of crime (C9, D1, D2, P4), high sales tax (D1, D2), isolation from neighborhoods and services (R1, R2), a lack of dog-friendly walking places (D1, D2). Also, a lack of midpriced properties keeps many potential residents from relocating to the core (R2). Indeed, developers concur that owing to high development costs, it is not financially feasible to build for-purchase housing units in the less-than-$200,000 price range (D1, D2). A study of market potential for downtown residences conducted by Zimmerman/Volk Associates and commissioned by the City of Buffalo found that there is a strong demand for “hard loft” accommodations (Zimmerman/Volk Associates 2004); this finding has been largely ignored by developers, who have instead focused project design on high-end residential units (C1, C2). A realtor reports that people seeking housing seldom inquire about transit access (R2). All parties agreed during interviews that development of all types—especially residential projects—is desirable in Buffalo and critical to the creation of downtown neighborhoods and that Buffalo lags peer cities in establishing downtown housing opportunities. An interviewee told us that in Buffalo, developers are motivated and created. None are “making a killing”, and developing housing in the core of a city that has experienced prolonged decline and population loss offers numerous challenges (C3). Every development “has a story” (C3) suggesting that the “pieces” of the development process
come together through luck, determination, and unique or unusual circumstances (C3). The City of Buffalo (through the Planning Review Board and the Office of Strategic Planning) is generally viewed as pro-development (P3); however, the NFTA currently does not play a major role in Planning Review Board deliberations and decisions, and there is a missed opportunity for the NFTA to play a greater role (P2). An interviewee suggested that some recent downtown housing projects are isolated and siting decisions for new residential developments do not complement each other or help to form neighborhoods (C9). Development and Parking: Meeting Minimum Parking Requirements Developers of residential projects in Buffalo must satisfy the city’s municipal code for off-street parking and they may choose to exceed the minimum required parking. The parking code shown in the accompanying table requires that each residential unit in Buffalo—except those in buildings designed specifically for older adults or people with disabilities—includes, at a minimum, one off-street parking space. It is not uncommon for cities like Buffalo to require off street parking for every land use—including commercial, retail, residential—and disallow any new development that does not provide dedicated off-street parking.vi In Buffalo, developers of residential projects are motivated more by what it takes to market a development than by meeting the city code for minimum parking (C3). One interviewee discussed the lack of interest by banks to provide loans to developments without parking as it would be seen as less economically viable (P4). Developers do not usually exceed the minimum parking requirements, although an interviewee mentioned that a developer of new downtown apartments has built a “roommate units” building which may indeed exceed the minimum parking requirement (C3). However, a developer mentioned that it is difficult to consider provider fewer parking spaces than the code requires because of customer expectations and demand (D1, D2). Interviewees argued that it is important for renters and buyers to have a parking space even if they do not use it (C3, P1). A community non-profit director pointed out that a large apartment complex newly opened in a rehabilitated had difficulty leasing units because the off-street parking was seen as inconvenient by potential residents (C1, C2). Another building was rehabilitated with high-quality residential units for which the owner hoped to rent for approximately $2,500 per month, but the price was dropped to $1,500 per month due to a lack of parking (C1, C2). These examples support the argument that target markets demand a convenient and high-quality parking supply. New housing units and housing conversions within both rehabilitated structures and new buildings must provide off-street parking. The simplest way to meet the minimum parking requirement is to provide parking in the easiest manners possible; this usually puts parking in the worst place for multi-modal access and for aesthetics (P5). For example, surface parking at the front of a property with convenient driveway access is easier to design and build than below-grade parking or at-grade parking that is concealed or tucked behind a structure. Creative parking solutions—in terms of siting, design and landscaping, and shared parking arrangements—work well for communities but
Parking Code for Housing in Buffalo
Residential Land Use Dwelling unit
Parking Requirement Required parking: one off-street parking space per unit Location: on-site or within 500 feet of unit
Apartment houses designed for an occupied Required parking: reduction of up to 40 by older adults (age 60 years or more) percent and/or people with disabilities Location: on-site or within 500 feet of unit Lodging, rooming, or boarding house; student dormitory; fraternity or sorority house, or private club Required parking: one off-street parking space for each two guests or members residing on the premises Location: on-site or within 500 feet of unit Required parking: one off-street parking space for each three guest rooms or suites Location: on-site or within 500 feet of unit
Hotel or apartment-hotel accommodations
Source: City of Buffalo. 1993. “Chapter 511, Zoning.” Charter and Ordinances of the City of Buffalo. Buffalo, New York: City of Buffalo
complicate the provision of parking for a developer (P5). A planner noted a recent example of parking demand downtown where an employer would pay the full price for offsite parking ramp versus employees paying for adjacent surface parking lot, which demonstrated a change in mindset of people’s willingness to walk ½-mile from their car to work. If it becomes more challenging and more expensive to park, the net effect would be people finding other transit options (P4). Rehabilitated buildings, especially those that predate World War II, are often built to the property line and leave little unbuilt land on a parcel, while later buildings arrange land uses on sites differently and often provide space for off-street parking. Consequently, providing parking on sites with rehabilitated buildings is challenging (R2). In general, parking regulations are not seen as a constraint and surface parking is a given for development—especially residential development—in Buffalo (C5, P2). In this way, the current minimum parking requirement generally does not interfere with development. Developers report that providing off-street parking for new residential development is “critical” to the success of a project (D3) and a “significant need” that developers must provide (D3) and a “primary consideration” for most customers (D1, D2). Clearly, local consumer preference demands on-site parking (R1); however, some potential residents relocating to Buffalo from other markets like Boston or New York City would be willing to accept a housing unit without parking or walk farther to reach parking (D3, D4, R1, R2). Some developers find ways to “work around” minimum parking requirements; such “work arounds” often include zoning variances. According to an interviewee, obtaining a variance in Buffalo for a particular development to the parking code is generally not difficult (C3). In recent years, there have been two instances developers have requested that the city lease land in the public right-of-way of a street for developers to build parking lots to meet the parking requirement for a residential developmentvii (P2). A developer argues that awarding variances to projects is justifiable during a development slump or when the economy is weak, but the general practice should be to uphold city ordinances (D4). Interviewees from the planning community strongly feel that the practice should be avoided at all costs (C3, P1) to preserve street rights of way and the integrity of land use. In Buffalo, winter weather plays a role in some people’s perception that they need a car (and thus a dedicated parking space) because of challenges walking in cold weather (C5, D3) and developers report that in cold temperatures, even a half-block is too long a distance to walk (D1, D2). Interviewees felt strongly that snow clearance in Buffalo is a key barrier to safer, convenient, and more appealing pedestrian environments. In addition, younger people are less discouraged by the amount of walking associated with a car-free lifestyle (D4). A developer with several properties in downtown Buffalo reports many residents without cars (D1, D2), but a realtor reported that—although a car-free lifestyle is an attractive idea in theory—without neighborhoods where people can realistically live care-free, housing units include parking spaces (R1). An interviewee points out that until fuel prices rise significantly, people in Buffalo will continue to travel
predominantly by automobile (C6, C7). However, several interviewees optimistically felt that the ability to live car-free in Buffalo would eventually become a reality. Site Development and Parking Considerations Residential projects usually include a key building used for multiple dwellings, ancillary buildings, pathways and walkways, landscaping, etc. in addition to land for off-street parking (surface parking, parking structures, or below-ground parking). Off-street parking is usually provided on the parcel or on an adjacent parcel, or sometimes a nearby (but not adjacent) parcel within 500 feet (to meet the parking code). This distance is an important consideration, as parking that is too far from the residential building may be viewed as less attractive by some potential customers, who are concerned about safety and about carrying groceries and parcels between home and car (C9, D3). While dedicated parking near residential units provides conveniences for residents, it increases the amount of surface parking and can have the effect of de-concentrating and “suburbanizing” downtown development. In this way, surface parking interrupts the flow of buildings and can reduce opportunities for or the convenience of walking, cycling, and riding public transit. Developers in Buffalo have leased parking spaces in parking garages on a limited basis to meet parking requirements and other developments include gated parking (D1, D2). Some interviewees report that developers usually do not struggle (P2) to find on-site or at least nearby land to provide off-street parking for new residential units while other interviewees reported that providing off-street parking is indeed difficult for developers. A developer argues that the 500 foot requirement for parking is perhaps too close, and it could be lengthened to 1,000 feet or one-quarter mile to broaden development potential of sites (D4), although residents and potential residents may be concerned about unsafe walking environments between housing units and parking lots (C5, C7, C9). Currently, providing the required parking raises development costs because it forces developers to (1) acquire an additional parcel on which to establish a parking lot, (2) share an existing or new parking lot with another landowner, or (3) collaborate on providing parking with a competing developer (P3). Perhaps surprisingly, some developers begin a project by first purchasing surrounding properties on which they will eventually supply surface parking before they eventually purchase a key parcel for a development (P3). This practice is explained by reasonable land acquisition costs in Buffalo, especially compared to other cities, especially those where land costs are inflated. A developer mentioned that residential developments in Baltimore offer units that have lower rental costs ($80 to $120 per month) or purchase costs ($18,000 reduction of sales price) for units without a parking space (D1, D2). Interviewees pointed out that “unbundling” parking from residential units is successful in places with more shops and services in walking distance than can be found in Buffalo (R1). There was support for unbundling parking cost from the cost of residential units from the interviewees— especially the community representatives and planners and government workers—and a speculation that better planning and design would result (C6, P4). However, an interviewee with knowledge of expensive condominiums in downtown Buffalo said that
residential units priced differently without parking would “not be relevant” for highincome residents and potential residents (C9). If the minimum parking requirement were reduced, developers could provide fewer offstreet parking spaces. Interviewees agreed that limiting availability of parking spaces can change people’s travel behavior by compelling them to drive less often and use other travel modes more often. Such a revision of municipal codes would require approval by the City of Buffalo Common Council. In theory, if the minimum parking requirement is reduced, developers could build a less expensive product (i.e., housing units without dedicated off-street parking lots), and pass along the cost savings to residential customers (P1). A relaxed minimum parking requirement could reduce the minimum number of parking spaces required, it could allow parking spaces to be provided a further distance from the residential building, it could allow parking to be shared with another land use, or it could in some way may parking less convenient for the customer, which in turn likely makes the parking less expensive to provide for the developer. Less convenient parking—even when it is accompanied by a price reduction for end-users—is attractive to some customers or potential customers but not to all. Developers would then be pressured to carefully plan such projects from inception, as design, pricing, and marketing would differ substantially from conventional residential projects where each unit has an off-street parking space (D3). Reducing the minimum parking requirement may be suitable for the densest neighborhoods and places where sufficient transit service is available (P1). A developer interviewed for this research project was cautiously interested in the idea to reduce minimum parking requirements in concept, and would like for a pilot project to be established that could be evaluated in terms of costs and benefits to all affected parties (D3). However, reducing the minimum parking requirement to less than one parking space per unit may ultimately have little impact on the development process (P2). In the end, most interviewees had difficulty conceiving of a residential unit in Buffalo under current conditions with no dedicated parking space; if the minimum parking requirement for residential units were reduced to zero, developers would certainly provide some parking in order to make projects marketable. An option to for developers to reduce the parking supply will not be attractive to developers because the demand for parking is so significant that projects will include parking regardless of the laws requiring it (C1, C2). Customers are accustomed to “free” parking out of habit, and the idea of paying for parking separately in an unbundled purchase would be perceived as a disadvantage for developers (C1, C2). One interviewee argued that the theory of whether or not people would be attracted to unbundling was “not tested yet.” When a customer is asked if he or she would like free parking, of course they will say “yes”, but we have not aggressively offered residents cost options with and without parking or other transit options which could significantly change the conversation (P4).
Establishing Transit-Oriented Development TOD is characterized by land-use mix and density that supports multi-modal access and makes walking and riding public transit convenient and appealing. Interviewees spoke favorably about the potential of TOD to reduce development costs, enable sustainable development, promote sustainable lifestyles, and take advantage of Buffalo’s traditional built form. However, in describing current conditions in Buffalo, interviewees point out that the existence of vacant lots and empty storefronts are barriers to TOD (C3, P1, P3). There is little TOD along the Metro Rail corridor, a place where TOD should logically thrive judging from urban density, traditional built form, etc. (P1). Implementing TOD in under-developed places in the city, such as the space between downtown and midtown along the Metro Rail corridor, could yield large positive impacts (C1, C2). In addition, existing suburban-style or automobile-oriented development—such as commercial development along the Elm-Oak arterial—is a barrier to downtown residential development (D4). Developers would prefer to offer first-floor retail in residential developments, but for now there is insufficient critical mass to make such commercial development viable. Further, a lack of government incentives for TOD fails to encourage dense, walkable places with convenient access to a range of services (P2). However, all interviewees agreed that the demand for and supply of parking spaces will eventually diminish as more services become available (C3, C5, P1, P2, P3). In Buffalo, interviewees report that public transit is an afterthought in development decisions (C6, C7, C9, P2) and actions, and the NFTA lacks power to influence development (P2). Furthermore, access to public transit is of little concern in site selection for development (D4, R1). City planners and transportation officials work to have public transit readily accessible and visible. However, what is attractive for some people is not attractive for other people. A bus stop adjacent to a development is attractive in the sense that it increases access, but it can be unattractive for some development because passengers waiting for a bus ride are not the image that some developers want to portray (P1, P2). Occasionally developers have considered transit service to their development in the early stages of a project, but more often than not the opposite is true: developers have requested that bus stops and shelters be moved farther away from their entry or key access locations (P1, P2). Transit friendliness is vital. The public perception of transit hubs needs to be addressed as there is an educational hurdle which could be solved by making stations “a great experience” (P4). Within this environment, one interviewee felt that Metro Rail in Buffalo is largely ineffective because of its limited service area and failure to connect activity centers and job centers (C1, C2, C4, P5, P4). The development community does not consider public transit planning to be a priority (P5) and it is not aggressive in collaborating early with the NFTA in the development process to plan for multi-modal access to sites. In the larger scheme, the potential of public transit in the region is weakened by dwindling population, sprawl, lack of congestion, and easy automobile commuting (P3) resulting in an overwhelming “car mentality” in Buffalo (D3, C7, P2, R2, P4). Furthermore, people are reluctant to ride public transit because of safety and convenience concerns (R1, P4); one interviewee reported that “time is money, and riding public transit takes time” (R1).
In rapidly developing cities, the residents feel the negative consequences of sprawl. This immediate awareness is not felt in Buffalo as it is “too convenient to get around.” In cities like Washington DC, they did not get subway systems until a 5 minute car ride became an hour and half commute during rush hour (P4). Interviewees were enthusiastically supportive of increasing TOD in the region and recognized that an expansion of transit service is a necessary component. However, some interviewees suggested that expanding Metro Rail is not feasible given construction costs and low demand for transit in suburbs (C4). Metro Rail and Metro Bus service quality limits the marketability of TOD (C1, C2); service improvements—especially timetable communication and service reliability—can stimulate increased demand for transit service (C1, C2). Interviewees spoke at length about what they saw as tremendous potential for TOD in Buffalo, given the city’s built form, street network, existing Metro Bus and Metro Rail service, developable parcels and buildings available for redevelopment, etc. One interviewee said that TOD is in “an infancy period” (P2) in downtown Buffalo, but that walkable neighborhoods with ample convenient services will eventually form (P3). However, developers can do a better job of building and leasing ground floor retail and commercial space in residential buildings to create mixed uses (P1) and in terms of public transit access, developers can do a better job of incorporating bus shelters and bus stops into their developments (P1). However, developers do not want to provide extra amenities that raise the cost of development (P1). Interviewees reported that customers clearly would be supportive of TOD and more services within walkable environments (P3). Some interviewees blame City of Buffalo government for its non-aggressive position toward promoting TOD (P1, P3) and even argue that city policies which could promote TOD (such as an existing transit overlay zoning district) are not adequately enforced (C4), and that the city regularly approves automobile-oriented enterprises throughout the Metro Rail corridor. In other cities, land near light rail stations fetches a premium price, but in Buffalo, commercial prices are not higher near rail stations (P1). There is potential for the City of Buffalo and the NFTA to become more aggressive in pursuing TOD, and there are many obvious partners in such a campaign, including certain developers, the planning community, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), city government, state government, and environmental groups (P2). A developer agreed with this sentiment, adding that advocacy groups could educate the public about the advantages of TOD (C4) and encourage the public to put pressure for TOD on city government and developers; doing so, however, would require a major investment in time and resources (D3). In addition, residential development in transit-oriented settings can be stimulated through discounted or pre-paid transit passes or through a differential rental or sale price structure for units with or without parking (D3, D4). A realtor suggested stimulating TOD through tax incentives (R2) although there is no precedent for this practice in Buffalo. City government could promote and finance or provide incentives for desirable actions that conform with highly-valued planning documents like the Queen City plan (R1) and New York State could pass a state historic tax credits act that mirrors the federal legislation (C7) (City of Buffalo 2004).
Interviewees suggested establishing special zoning around transit stations (C7) which suggests they were unaware that transit overlay zoning already exists in Buffalo. Focus areas for transit-sensitive zoning include the near East Side and north of downtown along the Main Street corridor, where the city could create a mid-town “renaissance” area (C7). Interviewees believed that city government is positioned to promote higher densities and coordinate land use planning with development (C4). One interviewee offered that there is a current lack of understanding, and an unwillingness to take risks in re-thinking hubs and transit systems. The City needs to take advantage of the existing opportunities to connect to the most popular destinations. There is also a need to build more high residential opportunities to build transit hubs (P4). A possible solution to better connect new development with public transit planning (and perhaps de-emphasizing automobile travel to and parking at sites) is for developers to provide a payment to the NFTA to enhance service to development sites. The payment could be generated by the developer in a number of ways, and it could be used to increase bus service, provide better bus stops and shelters, improve walking environments at sites and bus stops, or other measure that make transit riding more convenient and more appealing to customers. For developers, improved public transit service is a selling point for potential customers of residential units. Interviewees who weighed in on such a scheme raised fears that the NFTA would likely not use the revenue for its intended purpose and that developers would not see the desired transit service improvement (C3). The same interviewee said that suburban legislators should, in general, provide more financial support from their districts for the NFTA (C3) because of the benefits it brings to the region and especially the region’s core, and another interviewee said that an abundance of “free parking” in suburbs lowers tax revenues in those places (C6). An interviewee suggested that if developers were given the choice of (1) providing required parking or (2) providing fewer parking spaces and making a payment to the NFTA to enhance or expand transit service to the site, they would invariably choose the former option (C3). A developer reported that fewer parking spaces and improved transit access would not improve the marketing of downtown residential projects (D1, D2) and developers would only engage if there was a benefit for them (D1, D2) or if they were required as part of permitting (C7). However, if a code requiring fewer parking spaces per residential development is acceptable to customers, it should be acceptable to other parties (city government, developer, etc.) (P5). Until there are a greater number of community services within walking distance, a lower minimum parking requirement would not be successful because demand automobile access and parking (C1, C2, C4, C5, C7, D3, P1, P3) and a lack of shopping opportunities in downtown Buffalo is a barrier to a car-free lifestyle (D4, D6) and more TOD (C7). Education campaigns might persuade developers to support public transit (R1). A developer reported that certain developers— especially progressives (C4) or those with environmental sensibilities (D3)—may be willing to make a payment to finance public transit; others operate from a pure business standpoint and would only fund public transit if the market or the public brought pressure to bear (D3).
If the community desires policy changes that results in outcomes that are an improvement on the status quo, additional resources will be required to carry out “better” planning and policy. Such changes will require improved communication between the transportation planning community and the development community, because gaps are evident: developers view the NFTA as an organization possessing ample revenue on hand to expand service (P1), and the NFTA perceives that developers have cash on hand to better prepare sites for transit access (C3). Enhancing Public Involvement In general, citizens know little about the true costs of development and the challenges of the development approval process (D1, D2, P1). Except for communities with inordinate development pressure, most citizens and residents are not informed about land use planning and development and they have only superficial knowledge of zoning (D1, D2, P5). A realtor reported that suburbanites who consider moving to downtown become quickly educated about “urban” concerns—including location, access, and transportation—that were not key concerns for them when they lived in suburbs (R2).viii A public better educated about development and transportation (cost of auto travel, cost to provide parking, and the cost to provide public transit) would clamor for the transit authority to be more aggressive (P3). Suburban residents who do not work downtown and who travel downtown only during evenings or weekends for sports or entertainment see many empty parking lots and come to the conclusion that parking is oversupplied (P3). Although there is ample surface parking, customers prefer parking that is very convenient to their destination (C7). Interviewees agree that city government must deliver to the public stronger messages about (1) the cost of development; (2) the impacts of development; (3) and the cost of parking. Doing so may encourage people to reduce automobile use (P3). An interviewee commented on the high cost of providing transit service (including salaries and benefits, vehicles and equipment, fuel, etc) and concluded that planners should do a better job of educating the public about the high cost to provide public transit service (P2). People are more likely to change their travel behavior in a time of crisis (C3), and this is supported by recent increases in transit ridership during periods of record-high fuel prices (Mouawad 2008, Sun 2008). A developer of several downtown residential projects reports an increase in potential residents seeking downtown accommodations during the 2008 gas price spike (D1, D2). Another interviewee cited the example of people’s ability to change behaviors as the price of gas rose, and the national interest in expanding rail, such as the recent interest in a connector between Albany and Buffalo (P4). An interviewee mentioned that leaders should seek to better educate people in the region (not only in the city) that many travel needs can be met with public transit and not driving (C3, C4). A developer proposed a media campaign around public health (C6, D3) as a potential method for generating support among citizens and residents for walkable neighborhoods and TOD (D3, R1). An interviewee suggested that the development community could
collaborate with the Association of Realtors on such education campaigns (R2). Another interviewee suggested that media outlets could create profiles of people who live downtown (C7) and visibility for successful downtown residential projects (C4). Articles in the media that use plain language to explain current development patterns and their costs could help the public better understand the promise of multi-modal transportation planning and sustainable development (C6) and help people understand how housing location choice plays a role (C6). Barriers to Coordinated Planning A prolonged period of decline and population loss in Buffalo has made it difficult to attract people to live in a downtown core that has emptied of residences, services, and shopping. Although there is pent-up demand for downtown residences and especially for an “urban lifestyle” centered on condominiums or loft-style apartments, there are still significant barriers to residential development. A community non-profit director points out that developers are going beyond meeting existing demand for downtown residential units by actually stimulating demand for downtown residences (C1, C2). A developer with extensive knowledge of downtown Buffalo development in recent years—especially residential projects—reported that developments are scattered, or located within small pockets and are not well connected to activity centers, potential activity centers, and key transportation routes (D3). Developers report that project finance is the biggest barrier to more residential development in Buffalo, more so than market potential, site acquisition, red tape, and other factors (C1, C2, C4, C5, C7, D1, D2, D3, R1). Gap financing is a key concern given current global macroeconomic instability (C1, C2). Below-ground parking is rarely included in developments in Buffalo because of exorbitant costs (D1, D2). The community must also overcome a perception among citizens and residents that city government is squandering development potential through inaction (C3). Downtown residential units are not an attractive development type for some of the region’s largest developers (C7). In addition, interviewees mentioned specific barriers to residential development in downtown Buffalo, include red tape for developers (D1, D2) (e.g., there are nine permits needed for development in Buffalo while an identical project in Houston would require one permit). Developers acknowledge that providing off-street parking is so often taken as a “given” in the development process that developers have difficulty thinking about “unbundling” the cost of parking from other development costs. If parking cost was separated from the cost of a residential unit, potential renters or buyers could reduce their costs by not taking a parking space. In this way, parking provision plays a greater role in development than even developers realize and the outcome of minimum parking requirements greatly affects the character of developments in many ways. One developer went so far to say, “Those who control the parking system control downtown development” (D4). As the city competes with suburban development, one interviewee cited the presumption that parking is “free” in the suburbs, when, in fact the costs are “hidden” in the leases. The proclivity in downtown development is that parking is a separate cost, rather than embedded which is a psychological disincentive (P4). A developer reported that automobile access and parking to residential development is critical and transit access is
rarely considered; the same developer wished that transit access could play a bigger role in residential projects (D1, D2). Continued subsidization of automobile travel— evidenced by recent conversion of short-term metered parking on Washington Street to cheaper long-term parking—produces automobile-oriented gains at the expense of potential TOD gains (C1, C2). At present, the NFTA fails to engage in broad public debate about the interaction between transportation, development, quality of life, and a sustainable environment. City government and county government squabbles (D1, D2) and “me first” attitudes (D1, D2) fail to promote regionalism and broad conversations about development. The Erie Niagara Framework for Regional Growth and Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan offer concentrated areas of density through development corridors. These plans propose connecting downtown Buffalo to Niagara County by Main Street (P4). The NFTA interacts with the public when service changes or fare changes are contemplated, but otherwise has little community interaction (P2). To address this gap, the NFTA should hold more community forums about broad issues (P2) and other civic organizations and local government entities should hold forums to promote discussions about development challenges and potential solutions (D3, D4). A developer reports that citizens and residents are generally not well-informed about these development issues, although in recent years there may be more information available via popular media to the public about the interactions between development, transportation, and the environment (C6, D3). A regional summit on this issue could bring attention to transportation-development interactions and encourage key players (developers, NFTA, the public, government) to talk to each other about important issues and identify barriers (C9). More and more citizens and residents participate in a virtual way, such as through Buffalo Rising and other Internet forums and blogs (D3) and grass-roots organizations (C5). Such forums are more attractive to many than public meetings (D3) and should be considered for future public engagement exercises. An interviewee suggested that when producing good planning becomes an important part of what municipalities do, citizens will better appreciate government and planning (P5).
Focus Group Questionsix 1. What are the most important factors that influence downtown residential development? (Focus Group 1) or What are the factors that influence(d) your decision to move to the downtown area? (Focus Group 2) 2. What role does public transportation play in location decisions? 3. How does availability of parking influence decision making? 4. How would you describe the barriers or bottlenecks regarding downtown residential development? 5. What are specific barriers (or bottlenecks) related to providing parking for residential development? 6. How well informed is the public about the development process and the cost to provide parking and multi-modal access? 7. How might public interest and engagement in these issues be stimulated? 8. What forums or strategies could be offered to capture public opinion? 9. Please add additional comments and suggestions.
Focus Group 1 When asked, “Why might people move from the suburbs (or even outside the metro area) to downtown Buffalo?” participants noted that the City of Buffalo had already commissioned a study regarding the market for downtown residents but the study needs updating. Downtown living appeals primarily to young professionals and empty-nesters. Young professionals are interested in a combination of living/work space units. In addition, first timers to Buffalo and people who deliberately choose an urban environment are potential residents. Young families are not particularly interested in living downtown because of the public school system. One example of a successful project is the ArtSpace, which is 100 percent occupied with 150 potential residents on a waiting list. The ArtSpace concept, which has been developed in other cities as well, provides reasonable rentals for artists with common spaces and studio space. The focus group participants felt that the rental market downtown is over-saturated.
Rental customers are particularly sensitive to pricing, and monthly rents in excess of $1,500 are too expensive. There does seem to be a growing market for downtown development, with a number of people moving back home to Buffalo after going to college and living and working elsewhere. The key to strengthening the Buffalo housing market is to provide more variety in the options for housing. Downtown units have little vacancy. For the past decade or so, 100 new rental units per year were absorbed. All participants were concerned about how the current economic climate might affect downtown residential development. In terms of housing for purchase, a number of sales contracts for the condos in the downtown area, especially the waterfront, have been canceled because of the current state of the economy. Many of the units that might sell in a more robust economy will become rental units. Participants suggested a need for more predictable sources of data about the market. Several participants noted that there is a market for ownership in the $150,000 range; young professionals in particular would be interested in such units. Current residents on the waterfront, who in effect live in a “gated community” (due to limited access to the waterfront community), do not want people purchasing homes for $150,000 when they paid $400,000 because it will likely lower their property values. Others maintained that downtown needs a sense of neighborhood. If the City of Buffalo were more focused on how to create connected neighborhoods, the entire urban environment could change. At present, projects are scattered around the downtown area and function in isolation. Participants stated that larger concentrations of people will lure stores and other services. In some places it is not safe to walk now. Increasingly, there are a lot of things to do, places to go, interesting activities, but even this can be encouraged further. When asked if it is possible to reduce the parking supply to change development styles and reduce costs, the group noted that it is “tough to do deals without parking.” People are unaccustomed to not having parking and when new people come from out of town, they cannot believe that parking is provided without extra fees. The group felt that some people might choose a unit without parking for less money, depending on their work situation. Most residents want at least one space for a vehicle. TOD was also a discussion topic. In general, TOD is not considered in residential development projects. In the 1990s, city government established transit overlay zoning that called for medium density development around MetroRail stations. Although the overlay district is part of the legal context, a real master plan was never developed and the zoning code not enforced. Other concerns expressed were that the Main Street pedestrian mall is not sufficiently lit. The group felt that University at Buffalo could be doing a lot to help in the planning of housing units and proper placement near the subway station, particularly for university-oriented (student) and senior housing. Other suggestions included having a trolley run in loops downtown, having more maps and bus schedules available and having some kind of a jitney service. In terms of
municipal policy, we need to link concrete incentives to develop projects that rely less on parking. Comparisons were made to New York City where developers can earn a 20 percent floor area ratio boost if they add affordable housing units to a project. If Buffalo could develop concrete benefits that rely less on parking (has to be sufficient—not just tax credits), the benefits could be translated into price reductions. Interventions to encourage public transit ridership include improving conditions for walking, bicycling, services and shops and rail and bus transit. Sidewalk accessibility is the biggest problem, particularly snow and ice clearance. Property owners do not adequately clear sidewalks and the city needs to be more aggressive with enforcement. Encouraging public engagement to promote transit can be accomplished, especially among young adults with an interest in “green” cities and in diet and nutrition. Unfortunately, the City denigrates public participation, although there have been some cases of bringing lots of people out for public meetings. In conclusion, the group felt that much can be done to improve the situation, but that a significant reduction in automobile ownership—and demand for parking—is not something likely to happen in Western New York. Transit oriented activities can be promoted, but most residents will still need and want an automobile. Focus Group 2 The participants indicated that the following groups are likely to be interested in downtown living: (1) young professionals without children, (2) young people with economic means, (3) people interested in making a lifestyle change, and (4) “empty nesters” who prefer to shift from suburban to urban living. The reason that Some of the potential barriers to living downtown include the fact that there are small or no yards and that the area is perceived as unsafe. For many, the rents, which are in the range of $895 to $1,200 per month, are too high. Condominiums for sale are largely developed for the higher end market of $300,000 and above.x Another barrier for residents and potential residents is the lack of service businesses (grocery stores, pharmacies, and dry cleaners), playgrounds and other amenities. Several of the respondents indicated that developers are “building the same product over and over.” Because of the cost of development—including the cost of parking—developers are not getting a sufficient return on investment. Although a number of loft spaces are being developed, they are not “hard lofts” (a bathroom and a stove) like in other cities such as New York or Boston. Participants felt that there would be market demand for hard lofts. Throughout the discussion, participants affirmed that in Buffalo, “to get anywhere, you need a car.” In order to live downtown without a car, one would have to work downtown. However, there is no easy access to shopping. For people with children, public transportation is problematic. In many cases, everyone in a person’s social network lives in the suburbs. One participant gave the example of taking a bus to his parents’ home in Amherst (in the suburbs). “It’s a hike—an hour and a half.” By car, the same trip is less than 15 minutes. In conclusion, the group expressed that Buffalo has a
“car culture,” and that making a choice to use public transportation requires a personal commitment to a lifestyle that incorporates the amount time needed to get from place to place. When the topic of transit-friendly neighborhoods was introduced, the focus group participants provided a number of criteria. In order to have transit-friendly neighborhoods, “complete streets” need to be developed with provisions for pedestrian, bicycle and transit access. In order to attract a denser population, there should be shops and restaurants. Several participants noted ways that the bus stops could be improved. For example, there could be small kiosks with magazines or food services so that people do not feel unsafe. Also, the bus stops should be more effective in protecting people from the elements—a major challenge in Buffalo with lake effect storms. Another area of concern was the fact that many sidewalks are not properly maintained and plowed. Parking codes were considered to be a deterrent to development. Since the city code requires an off-street parking space within 500 feet of a dwelling unit, developers must factor in the cost of parking. Zoning has not been updated since 1950 and is long overdue. When asked if they would consider trade-offs between parking, reduced costs and transit, participants expressed moderate interest. A participant said that he owns a house without a driveway, and that it “wasn’t that big a deal” to find street parking. Another participant, in contrast, noted that she required a garage when her family searched for a new house and that they were willing to pay more. Most of the participants were not very familiar with the city codes, ordinances and zoning issues. One participant stated that in Boston, renters pay $200 more per month for on-street parking, which does not guarantee that a driver will find an available parking space. Although some of the participants use Metro Rail in Buffalo, they would use it far more if it served more destinations in the area. Metro Rail service to major regional destinations and job centers—especially the Larkin District, the Central Terminal, the Galleria Mall, the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport—would experience greater ridership demand. Some of the options mentioned that would encourage downtown living and more public participation include: (1) shops and services and the ability to “walk to market,” (2) making driving “harder” in order to encourage public transit, (3) implement “complete streets, (4) create financial offsets such as charging more for parking or establishing tax credits for developers, and (5) provide more public education on these issues. One participant said that in Seattle, they simply posted a sign for proposed development announcing a public meeting that attracted a number of people. The group also identified some ideas for encouraging more public participation, including giving it sufficient time and attention. In Austin (Texas), for example, public participation takes a long time to produce a good product. Similarly, another participant cautioned that good decisions cannot be made without informing the public. Others thought that planning departments should collaborate with non-profits agencies to give neighborhood-based grants. Although the Internet is one method for communication, face to face interaction is important; the Internet often excludes poor people with limited
or no access to technology. The Buffalo Common Council meetings should not be held during daytime hours; instead, the meetings should be held at lunchtime of during early evenings so that people do not have to miss work to attend. Energizing younger people to become active on community boards is another need. Revamped schools can attract young families—charter schools are a good option for some families. People are motivated about the city, and the potential exists to “build a movement” through grassroots organizing and capitalizing on the emerging “go green” movement in Buffalo. Some of these “green” solutions included having bike racks on buses.
PILOT COMMUNITY WORKSHOP
A pilot community workshop was held in the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning on February 17, 2009. The investigators (Verma and Hess) presented the material in the pilot community workshop and the public participation consultant (Berry) and student research assistants helped facilitate the workshop. Attendees were graduate students. The pilot workshop was intended to be a trial run of the final community workshop. To that end, the participants provided feedback about the structure and organization of the presentation as well as feedback about using clickers to provide input. Forty-four students participated in the pilot community workshop—20 males and 24 females. Other demographic information was not collected, as this was not the focus of the workshop. Based on general observation, however, the majority of participants ranged in age from 22 to 35 years. Warm-up Questions Following a brief introduction outlining the format of the workshop, participants were asked 4 warm-up questions to familiarize them with using clickers to respond to questions. The warm-up questions made it possible to test the operation of the clickers and to make sure that all clickers were functioning properly. They were also meant to get participants comfortable with reading and responding to questions. Accordingly, the first four questions were designed to be easy so that everyone could readily answer. As part of the warm-up exercise participants were asked ‘In what capacity are you here today?’ Because participants are currently students they were asked to choose a role that they feel they will most likely pursue in the future. Not surprisingly, 50 percent of respondents indicated they were planners or other government workers, 18 percent citizens or residents, 14 percent developers, 9 percent downtown advocates, and 9 percent identified as ‘other.’ Project-Specific Questions Participants were asked a series of survey questions about parking in general and how it relates to downtown development. In the pilot community workshop, participants indicated a strong market for housing without off street parking in downtown Buffalo and that college students are the most likely customers for this type of housing unit. Participants felt that lifestyle choices are the driving force behind choosing a housing unit with no parking. Participants were pretty evenly split when it comes to parking supply, though more than one-third felt there is too much parking in downtown Buffalo. Participants had less awareness about the true cost of parking to development and the use of variances to overcome parking regulations. Most participants were not active public
transit users and indicated that not many of their usual travel needs could be met by public transit. The idea of TOD was viewed favorably. When asked if there is an existing market for apartments, lofts, or condominiums without dedicated off-street parking fifty-one percent of participants responded yes. Thirty-seven percent felt there is not an existing market for apartments, lofts, or condominiums without off street parking. Twelve percent responded with ‘don’t know.’ Assuming that there is a market, participants indicated that college students (54 percent) are the most likely customers for housing units without parking spaces, followed by professionals (19 percent), low-income families (19 percent), older adults/empty nesters (7 percent), and other groups (2 percent). When asked why people are likely to choose housing without parking respondents ranked lifestyle choices as the most likely reason (57 percent). Income considerations (24 percent) and ideological reasons—such as environmentalism—ranked lower as likely reasons that people choose housing without parking. Participants were evenly split when it came to indicating who was responsible for residential parking demand in downtown Buffalo. Fifty percent of participants indicated it is due to suburban residents relocating downtown and 50 percent of participants indicated it is due to other residents relocating downtown. Participants were also asked questions about existing parking in downtown Buffalo and the connections between parking and development. When asked about the amount of existing parking in downtown Buffalo, 35 percent felt there is too much parking in downtown Buffalo, 19 percent felt the amount of existing parking was just right, and 28 percent indicated there is too little parking in downtown Buffalo. Thirty-one percent of participants feel that developers are granted too many variances from municipal parking codes, 33 percent feel that developers are not granted too many variances for parking, and 36 percent don’t know. When asked “what percentage of total development costs do you think accounts for parking?”, 60 percent indicated that parking costs between 0 and 20 percent of total development costs, 35 percent indicated that parking costs between 21 and 40 percent of total development costs, and five percent indicated that parking costs 40 percent or more of total development costs. As a follow up question participants were asked about the idea of separating the cost of parking from the price the consumer pays for housing. Seventy percent of participants indicated they would buy an apartment, loft, or condominium without parking if it were to cost 25 percent less; 28 percent indicated they would not buy an apartment, loft, or condo without parking even if it came at a cheaper price to reflect the absence of parking. In general, public transit ridership is lower than private automobile use among the participants. Eighteen percent reported arriving to the class using the bus or subway, 20 percent walked or biked, and 2 percent carpooled. The majority of students (57 percent) arrived as a single occupant using a personal automobile. Two percent selected ‘other’
when they were asked how they arrived to class that day. Forty-four percent of respondents reported never using public transit, 19 percent indicated using public transit one or two times per week, 12 percent reported using public transit 3 or 4 times per week, and 16 percent reported using transit 5 or more times per week. Nine percent responded ‘other.’ Asked about meeting their own travel needs using public transit, participants’ responses were evenly distributed. Sixteen percent indicated that none of their usual travel needs could be met by public transit. Twenty-three percent indicated that 30 percent or less of their usual travel needs could be met on public transit. Encouragingly, 26 percent of participants indicated that 51 to 70 percent of their usual travel needs could be met by public transit and 14 percent felt that 70 percent or more of their usual travel needs could be met by using public transit. Participants were asked questions about TOD in downtown Buffalo. Thirty-six percent of participants indicated TOD is more likely to be successful in Buffalo as compared to other cities. Fifty-eight percent indicated that TOD is not more likely to be successful in Buffalo, and 7 percent responded with ‘other.’ Interestingly, participants cited lack of customer demand as the top inhibitor of more TOD in downtown Buffalo (54 percent). Lack of resources was cited second as an inhibitor to more TOD in downtown Buffalo (28 percent), and red tape was cited last as an inhibitor of TOD in downtown Buffalo (19 percent). Future Direction for Transportation Development Participants were asked a series of questions about future transportation development in the region to gauge interest levels and awareness about transit needs in the region. In general, participants feel that reducing transportation energy costs, implementing bus rapid transit and expanding Metro Rail are high priorities for future transportation projects. Participants also indicated that improving and expanding public transit service is the best way to retain new transit users and that free NFTA passes will encourage the UB community to use public transportation. The majority of respondents agreed that using clicker technology will encourage public transportation and a majority liked the idea of using clickers. When asked to chose the most important transportation spending priority for the BuffaloNiagara region over the next ten years, participants cited reducing transportation energy costs, and road maintenance as the most important spending priorities. The majority of participants (54 percent) indicated that reducing transportation energy costs is the top spending priority for the region. Thirty percent of participants indicated that improving road maintenance is a top priority, 11 percent felt that investing in public transportation is a top priority, and 5 percent indicated that reducing traffic congestion is a top priority for the region. Interestingly, zero percent of respondents felt that providing more parking is a top spending priority.
Participants were first asked about their familiarity with the concept of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Almost half of the participants (49 percent) said they are familiar with BRT, 23 percent said they are not familiar with BRT, and 28 percent indicated they are ‘sort-of’ familiar with BRT. After a brief explanation of BRT they were asked their level of agreement with the following statement: “Implementing BRT is a high priority for the region.” Forty-two percent of respondents strongly agree, 35 percent of respondents agree, 14 percent of respondents indicated they are neutral. Only 9 percent of participants disagreed that implementing BRT is a high priority for the region, and no participants strongly disagreed. Citizens and public officials alike have proposed extensions to the NFTA Metro Rail to connect downtown with UB’s North Campus, the airport, Niagara Falls, and the Southtowns. When asked if Metro Rail should be expanded, the majority of respondents had a favorable response: 58 percent of participants strongly agree, 21 percent of participants agree and 12 percent remain neutral on the topic. Nine percent disagree that Metro Rail should be expanded and zero percent strongly disagree. Supposing that Metro Rail were to be expanded, 36 percent of respondents feel that extending Metro Rail to Cheektowaga and the Airport is the most urgent expansion, followed closely by an expansion to UB’s North Campus and the Tonawandas (32 percent). Niagara Falls and the Niagara Falls airport are viewed as less urgent expansions (16 percent). A southtowns corridor extension was viewed as the least urgent rail (5 percent). Eleven percent of participants indicated that expanding Metro Rail to ‘other places within Buffalo-Niagara region’ is most urgent. The region experienced an increase in public transit ridership as a result of high gasoline prices. Surprisingly, ridership remained strong even after gasoline prices fell. In an effort to understand how NFTA might keep ridership levels high, participants were asked what actions NFTA might take to retain new riders even when gas prices are low. Participants cited improving service (50 percent) and expanding service (39 percent) as most important. Only nine percent selected reducing fares as a strategy for NFTA to take to retain new riders, and two percent indicated that NFTA should discourage driving by increasing parking rates. Providing free NFTA passes was a popular response when participants were asked how UB2020 should encourage students, faculty and staff to use public transit. Seventy four percent of respondents indicated free NFTA passes as the most important action. Perhaps this is not surprising given that audience members were students who would benefit from free NFTA passes. Twenty-one percent cited providing more transit options as a way to encourage ridership among students, faculty, and staff. Two percent of participants suggested that providing no more new parking facilities will encourage public transit use among the UB community. Interestingly, 2 percent of respondents indicated that increasing parking facilities would encourage the UB community to use public transit. Finally, participants were asked to reflect on their experience of using clickers as a way to participate in a community meeting. The majority of participants (68 percent) indicated they have not used clicker technology before and thirty-two percent of participants
reported using clickers before. Fifty-five percent of participants strongly agreed with the statement, “Using clickers in public meetings will encourage more community participation.” Twenty-three percent agreed, and 16 percent were neutral. Two participants disagreed (5 percent) and 1 participant strongly disagreed (2 percent). When asked if they ‘liked the idea of providing input using clickers, 40 strongly agreed, 37 percent agreed, 12 percent were neutral, 2 percent disagreed, and 2 percent strongly disagreed. Discussion and Feedback Following the presentation participants were invited to provide feedback and general comments during a discussion period. Most of the discussion centered on feedback about specific questions and about the format of the presentation. In general, participants were comfortable with the format, length, and content of the presentation, but had suggestions for specific questions and the amount of information provided. Participants indicated that more explanation at the beginning about the process and the use of clickers would be helpful. They also suggested that more time be allotted for each questions so that participants can ask follow up questions to clarify the meaning of the questions. Many participants felt they did not have enough information to answer some of questions and were hesitant to respond when they were less familiar with the topic. Participants also found it difficult to speculate about what “others” might think. For example, participants had trouble with questions like, “People are likely to choose housing based….” After a brief discussion, participants agreed that they would have felt more comfortable with answering these types of questions if it had been explained in the beginning that for some questions they would be asked to speculate about others. Participants also wanted to be assured that these questions did not require them to know the “correct” answer or to even have all the information in front of them. Rather, these questions were designed to gather information about how people perceived the community. The research team revised questions for clarity and understanding based on feedback from participants at the pilot workshop. Much of the advice and suggestions were incorporated into a revised presentation, however not all suggestions was taken in order to maintain the original intent and meaning of the overall presentation. The following pages list the workshop questions and response frequencies.
Warm-up Questions 1. Have you used clicker technology before? a. Yes (53%) b. No (41%) c. Other (6%) 2. In what capacity are you here today? (Which role do you identify with most?) d. Developer (0%) e. Planner or Government worker (40%) f. Downtown Advocate (10%) g. Citizen/ Resident (33%) h. Other (17%) 3. How did you arrive here today? a. Automobile (single occupant) (56%) b. Automobile (carpool) (19%) c. Bus/Subway (22%) d. Walked/Biked (3%) e. Other (0%) 4. On an average, how many trips per week do you make using public transportation? a. Rarely (52%) b. 1-2 (24%) c. 3-4 (9%) d. 5-6 (3%) e. 7 + (9%) f. Other (3%) Project Questions 5. Is there a substantial sale or rental market for apartments/lofts/condos without dedicated off-street parking spaces? a. Yes (20%) b. No (69%) c. Other (11%) 6. If there is a market, who are the most likely customers for units without dedicated off-street parking spaces? a. College students (50%) b. Young professionals (31%) c. Empty nesters (0%)
d. Older adults (60 +) (16%) e. Other (3%) 7. In your opinion, how much parking is there in downtown Buffalo? a. Too little (9%) b. Right amount (38%) c. Too much (53%) d. Other (0%) 8. If people choose housing without dedicated off-street parking it is because of: a. Income considerations (18%) b. Lifestyle choices (location or travel preferences) (58%) c. Ideology (Environmentalism, etc). (16%) d. Other (8%) 9. Regarding off-street parking, do you think developers are granted too many variances from municipal codes? a. Yes (24%) b. No (24%) c. Other (52%) 10. Demand for off-street residential parking downtown is because of? a. Suburban residents relocating downtown (33%) b. Out of town residents relocating downtown (9%) c. Existing downtown residents demanding parking (18%) d. Other (40%) 11. Are you familiar with the concept Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)? a. Yes (89%) b. No (8%) c. Other (3%) 12. If implemented, do you think Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) would be successful in Buffalo? a. Yes (71%) b. No (23%) c. Other (6%) 13. Climate is a significant barrier to Transit-Oriented Development in Buffalo a. Strongly Agree (9%) b. Agree (19%) c. Neutral (6%) d. Disagree (33%) e. Strongly Disagree (33%) 14. What inhibits more Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in downtown Buffalo?
a. b. c. d. e.
Red tape (13%) Lack of resources (19%) Lack of customer demand (19%) Lack of education (35%) Other (14%)
15. Parking costs are what percentage of total development costs? a. 0-20% (15%) b. 21-40% (65%) c. 40% or more (15%) d. Other (5%) 16. Would you buy or rent an apartment/loft/condo in downtown Buffalo without dedicated off-street parking if it were to cost 25% less? a. Yes (63%) b. No (31%) c. Other (6%) 17. Where you live now, what percentage of your usual travel needs (work, shopping, recreation, etc.) could be met by public transit? a. None (15%) b. 1-30% (44%) c. 31-50% (9%) d. 51-70% (17%) e. 71% or more (15%) Speculative Questions 1. Over the next ten years, which of following should be spending priorities for the Buffalo-Niagara region. Please select top two priorities. a. Reducing traffic congestion (7%) b. Investing in public transit (47%) c. Providing more parking (2%) d. Improving road maintenance (22%) e. Reducing transportation energy costs (22%) 2. Are you familiar with the concept Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)? a. Yes (91%) b. No (6%) c. Other (3%) 3. Implementing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) should be a high priority for the BuffaloNiagara region? a. Strongly agree (48%) b. Agree (21%) c. Neutral (13%)
d. Disagree (13%) e. Strongly Disagree (5%) 4. The NFTA Metro Rail should be expanded? a. Strongly agree (76%) b. Agree (9%) c. Neutral (9%) d. Disagree (3%) e. Strongly disagree (3%) 5. If metro rail were to be expanded, which two rail extensions are most urgent? a. Amherst/UB North (40%) b. Cheektowaga/Airport (40%) c. Niagara Falls/Tonawanda (13%) d. Southtowns (6%) e. Other places within the region (0%) 6. Of the following, which are the best ways for UB2020 to encourage students/faculty/staff to use public transit? Please choose top two. a. Maintain status quo (0%) b. Increase metro rail connections (39%) c. More campus bus service (3%) d. More NFTA service (15%) e. Free NFTA passes (43%) 7. What actions should NFTA take to retain new riders even when gas prices are low? Please select top two. a. Reduce fares (15%) b. Improve service (faster service, less wait time) (37%) c. Expand bus and rail service (36%) d. Discourage driving by increasing parking rates (12%) 8. Using clickers in public meetings will encourage more community participation? a. Strongly agree (51%) b. Agree (26%) c. Neutral (17%) d. Disagree (0%) e. Strongly disagree (6%) 9. I like the idea of providing input using clickers a. Strongly agree (41%) b. Agree (29%) c. Neutral (21%) d. Disagree (3%) e. Strongly disagree (6%)
The community workshop was held on March 3, 2009. Attendees were invited to participate in an interactive workshop to hear results from research findings and to provide input and feedback about those results and the future direction of transportation planning in the region. The project team presented the material in the pilot community workshop and the public outreach specialist and student research assistances helped facilitate the workshop. The community workshop was intended to gauge people’s responses to the research findings and to various transportation options for the future. To that end, participants were asked a combination of direct questions based on their opinions, and indirect questions that required participants to speculate about the opinions, beliefs, and attitudes of the community at large. A list of questions and response frequencies for the community workshop is presented at the end of this chapter. Thirty five people participated in the community workshop. Demographic information was not collected, as this was not the primary focus of the workshop. Based on general observation, however, reveals there was a wide range of ages, and a fairly even mix of male and female participants. Workshop participants appeared to be fairly racially homogenous, with a large percentage being Caucasian. Warm-Up Questions Following a brief welcome and introduction, participants were asked the same 4 warm-up questions as in the pilot workshop. The warm-up questions were meant to familiarize participants with using clickers, provide an opportunity for participants to ask questions about the operation of the clickers, and ensure that all clickers were functioning properly. The first warm up question, “Have you used clicker technology before?” revealed that a majority of participants (53 percent) had used clickers before. Forty-one percent of participants responded that they had not used clickers before and 6 percent responded ‘other.’ When asked ‘In what capacity are you here today?’ forty percent of participants identified themselves as planners or government workers, 33 percent identified themselves as citizens/residents, 10 percent identified themselves as downtown advocates, and 17 percent identified themselves as ‘other.’ No one identified her/himself as a developer. The third and forth warm-up questions asked participants about their personal transportation behaviors. When asked “How did you arrive here today?” fifty-six percent of participants indicated they had arrived as a single occupant in an automobile, 19 percent arrived by automobile, but were part of a carpool, 22 percent took the bus/subway, and 3 percent walked/biked to the workshop. Finally, as part of warm-up participants were asked on average, how many trips per week they made using public
transportation. Fifty-two percent indicated they rarely made trips using public transportation. Twenty-four percent make 1-2 trips per week using public transportation on average, 9 percent make 3-4 trips per week on average, 3 percent make 5-6 trips per week on average, 9 percent make 7 or more trips per week on average, and 3 percent selected ‘other.’ Project-Specific Questions After a brief overview of the research project, participants were asked a series of survey questions about parking and how it relates to downtown development. A majority of participants feel there is too much parking supply in downtown Buffalo, but feel there is not a substantial market for downtown housing units without off-street dedicated parking. Participants indicated that lifestyle choices are the driving force behind choosing a housing unit with no parking. Participants are fairly well informed about the true costs of parking as a portion of overall development costs and a majority indicated they would choose a housing unit without parking if were to cost 25% less. Participants were less clear when it came to identifying which group was responsible for demanding downtown residential parking. Most participants are not active public transit users and provided a mixed response when asked about meeting their own travel needs by public transit. The idea of TOD was viewed favorably. A series of questions about the supply and demand of parking in downtown Buffalo were asked. Participants were asked to gauge how much existing parking there is in downtown Buffalo. The majority of participants (53 percent) indicated there is ‘too much’ parking in downtown buffalo, 38 percent feel there is the ‘right amount’ of parking, and 8 percent feel there is ‘too little’ parking. No participants selected ‘other’ when asked about the amount of parking in downtown Buffalo. Despite the majority of participants feeling there is too much parking in downtown Buffalo, 69 percent of participants responded ‘no’ when asked, ‘Is there a substantial sale or rental market for apartments/lofts/condos without dedicated off-street parking spaces?’ Twenty percent of participants indicated yes, there is a substantial market for downtown housing without dedicated parking spaces, and 11 percent selected ‘other.’ Assuming that there is a market, respondents indicated that college students (50 percent) are the most likely customers for housing units without dedicated off-street parking, followed by young professionals (32 percent), older adults (16 percent), and ‘other’ (3 percent). Surprisingly, zero percent of participants feel that empty nesters were likely customers for housing units without parking. When asked why people are likely to choose housing without parking, respondents ranked lifestyle choices, such as location or travel preferences, as the most likely reason (58 percent). Income considerations (18 percent) and ideology—such as environmentalism—ranked lower as likely reasons that people choose housing without parking. Eight percent of participants selected ‘other’ when asked about likely reasons that people choose housing without parking. Respondents had mixed opinions when it came to identifying who was responsible for off-street residential parking demand in downtown Buffalo. Thirty-three percent
indicated it is due to suburban residents relocating downtown, 18 percent indicated that it is existing downtown residents demanding off-street residential parking, 9 percent felt that downtown residential parking demand is due to out-of-town residents relocating downtown, and 40 percent indicated ‘other.’ Participants were next asked questions about the connections between parking and downtown residential development. Twenty-four percent of participants feel that developers are granted too many variances from municipal parking codes; however, the majority of participants (52 percent) feel that developers are not granted too many variances from municipal parking codes. Twenty-four percent selected ‘other.’ When asked ‘what percentage of total development costs do you think accounts for parking?’ 15 percent indicated that parking costs between 0 and 20 percent of total development costs, 65 percent indicated that parking costs between 21 and 40 percent of total development costs, and 15 percent indicated that parking costs 40 percent or more of total development costs. Six percent of participants indicated ‘other.’ As a follow up question, participants were asked about the idea of separating the cost of parking from the price the consumer pays for housing. Sixty-three percent of participants indicated they would buy an apartment, loft, or condominium without parking if it were to cost 25 percent less; 31 percent indicated they would not buy an apartment, loft, or condo without parking even if it came at a cheaper price to reflect the absence of parking. Six percent indicated ‘other.’ Contemplating the connection between the absence of parking and public transit use, participants were asked about their ability to fulfill their usual travel needs using public transportation. Encouragingly, the majority of participants indicated that they could meet some percentage of their usual travel needs using public transit. Forty-four percent indicated that based on where they live now, between 1-30 percent of their usual travel needs could be met by public transit. Eight percent indicated that 31-50 percent of their usual travel needs could be met by public transit, 18 percent indicated that between 51-70 percent of their usual travel needs could be met by public transit, and 15 percent indicated that 71 percent or more of their usual travel needs could be met on public transit. Fifteen percent of participants indicated that where they live now, none of their usual travel needs could be met by public transit. Participants were asked questions about TOD and its applicability in downtown Buffalo. First participants were asked if they are familiar with the concept of TOD. Eighty-nine percent of participants indicated yes, 8 percent indicated no, and 3 percent indicated ‘other.’ After a brief explanation of TOD, participants were asked if they thought TOD would be successful if implemented in Buffalo. An overwhelming majority (71 percent) feels that if implemented, TOD would be successful in Buffalo. Twenty-three percent of participants feel that if implemented, TOD would not be successful, and 6 percent indicated ‘other.’ When asked whether they agreed with the statement ‘Climate is a significant barrier to TOD in Buffalo,’ two-thirds of participants (67 percent) indicated they disagree or
strongly disagree. Nine percent strongly agree that climate is a significant barrier, 18 percent agree, and 6 percent are neutral. Perhaps not surprisingly, participants cited a lack of education as the top inhibitor of more TOD in downtown Buffalo (35 percent). Nineteen percent of participants cited a lack of resources as the primary inhibitor of more TOD, another 19 percent cited a lack of customer demand, and fourteen percent cited red tape as an inhibitor. Thirteen percent of participants selected ‘other.’ Future Direction for Transportation Development In the second half of the workshop, participants were asked a series of questions about future transportation development in the region to gauge interest levels and awareness about transit needs in the region. In general participants indicated that investing in public transit, implementing bus rapid transit, and expanding metro rail to the airport and UB North campus are high priorities for future transportation development in the region. Participants also suggested that improving and expanding service is the best way to maintain and increase ridership on public transit and that free NFTA passes will encourage the UB community to use public transportation. Finally, the majority of participants liked the idea of using clickers and felt that using clickers would encourage more public participation. Participants were first asked to select two top spending priorities over the next ten years for transportation in the Buffalo-Niagara region. Investing in public transit was cited as the top priority (47 percent). Twenty-two percent of participants feel that improving road maintenance should be a top priority. Another 22 percent feel that reducing transportation energy costs is the most important priority, and 7 percent of participants cited reducing traffic congestion as the most important priority. Three percent of participants indicated that providing more parking should be a top spending priority for the region. When asked if they were familiar with the concept of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), 91 percent of participants indicated yes, 6 percent indicate no, and 3 percent indicated other. A majority of participants (69 percent) feel that implementing BRT should be a high priority for the Buffalo-Niagara Region; 48 percent of participants strongly agree, twenty-one percent agree, 13 percent are neutral, 13 percent disagree, and only 5 percent strongly disagree. Through the years, citizens and public officials alike have proposed extensions to the NFTA Metro Rail to connect downtown with UB’s North Campus, the airport, Niagara Falls, and the Southtowns. When asked if Metro Rail should be expanded, the majority of respondents had a favorable response: 77 percent of participants strongly agree, 9 percent of participants agree and 9 percent remain neutral on the topic. Three percent disagree that Metro Rail should be expanded and three percent strongly disagree. Supposing that Metro Rail were to be expanded, 41 percent of respondents feel that extending Metro Rail to Cheektowaga and the Airport is the most urgent expansion Participants feel an expansion to UB’s North Campus is equally urgent (41 percent). Niagara Falls and the Niagara Falls airport are viewed as significantly less urgent expansions (13 percent), and
the Southtowns corridor was cited by 6 percent of participants as being urgent. Zero percent of participants selected ‘other places within the region.’ Recently, the region experienced an increase in public transit ridership as a result of high gas prices. Surprisingly, ridership remained strong even after gasoline prices fell. In an effort to understand how NFTA might keep ridership levels high, participants were asked what actions NFTA might take to retain new riders even when gas prices are low. Participants cited improving service (37 percent) and expanding service (33 percent) as most important. Fifteen percent selected reducing fares as a strategy for NFTA to take to retain new riders, and 12 percent indicated that NFTA should discourage driving by increasing parking rates. Providing free NFTA passes was a popular response when participants were asked how UB2020 should encourage students, faculty and staff to use public transit. Forty-four percent of respondents indicated free NFTA passes as the most important action. Thirtynine percent cited increasing metro rail connections as a way to encourage ridership among students, faculty, and staff. Fourteen percent of participants suggested that more NFTA service will encourage public transit use among the UB community, and three percent of participants suggested that more campus bus service would increase transit use. Zero percent of respondents indicated that maintaining the status quo would encourage the UB community to use public transit. Finally, participants were asked to reflect on their experience of using clickers as a way to participate in a community meeting. Fifty-five percent of participants strongly agreed with the statement, “Using clickers in public meetings will encourage more community participation.” Twenty-six percent agreed, and 17 percent were neutral. Zero participants disagreed, and 2 participants strongly disagreed (6 percent). When asked if they liked the idea of providing input using clickers, 42 strongly agreed, 29 percent agreed, 21 percent were neutral, 3 percent disagreed, and 6 percent strongly disagreed. The following pages list the workshop questions and response frequencies.
Warm-up Questions 2. Have you used Clicker Technology before? a. Yes (32%) b. No (68%) 3. In what capacity are you here today? Which role do you do you identify with most? a. Developer (14%) b. Planner or other government worker (50%) c. Downtown advocate (9%) d. Citizen/Resident (18%) e. Other (9%) 4. How did you arrive here today? a. Automobile, single occupant (57%) b. Automobile, Carpool (2%) c. Bus/Subway (18%) d. Walked/ Biked (21%) e. Other (2%) 5. On average, how many times a week do you use public transportation? a. Never (44%) b. 1-2 x (19%) c. 3-4 x (12%) d. 5 + (16%) e. Other (9%) Project Questions 1. Is there an existing market for apartments/lofts/condominiums without dedicated off-street parking? a. Yes (51%) b. No (37%) c. Don’t Know (12%) 2. What do you think is the status of downtown parking in Buffalo? a. Too much (34%) b. Too little (28%) c. Right amount (19%) d. Don’t know (19%) 3. The most likely customers for lots without parking spaces are: a. College students (53%)
b. c. d. e.
Professionals (19%) Older adults/ empty nesters(7%) Low-income families (19%) Other (2%)
4. People are likely to choose housing without parking because of: a. Income considerations (24%) b. Lifestyle Choices (57%) c. Ideological reasons (environmentalists, etc.) (19%) 5. Regarding off-street parking, do you think developers are granted too many variances from municipal codes? a. Yes (31%) b. No (33%) c. Don’t Know (36%) 6. Demand for downtown residential parking is driven by which group? a. Suburban residents relocating downtown (50%) b. Other residents relocating downtown (50%) 7. Compared to other cities, is TOD more likely to be successful in Buffalo? a. Yes (35%) b. No (58%) c. Other (7%) 8. What inhibits more TOD in downtown Buffalo? a. Red tape (19%) b. Lack of resources(28%) c. Lack of customer demand(53%) 9. What percentage of total development costs do you think really accounts for parking? a. 0-20% (60%) b. 21-40% (35%) c. 40% or more (5%) 10. Would you buy a house/condo without parking if it were to cost 25% cheaper? a. Yes (70%) b. No (28%) c. Other (2%) 11. Without a car, how many of your usual travel needs (work, school, shopping, recreation, etc.) could be met on public transit? a. None (16%) b. 30% or less (23%) c. 31-50% (21%)
d. 51%-70% (26%) e. 70% or more (14%) Speculative Questions 10. Over the next ten years, pick the top two from the following as spending priorities for the Buffalo-Niagara region. a. Reducing traffic congestion (4%) b. Investing in public transportation (11%) c. Providing more parking (0%) d. Improving road maintenance (30%) e. Reducing transportation energy costs (55%) 11. Are you familiar with the concept of Bus Rapid Transit? a. Yes (49%) b. No (23%) c. Sort of… (28%) 12. Implementing BRT is a high priority for the region? a. Strongly agree (42%) b. Agree (35%) c. Neutral (14%) d. Disagree (9%) e. Strongly Disagree (0%) (0) 13. Metro rail were to be expanded, which two rails extensions are most urgent? a. UB’s North Campus and the Tonawandas (58%) b. Buffalo Niagara airport and Cheektowaga (21%) c. Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls airport (12%) d. South Towns Corridor (9%) e. Other places within the Buffalo-Niagara region (0%) 14. How might UB2020 encourage students/faculty/staff to use public transit? Rank them in order. a. No more new parking (3%) b. More transit options (20%) c. Free NFTA passes (74%) d. Increase parking facilities (3%) 15. What actions might NFTA take to retain new riders even when gas prices are low? a. Reduce fares (9%) b. Improve service (faster service, less wait time) (50%) c. Expand bus and rail service (39%) d. Discourage driving by increasing parking rates (2%)
16. Using clickers in public meetings will encourage more community participation in forums like these? a. Strongly agree (54%) b. Agree (23%) c. Neutral (16%) d. Disagree (5%) e. Strongly disagree (2%) 17. I like the idea of providing input using clickers a. Strongly agree (46%) b. Agree (37%) c. Neutral (11%) d. Disagree (3%) e. Strongly disagree (3%)
Most interviews were conducted by two members of the research team, although several interviews were conducted by either one member or three members. In order to facilitate the note-taking process, four versions of the questions corresponding to the stakeholder groups were designed in booklet format. Interviewers used the question booklet during the interviews to assist in the data consolidation process. One interviewer took handwritten notes, while another interviewer asked for clarification and posed follow-up questions as needed. ii Focus Group 1 was held at IRD Corp., Buffalo, New York, on December 2, 2008. Focus Group 2 was held at the Coit House, Buffalo, New York, on December 4, 2008. iii All participants signed an informed consent agreement to participate in the focus groups, and efforts were made to insure gender and racial diversity. Commentary from the focus groups was captured by the project team using a laptop computer during the sessions. To facilitate unencumbered discussion, sessions were tape-recorded. Focus groups were held in quiet environments with appropriate lighting and comfortable seating. Light refreshments were served at both events. iv An interviewee suggested that there is an unmet demand in Buffalo for patio homes for older adults (C4). v An interviewee mentioned that waterfront residents must have car access because of a lack of a nearby services and a lack of transportation access (C9). vi In providing parking, developers incur two types of costs. The first is the capital cost of the parking lot, which includes land acquisition and the construction of parking (surface, parking structure, below-ground parking). The second type of cost is operating costs which include maintenance, paving, lighting, security, snow clearance, etc. Developers could estimate the current cost in Buffalo to provide parking, but all other interviewees did not know the cost to provide parking nor the share of total development cost that parking typically consumes. Surprisingly, a banker (C7) with extensive experience with downtown development projects did not know the cost to provide parking in a typical development. vii One of these was approved (Mohawk St. West of Main Street) and one was not approved (Eagle St. East of Main Street). viii People with suburban experience are less likely to accept an apartment or condominium without offstreet parking. People with urban experience may be more accustomed to “hunting” for parking and would find an apartment or condominium without off-street parking more acceptable (P1, P2). ix At the beginning of each session, project staff explained the scope of the study and described the range of topics to be explored. Then, the facilitator put forth a series of questions to the participants, giving each one the opportunity to respond. Discussions were woven around the questions listed in the table. Except for Question 1, the questions remained the same for both of the focus groups. x Building condominium units carries higher risk than building apartment units stemming from the commitment from residents that is needed to satisfy loan risk considerations at project initiation phase (C1, C2).
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.