Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Transforming Inland Empire smart growth talk into action

The Western Riverside Council of Governments, the San Bernardino Associated Governments and the Riverside County Transportation Commission have been looking at smart growth principles to address potential growth demands within the Inland Empire. Leaders have predicted that the region will grow by 800,000 within the next 25 years.

Public officials pitched that future development should be along transit corridors such as freeways, rail lines and bus routes. Government officials have been talking about smart growth for many years, but what needs to be done to put it into action?

Here are some facts: It is expensive to own a house or rent a dwelling place within the primary job hubs in LA, Orange and San Diego Counties. Demand is high; supply is short. It's a sellers' market. Housing in the Inland Empire is more affordable, especially for larger families. However, there are far more workers than jobs which keeps local wages down and unemployment high.

Therefore, many have to live inland and commute long distances to reach their jobs. With the exception of the San Bernardino-to-Los Angeles corridor, these routes remain very car-oriented. Carpool and HOV demands within the Inland Empire are very high.

Putting Smart Growth in action: A priority should be to balance the job-to-housing ratio. This includes establishing business-friendly policies to foster marketplace job growth in the Inland Empire. At the job centers, what can be done to improve housing supply and residential options to address such high demand?

Secondly, high occupancy toll lanes linking the bedroom communities to the job centers have been in the talks to accommodate carpools and those willing to buy their way out of traffic. Will these HOT lanes include bus-friendly infrastructure such as direct access ramps between the highway and adjacent transit centers like the Corona Transit Center or the Montclair TransCenter? How is the state government addressing these transportation issues since we're paying some of the highest taxes in the nation?

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