A conference on "Smart Growth" in Hartford is looking at the benefits of streetcars and other integrated transit projects. As WNPR's John Dankosky reports, Portland, Oregon is touted as the "model city" for this kind of development.
Portland's story is legend in the world of public transit. In the 1970s, aided by strong regional government, the city and surrounding communities began blocking highway development in favor of rail and densely packed urban areas.
In 1986, Portland's light rail line was the first built with a federal grant, and a succesful streetcar line began in 2001. The region continues to recieve tens of millions a year in federal transportation dollars.
The key, according to Rick Gustafson, Executive Director of the Streetcar program is the commitment by local residents to development inside the city - rejecting the car-spawned sprawl found in many urban areas.
"And that's what happened with us, with a good street frontage, good walk-able community, and then good transit access, good bicycle access. What that did was make the high-density area the most desired living location in the Portland region."
And, Gustafson says, the civic investment paid off - by attracting private investors.
"Our streetcar line cost us $100 million. We built it over a 10-year period. Within 750 feet of that line, there's been $3-and-a-half-billion of private investment. 10,000 new housing units and 2 and a half million square feet of commercial space."
Gustafson spoke at a "Smart Growth" Conference, sponsored by 1000 friends of Connecticut - an organization working to promote rail development in the state.
For WNPR, I'm John Dankosky.