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Economic Development Research Group Blog

Resilience and Social Equity

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Resilience has emerged as a significant consideration in developing long-term transportation plans in response to US DOT’s Climate Change and Resiliency initiatives.  The focus has been on hardening existing and planned infrastructure and assessing risks and recovery for key elements of the transportation system.  These efforts have focused on facility and human vulnerabilities, and on operational recovery.  However, as we have seen repeatedly, identifying “vulnerability” and assessing resilience and recovery for populations often ignores the unique needs, resource deficits and challenges faced by low-income and minority populations.    These issues are reminiscent of the debates about environmental equity of 25 years ago that led up to the issuance of Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. [1]   The disproportionate effects of lack of preparedness and recovery from natural and man-made disasters are just as profound (and potentially more-so) as those arising from deliberate investment decisions made by government agencies and sources...
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Measuring the STEM-Intensity of Your Region

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I recently participated in a workforce roundtable at The Council for Community and Economic Research's (C2ER’s) annual conference in Atlanta. C2ER is a membership organization comprised of economic researchers and data providers from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. This year’s conference theme was “RISE: Resiliency, Innovation, Skills, Equity,” which inspired me to present on workforce data and how it can be used to find job opportunities for people who don’t have a college degree. My presentation explained how STEM occupations—those requiring knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math—are often thought of as well-paying, white-collar jobs held by people with high levels of education. These include engineers and scientists, for example. In reality, there are many occupations that require a level of STEM knowledge and still pay well but are accessible to people without a college degree. These include jobs like arborists, diesel mechanics, electricians, and land surveyors. This disconnect...
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Value Capture, Transportation Investment, and Joint Development

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The Transportation Research Board's (TRB's) National Cooperative Research Highway Research Program (NCHRP) recently released Report 873: Guidebook to Funding Transportation Through Land Value Return and Recycling. With ongoing conversations at every level of government about the best and most equitable ways to pay for our transportation infrastructure, the distribution of benefits created by infrastructure, and the long-term sustainability of our land development patterns, this guidance could not be timelier. Value capture can be an important tool in the transportation toolbox because (a) it is an often-overlooked source of potential revenue and, (b) if pursued wisely can yield better outcomes overall by shaping development patterns to take advantage of a well-performing transportation system (or in some cases, creatively reusing currently underutilized space adjacent to transportation infrastructure). For this project, EDR Group, working as part of a team led by Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), documented the implementation of a variety of...
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Welcome to TRB 2018

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Click find for a schedule on where to find us during the conference  
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Community Energy Initiatives: Evaluating Their Achievements

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Energy program evaluation has sure changed! Programs to support efficiency in energy use and renewable power sources go back 40 years, following oil crises in the 1970s. Utility companies were mandated to provide incentives to users via “demand side management” conservation programs. These were followed by public rebates for investment in renewable and efficient technologies. The programs were evaluated for effectiveness, and initially there was great concern about net benefits -- not counting “free riders” (who would have made the energy efficient choices even without the program). EDR Group was a part of these evaluations from its beginning in the late 1990s, and our work featured measurement of both economic impacts and net benefits. Now today, we are in a world where energy solutions are more broadly appreciated for their economic, social and environmental sustainability benefits.  And now we are seeing sustainable energy initiatives being taken by residents and municipalities...
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Economic Impact Tools and Models: Are they Useful?

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Infrastructure investment proposals can generate intense public discussion , and when it occurs, there is almost inevitably talk about how the project will (a) hurt the local economy, (b) save the local economy or (c) both. When the latter occurs, it is often because there are two factions – supporters and opponents. Of course, what is often missing is objective information to help guide and control these fears, hopes and allegations. That is where economic models and tools both come in. What is the difference between models and tools? EDR Group has been working in this field for 20 years now, and yet we still see ample confusion on this topic. Here’s a try at answering the question: A TOOL helps people carry out a function, so a “decision support tool” can be any method or process that helps people assess alternatives. In the case of transportation investments, this includes...
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3 Reasons to Invest in a Transit Economic Blueprint

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The President’s federal budget proposal proposes $2.4 Billion in transportation spending reductions – including significant cuts in federal transit programs. Meanwhile, states from  Georgia  to  Oregon  and places in-between have looked to increase state transit funding and there is growing discussion about the role of public-private-partnerships (PPP)’s in funding transit improvements. These changes create an environment in which transit systems and proponents must make a more compelling case than ever before to business and economically savvy audiences demonstrating their economic role. It is time for states and regions to take stock of what is really at stake in transit investment.  A State or Regional Transit Economic Blueprint  can be understood as a regional study showing the role of transit in the economy, and mapping out the rationale for future investment strategies. Areas like  Hampton Roads , Virginia,  Fairbanks Alaska  and  Austin Texas  in the last year have undertaken significant efforts to define...
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Innovative Infrastructure Finance

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Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) grades the condition of U.S. infrastructure on a scale of A through F. Since 1998, America’s infrastructure has earned persistent D averages. Underinvestment is a much-studied topic. EDR Group’s recent report on this issue to ASCE "Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future” found that the most significant investment gap across all types of infrastructure is in the transportation sector, where $1 trillion in additional investment is needed over the next ten years.  The U.S. funds federal spending on highway and transit projects through a variety of user fees that pay into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Fuel taxes contribute the largest share of revenues by far. In FY 2014 they constituted 87% of the HTF’s tax revenues . However, over the past 10 years spending from the HTF began exceeding revenues, a condition forecast...
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Securing Grant Funding for your Rural or Freight Project

To secure funding for projects through the federal TIGER or FASTLANE grant programs, it is critical to demonstrate not only a great project in terms of benefit-cost ratio, but also why the project has economic consequences. Successful TIGER grants for highway or bridge projects have tended to go to applicants who can show community or regional benefits. The new FASTLANE grant program seeks applications that can demonstrate national freight significance and visible economic outcomes. Rural and freight projects can easily be overlooked if the sources of benefits are not understood to go beyond the regular travel time, reliability and mileage savings. In rural areas, where traffic volumes are often low – a strong accessibility and livability case can be essential to a strong application. In 2014 EDR Group performed the Benefit-Cost analysis for the largest TIGER award given that year – the Kentucky Mountain Parkway Extension. Access to state parks,...
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Peter Plumeau @city_viewer presented today as part of the FHWA's webinar on the Role of Transportation Investment i… https://t.co/Yu8vGvtloK
Industry Leaders Forum Explores Climate-Resilient Design Solutions https://t.co/MJIJo39lFi #Resilience