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DEVELOPMENT PATTERNS

NARRATOR: Economic development typically follows transportation improvements. In 1999, Amtrak plans to initiate high-speed train service between Boston and Washington, leading some to predict related development and greater demand for housing in state coastal cities and suburban towns along the line.

Increased mobility leads to increased suburban development. Towns in the most rural parts of the state have become more susceptible to change, as sprawl continues to invade more parts of the state.

JON COLMAN: The reason we have suburban sprawl and now rural sprawl is because we built a significant highway system at tremendous public subsidy, put the access out there, and then allowed the development to take place on a helter-skelter basis along those highway corridors. And so we don’t have real density to support at this point other alternative forms of transportation which require density to be successful. I think that we either have to decide that we’re going to move towards a development pattern that allows both walking and alternate means of transportation or we’re going to be sitting in traffic much, much more than we are now and much, much more than we ought to or want to.

NARRATOR: Suburban drivers and their many destinations present the biggest challenge to transportation planners. Without a significant change in residential and commercial development patterns, congestion will continue to grow and suburban sprawl will further threaten the loss of the state’s historic character.

JON COLMAN: It’s a land use decision first and then a transportation decision. What we have done in this country is we create a residential 

zone, we create an office zone, we create a manufacturing zone, we create an industrial zone and they’re apart. We need to begin thinking about in terms of getting away from the separatives of land use and begin to have land uses that are next to each other, interwoven with one another so that you have choices. You don’t have to get into your car to go to work or to go shopping or to go to a movie or to go to a playground.

DICK MARTINEZ: Probably the ideal from a transportation standpoint would be to have certain areas that would be very high concentration of employment, high concentration of residences, that kind of a thing, in fact, could occur on a regional basis, county type basis. We do have regional planning agencies that attempt to do that both from a transportation standpoint and development standpoint. They’ve had limited success with that.

NARRATOR: Transportation issues are increasingly the focus of regional groups composed of local governments.

Land use, planned growth and transportation are among the regional groups’ biggest challenges. Those decisions are primarily made by town planning & zoning commissions.

DICK CARPENTER: That’s a very closely cherished job. They don’t want to give that up to anyone else. People want to respect each others borders but sometimes the zoning is different historically along a border and it’s harder to make it as compatible as it would be if the zoning was similar.

FRAN McMAHON: Individual communities essentially rely on property taxes so that communities tend to chase what they would consider desirable development: manufacturing plant, an office building

CHRISTOPHER BRUHL: Municipalities willing to dance with the market will create development sites that may or may not be the best for the region.

NARRATOR: In late 1996, 11 environmental, business and civic planning organizations based in towns from Branford to Greenwich organized into a group called the Coastal Corridor Coalition, with the common recognition that congested roads were threatening the economic and environmental health of coastal Connecticut.

CHRISTOPHER BRUHL: It’s very difficult because people are crazed commuters twice a day and they are protective homeowners the balance of the time. And we have a very strong tradition and self-image of home rule in this state and there’s an aversion to certain kinds of regional solutions. On the other hand, we are seeing that the economy has become regional, that services are delivered on a regional basis. So if we can try for some regional solutions that don’t require governmental structures, we will find people willing to cooperate.

NARRATOR: In the Capital region, CRCOG, a 29-town organization of mayors and first selectmen, regularly addresses transportation issues.

FRAN McMAHON: There certainly is a willingness among the communities to talk among themselves. I think as suburbanization has continued to occur in this area, there is a realization that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep duplicating a lot of public infrastructure investments; transportation being one of them. So I guess we’ve had some success in terms of beginning a dialogue but I think, you know, we still have a ways to go on that. And I think the conversations that we’ve facilitated have – have made those communities take a real hard look at the way they function, the way they allow development to occur and the real impacts of that development.

THE SUBURBAN BOX

NARRATOR: The typical suburban lifestyle requires a car. Getting people to change how they live, work and travel is acknowledged by all to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

LAURA WEIR CLARK (CT Trust for Historic Preservation): We’ve built ourselves into a corner or a suburban box and it’s going to take a while for us to dig our way out of it. If we are not careful in the next 20 years, the indications are that we will lose much of our rural lands, our small towns will lose their character It’s a very complicated solution. It has to become a - patterns of land use from a transportation standpoint, from a tax incentive stand point.

HARRY HARRIS: Well, I think realistically people are going to continue to expect to be able to drive wherever they want to go and it’s going to become increasingly difficult. But I think increasingly a number of people are going to realize that they can’t do what they’ve been doing and continue to maintain the quality of life. So I think that we’re going to see, particularly in those areas such as along the coast or in the Hartford area where there is sufficient number of people, we’re going to see an expansion of our public transportation system.

HARRY STRATE: Maybe we should think of alternative patterns not only in land development but also in transportation development. The question isn’t how do we do away with the automobile, it isn’t how do we stop suburbanization, the question is what’s the next logical step in our technological evolution? And that’s what we’re struggling with around the state. It’s going to require a fundamental change though in – in how the public thinks, what the public values, what the market requires us to provide. Can we make that change? There are a lot of professionals that think we can. Will we make the change? That’s probably a matter of political will.

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